Being a fan of the Gears of War franchise since its first release back in 2006, I was very interested to hear of developers The Coalition teaming up with Splash Damage to create a turn based tactics game. This style of game has been made hugely popular by mainly the XCOM series and clearly identified a group of gamers who are interested in well executed turn based tactics games. Xbox Game Studios thought it was a good idea to bring the world of Gears of War to this style of game and in this review we see if it has worked out or not?
Gears of War has always been famed for its gritty aesthetic and its larger than life characters. It has established a much loved story over the series of what is now 9 titles if you include the mobile edition called Gears Pop. This was the first time we saw a different style of Gears game and it’s one that was well received by fans of the series. Gears Tactics is in a way an evolution of that more simple turn based game into a much more complex one with a storyline of its own. It is set prior to the original title and tells of how the enemies known as The Locust emerged from the centre of the earth to try and wipe out humanity. The Cog are a military force who fight back using some unique chainsaw adapted weapons with the help of what’s left of the human race.
All of this means that Gears Tactics already had a great foundation of storyline and characters to build a great turn based game out of. The guys over at Splash damage added their own take on the series and I feel it worked well. Initially released on PC it has taken a couple of months for console players to finally get the chance to play it and the wait has been worthwhile. The controls are simple enough to get used to but not so simple as to restrict choices or options. With all strategy or tactical games on console its the controls that often let them down. I do think that there is room for improvement but overall its definitely better than most. Gameplay involves having 2-4 members of your team trying to either defend a location against waves of enemies, or trying to eliminate all the hostiles on the map all the while trying to not let certain members of your team die.
Your team can use unique abilities such as healing grenades or extra distance while moving, this makes picking a well balanced team very important during the game. Enemies have their own traits that help to make each encounter interesting. At the end of each act of missions there is a boss battle and this is interesting because most traditional turn based games including XCom avoid this. Gears Tactics very much makes these a focal point of the campaign and they add a new style of encounter that can be challenging to say the least. Also available to play are side missions but don’t be fooled into thinking these are an afterthought. They make up a large part of the game and can be some of the most difficult of missions so you better be prepared to invest some time before trying to complete this game. It will easily take at least 20-30 hours to complete all the missions available.
There is loot to be gained for completing missions and this comes in the form of armour for your team members and weapon enhancements like scope for better accuracy or bigger magazines for more ammo. Getting the balance right can be the difference between a nightmare of a mission and one that can be easily overcome. This gives the game an extra dimension and benefits those who like to fully customise their gameplay experience. In tactical turn based games having a good understanding of what powers are at your disposal is key, so completing side missions and objectives can pay off with the rewards to a make your next one easier.
Gears of War as a franchise has turned into somewhat of a poster boy for the Xbox consoles to show off their visual capabilities so this was always going to be a good looking game. I was luck enough to review it on the new Xbox Series S and it looks highly detailed and smooth at the higher frame rates available. The attention taken to the maps and characters is clear to see and helps to ensure that Gears Tactics is well placed among the Gears series.
As mentioned in my opening, I am a Gears of War fan but I wouldn’t consider myself an XCOM style of game fan. Gears Tactics has changed my mind in that aspect and I’m now more open to playing these types of games in the future, especially when available on console. Gears Tactics is a great looking game that does the simple things well and yet adds enough to the genre to let it stand out from the crowd. With it also being available on Xbox Game pass I think that lots of people are going to give it a go and most I feel will be pleasantly surprised.