Gears Tactics – Review

If you love yourself some good X-Com strategy action, you definitely should check out Gears Tactics. I got a free trial of Microsoft Game Pass from buying a new Ryzen 3900X CPU a little while ago, so I’m currently playing the game through that service for free. It still feels odd that companies, or Microsoft, are releasing these first party games straight to game pass for you to play the game.

Minor Spoilers Ahead For This Strategy Game, If You Care

Okay, let’s just be clear, I played this game and “rolled credits” on it. When you finish the last mission you unlock veteran side missions that you can play to unlock the “best” gear in the game. I feel like I tend to focus on the negative aspects of games more than the positives, so let me start with the positives and see how it goes.

The game ran well on my computer, it is a strategy game but is using some high quality assets that I can only assume are from the Gears 5 game, but just modified a bit. There were a fair bit of graphical oddities that would pop up, like bad camera angles and animations. One odd bug was in the character screens the helmets would turn their visibility on even when the slider had them set as off, you just have to cycle it and it fixes itself.

Surprising, about what I got out of Gears 5.

I liked the look of the characters and was able to customize them a decent amount, I made my a heavy character as Jesse Ventura from Predator, which was enjoyable. The way combat works, compared to X-Com was also done really well. Not being constrained to a grid-based system worked well for what they were going for. You could arc a grenade and spend 30 seconds getting it dialed in just right to kill as many characters as possible, which would often come down to searching for the right pixel to click on. It’s just a solid one of those style of games.

Rescue rangers, only this time it’s groundhog day.

So, I need to talk about a few things…

The new enemy introduction is the cheapest feeling title card in all of gaming, nobody designed this.

The story is super generic, it starts off well enough but then just devolves into getting pieces of gear to do a thing, which I ended up not caring about because of…

The mission structure! This had me dying towards the end of the game. So the game has three main acts with about 8 story missions or so in each act. Those are the missions were you will get your little snippets of story. The problem I started running into hard towards the end of the second act and all through the third, is the side missions. I don’t think you could skip these, or if you can, I’m an idiot and I want my time back. Every two or three missions or so you have to do a selection of side missions in order to unlock the next story mission. This would be okay if they were interesting, but you end up doing the same thing over and over again.

This is where the main problem with this game is and part of what makes it feel more like a 40 dollar game. The side missions have, I think, three different types of categories that they fall into and they keep repeating. When you get to the end of the game and if you decide to continue on with the veteran side missions, knowing full well that you’ll have to hold two supply drops for a number of turns or rescue two squad members and get back to the evac site, you’re made of more durable stuff than I am.

I just wanted to get to the end and do the story bits, and even then you’ll do story missions were you’re just doing the same thing from the side missions. It got to me towards the end and I just decided to plow through it all. I didn’t really care anymore. Could they have not come up with just two or three extra mission types to spice it up a bit? It would have made this process way more enjoyable.

The other thing that got a bit tedious and annoying was the time spent in-between missions. You just get a character menu that doesn’t do a good job of ensuring you have the best equipment on at all times. Again, at the end of the campaign I just stopped caring about every little detail on my characters and kept it moving, which is a shame.

More side missions…

At first, I thought I wasn’t going to miss the whole X-Com base building aspect of that game in Gears Tactics, but you kind of understand that this game feels like it’s lacking a little something by not having it in. Perhaps a part of that is the repetitious mission structure, but as a player you want a little more to do besides going on mission after mission, an extra layer if you will. It would have been nice to start building up a mobile command structure, recruit other people like a weapon smith or armorer, who will then set up shop and you could go on a scavenger mission to get supplies so they can make legendary gear and weapons for your crew. If you’re listening developers, I’d love to work with you on a sequel. In the end, the game felt like it was missing an extra layer of complexity.

The story started off strong, but got really weak towards the end. The gameplay and structure of combat felt really fare, which is a great thing. It felt like you hit more shots at lower percentage rates than X-Com ever allowed. There might be a little bias in the code or something, but it felt good so I’m all for it.

Final Score – 7.8

I don’t even care what happens anymore.

It’s a nice little strategy game set in the Gears universe, which I’m a fan of. If you have game pass for PC, you may as well give it a shot. If you get tired of the missions, I say just jump on out and come back after a couple months off. I really just wish there was more variety and incentive to keep me coming back. Perhaps I’ll try and finish my X-Com 2 playthrough now.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Review

It feels a little odd reflecting back on this game after not picking it back up since I put it down two weeks ago. I had purchased the physical copy of this game for 15$, which must have been a year or so ago, and never even threw it into my Switch. That’s not something I do often, buy a game and not play it right away, but the price was just too good to pass up.

Great looking game

I’m a huge fan of the X-COM games, I’ve played them on PC, PS4, and even my iPad Pro and love everything about them. That’s why I wanted this game. X-COM on my Switch (that was just announced also, lol) is an awesome concept and to have Mario characters in it is an added bonus, what could go wrong.

The Rabbids though…nobody ever wanted that. I don’t even get what they are or why they exist. I know it’s a Ubisoft thing, but why are they a thing? It’s so confusing, they are so dumb looking, how does that get mixed with Mario? So many questions.

So yea, started playing this game and it was great. It was straight up X-COM with the Mario characters shooting guns and Luigi snipping from across the map with his vacuum cleaner sniper rifle. The first two worlds are great and the combat encounters are really fun and unique, but that’s where I stopped, when I went into world 3. I’ll get back to that in a bit though.

If you can’t tell, it looks like this huge statue is taking a piss waterfall which you have to walk through…what the fuck Nintendo, you all into some crazy shit.

So let’s just get to the graphics, which are awesome. This game is running on the Snowdrop engine, which is what the Division 2 uses. So that just shows an insane amount of scale-ability in that engine and it really does deliver a nice experience on the Switch. I played the game exclusively in handheld mode, like I do all Switch games since it’s a handheld console, and it looks really nice on the screen. The game has FMV cutscenes that look better than I expected from a game with Mario in it. It was just a little strange seeing Mario in a nicely rendered cutscene, perhaps an animated movie is next for him.

She got that look in her eyes

Rabbid characters make up the brunt of what you’ll be fighting, while characters from Mario games make small appearances here and there. Fighting the Rabbids is not a problem and that’s not why I stopped playing the game. There’s a nice feature before jumping into a fight where you can hit a button and give yourself a health boost before the match, which is a nice way to alter the difficulty on the fly. Which is how I just started naturally playing the missions as it went along and is part of the reason why this game bothered me so much.

The game itself revolves around your plucky little team, led by a circular floating robot, walking around an over-world solving little puzzles and gaining upgrades. Later on you can go back to previously explored sections and use your newfound abilities to solve puzzles and find collectibles and new weapons. All that is just great. No problems.

Yo, what?

Let’s ask a basic question. What makes a good X-COM game?

Upgrading and growing your squad.
Interesting combat encounters.
Fair combat encounters?

You see that last one? Yea, that’s what I don’t like about this game. You just get to a point where all they do is add enemies that have abilities you can’t predict. So get this, you get into a combat situation, decide to play it safe and keep your back clear, slowly progressing in a strategic manner while staying in cover. Sounds good, doesn’t look like you’ll be flanked, Luigi is sniping like the guy from Enemy at the Gates . Nah son, scratch all that, fuck you and your plans, we got a ghost dude that’s just going to teleport right behind you and fuck you up. Thanks game. This just throws the whole strategy element on it’s head and instead makes it a crap-shoot whether the RNG works in your favor or not. Some enemies are just annoying and make you want to turn the game off, I wish this weren’t the case. After world 2 you can clear a battle without a worry, get wrecked the next stage, only to blow past the next with ease.

These Rabbids…So dumb looking

It all just became a repetitive process in the end, I felt like something was lacking in the overall experience, but I don’t know exactly what it is. Perhaps, if instead of having an environment were you walk around for the home base, if it was setup as more of a hub map. It could change the pace of the game and give the ability to reset your thoughts and focus on something completely different. From this over-map you can expand on the Mushroom Kingdom, building out bases to help in the fight. Perhaps a little extra customization on the characters would be nice, some outfit changes for Peach? A weapon smith to upgrade equipment if you brought back parts found in the world maps, or perhaps you do side missions for them and they reward you with upgraded gear. Heck, keep the ghosts in the game but give the characters the ability to drop a jamming device that has an area-of-effect where the ghosts can’t teleport inside of. That would add an extra level of complexity, while also making the matches more fair to the player.

In the end, it was enjoyable while it lasted, yet I have to put it down for a good while. Maybe one day I’ll pick it back up again when the mood strikes me. Nintendo just announcing a Switch port of X-COM 2 might put a huge damper on that one though… A good game with a great opening act that quickly turns into a frustrating experience.

Final Score – 7.0