✔️Integrating turn-based strategy into a cinematic tactics presentation presents innovation. ✔️Replicates the aesthetics of the Gears franchise, marvelously. ✔️Interesting upgrades and customisation choices.
❌Narrative lacks direction. ❌Campaign feels too long for what it’s worth.
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Re-building and translating an already concrete foundation of a tactical first-person shooter into an turn-based strategy title is quite an intriguing concept. Never would I have thought, Gears of War could possibly adapt an entirely new genre into its growing legacy. Understanding the basic concept of how the core gameplay loop works in the mainline series, and how you could pick-and-pack its mechanics into an entirely new experience is a novel idea that other franchises could borrow. Gears remains notorious for its graphic cinematics, gory sights and contemporary style; simply transitioning its fundamentals into a compact experience is an excellent feat but does bear many drawbacks. While the focus has primarily been on progressing the series’ narrative, Gears Tactics is chronologically the prequel to its lengthy plot-line.
With subtleties that deliver a visual experience behind the mainline series’, Gears Tactics does its best to allure die-hard fans. However, details of the story feel somewhat removed from its continuity while deeming itself canon. It’s a bold risk taken by Splash Damage and The Coalition, to re-align an already entrenched plot with an entirely new gameplay loop added. It stumbles on the double-edged sword adage, where the title’s reception could have gone one of two ways. Fortunately, it landed the mark and has seen some impressive implementations that make it a specialty. Deriving from its traditional third-person style, into a top-down XCOM inspired display of carefully crafted tactical warfare, The Coalition may have an entirely new subset franchise on their hands.
Our campaign begins a year after Emergence Day – 12 Years prior to the initial Gears of War entry. The battle to save Sera from the Locust Horde is in its infancy, and humanity is in deep peril. Richard Prescott, the Chairman of the Coalition of Ordered Governments has directed cities outside of Jacinto to be exterminated by the Hammer of Dawn. Prescott orders the military to protect the population by engaging in the front-line of battle, with the Alpha Squad leading all operations from Aldair City. Semi-retired war hero, Sgt. Gabriel Diaz – the father of Gears 5 Protagonist, Kait Diaz – leads his unit of fearless militant troops, preparing for the biggest fight of their lives. Disheartened by the loss of his brother Wyatt, Chief Diaz had demoted his own rank to Sargent after losing faith in the COG. With his past still haunting him, Prescott’s reluctance to place Diaz came into play but had no other alternative than to seek out his assistance.
While this sets a precedence for what’s on the horizon, the importance of the title’s narrative is simply forgotten throughout the entire campaign. If anything, Gabriel never establishes his character as someone of prominence to the entirety of the Gears universe, or at least within this chapter. You would think, as a figurehead who went AWOL on COG’s bureaucracy, that he would be an ignorant old geezer who rebels against his superiors, but his lax notion throughout accepting this mission just didn’t seem logical, other than being self reliant. It rather plays out as a semi-redemption arc of the canonised plot-line. I will give credit to the voice actors attached to their respective characters, they did a fantastic job in delivering incredible levels of emotion that are familiar within the Triple-A franchise. It elevates the intensity displayed through each scenario, and helps with the narrative’s lack of captivity.
Rallied by his legion of experienced corps, Diaz has some incredible talent at his disposal. The Alpha Squad are handed orders by Major Sid Redburn, to retrieve top-secret files from General Becket’s office, located at the Aldair Combat Information Center. Arriving to the CIC Building, Diaz discovers the secret agenda set by the commission as intel on scientist Ukkon, known for studying the genesis of the Locust outbreak. Commencing the strike on Aldair, Diaz and Redburn retreat and shelter in a bank vault. After the situation settles, the two exit the vault and discover Aldair’s base destroyed by Ukkon. Diaz informs Prescott, that Ukkon had been responsible for Sera’s Locust infestation. The Chairman informs Diaz that he has no artillery at his disposal, but the resourceful Sargent aligns with Echo-Five’s Marcella Trinh and Tyrone Shephard, who reveal they were ambushed by Ukkon and the Locusts. This is where the real fun begins.
At its core, Gears Tactics will seem familiar to experienced players of the top-down turn-based tactics genre. It’s an all too familiar formula that has been seen in gaming for decades, and is still adored by many who love their thought provoking, leisurely paced, astute assets in combat. While it may not seem all that groundbreaking, its astonishing adaptation into mixing the Gears mainline gameplay loop into a completely different genre is admirable. Having an integral centerpiece in your squad, and dishing commands to eliminate any hostiles in the vicinity delivers a sense of gratification that could equate to playing a gory game of chess. With a touch of real-time strategy, and a major dose of turn-based mechanics, the only contrast present being the allowance of characters to roam freely across the map.
You will be given a primary mission to complete, along with additional objectives depending on the level. Each member is assigned with a unique class; Heavy, Scout, Sniper, Support, and Vanguard. These come into play with Cases that are part of the gameplay’s progression system. Cases are unlocked through the reward scheme that is integrated within each practice taken. Case drops may include ability buffs or weapon mods that are also classed as Common, Rare, or Epic. The extra Legendary equipment may be attained through completing certain missions entirely. Downing a enemy unit is as simple as draining their HP to zero. The real strategy comes into play when a unit loses an entire health bar, which in both the hostile and confederate side is irredeemable. Downed units are vulnerable to execution, so be weary and revive your allies promptly. When you eliminate an enemy unit, your team will gain an advantage bonus.
After campaign completion, players may choose to complete outstanding side-missions. This will unlock Veteran mode, allowing you to remix and modify the campaign. The only downside to the entire experience was the oversight of online or local co-op. It’s quite a confusing omission, and would have been perfect placement for such a title to include this feature. It’s pivotal in our current state that developer’s consider implementing local or online multiplayer modes in gaming, especially for something as suitable as a top-down tactics driven game. However, Gear Tactics’ gameplay loop is an addictive addition to the already established foundation laid by a well-rooted tactical shooter.
I must admit, there was an emotional juxtaposition felt while comparing the similarities between both the mainline Gears title's and Tactics. I find it to be quite an extraordinary feat.
The title’s overall presentation resonates that of a standard Gears of War title, with all the familiarity’s we’ve come to love from the critically acclaimed series. There is minor texture pop-in present, however given the scope of the title’s perspective, this can be easily disregarded. The overall level design is solid, and feels constructive enough to deliver an unobstructed experience. The on-screen alert system and UI are perfectly placed to remain somewhat unobtrusive to the action, but does a great job in highlighting different objectives and agenda’s at hand.
While Gears Tactics expands on the comprehensive universe that the entire series boasts, its ability to take the fundamentals of its parent franchise and turn it into something compact and seamless delivers a unique and inventive experience. At its core, the title delivers a true to form Gears of War cinematic adventure, but only falls short in its slightly skewed plot-line. Keeping it faithful to a completely different genre, yet placing it in an entirely different world of gaming is risky, yet Gears Tactics has proven the unforgiving notion that many a development team have attempted in the past, can be achieved. While re-establishing the brand into an entirely derivative gameplay loop will not only reaffirm Gears’ flexibility, but opens the door for its legacy to grow further. Gears Tactics is an industry changing realisation that marks an illustrious movement in gaming development.
Gears Tactics - XBOX Games Studio
Gears Tactics is a turn-based tactics video game developed by Splash Damage in conjunction with The Coalition and published by Xbox Game Studios. It is a spin-off of the Gears of War franchise and a prequel to the first game.