One look at Gears Tactics, the upcoming turn-based strategy game based on the Gears franchise, and the first thing that pops into your hardcore gaming mind is “XCOM”. And maybe XCOM 2.

I mean, just look…

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That statement isn’t a knock at the upcoming Gears game from publisher Microsoft and developer Splash Damage at all. In fact, Gears Tactics takes cues from the best and puts its own innovative “Gears” spin on it. While at the get-go the game looks easy to pick up and play thanks to its pretty on-the-nose tutorial, via a recent media invite livestream of the game, the whole of it is anything but.

Honestly, I’m pretty stoked at this new iteration of a Gears title; you still control a 4-person squad of brick s***houses to kill Locusts in front of you, but there’s a lot more nuance shown and highlighted. The fact that it’s turn-based means that there are new obstacles & firefights to think your way out of instead of just relying on running-and-Gnashering methods.

Let me break down the chief five things I’m looking forward to in Gears Tactics

#1. All The Gears Stuff In Turn-Based Strategy Form

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Apart from the COGs vs. Locust war that’s going on, Gears Tactics still has all of its world-building and lore but in isometric turn-based form. You still fight a horde of Locusts, keep an eye out for Emergence Holes, and deal with giant Brumaks and Corpsers. But now you have a chance to use your brain and take your time instead of mashing the dodge button and frantically searching for cover.

Let me take that back: it’s a tad more harrowing now because you have to think two steps ahead of the AI horde. See, most stages where you do battle at will have tons of modifiers and enemy types to be wary of. Those emergence holes? They can pop up anytime past turn 3 onwards. The Locust horde? Now they have certain turn-based advantages. The Wretchers can now get a free attack if you run into them onto your turn. The made-for-Gears-Tactics Disciple Locusts will explode upon death, poisoning and weakening COG squads around its radius.

While it looks familiar, the turn-based spin now adds a lot more challenges you need to tackle using patience and positioning.

#2. Your Skills & Tactics, Gears-iFied

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And by that last made-up word, I mean all the hallmarks of a Gears game are now transformed into meaningful actions in Gears Tactics. Remember Executions, that one staple killing move you pull off in multiplayer Gears for style points? If you spend one action point here to execute a downed Locust (highlighted with handy skull icons), you can gain one additional extra point to use for a different move.

In other words, it’s possible to line enemies up for multiple executions, and then use those additional points to put more hurt on grubs or even use other tactics, like the ever-useful overwatch. Using overwatch means you get to take shots at enemies who enter your squad’s line of sight.

Running to cover is also beneficial. You have three action points to use in a turn; if you run into cover even if you’ve used up 2 action points-and-a-half doing so, you still have one extra action point to do whatever.

As far as turn points go, Gears Tactics is generous and less strict because it wants players to be proactive and keep the fight going as fast as possible. At least for a turn-based title.

#3. Character Customization

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As you complete missions, you get to accumulate points to boost up your squad’s active and passive skills. It’s not overtly complicated; Gabe Diaz above has skills that help with supporting his squad, be it with health upgrades or temporary stat buffs, but you can choose how he plays like on the field. The same goes for the vanguards (units who push forward), scouts (fast units who can outflank enemies), and snipers (units who can shoot from afar and even break overwatch).

Also, your unit’s weapons and armour come with 4 mod slots and 3 mod slots respectively, opening up a can of possibilities to make your power army. Cosmetics-wise, you can tart up your heroes with colourful armour, so if you’d rather take Gabe Diaz out for a Sunday stroll in pink and yellow armour, you can.

#4. The Epic Boss Fights

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No Gears game is complete without a big battle against a Brumak or a Corpser, and Gears Tactics makes this a monumental stage on its own. We were given a glimpse of the Corpser battle, and it looks like a heckuva fight.

Not only do you have to contend with respawning enemies on the left and right side, you also have to watch out for area-wide Corpser attacks. The big guy will rear back for one turn to do a ground pound, so make it a habit to get out of the way during that turn. You can only damage its face when it’s not covered by its “hands”, so you need to use explosions to keep its face unprotected.

Boomers that spawn on occasion will drop Boomshots when killed, so you’ll need to use those to your advantage. Also, beware of the occasional Emergence Holes in this fight; there’s a lot to keep track of. Ultimately, a combination of overwatching, flanking, cover-taking, and grenade-tossing will help you prevail.

You also have to hunt down this special Locust leader called Ukkon. In Gears lore, he’s the guy responsible for breeding these badass Locust units and strapping armaments onto giant beasties they created and own. You’ll fight him TBS-style on occasion, but keep in mind that he regenerates his body parts, so taking him down requires some puzzle mentality and brainwork.

#5. There’s Ironman Mode For You Sadists Out There

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If the normal version of the game isn’t enough to challenge your strategizing, you can opt to play it on Ironman Mode. Basically like in XCOM, you cannot reload saves mid-battle; you are committed to your choices. Just select Ironman mode first, then any difficulty you want. There’s an achievement for that, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Gears Tactics will be out 28th April for PC and Xbox One. And yes, you can play this game via Xbox Game Pass on the day itself.

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