'Gears Tactics' Is a Bloody, Rapid-Fire Reinvention of XCOM

One of the most durable and oft-replicated parts of XCOM’s design is its stingy allotment of actions. Every choice from the moment your turn begins requires careful consideration. Which unit should complete its move first? Should my sniper take this 50/50 kill-shot, or move to high ground for better odds next turn? Inflexible rules demand flexible thinking, and these stark trade-offs have become the defining attribute of modern turn-based tactics games. With Gears Tactics, they’re the first against the wall.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wxevx5/gears-tactics-preview-interview
1 Like

Did somebody accidentally a paragraph at the end of this write-up? It feels like it’s missing closing comments.

Earlier this year I played Phoenix Point for about an hour and remember thinking, well this kind of sucks, it just makes we want to play XCOM 2. Even before I modded 400,000 cosmetics and nonsense character loadouts into it, that was still the superior game.

That is my problem with buying into these XCOM-alikes–not all TBT games, just these that are specifically chasing XCOM:EU’s bag. How will they convince me to play them; what do they bring to the table that’s new? With Massive Chalice I was really intrigued by the marrying and creation of bloodlines… before the combat itself just fell apart with how aggressively specialized the character classes were (and with how OP the rangers were compared to every other class, including guy what only throws grenades and guy what fails to hit you with a log).


I suppose it comes down to individual preference, but to me Harebrained Schemes hit gold with marrying XCOM style combat with a cyberpunk RPG with their Shadowrun games. I also hear good things about Battletech in that vein.

For Gears Tactics, to me the appeal lies in the fact that it’s a strategy Gears game. It might not be fashionable to say it in 2020, but I like Gears. I like stopping and popping, grenading grub holes, and engaging in some squishy executions. If they can graft all that onto a decent strategy layer, I’m so in. But then I’m the guy that put in over 200 hours into Halo Wars, so take my judgement with a grain of salt.


The one issue that turn-based tactics games have is that they’re often all-or-nothing on both sides in the tactical layer. Your soldier is either alive or dead, and so are all the enemies. Injuries to your soldiers have consequences on the strategic layer, but injuries to enemies don’t. Battletech’s stompy mechs with discrete limbs and hardpoints completely changes the dynamic because most of the bits attached to your mech are expendable in a way XCOM soldiers and their gear absolutely are not. (Without going full meat-grinder like Long War does.) And on the other side you can win battles where you’re blatantly outgunned by shooting the scary LRM packs off an enemy Catapult or even fishing for headshots against an Atlas. It’s good.

Anyway, re: Gears the boss battles and the description of cover being kind of a sticky replacement for grid squares reminds me a lot of Dawn of War II. Which was of course an RTS but had the same idea of units automatically moving into nearby cover and also added boss battles into a genre not known for them. It doesn’t hurt that the COG aesthetic lies somewhere between the Space Marines and the Catachan Jungle Fighters.


Also in Battetech you actually have to think about ammo numbers. Your mechs can run out of cannon rounds or missiles with no way to resupply; inversely, so can the enemy mechs. It’s brings in quite a different tactical layer than XCOMS unlimited ammo as long as you reload.

But also, man were Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun games great. Remember how the canonically there’s only been one white male in any of the game’s parties? And Dietrich is such a great old Punk that at learning that he’d probably drop from the party to have underrepresented people across the board.

1 Like

Yep fell on that game the same exact way. I remember doing the tutorial and thinking “wow this game has 0 character to it” along with just making you make what I felt like were bad choices that had no repercussions. Was the first game I was happy to have played on game pass simply so I didn’t waste money on it.

Man I could not get into any of those Shadowrun games. I just struggled in early combat situations really hard, even on easy difficulty settings, which made me think I made bad choices with my starting party comp or something, which is a thing I get really anxious about with CRPGs. By comparison I’ve been able to play like veteran difficulty ironman XCOM games no problem for the most part, so I’m comfortable with tactics games but for whatever reason I really struggled with those Shadowrun games.

1 Like

I know what you mean. I didn’t enjoy the combat at all so I wound up just cheating my way through the hardest the battles so I could get to the excellent story.

I wanna hear from someone that digs tactics games but isn’t a big Gears fan. I’ve played a couple Gears game and that series just never grabbed me. BUT, man oh man, I dig me a good tactics game…

1 Like

halo tactics when!!!


We have Halo FPS and Halo RTS. We need Halo Tactics, Halo RPG and Halo Kart to complete the set.


A Fire Emblem FPS.


A Gears of War JRPG complete with spiky blond-haired protag