The tactical gameplay is pretty damn good. But it suffers because there is never any risk of losing anything. I play on experienced difficulty, because the lack of a “downed” state on insane did not sound appealing. I feel the downed state is so integral to the gears of war feeling that I don’t really want that to be compromised.
The side missions which are the only missions which you can lose, are trivially easy. You don’t even have to survive extracting. The mission just instantly succeeds no matter how dire your position was on the last turn. The story missions are more difficult, but have mandatory hero units which cannot be killed. You simply restart until you win with no deaths. Boss battles are just an effort in frustration as they are so hard you pretty much tend to lose someone a lot, so you’re forced to restart over and over. They’re hard, but you don’t lose anything by failing, so it only wastes your time with repeating the same battle until you get it perfect.
So far I’ve had only two deaths in my entire run. And even then what do you actually lose when someone dies? You can recruit high level grunts for free every single turn. You don’t even have to train them up from a lower level again. In fact, there isn’t really a reason not to replace underleveled grunts each turn instead of wasting XP on a lower level grunt you hadn’t used for a few missions. I only don’t do it to have some semblance of attachment to my guys.
Iron Man which is usually something I never play without in XCom is a bit overtuned, instant game wipe on any death in say those boss battles isn’t really something that sounds fun. You’ll still be bored for hours by the triviality of all the other missions and then ■■■■ yourself for the 10 minutes there is a boss battle. In XCom you can only ever fully lose a game through a cascade of failures, there is never any one single point of failure that ruins your game. Here, you’ll get your game deleted if one man goes down. The excitement is simply missing.
The “all content” mode also seems to actually make things easier. Jack being able to do most objective actions and collect crates without having to spend a “real” action point from a soldier makes it a lot easier again to do many things. Jack also is a potential restart for every mission since he is a hero. It’s nice to have another callback to the original game but it would be better if he only showed up once in a while, or fully replaced a squad member like the SHIV’s from XCom. Him being added in a patch also means he just shows up out of nowhere without a proper introduction. You just randomly get him, which makes the game feel unpolished.
You get absolutely showered with crates, too, I barely bother opening them anymore. Why even bother taking the risk of picking them up, or choosing a harder side mission, if you’re going to get a whole bunch either way? Getting crates never feels meaningful. And if you hire a high level grunt they’ll just come with free high level gear too, making it even more pointless.
It’s a damn shame because the moment to moment gameplay is awesome. I just wish I had a reason to care. The difficulty options are not adequate. The free hires should be very low level compared to your trained people. Crates should be more precious, Jack needs to not give so many free actions, and you need to survive extracting in side missions, not just instantly end the game when you win. Difficulty in story missions doesn’t matter because you aren’t actually allowed to lose any of the story characters. At most you’ll have one expendable grunt.