Gears Tactics is determined to prove that it’s not just another turn-based strategy game.
As the latest entry in the long-running Gears of War franchise, Gears Tactics has an extra mile to go to convince fans it’s a worthy spin-off. While it’s firmly cemented in the lore and history of the games (canonically, it takes place 10 years before the events of the first Gears of War) its turn-based gameplay may turn off some longtime fans.
Xbox invited Kotaku Australia to an online gameplay livestream, showing off several levels. It showed how Tactics was blending the intense, character-driven story from classic Gears with XCOM-like strategy.
While many of the key elements like strategic planning and a top-down view are there, the game does away with the grid normally associated with tactical strategy games and lets players explore the map freely. It makes the action a lot more diverse and open, allowing for faster-paced and freer actions for players with attacks based on relative positioning and environment-based cover.
Each character in a squad has three moves available per turn including movement and several options for attack. One of these, known as an Overwatch attack, allows players to blanket an area with bullets for a single turn. It’s functionally similar to the classic XCOM move, with the character catching enemy players as soon as they enter the attack zone.
The gameplay itself is fast for a turn-based game. Enemies have a variety of moves and special attacks that make effective planning far more difficult. Setting up an Overwatch attack can be good for providing cover, but some enemies can dodge your attack halo and jump over obstacles rather than taking a clearly predictable path.
The story mode is filled with cinematic cutscenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a mainline Gears release. Frankly, these cutscenes look gorgeous, and they’ll be an important lifeline for Gears fans struggling with the lack of third-person shooter mechanics.
In our preview, we were shown several levels including a boss fight against an enemy known as a Corpser.
This was a giant, fuck-off spider with hardened limbs and a killer, map-sweeping attack that required quick thinking to escape. In addition to the giant spider, Locust drones and other enemies spawned on the map. While this level took place much later into the game, the sheer amount of enemies on the map seemed overwhelming. Do you flee to freedom or eat a ton of damage just to get past the spider’s defences?
Gears Tactics left me impressed by how well it worked. It doesn’t feel like Gears reskinned as a typical strategy game. It feels like an authentic Gears taking strategy for a brand new spin. It looks quick for a turn-based game, frantic and very fun. I’m convinced I won’t get through a single quest without dying, I’m very much looking forward to what Gears Tactics has to offer.
Gears Tactics launches for PC on Steam and Xbox Games Pass For PC on April 28.