If you love yourself some good X-Com strategy action, you definitely should check out Gears Tactics. I got a free trial of Microsoft Game Pass from buying a new Ryzen 3900X CPU a little while ago, so I’m currently playing the game through that service for free. It still feels odd that companies, or Microsoft, are releasing these first party games straight to game pass for you to play the game.
Minor Spoilers Ahead For This Strategy Game, If You Care
Okay, let’s just be clear, I played this game and “rolled credits” on it. When you finish the last mission you unlock veteran side missions that you can play to unlock the “best” gear in the game. I feel like I tend to focus on the negative aspects of games more than the positives, so let me start with the positives and see how it goes.
The game ran well on my computer, it is a strategy game but is using some high quality assets that I can only assume are from the Gears 5 game, but just modified a bit. There were a fair bit of graphical oddities that would pop up, like bad camera angles and animations. One odd bug was in the character screens the helmets would turn their visibility on even when the slider had them set as off, you just have to cycle it and it fixes itself.
I liked the look of the characters and was able to customize them a decent amount, I made my a heavy character as Jesse Ventura from Predator, which was enjoyable. The way combat works, compared to X-Com was also done really well. Not being constrained to a grid-based system worked well for what they were going for. You could arc a grenade and spend 30 seconds getting it dialed in just right to kill as many characters as possible, which would often come down to searching for the right pixel to click on. It’s just a solid one of those style of games.
So, I need to talk about a few things…
The new enemy introduction is the cheapest feeling title card in all of gaming, nobody designed this.
The story is super generic, it starts off well enough but then just devolves into getting pieces of gear to do a thing, which I ended up not caring about because of…
The mission structure! This had me dying towards the end of the game. So the game has three main acts with about 8 story missions or so in each act. Those are the missions were you will get your little snippets of story. The problem I started running into hard towards the end of the second act and all through the third, is the side missions. I don’t think you could skip these, or if you can, I’m an idiot and I want my time back. Every two or three missions or so you have to do a selection of side missions in order to unlock the next story mission. This would be okay if they were interesting, but you end up doing the same thing over and over again.
This is where the main problem with this game is and part of what makes it feel more like a 40 dollar game. The side missions have, I think, three different types of categories that they fall into and they keep repeating. When you get to the end of the game and if you decide to continue on with the veteran side missions, knowing full well that you’ll have to hold two supply drops for a number of turns or rescue two squad members and get back to the evac site, you’re made of more durable stuff than I am.
I just wanted to get to the end and do the story bits, and even then you’ll do story missions were you’re just doing the same thing from the side missions. It got to me towards the end and I just decided to plow through it all. I didn’t really care anymore. Could they have not come up with just two or three extra mission types to spice it up a bit? It would have made this process way more enjoyable.
The other thing that got a bit tedious and annoying was the time spent in-between missions. You just get a character menu that doesn’t do a good job of ensuring you have the best equipment on at all times. Again, at the end of the campaign I just stopped caring about every little detail on my characters and kept it moving, which is a shame.
At first, I thought I wasn’t going to miss the whole X-Com base building aspect of that game in Gears Tactics, but you kind of understand that this game feels like it’s lacking a little something by not having it in. Perhaps a part of that is the repetitious mission structure, but as a player you want a little more to do besides going on mission after mission, an extra layer if you will. It would have been nice to start building up a mobile command structure, recruit other people like a weapon smith or armorer, who will then set up shop and you could go on a scavenger mission to get supplies so they can make legendary gear and weapons for your crew. If you’re listening developers, I’d love to work with you on a sequel. In the end, the game felt like it was missing an extra layer of complexity.
The story started off strong, but got really weak towards the end. The gameplay and structure of combat felt really fare, which is a great thing. It felt like you hit more shots at lower percentage rates than X-Com ever allowed. There might be a little bias in the code or something, but it felt good so I’m all for it.
Final Score – 7.8
It’s a nice little strategy game set in the Gears universe, which I’m a fan of. If you have game pass for PC, you may as well give it a shot. If you get tired of the missions, I say just jump on out and come back after a couple months off. I really just wish there was more variety and incentive to keep me coming back. Perhaps I’ll try and finish my X-Com 2 playthrough now.