Looking back, the 2016 re-release of Xbox’s successful real-time strategy game, Halo Wars, marked an apparent shift in the company’s focus on diversifying its first-party software line-up. Since then, Microsoft has developed Halo Wars 2, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, and Age of Empires 4. Now, with the announcement of Gears Tactics, it’s become evident that Microsoft is looking to expand its portfolio by developing several of its beloved franchises into new experiences.
“It’s our take on the classic turn-based strategy genre, with a character-driven story, faster, more aggressive gameplay, a customizable squad and equipment—and of course it wouldn’t be a Gears game without massive boss battles,” said Rod Fergusson at Xbox’s recent E3 press conference.
Revealed at the Xbox E3 2018 press conference as a prequel taking place 12 years before the events of Gears of War 1, Gears Tactics is a turn-based strategy game not unlike the X-COM games. It makes sense that Microsoft would choose this franchise for its next deviation, as the series has long been defined by its weapon design, execution mechanics, vast range of enemies, and most importantly, its cover system – all of which serve as the perfect framework for a new entry in the turn-based strategy genre.
Gears of War’s cover system was immensely important to the video game industry when it first released in 2006; and while the foundation has largely remained the same, Epic Games & The Coalition have spent the last decade polishing and evolving the system into one filled with counters, executions, and even tower defense elements in its latest iterations. The Fabricator, which allows for building fortifications and defensive artillery across the map seems like it would make for an interesting twist to the strategy genre, perhaps allowing Gears Tactics to lean into its Horde roots. Regardless, I’m curious to see how The Coalition infuses the system into the game since cover often serves as a major modifier in modern turn-based strategy games.
The Locusts, which are the primary antagonists of the Gears of War games, are known for their gargantuan bosses and burrowing armies, which work so well as an enemy due to the wide variety of behaviors and roles they’re able to satisfy. I think the Locust army will play a huge role in making the encounters within Gears Tactics dynamic and challenging. The Berzerker, a blind behemoth, is well known for its long range of movement and its interest in smashing through anything in its path. I could easily see this classic enemy being implemented into Tactics alongside some sort of accuracy debuff. Wretches will likely possess a long movement range with the added ability of climbing surfaces; and the Boomer’s famous Boomshot will enact heavy impact and splash damage.
This same logic can be applied to nearly every facet of Gears of War, and I think it’s easy to see how the series’ classic weapons, maps, and executions will be used to construct the framework of Gears Tactics. While the project is currently slated as solely a Windows 10 experience, I wouldn’t be shocked if The Coalition eventually brought the game over to consoles and tablets. Regardless, as a massive Gears of War fan, I’m eager for more information on Gears Tactics and believe Microsoft’s decision to expand and evolve the franchise is one that will likely pay dividends in the long run for both Xbox’s platform and the Gears of War fanbase.
Follow all of OK Beast’s E3 2018 coverage here.