Less than a year off the heels of Gears 5, The Coalition and Splash Damage are readying themselves for a new entry in Microsoft’s tentpole Gears of War franchise. Gears Tactics is a step away from the third-person action that fans of the series know and love. The Coalition is branching out, and has been supporting Splash Damaged throughout the development of a turn-based tactical title set in the Gears of War universe.
Tasking players to form a squad of hero units and troops, players will once again take on the dreaded Locust armies. This time, they’ll be playing in a top-down turn-based style, similar to popular tactical games like XCOM and recent genre entry Mutant Year Zero.
We were walked through a presentation of Gears Tactics by Tyler Bielman, the design director on the game.
Gears Tactics is a prequel, set 12 years before the events of the first Gears of War. Players are introduced to Gabe Diaz, father of pivotal character Kait Diaz, and other fellow members of the COG. Together, they are in pursuit of Ukkon, the lead scientist in the Locust army. Naturally, the road to victory poses many obstacles and sees Diaz and company go up against many formidable foes of the Locust Horde.
While Gears Tactics has a dramatic shift in gameplay, The Coalition upholds the character-driven narrative Gears of War is known for. Fully rendered cinematics and character-focused dialogue set the stage between missions. One of which we had a look at introduced us to Gabe and Sid, another member of COG. Sid is described as a supporting class character, while Gabe Diaz is more a well-rounded unit. The two are sent to a city setting to find and gather important documents. Low and behold, the Locust ends up showing up.
Throughout the campaign, you meet new “hero” units and secondary “troops” for your squad, including heavy-class characters and scouts.
Seeing as though Gears Tactics is taking a page from popular turn-based titles, gameplay and progression unfold in quite a different manner. Gears Tactics gets rid of the classic grid-based mechanic commonly seen in the genre. Instead, the stage is open to allow players to approach battles the way they want.
Gears Tactics maintains the core cover-based shooting the franchise has seen since its inception. Staying behind cover at all times is a primary component in the game. Throughout each turn, all units will have three ‘action points’ at their disposal to move, shoot, and set traps. Countering that, the Locust will come fast and in great numbers.
Battles feature an Overwatch mechanic which XCOM players will instantly recognize. Overwatch allows characters to shoot reactively during enemy turns. Players can place an imaginary cone during their turn, and if enemies enter it during theirs, they will come under fire proportionate to the unspent action points of the Overwatch-ing unit.
Secondary weapon options are available. They commonly feature less damage output, but a greater hit percentage over primary weapons. And it wouldn’t be a Gears of War game without executions. In Gears Tactics, players can use an action point to move up on a downed enemy for an execution. Completing an execution will grant every unit a bonus action point.
Gears Tactics will also feature massive boss battles that are just as dynamic as those in the core series. A boss battle against a Corpser is said to be amongst the few. These fights place players against familiar foes with multi-attack turns. Paired with the bosses, grunt enemies and emergence holes will also appear on the battlefield. Managing the field and prioritizing enemies will test the skills of players as they fight to survive these encounters.
Of course, being a tactics game, players will build their squad’s equipment and additional customizable features. Taking a light-RPG approach, upgrading skills and equipment will offer stat buffs such as increased health or passive traits to take into each mission. On each level, weapon cases can be found. The contents of these cases may provide new weapons and armor modifications. Some may be common mods, while others offer rarer treasures.
Units will level up over the course of the game. Increased levels will open up new unique abilities and better overall stats. The Coalition hopes to give players enough options to make use of the role of each unit and build their squad the way they’d prefer. Players will also be able to customize colors on their armor and weapons.
Optional objectives can be set before each mission. Mission modifiers can be put in place to either make the mission harder or easier. Completing missions with modifiers or optional objectives will reward players.
As Gears Tactics will only have single-player components, additional modes will be provided to give players a challenge. One such mode is Veteran Mode, which lets players grind through end game content after beating the campaign.
With Ironman mode, players will be unable to restart missions or backup their moves if they have made a mistake. Everything is permanent. Ironman mode can be combined with other modes, for an even more high-stakes experience.
Gears Tactics is slated for release on the Windows Store and Steam on April 28. Pre-ordering or playing Gears Tacting on Xbox Game Pass PC by May 7 will grant players a ‘Thrashball Cole’ character pack to use in-game.