Rectify Gaming

Review: Gears Tactics

Posted on May 13, 2020 by David Rodriguez

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  • 8.5/10
    Total Score - 8.5/10


Gears Tactics takes the great third person pop and stop shooter, into a new turn based, tactical realm.

Developer – Splash Damage

Publisher – Xbox Game Studios

Platforms – PC

Halo was a first person shooter for many years. It established a set of heroes, villains, weapons, and factions.

Microsoft saw fit to take that universe and make a title that appealed to a more PC player base. Halo Wars was born, and despite the move to RTS, the world of Halo was faithfully represented.

Gears of War has been a third person shooter, most would say it is “THE” third person shooter. Innovating with it’s stop and pop gameplay and it’s unique brand of destroyed beauty.

COG’s, Locusts, grizzled veterans and young upstarts, the Gears franchise is full of great characters, villains, and features a complicated world to play with.

Once again, as Microsoft embraces PC gaming, developer Splash Damage took Gears, and embraced a decidedly PC focused genre, turn based tactics.

Right away the X-Com inspiration is readily apparent. The familiar vocabulary of half and full cover, over watch, and everybody’s favorite 90% chance to hit but still missing shot.

Once the initial comparisons are made, very big differences make themselves known. Gears Tactics first and foremost is telling a story not unlike one you would find in any proper Gears title.

It’s set 12 years before the first game, a COG named Gabe Diaz, father to Gears 5 protagonist Kate, is relegated to motor pool. When the war against the Locust break out, he is tasked with hunting down a Locust leader named Ukkon.

As supplies and manpower is limited, a veteran named Sid accompanies Gabe as he is tasked with building his own force of COGS strong enough to tackle this emerging threat.

The story is told with beautifully rendered cut-scenes and various story sequences interspersed through three acts. This strong focus on a linear campaign with set heroes is a big departure from most games that follow X-Com and its well established formula.

Due to the heavy story influence, the meta layer of global conquest is absent from Gears Tactics. In fact, Tactics does away with any real meta layer at all. After every mission, you can recruit regular COGS to fill out your ranks, and these foot soldiers can be customized in terms of name and appearance.

In between major story missions, several side missions will be offered that offer different rewards. The gimmick being, no one character can be used for multiple side missions in one act.

This small but crucial rule ensures that a full roster is maintained and balanced. Instead of relying purely on your hero units, focusing on building and getting to know your full roster will be key to victory.

The lack of a meta-layer also doesn’t keep Tactics from being a deep title by any means. Each character is divided into one of multiple classes. Each class has a huge and diverse skill tree that focuses on four different disciplines.

As you advance down that skill tree, you will accumulate a massive list of passive and active traits and abilities. Knowing each of these passives, and taking advantage of them in battle is the key to success or failure in many instances.

For example, Mikayla, my primary sniper has many abilities that allow her to link her moves an gain action points per turn. In one turn, she can chain shot, which allows her two bonus actions if she downs a target. Then I can follow that up by a special skill that gives her a free reload if she downs another target. Then I can use those spare movement points to possibly down several more units.

If I use it properly, I can take down an entire group of Locusts in one turn, therefore giving the rest of my team the advantage to set-up for the next wave of enemies or divert to explore the map and find new gear and upgrades.

All of these tools are vital, because the Locust are just as varied and numerous as they can be in any Gears campaign. Emergence holes can sometimes spawn big groups, and it isn’t uncommon to fight against a dozen opponents all at once.

Gears Tactics also does a great job of keeping the feel of the franchise. Drop dead gorgeous visuals and sound design bring the action to life. Executions and chainsaw lancers are just as gory and over the top as they’ve ever been.

The story is well told, and despite it being much longer than a standard Gears campaign, they find interesting ways to have big set piece moments and boss fights to keep it interesting for it’s length.

The only knock I really have, is that most missions can be quite long, and without a strategic phase between missions it can feel like a chore to just churn out mission after mission of relentless combat.

Gears Tactics succeeds in adapting the existing formula for a new genre, and it hopefully provides an excellent foundation that they can hopefully build off for the future.

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David Rodriguez is a senior editor at Rectify Gaming and a freelance writer at Gamepur and has been gaming for 30 years.His work has also appeared at NTF Gaming, Rectify Gaming, Gamepur, Opencritic, and Metacritic.