Gem Wizards Tactics is a turn-based strategy game published and developed by Keith Burgun Games. It releases on steam on February 16, 2021. Gem Wizards Tactics or GWT is a hexagonal, turn-based strategy game with a fantasy setting. The tenor of the campaign in GWT unravels as the business demons gain control over the omni-gem, thus their intention to take over the world begins and it is your duty to drive them away. At this point, you are ushered into picking a faction and starting the campaign, which is a series of battles that take place in your homeland. In these battles you must defeat the business demons and take back your land while recruiting and liberating random units along the way. Other than the campaign there is a “missions” mode which is essentially a “custom match” mode.
The player takes control of a group of units from one of the three included factions: the Azure Order, the Business Demons, and the Potatoes. Each faction has its own system or gimmick making the combat extremely asymmetrical. At this moment in release there will only be three playable factions included. Although additional factions will be added throughout the duration of GWTs life. The Azure Order is the most traditional faction that encompasses knights, trebuchets, and archers while also manipulating ice.
The Potatoes are a tanky group capable of controlling the weather and even creating rivers. The Business Demons are extremely interesting because of their gimmick, they rely heavily on the roads that you construct as well as oil that you accumulate over the course of the battle that you can then use to increase your team’s attack power.
Although you pick a faction at the beginning of the campaign you are capable of recruiting additional troops from the other factions. This was where the game really shined because this mechanic made it possible to create some crazy team combinations. Units all have abilities and passive abilities that dictate how they will be used.
One of the most unique elements of GWT is the unit design. For the most part, every unit is extraordinary, which provides an excellent amount of depth when it comes to strategizing. For example, using a lightning spell on water will affect all adjacent water tiles as well. You can also freeze rivers over to give easier access to the other side. Elemental effects are also a huge component of GWT. The overall combat and movement of the game is extremely similar to Advance Wars or Wargroove, although it is played on a hexagonal based grid instead of traditional square tiles. I would also like to point out that GWT steers away from the traditional ability to purchase units and build your team, and instead focuses more on careful strategizing so that you do not lose any units.
For the most part, every unit is extraordinary, which provides an excellent amount of depth when it comes to strategizing.
Instead of purchasing units to grow your army, your only option of expanding your roster is to find troops that are in need of rescue and recruitment. The intriguing thing about this mechanic is that you will find random troops from every faction to recruit throughout the course of the campaign. Like I have discussed above, this was where I was truly able to create some bizarre team compositions and draft a bit of an overall strategy for my team based on what random units I have acquired. Another small aspect is that your units do indeed level up, although that seems to be just about the only essence of character progression in the game. The campaign and all of its maps are procedurally generated to provide a sense of randomness and keeps things fresh. Therefore, this gives GWT a roguelike vibe by providing the player with a different experience and environment each and every time.
The Visuals and or graphics in GWT encompass a lovely pixel style. The animations of the fire and other elemental effects are very radiant and precise. Overall there is not much to say about the art style, but the atmosphere is conveyed extremely well throughout the color palette used and sprite animations.
GWT’s core and foundation is excellent as it offers riveting asymmetrical combat mechanics at the cost of true character progression or replay ability. The longevity of GWT is weak due to its lack of a progressive campaign. It was especially disheartening to learn about the absence of a multiplayer mode in GWT. I feel as though a multiplayer mode alone could bolster the longevity of GWT. Another mode that I would have loved to see in GWT is a map editor. I am under the impression that the addition of a map editor mode would also breathe a lot of life and replay ability into GWT.
I understand that the procedural maps are a key part of the game itself and make it what it is, but a map editor option would provide more customized content. All in all I am disappointed by the lack of content and progression in GWT. Like I have said previously, the foundation of GWT is excellent but it’s durability is very low at the moment. At this time the only thing you will be doing is experimenting with the different factions and their respective units. I hope to see some major improvements and or additions that bolster the lasting ness of GWT in the near future. I look forward to Keith’s implementation of additional factions.
Aside from the negative attributes of GWT it really does shine in its depth in faction and unit design. Without a doubt, the strong points of GWT all revolve around its core which is the combat mechanics and the asymmetrical factions. GWT seems to have been made in the vein of past major successes such as Advance Wars and Wargroove. Although they have an immense amount of differences the inspiration is still clearly there. I enjoyed this different take on a classic style.
Overall, Gem Wizards Tactics is remarkably promising, although it does have its fair share of shortcomings. The asymmetricity of the combat system is what truly defines GWT. You will surely have a blast trying out different synergies and figuring out how to best utilize each faction. Beyond the asymmetrical gameplay though there isn’t much to write home about. I fear the most for the lifespan of GWT as it does not have a lot of replay value beyond that of repeating the campaign. I would also love to see Keith implement additional factions as well as a multiplayer option and or map editor. At its core it is fun and engaging but it couldn’t keep me hooked for as long as I had hoped it would.