Today I am taking a look at the new turn-based strategy game Gem Wizard Tactics. When I first saw the game I was intrigued. From just the trailer the game looked like a more colorful take on games like Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Wargrove, and Into the Breach. While I don’t play a lot of games from this genre, I generally enjoy them as they find the right balance between strategy and simplicity where you don’t have to spend forever figuring out the move that you want to make. As a fan of silly games, I also liked that the game didn’t take itself too seriously as one of the factions in the game consists of sentient potatoes. Gem Wizard Tactics has some really interesting ideas for its genre mixed with a surprising amount of strategy, but it is a little light in content at this point
Gem Wizard Tactics is a turn-based asymmetrical strategy game. The object of the game is to acquire a certain number of flags from your opponent. These flags can be acquired from capturing the towers spread around the battlefield or defeating some of the more powerful units. You are given a number of different units to control. Each unit has a number of action points that you can use to move it or perform one of its special actions.
On the surface the game might feel like your typical turn-based tactics game as you position your units and attack the enemy units until they run out of health. While this is a valid strategy in the game, there are other things to consider as well. First the terrain plays a pretty big role in the game. The terrain effects units defense and movement. Many of the units are able to alter the terrain with their abilities. The game also has a sliding/bouncing mechanic where you can push other units. Due to this you can choose to deplete an enemies’ health or just push them off the edge of the map.
At this point the game has three main modes outside of the tutorial. The game has a custom game mode and a ranked mode which consist of individual battles. The custom mode allows you to tweak various factors of the game, while the ranked mode adjusts the difficulty based on how often you win or lose. Arguably the main mode though is the campaign. The campaign is a series of battles. The objective is to reach 100% power before the opponent by winning battles. Units carry over between battles as they grow more powerful. A unit lost in battle is lost forever though. If you ever lose all of your units or the enemy’s power reaches 100% you lose the campaign.
Gem Wizard Tactics’ gameplay basically boils down to using your units to defeat the enemy units. The one area where I think Gem Wizard Tactics differentiates itself from a lot of games from this genre is that it relies quite a bit on utilizing the units’ special abilities. You can defeat enemies by placing your units next to them and using normal attacks to deal enough damage to defeat them. This will work in some cases. The enemy will almost always have considerably more units in play than you though. Therefore you need to utilize the special abilities in order to even things out a little.
This is the area where I think Gem Wizard Tactics really excels. The game has three different factions and each plays quite differently. The Potatoes are mostly focused on water and controlling the weather. The Azure Order is comprised of knights and other medieval units which specialize in charging into other units and using ice magic. Finally the Business Demons are the most interesting. They mostly utilize fire attacks, but also transform the terrain in search for oil which helps them grow their power. While some of the attacks are shared between the different factions, each has a different emphasis and requires you to play them in a different way. On top of this you can acquire units of different factions which gives you additional options to mix and match strategies.
I was honestly kind of surprised by the amount of strategy in Gem Wizard Tactics. You can’t brute force your way to victory outside the lowest difficulty levels. You need to always be aware of the positioning of your units as the enemy can easily surround you. There is a real sense of satisfaction when you can chain two or more units’ abilities together to create an even more powerful combo. If you use your units wisely you can overcome a significantly more powerful force. I give the game a lot of credit as it feels like a lot of effort was put into creating special abilities that feed off one another. If you think the idea of utilizing the various units’ abilities to create combos sounds interesting, you likely will really enjoy playing Gem Wizard Tactics.
This does lead to the game being somewhat difficult at times though. The lower difficulty levels which includes the first couple battles of the campaign are generally pretty easy. As long as you don’t make stupid mistakes you should be able to survive without losing any units. The difficulty can increase pretty quickly though. You can pretty easily become overwhelmed where you won’t be able to survive a sustained attack. This isn’t helped by the fact that enemy units can spawn anywhere on the map (you get a one turn warning) so reinforcements could suddenly show up and mess up the rest of your strategy. The game can really challenge you. This might frustrate some players, but others will probably really appreciate that the game can give you a real challenge.
In addition to the gameplay, I think Gem Wizard Tactics deserves some credit for its overall atmosphere. At this point the story is pretty limited. Basically the world consists of seven magic gems along with a rumored eighth gem. These gems correspond to each faction of the world as they fight for control. The story of the campaign basically boils down to fighting back the enemy forces that are trying to take over your faction. Outside of the limited story, the game has an interesting world. There is some real creativity put into the design of each faction, with some of the factions that will be released later sounding even more interesting. In a way the game is kind of silly and the game doesn’t shy away from it. The game’s visuals are quite good as well. The world is colorful and the different units have interesting designs.
I had quite a bit of fun playing Gem Wizard Tactics as it has some really interesting ideas. The biggest problem that I had with the game is just that there isn’t a ton of content in the game. The game has 26 different types of units at this point and most of them play quite different. The levels are also randomly generated so each battle will be somewhat different. The game only has three factions at this point though so a lot of the battles feel similar.
In a lot of ways Gem Wizard Tactics kind of feels like a game that has just entered Early Access. The mechanics are fully fleshed out, and the gameplay is satisfying. The game is mostly just missing content at this point. The developer has a lot of plans to expand the game in the future which includes adding four more factions as well as some other additions. The game is fun, but the amount of time you will get out of the game may be a little less than you would normally expect from this type of game. These future updates should help things quite a bit, but I wanted to point this out so people knew what to expect before picking up the game. Once all of the factions are added, I am really intrigued to see what the game can become.
I enjoyed my time playing Gem Wizard Tactics. While the game shares quite a bit in common with most turn-based asymmetrical strategy games, it has a pretty big emphasis on utilizing all of your units’ special abilities together. You are regularly outnumbered so you need to use these to even the odds. There is a surprising amount of strategy to the game as the units were designed in a way that they can be complimentary to one another. Each of the factions play quite different as well. Those that like these type of games will likely really enjoy trying to combine the various abilities into killer combos. The game also has a silly but interesting world as well. The main issue I had with the game is just that I wish there was more to it at this point. At times the game kind of feels like an early access game as over half of the factions will be added in at a later time. The game is still quite enjoyable, but at this time you might not get as much time out of the game as you would like.
If you have never really cared for this genre of turn-based asymmetrical strategy games, I don’t think Gem Wizard Tactics will be for you. Those that enjoy these type of games though will likely enjoy Gem Wizard Tactics as well. Whether you should pick up the game right away or wait depends on whether you don’t mind that over half of the factions will be added at a later date. I am really interested in seeing where the game will eventually end up.
Buy Gem Wizard Tactics online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Keith Burgun Games for the review copy of Gem Wizard Tactics used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.