Gears Tactics is Gloriously Bringing The Pain Train to XCOM & Gears Fans

Gears Tactics Preview

At first glance, a turn-based strategy spin-off from one of Xbox’s most popular exclusives seemed like it could be a huge risk, and one that didn’t feel likely to pan out. Gears Tactics is a turn-based, squad tactics game that raises the Gears of War camera above the battlefield, and it looks awesome. In an exclusive preview with design director Tyler Bielman, I witnessed Gears Tactics gameplay across multiple stages of the game, and I left feeling that most of my skepticism over the upcoming title had been thoroughly lifted.

Open Fire

Gears Tactics is a single-player game that throws you into intense, fast-paced battle during events that occur ten years before Gears 5. The story follows Gabe Diaz, the father of Gears 5 protagonist Kait Diaz, and takes us through an extremely cinematic experience full of beautiful, dramatic cutscenes and top-notch graphics that capture all of the best elements of the Gears of War franchise. 

One of the defining facets of Gears Tactics’ gameplay is its unrestricted openness and freedom in battle. Unlike many other turn-based strategy games, your squad is not confined to any sort of grid, and you can move into any angle or space you see on the map. Each member of your team is also allowed three action points per turn, which is generous compared to other games in the genre that constrain you to one movement point and one attack point per turn. With the action points offering a bit more leniency and the lack of movement restriction on the battlefield, Gears Tactics truly allows you to fight and win in a myriad of different ways. 

Another notable aspect of Gears Tactics is its RPG-style class and skill system. There are five different character classes that can be assigned to your team, including Vanguard, Support, Scout, Sniper and Heavy. Each of these classes has over 30 different unique skills that can be utilized in the game’s skill tree system, adding an exciting mechanic to experiment with and blend for deeper and more effective combat.

The Next XCOM Rival?

Not only can you customize your squad and the skills used in each character’s class, but you can also customize your team members’ equipment. Each class has its own designated weapon, and you can customize these with items such as scopes, barrels, stocks and more in up to four different modification slots. For those who want a little more personalization to the cosmetic side of things, you can also change features such as colors, patterns and finishes of your squad’s weapons and armor to your liking.

It’s a staple in Gears of War to have massive boss fights at the end of each act, and this is something that will carry over to Gears Tactics. There are three main acts in the game, and you can definitely expect to see visually magnificent bosses at the finish of all of them. You can play through the campaign on one of four difficulties, with an “Ironman” mode that can be toggled on and off in combination with any difficulty you choose. The Ironman mode elevates the experience to be more high-stakes, as it removes the ability to take back any mistakes you make while playing. Combine this Ironman mode with the menacing boss battles, and you’ve got a sizable challenge ahead. 

Overall, Gears Tactics looks alarmingly promising. It’s a well-thought-out homage to Gears of War that does serious justice to the original franchise, and its detailed turn-based mechanics, skill tree system and unrestricted openness could make this a strong rival to the XCOM games. From what I’ve seen of the game so far, my doubts have certainly dissipated, and the question has gone from wondering if Gears Tactics will be any good at all to asking just how good it’s going to be.

Gears Tactics will be available on Xbox Game Pass and Steam on April 28, 2020.