Since this is on Game Pass, I gave it a try yesterday. It’s hard to express how good the second level is at communicating what this game is. Where XCOM (which it clearly takes a number of cues from) is about not making mistakes and moving forward with great care, Gears Tactics is about moving forward, often boldly. This level puts an emergence hole (that continually spawns units) behind a seemingly insurmountable wall of foes. If you hang back in cover (as I did) and use overwatch traps to absorb the attack before cautiously moving forward, you get caught by a spawn of an equally large force behind you.
On my second attempt, I rushed forward, allowing some of my gears to take a few hits, using all of the abilities I could to get to the emergence hole at all costs. I got to it, but had a pretty beat up squad in cover as the second wave arrived. Most of my healing abilities required damaging units, so this time I left a heavy in cover, to cover my units advancing into the wave, getting as many kills as I could to get back to full. The third level pays off the lesson by having a turn limit. But I think I used under half of the available turns, since I’d taken the lesson to heart.
It completely rewires the thought process that goes into playing an xcom-a-like tactics game, in a way that I think is going to be influential in the genre. It’s also not afraid to have actual 100% chances to do things, which really helps drive a forward momentum to the tactics.
The Narrative still seems pretty dumb, and full of bros who either love war or just want to fix cars and drink beer but can’t help that were just born to be murder machines. But that’s never been the reason to play a Gears game, so that hasn’t been a deterrent yet.