GEARS POP REVIEW
Note: I am making this a dynamic review, because the game is changing frequently. Last updated 06/10/2020
Gears Pop! is an attempt from Microsoft to go into the mobile market, using one of its biggest franchises. The game mixes elements from Gears of War series, other mobile games, and the Funko dolls design.
GAME DESIGN AND GAMEPLAY
The gameplay itself is not original, in fact it is heavily based on a well explored concept. Each player stands on the edge of the field, with two turrets and a leader. The field is divided in two sides. Each player plays his pins, and whoever destroys more turrets in three minutes, or who destroys the enemie's leader first, wins.
The original concept, that comes from the Gears of War games, is the use of covers. They come in pairs, one on each side of the field. Every time the player captures a pair, he expands his or her territory up to that point, and can drop troops there.
There is a wide variety of pins, which correspond to one playable item. There are many different troops: some capture covers, others have powers like health regeneration or a super shoot that takes time to charge. There are grenades with different effects that you can throw anywhere in the field, and some structures that don't move, but have defensive uses.
Even with a vast potential for strategies, the game is unbalanced, as it has been since the beggining. They also seem to have stopped trying to balance it, since in the last two months there was no balance, and before that they balanced over one pin. At the time this review was last edited, there were pins who were still overpowered and better than others. There are some pins that are hardly used, while others are present in most of the setups. Most of the top players have two or three from this overpowered pins, and the rest they use other pins to match the first they choose. So the problem is still there, but they don't seem to care anymore.
As a result, the gameplay feels repetitive and boring. Due to the optimal strategy and unbalanced game, there is little room for variations or strategy. It ends up with every battle feeling like more of the same. That is a huge problem, that is more than enough to make the game not enjoyable at all. The key for a game like this is to have unexpected battles, different setups, which explore different units and strategies, perhaps with odd or unexpected combinations. None of this has happened since launch until the date this review was last edited.
There is a coop mode, hordes, in which two players play against the computer. This mode is perhaps the most enjoyable at the moment. Each horde type has some different rules, which adds some variety to the game.
They recently added an "event" mode, where you play with different rules or a fixed setup. The first tries where awful, with the game being bugged or with two setups avaliable, one clearly better than the other. The more recent events where better balanced and not so bugged, and it was actually possible to win with both setups. They have the potential to be fun, if better executed and the bugs are corrected (see below).
BUGS AND HACKERS
The fact that there is a section for bugs and hackers is not a good sign, but I feel obligated to write it. This game has a lot of bugs, and a lot of hackers playing. Since launch, some people have complaint they can't even log in.
There has also been many bugs through the game itself. Frequently there are connections problems, the matchmaking is sometimes broken. One unit would stop shoting recently, other is still retreating to cover after leaving it, which sometimes is annoying.
This adds in making the game even less enjoyable, because you will frequently run into some kind of bug, getting disconnected or having the game crash.
There has also been reports of hackers since launch. Although they have diminushed over time, they are still present. Of course there is always the possibility they are false or from players who got angry by losing, or that they are in fact bugs being exploited and making the players seem like hackers.
Right now, at the time this review was written, many players are experiencing lags and delays when putting pins. In my experience, sometimes the delay gets to around 2 seconds, which is enough to make you lose a match. In many battles I had a delay of around 1 second, that would happen frequently. Lag is also a major problem, which game freezing and unfreezing around a second later, which also can mean losing.
Whatever the reason, playing the game will probably mean metting situations that shouldn't happen. Also recently, in the new event mode, they had to suspend it because matchmaking was 100% broken, showing new bugs are still appearing as they launch new features.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The best part of the game is the graphics, sound and sound effects. The FUNKO doll design worked really well, and gives the game a nice appereance. The sound and sound effects match the game also, creating a nice environment.
Many characters have an unique sound or cry that they make when entering battle, which is nice. Also, they are well designed, and it is easy to recognize the Gears character they are supposed to represent.
In the end, the cartoonish style was a great choice, and a well implemented one.
GAME PROGRESSION AND ACHIEVEMENTS
This is also a huge problem in the game. If you want completion in this game, be prepared to spend a lot of time on it. But really a lot of time. Even with playing three times a day, for half an hour more or less, it still takes more than a year to finish it. Some calculations say it will take around six years, in fact. Alternatively, you can spend thousands of dollars and finish it.
Even though some achievements are quite easy and will come naturally or without too much effort, some achiements take an awful amount of grinding, especially two of them. The progress overall is slow, especially late in the game.
In the first months, they increased the rewards for playing, but right now every increase in one side comes with a decrease in another. They greatly upgraded horde rewards, but now you don't get thumpers in normal chests, you mostly have to buy them with game special currency in the store. In fact, that may even have INCREASED the amount of time needed to finish the game, even with the enhaced rewards. So we should not expect them to lower the time, at least not for now.
The combination of the game's three problems makes it awful: an unbalanced game, where there is little room to strategy or thinking, in a game that is supposed to be a strategy type; lots of bugs and/or hackers, which cause situations that should not happen; an extremely slow progress and level up. Each problem potentializes the other, and in the end you have a game that may have potential, but right now is not causing pleasure or fun to anyone. It is not worth playing, and as many players are saying, I would not have started it, if I knew it would turn out like this.