The concept of Gears POP! is rather… peculiar. I mean, who came up with the idea of mixing Gears of War with Funko Pop! figurines – which are quirky figures with big heads made after the likeness of celebrities in case you don’t know – and bring it to mobile?
It might be a matter of personal preference, but I think the game would have been better off without those figures. It’s basically Clash Royale, but with a new cover system. You build a roster of your favorite characters from the Gears of Wars series such as Locusts and COG Soldiers and bring them into battle.
Yes, you can get the best of both worlds by pairing the good guys with the bad, and it’s just really awesome to see Cole Train and Marcus Fenix teaming up with some random Locust soldiers.
It’s basically Clash Royale with a twist
Frankly, though, this whole team-building thing is a straight up rip-off of Clash Royale. Each time you win a battle, you’ll receive a crate, which as time goes on. Still, I have to give props to the fact that crates start opening immediately as you unlock one, and you can have all 4 of your crates unlocking at the same time.
Opening crates gives you currency as well as cards – or ‘pins’ as they are called here in Gears POP! – that you can add to your team. If you collect enough pins of a character, you can also upgrade that character to increase their power.
Units in this game bear a striking resemblance to Clash Royale. You can find the equivalent of the Knight, Bomber, Spear Goblins, Giant, and more here. The combat system is very similar as well: You spend energy to place your units on the field (each one will have a different cost, of course), and they will start making their way across and try to destroy the enemy base. Energy will slowly refill throughout the battle.
As you can probably imagine, managing your energy system is just as crucial here as in Clash Royale. At the end of the day, the one who comes out on top is the one who uses energy more effectively.
There’s a cover system, but it is not what you think it is
Gears POP! does attempt to add a twist to the traditional experience with its cover system. But if, like me, you thought that this means your units can hide behind covers to avoid taking damage, you would be mistaken.
In reality, these functions kind of like checkpoints. Certain units will try to run to the closest cover and “capture” it, and if you manage to capture the 2 covers on both sides of the field, you’ll gain control over the area between them and can place pins higher up. As such, trying to contest for covers is of paramount importance in the early game, as being able to give your units a head start means they are more likely to make it to the enemy base.
And then there’s your ultimate ability, which doesn’t cost energy but requires you to charge it up over time. You’ll get to unlock several of these abilities as you progress, and each will offer their own unique use.
All in all, Gears POP! sticks really close to the formula set by Clash Royale, which is definitely not a bad thing considering how good that game is. However, while the cover system does affect the gameplay, giving you more to keep track of than just hammering down towers, I still feel like it is not enough to be a meaningful innovation. Character designs also leave more to be desired, as there are not too many defining features to set characters apart from one another.
The ultimate ability could have been a lot better too. You’d expect these kinds of thing to be your trump card that will turn the tide of battle in your favor, but in reality, it’s just another button to press as soon as it comes off cooldown. There isn’t really a lot of strategy about it.
Bottom line is, I have mixed feeling about Gears POP!. It is a solid game, and I respect the effort to shake up the formula, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t do enough to outgrow the massive shadow cast by Clash Royale.