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    dkirschner's Gears Tactics (PC)

    [June 13, 2020 02:48:55 PM]
    I had never heard of Gears Tactics until I saw an ad for it on the Microsoft Game Pass storefront. Lo and behold, when it came out, it was included for free in Game Pass. Now, I'm wary of spinoffs, free games, and games I've never heard of that are all of a sudden available and appealing to me. But I do love tactics games, and the reviews for this were good-but-not-great (81% critic and 7.7 user scores on Metacritic, 76% "mostly positive" on Steam...and somehow a 4.8/5 on Xbox). I read a lot of reviews because the length appears to be 25 or so hours and I'm not keen on committing that amount of time to something that might be just okay. Plus, I have XCOM 2 and Shadow Tactics, two tactics games that I've actually been excited about for way longer.

    Anyway, the perk of it being free is I can try it. If I'd paid for the game, I'd feel more compelled to finish, but to try for free? Eh, if it doesn't grab me I can put it down. I'm not sure how long I played, but I completed Act 1 (of 3), and I have a good impression of the game. The quick take is that it's XCOM-lite and a Gears game translated very well for tactics gameplay. I certainly had fun with it, but for everything cool about it, there are drawbacks that I know I'll not want to deal with for the remaining 2/3...and about 15-20 more hours...of the game.

    Let's start with the cool stuff. If you've played a Gears of War game, you know it's already pretty tactical, as far as shooters go. I mean, it basically invented the modern third-person cover shooter. Just tilt the camera so you see the battlefield from above and, bam! Gears Tactics! Okay, it's more than that, but the franchise feels right at home in this genre. They kept standard enemy types and gun types and added classes. There are 5 classes that each have a couple specializations and quirks that make them feel unique. Some of the classes revolve around a gun type, such as the sniper (this one is obvious), the vanguard and support (which revolve around the lancer), and the heavy (which revolves around the mulcher [a chaingun]).

    Each class has a big skill tree that branches off into four directions, allowing you to differentiate multiple characters with the same class. For example, the heavy can spend points around the Anchor skill, which is perfectly mapped from regular Gears games. In those games, you can't move and shoot a mulcher. Thus, in Gears Tactics, when the heavy takes a shot, he gains a stack of Anchor, which increases critical hit chance and damage. For every shot, he gains another stack, up to 3 or 5 depending on how many skill points you've invested. If you move, you lose your stacks. Maybe you're not interested in rooting your heavy to one spot and you'd rather spec your heavy so that shots do explosive damage in a radius. Maybe you want your support class character to specialize in healing individual units, or maybe in healing all units at once, or maybe in giving units other buffs. There are a good number of options here!

    Enemies are similarly well translated from the regular games. Hammerburst drones like to take cover and use the Overwatch ability (all your characters can do this too, and it is quite useful), just like they tend to stay behind cover in the other games. Melee units will charge and try to get in range; genadiers become enraged and shoot harder and move farther; and so on. I suppose having played all the other Gears games (and two just recently) makes understanding Gears Tactics a little bit easier, but it's a pretty basic tactics game regardless, so far offering little challenge on normal difficulty. I also think playing two Gears games recently is making me care less about this one. I wonder if I'd be more into it under usual haven't-just-played-Gears-of-War circumstances.

    Another way that the game adapts the regular franchise is through the focus on being aggressive. All your characters can perform executions on enemies if they are downed (dying), and some classes have abilities to charge and melee kill enemies. There are always perks for doing this, rooted in some character class's designs. When support class units kill an enemy, they heal all allies for a small amount. My vanguard is specced to gain 20% damage and 20% evasion for the rest of the round when he bayonet charges an enemy. My heavy has a perk where he gains 2 AP when another ally executes an enemy. Also, when you kill a downed enemy, every other ally gains 1 AP. So, the game really encourages up-close-and-personal combat through synergistic class skills. It's like the more you kill, especially with bayonets and chainsaws, the more actions you get. Very cool.

    Despite the neat ideas Gears Tactics brings to the table for the tactics genre, the drawbacks are plenty as well. First, this story is so paper thin and uninteresting. The entire game is about you hunting some bad Locust guy named Ukkon. He's really bad, which you know by the fact that he's like an evil scientist, he kills COGS and laughs, he gets shot in the head and lives, he wears a cape and a crown, he uses an Immortan Joe style facemask to breathe sometimes. I mean, he's bad okay? So bad. Nearly every story mission so far has been "search for survivors/more COGs!" or "go to where Ukkon might be."

    The story missions' narratives are bad enough, but the side missions are even more pointless. There are four types, which you will repeat over and over again. Or so I've read in reviews. But I've done two types and I already don't want to do any more side missions. The real problem? Side missions are mandatory! You have to complete x number of side missions every so often to progress the main story. They are pure filler to make the game longer. Gears Tactics has really annoying ads touting the fact that there are no microtransactions (what, is this a mobile game??) and asking you to rate it, but it is silent on the sin of padding a game with filler required side missions.

    Couple this with the fact that your Gears level up so unbelievably slowly and you will be drowning in repetition. My main characters, the ones I've used every map, are level 4. My other COGs are level 2 or 3. I am looking right now at a video of the Act 2 boss (another 1/3 through the game) and they are playing with main characters level 4-5 and other COGs level 3-4. I've read that this is just how it is! People are finishing the game at level 7. Ugh. You only get skill points when you level up; otherwise, all you get are like weapon modifications and some armor, which generally do pretty boring things like just increase damage or evasion.

    Speaking of the inventory system, it needs some streamlining. During missions, you can retrieve "cases" scattered around the map for parts, and you'll get some other parts as rewards. To equip something, you have to click through a bunch of menus for each soldier. Say I got a new helmet. I click a soldier, click the helmet slot, and see what they have equipped and the list of what else I have. If that soldier already has a good helmet, I have to click the roster, click the next soldier, click the helmet icon, and then see the list. I should be able to see what helmets all soldiers have on at the same time! Or, I should be able to see all of one character's equipment on the same screen! This clicking down into separate menus for each equipment type for each character is madness.

    One of the best things about XCOM is that each of your soldiers matters to you (especially if you name them after your friends). When they die, it sucks. You're sad and have a hole in your team. Gears Tactics' extra COGs are totally dispensable. They can die permanently, but it doesn't matter at all. You have a constant stream of new recruits that, unbelievably, will often be of a higher level than the units you've groomed in battle. Well, time to bench reliable Todd who's been with me for this whole act and recruit Amanda because she's a level higher. Bye Todd. Gears Tactics also has no meta strategy layer. There's no base-building, no flying around the world, no nothing except leveling and equipping your Gears from mission to mission. It makes the game feel shallow (perhaps shallower than it actually is).

    So, way more than I intended to write for this. Not a bad game at all! The battles hold my interest for sure. They are well done and exciting, and the one boss fight I had at the end of Act 1 was great. But almost everything else is barely propping it up. I'll wait for another tactics game that I was looking forward to!
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    dkirschner's Gears Tactics (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got Bored

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 10 June, 2020

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 13 June, 2020

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Crunchy Gears tactics game. Fun so far! ----------- Don't feel like committing to the end. Fun and intense combat, but the rest of the game doesn't do it justice.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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