HomeReviews3/5 ReviewGem Wizards Tactics Review

Gem Wizards Tactics Review

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Gem Wizards Tactics is a tactical strategy title for Xbox and Steam, released in February of 2021. Reminiscent of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Pit People, Advance Wars, WarGroove, and many more, Gem Wizards Tactics is another notch in a list of cartoonish strategy games.

Gem Wizards Tactics battles take place on a large hexagon grid, with each moving space a hexagon as well. Move your units through forests, hills, rivers, deserts and more in order to defeat your enemies and capture their flag. 

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Characters have four action points, using both movements and skills to use them up, excluding attacking. Move your units to collect the gems along the terrain to get enough action points to use your skills.

The factions in Gem Wizards Tactics range from peculiar and weird, to generic. You’ll get to choose from some interesting armies such as demons or potatoes, or something incredibly mundane like the “Azure Order”, who are just knights that are blue. Each unit has their own abilities and skill sets, yet there is also no explanation as to who some of the units are. Some are named characters, while others are bizarre like a bulldozer. It makes perfect sense that cavalry would be part of the Azure Order. It’s a common fighting unit in these games. 

The controls, despite being a turn based strategy game, are very frustrating. After moving your unit, attacking and using a skill, sometimes the game will say it has moves left even though it doesn’t; zero action points yet your cursor is locked onto them. This is a basic component of strategy games and the difficulty shouldn’t be from deciphering how to end a turn. The cursor is also white on white, making it hard to see.

The story, Derby’s Campaign, is about an intern in the demon army. It is nice to see a change for once where the player controls the bad guys, although – spoiler alert – in the end Derby switches sides when he realizes he is a villain and the demons are not the heroes. The story/campaign is quite short which hinders its storytelling, with many plot points seemingly rushed in order to get to the end. 

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It’s not helped that characters are introduced and talk to each other as if the player should know them; as if there is this history between characters, but the player would not know this. Take Derby’s reasoning for going to the potato army. His boss keeps calling him “intern”. Derby has enough of that and switches sides. But he also switches sides because he realizes he is the aggressor. Derby’s traitorous ways don’t feel as if they correlate with anything. It doesn’t feel as if his boss calling him “intern” and not giving him the credit he deserves would be enough to change sides in a war. 

Once again, events just happen to help you get from A to B. The team behind it have obviously wanted to create a story where you play as the villian. That is understandable and appreciated, but if it’s not convincing then it shouldn’t be bothered.

Gem Wizards Tactics has clear inspirations from games such as Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Pit People, Wargroove and many more. Your movements, attacks and planning of the battlefield can equal success and it is what makes these types of games enjoyable. There is more than one path towards victory. 

Gem Wizards Tactics could be better if there was more incentive to play. There are mastery ranks, but it doesn’t do much except for gaining achievements. There are no stakes in the battles either – if you lose you start again. It may be a preference, but permadeath in these types of games makes things much more interesting. Fire Emblem’s permadeath brings a much needed fear and panicking that could be used in Gem Wizards Tactics. This on top of more well-rounded characters could make the battles more nail-biting. And it’s disappointing because there is a clear universe built for this game. It’s just missing the characters that I do not care about because I don’t know them and can’t lose them in battle.

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There is clear potential for Gem Wizards Tactics. It could easily be a good game, but at the moment it is just nothing more than decent. The game does well in the strategy department, the different skills, moves, terrains, passive abilities, etc that make up the actual battling. However, the story falls flat and just feels added in for the sake of the story. 

Some slack does need to be granted though. The game was created by Keith Burgun Games, an independent game developer of the same name. He has also created a tabletop game, written books, has podcasts, and created another hexagonal strategy game called Auro. With this in mind, it is hard to criticize much. Not having another person or team to bounce ideas off of could definitely lead to some bad decisions. There is clear potential in both Gem Wizards Tactics and the developer, but it would be better off created by a team where ideas and critiques could occur. 

Gem Wizards Tactics is on the Xbox Store

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