Horde Mode In ‘Gears 5’ Has Learned A Lot From ‘League Of Legends’
Horde Mode in Gears 5 has been overhauled to keep challenging you all the way to wave 50. There are new systems in play to make each unique character useful into the endgame, and new systems to coax you into dangerous territory for big rewards. It looks like a much more mature mode. It looks big enough to be spun off into a game in its own right.
Since Gears of War 2, every Gears has had a horde mode. It's changed over the years, adding in features like fortifications and character classes but essentially it's you and four friends surviving against 50 waves of enemies, with each wave growing more difficult. Games of Horde mode can go on for hours, it's a challenge of endurance and teamwork, with mistakes potentially undoing all your hard graft.
Developer The Coalition has kept that essential format in Gears 5 but it's woven in lots of new systems to give you choices throughout a game. For instance, characters classes remain but they each now have a unique ultimate ability and passive ability. Kait, the protagonist of Gears 4, for example, is a scout class. It's her job to get in among the enemy ranks and break up their lines. Her passive encourages this; if Kait is near an enemy when it dies she picks up bonus Power, the valuable resource used to build fortifications and upgrade perks. So it pays off for anyone playing as Kait to keep close to the enemy lines. Her ultimate is a cloak ability that turns her invisible, but still lets her move and attack.
Del, an engineer, has an ultimate that summons four seeker drones. These little robots will hunt out the nearest enemies and explode in their faces. Fahz, an assault, can use his ultimate to see and shoot through walls. All of these ultimates support the kind of class your character is supposed to be.
You can now also grow your character over the course of a horde game. Each character has four perks that can be upgraded through the game by spending power. Using perks you can do things like reduce the cooldown on your ultimate, increase your health, or up your critical damage. Each perk can be upgraded multiple times through a battle, so as you reach the later waves, you character is more powerful and better able to handle them... if your team has been earning enough power.
To help your team earn that power is another new toy: Power Taps. These are like geysers, pumping out power for you to collect and distribute among your team. A new one spawns onto the map every ten waves. However, Power Taps can be destroyed, and once the Swarm have destroyed one it won't come back. These Taps are hugely valuable and can make the difference between reaching wave 50 or being overwhelmed. You're going to want to defend all the Taps you can but as more of them spawn in around the map that will mean spreading your team thinner and thinner. Sometimes you'll likely have to sacrifice a Tap to focus your defence over a smaller territory.
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If you play any MOBAs, like League of Legends or Dota 2, all this will sound very familiar. In those games you choose a unique hero who has specific abilities and you level them up over the course of a single game. It creates a growing pace to each match, with players growing more powerful the longer the game goes on. It's a good system for Gears to crib from.
Now, not all progression resets between games. Skil cards are returning in Gears 5, giving you another tool to alter your character, though more permanently. Before each game you can select skill cards from a deck of those you've unlocked, using them to buff your abilties. For example, Kait gets skills like Long Reach, which increases the range of her passive Power pickup; Overkill Stock, that reduces recoil; and, Laceration, which adds bleed damage to her shotgun attacks. Each skill can also be levelled up further by collecting duplicate skill cards. You earn a skill card every time you complete five waves in Horde mode and these are only ever cards you've already unlocked. When you've enough duplicates of a single skill you can merge them together and upgrade that skills level, making it more potent.
To get duplicates of more powerful skills you'll have to make the game more difficult using modifiers. There are added challenges you can turn on and off before a game, like giving enemies regenerating health, making them more lethal, or requiring you execute every enemy to put them down for good. There are seven modifiers in total and to get the best cards you're going to have to play with lots of them turned on.
These are all really intelligent changes and ones that should make Horde mode a significantly more rewarding game. There's now a lot more choices you need to make in the game: what class to play, what skills to select, what perks to upgrade and when, and how large a territory to defend. It's decisions like that which add excitement to a game that can become something of a fraught slogging match by the end of the second hour, now it should keep changing through the game.
Featured Image Credit: Microsoft Games