Microsoft recently launched its latest in-house game, Gears Tactics. Taking a cue from the name, this is part of the popular Gears of War franchise. The new game is a spin-off of the franchise that pushes things beyond the usual first-person shooter into the turn-based strategy genre. Talking about turn-based strategy games, this new game is somewhat similar to the XCOM series. As part of the announcement, Microsoft has priced the game for Rs 3,999 on Microsoft Store. The game is also available for Rs 1,299 on the Steam store.

In addition, the game is also part of the Xbox Game Pass for PC. It means that the game is available to play for all the Game Pass for PC subscribers. The storyline of the game spans over multiple chapters offering about 12-30 hours of campaign gameplay. This time frame ranges wildly depending on your skill and level of difficulty. As per the description, Microsoft reveals that this new game is set 12 hours before the events of the first Gears of War game. Players will get to hunt the monsters along with their creator Ukkon on planet Sera.

The game offers an interesting blend of the turn-based game along with multiple gameplay elements from the Gears of War franchise. Beyond this, the developer manages to expand the existing story in a neat package when it comes to graphics and the music. After spending about 20 hours playing the game, here is my review for Gears Tactics.

Graphics on Gears Tactics

First, let’s talk about the graphics of the game before diving into other elements of the game. Splash Damage and The Coalition, the game developers have done an impressive job in making the game look beautiful. It is one of the best looking turn-based games along with a slight mash-up of third-person elements from the classic Gears. The game looks like a proper AAA gaming title with multiple options for the graphics. These options ensure that a wide number of players can run the game without problems. The game can even run on stuff as old as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti.

Gears Tactics gameplay

Players can choose between “Low”, “Medium”, “High”, and “Ultra” graphics performance presets. I could easily run the game in “Ultra” settings with my AMD Ryzen 9 3950x-based system with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. Digging deeper, the game graphics are split between five categories including “General”, “Textures”, “Environment”, “Post Process”, and “Advanced”.

The general section allows users to dial in the resolution, performance preset, maximum frame-rate, the limit of cinematic frame fate, and scaling mode. Textures section allows users to pin-down the quality of details in different parts of the game. One can dig deeper into the “Environment” section while adding stylistic details in the “Post Process” portion. The “Settings” area showcases a proper preview of how most changes will appear on the right side. These previews make things more meaningful rather than the usual textual description. The game developer has also added support for 4K UHD along with HDR during the gameplay. Overall, you will not be disappointed with how the game looks.

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Music and Cinematics

Moving to the music, Gears Tactics follows in the footsteps of its predecessors with a rich musical score. The high quality of music production starts from the looping orchestra on the main menu. It extends to the dense environmental effects based on the weather, to the character dialogues. We also see the music ramp up when things get tricky along with enemy war cry. The voice acting and in-game graphics are top-notch to offer a well-rounded experience. Things get so much better with the help of the “Post Process” section in the “Video” graphics settings. This section allows players to add depth of field, motion blur, anti-aliasing, lens flare, ambient occlusion, and even that Anamorphic-look. These options push cinematics to another level.

Gears Tactics Cinematics

Gears Tactics Story and Content

Gears Tactics builds upon the existing story-line from the Gears of War franchise to offer a deeper dive. Cut-scenes also offer a great way to flesh out the story-line in addition to the usual narrative during the campaign. We get to know some details about the past that pushed the primary character Gabriel “Gabe” Diaz in the current situation. We also get to meet other characters including Sid Redburn, Mikayla Dorn, and the villain, Ukkon. The game pushes the player to take a small squad of “Gears” to fight and survive multiple Locust waves. It is worth noting that none of these characters really make for a super compelling and memorable in the long run. However, things are good enough for us to not care about the deeper complexities.

Along with the fighting, players get to rescue and recruit other Gears and civilians to fight the enemy. The primary hero Gears and others are split between different classes. These include “Support”, “Vanguard”, “Scout”, “Heavy”, and “Sniper”, each with their set of weapons, skills and more. As part of the fighting, players complete missions along with side-missions with optional goals and “modifiers”. In addition, we also get the option to fully customize our players while crafting their weapons from the loot crates. The game does feel slightly repetitive and weapon upgrades may look confusing in the beginning. However, things are much easier once you develop a rhythm.

Controls and Gameplay

Now, let’s talk about the controls and the overall gameplay on the Gears Tactics. First up, the control scheme of the game is easy to learn and grows on you after some time. The game also does a great job of demonstrating how the controls work in early tutorials. It is also worth noting that one can see the control shortcuts on the screen at almost all times. This can make a keyboard-only operation much easier for players. It is for the better that the game does not make things complicated with multiple layers of control. You can pan around in the battlefield, cycle between your characters, switch weapons, and then chose between different weapon actions and “Active skills”. The mix of “cover-based” combat from Gears of War makes the game impressive along with cinematic third-person executions.

Gears Tactics Home screen

Talking about the gameplay, we get a similar, easy to understand outlook. It is quite easy to get the hang of the game. The in-game layer makes it easier in case one forgets any shortcut or how things work. Beyond this, the gameplay is slightly freeing and not really super restrictive. The in-game AI ensures that the system responds to user actions while repeating any mission or checkpoint. We can see enemies drop off at different locations depending on our decisions. Beyond this, the game is interesting and engaging enough to be borderline addictive. I found it difficult to keep track of the time while playing the game.

The enemy classes in the game are not as challenging as some other games. However, the game AI makes a point to punish you for missing out or not factoring in the established rules. In addition, there are a few things that are not mentioned outright and one learns as they proceed with the game. There are times that you may have to restart from the current checkpoint or restart the mission if your any of your primary characters dies. But even after all this, the fun does not stop.

Verdict: Is Gears Tactics worth buying?

Gears Tactics Main menu

Microsoft has managed to create a really good spin-off with Gears Tactics. The game offers a continuously engaging experience with a decent story-line, great graphics, and fine gameplay. Though there are some areas that could have been better such as a more dynamic side-mission system. Despite that, the game is surprising, constant, fun. It is easy to lose track of time in this visually beautiful game. We are still not sure about the different pricing of the game on the Microsoft Store and Steam. We have reached out to the company for clarification in this regard. However, in the meantime, for the price of Rs 1,299 on Steam, the game is quite delightful.

Editors Note: Microsoft provided a copy of ‘Gears Tactics’ for review.

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