‘Gears Tactics’ review: Always battle-ready, in true Gears fashion

‘Gears Tactics’ review: Always battle-ready, in true Gears fashion

When one thinks of turn-based tactics games, one may expect fond memories of X-Com, Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series or The Banner Saga. Tactics-style battle systems have also invaded role-playing games like the Divinity: Original Sin series and Wasteland 2.

Gears Tactics

  • Developer: Splash Damage, The Coalition
  • Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
  • Price: ₹1299 on Steam, ₹3999 from Windows 10 store, available free to GamePass members on Xbox

While on the surface it may seem boring, playing a game where you have to wait a turn and you are limited to only a few action points per turn, this genre is engaging, with a chess-like strategy coupled with team management elements. It is a place you would least expect a fast-paced action game that practically invented the chainsaw gun execution mechanic… yet Gears of War feels at home as a Tactics game.

Into the Gears-verse

Gabriel Diaz of Gears Tactics

Serving as a prequel to the original Gears of War, Gears Tactics is set around Emergence Day, years before we get to meet Marcus Fenix and his crew. The enemy Locust Horde has emerged from below the surface of the planet Sera, setting off a war that would carry on through several sequels.

You play as war hero Sergeant Gabriel Diaz, a familiar name who, along with his team, has to take on an evil Locust mastermind, Ukkon. The plot is quintessential Gears of War, as your Coalition of Gears (COG) characters take on chunky Locust characters in impressive Unreal Engine-rendered cut scenes that are on par with Gears of War 5’s incredible graphics.

While I love the ‘perma-death’ feature — hallmark feature of all tactics games — I cannot stomach the death of a hero character or a created character into whom I have put so much effort. Fortunately, Gears Tactics keeps that feature only for higher difficulties, and you can revive your fallen heroes or soldiers whenever you want, immediately making this game more accessible and fun.

A screenshot from a menu in Gears Tactics

The conflicts of Sera have been richly fleshed out in several games, which makes Gears Tactics easier to jump into; the premise is simple, you move your team across a battlefield stage, taking out your enemies. Once your turns are up, the enemy gets to act. Taking a page out of X-Com, players can use the overwatch ability to give you a free shot if the enemy moves into your line of sight. Though the enemy can use the same ability, which can be deadly if not careful.

Keep it moving

In true Gears fashion, you can send out your units to execute downed enemies for an extra turn, which could turn the tide of battle. The game does a great job of keeping that momentum going, to let you push forward in aggressive waves. The Locusts themselves are challenging and the game occasionally throws different enemy types at you, so forming strategies is key especially on gigantic bosses, where you have to figure out their weaknesses.

A screenshot of a battle in Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics sits somewhere in the middle, in its own little space. While it is not as deep as X-Com, it is a lot easier to get into for new players. There is a constant supply of grunts you can customise., with a lot of side missions you can do to get some loot. The interface could be a bit more friendly, as these games are heavily dependent on team management, balancing out equipment and soldier types. If done right, there is nothing like a well-equipped team, taking out baddies efficiently.

With high production value and excellent graphics — as expected — Gears Tactics is a fitting introduction to the genre. A stepping stone to the X-Coms and Fire Emblems, tactics veterans may be drawn to it for something a bit more aggressive. Newbies will appreciate the tone and style, but more so if you are a Gears fan.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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