This might sound weird but this game reminded me of “Into the breach” rather than “X-Com” to me.
Let me explain, Gears Tactics fundamental concept is pretty much like… well… Gears of war.
4 Macho men and Women fight against an endless horde of more metal version of orcs and goblins. That’s pretty much it.
One of X-Com stronger aspects is you start as a small underequipped, obsolete tech, and practically weaker than your enemies then working up by stealing, scavenging, and researching your own weapons. Your soldiers also fragile and inexperienced, They are learning to be hardened veterans on countless trials by fire.
On the other hand, Gears soldiers are already heroes units. Equally (if not slightly better) equipped than enemies. So enemies are mostly overwhelmed you by numbers and rush tactics this alone makes them feel very different in design.
This is the beginning of Gears Tactics it’s own both advantages and disadvantages. First off, this game presentation alone gives X-Com series a kick in the nads. It looks AAA (obviously it use a lot of Gears 5 aspects). Optimized and run pretty well for the most part. And the sound design is gritty and meaty like other Gears. If you are a fan of Gears Series, this might not seem so impressive. But for TBS players, This one takes the cake in terms of presentation alone.
Second, This game brought some interesting gameplay mechanics on the table. Non-grid-based is nice and intuitive (some knowledge from usual Gears also applied like dashing from cover to cover to reach further.) Weapons range somehow feels a bit too close for effective range (but hey! it’s Gears! right?) The most unbecoming part of this is they try to “Gears” this game too much. I have to admit that this game feels and plays very Gears like. But Gears background is very mindless compared to X-Com. In Gears Tactic you kill, kill, and then kill some more. Objectives pretty much rely on a handful of templates (rescue, gathering, raid run, sabotage, and some couple more templates.) This is pretty much the same with “Into the Breach” you fight, you kill, you upgrade your squad and move on. Nothing more than that.
This on the surface also feels like X-Com. But should I remind you that X-Com templated side missions are involved in much deeper strategic layers? They are doing this for other reasons than big fat loots and leveling up soldiers (which is pretty much only Gears Tactics does for side missions.) The story kinda moves on its own and other than that feels like Borderlands grinding loot mill. This makes side missions feel repetitive pretty fast because it doesn’t stop the doomsday clock, unlock story mission, weaken enemies armies or boost your research (which doesn’t exist.) One more downside of focus only on killing is it makes the skill branch seems pretty limited in the terms of substantial ways you can mess up your enemies.
Don’t get me wrong, Gears Tactics has a lot of skill branches to learn and you will end up very powerful as you like. But they are mostly statistic adjustment of pretty much the same thing you do (example for snipers, skill are like fire with more hit% or fire and reload or fire with additional damages to non-damage target.) There are many skills to be played with (and I like that.) But In X-Com, your snipers can fire with high power, can extend overwatch by friendlies sight, can create a Killzone and if you are going for it, Your snipers can be customized to grappling hook themselves on the high ground and can be a close quarter gunslinger. Can you see my point? X-Com 2 even with War of the Chosen DLC might seem lacking content for hardcore TBS fans.
Yet in practicality X-Com has much more stuff going on than gears (Hacking, mind control, stealth, abduction, 3rd party allies you named it.) In summary, Gears feels like a mindless”kill kill brute kill” with customizable trapped in its own lore. And where is the tech drone class? I want that badass Jack drone just like in Gears 5. It does make sense in lore terms so where is it? Where is smoke grenades? Where is the mortar? A flame grenade to zone the enemies would be nice? Oh, how about that crazy hammer of dawn pointer laser? My point is for the series that well known to go for some crazy weaponry and try hard to offer new ways to kill. This seems pretty “tamed” to me.
But what happens when just mindless kill Gears stuff is enough for you? Well, you will have a really good time here. The gameplay is solid. The story is nothing to write home about (as well as other Gears.) Every action you take is meaty and so much more smooth than X-Com. There are a lot of grubs to be killed (and I mean a lot.) The game is challenging unless you found broken builds which to be fair existed on almost TBS games. The progression system needs to be fixed right away (your soldiers always weaker than recruits.) The biggest disappointment is this game lacks ambitious, it feels like they just testing the water here. The area they are focusing on is nicely interpreted and crafted. But with about 40% content compared to X-Com 2 on the grand scale, this doesn’t seem fit to be a $60 title (a very appealing 40% is still 40%)
Why did I recommend this? luckily I live in the region that this game cost only around $20 (lucky me eh?) Then again you might not want to buy this game on Steam for now. If you are worried about a $60 price tag, you should try this game on the Xbox game pass (for PC) first. I am pretty sure you can beat this game in a week and play Forza Horizon 4 or something for the time left. Replayability is non-existed so don’t bother buying a full copy if you don’t want to.
Is this a failed attempt to competed with X-Com? I don’t think so. Even it can’t decrown X-Com today, Gears Tactics is going to leave a large bite mark on the aspect of “How next-gen TBS should look like”. The difference is very clear when 2K just decided to release X-Com: Chimera Squad right before this game and show how outdated it looks. Unfortunately, TBS players (at least for me) don’t play this genre of games just for how pretty it looks alone. But if you don’t have to pay too much I’d recommended just try it.
For now it’s a pretty decent TBS game that too humble to shine through.