The state of Horde mode in Gears 5 is in a bit of disarray. The Coalition has made several changes to the franchise’s most beloved PVE co-op mode. Most of these changes aren’t exactly the best and don’t sit too well with players who are either long-time lovers of the franchise or newcomers.
Changes are never automatically a bad thing. It’s how those changes are executed. The majority of the new features and aspects of horde mode and even some of the old ones that received a tweak seem to do more harm than good to the gameplay, experience, and overall feel of the mode.
10 Bad: Character Role Lock
The most obvious one anyone will recognize from the jump. Gears 5’s horde mode locks classes to each individual character in horde mode. While this sounds fun, there are two major problems with how this is executed in-game. One: Gears 5’s roster doesn’t have a very robust selection of characters filling different roles to choose from, making it feel incredibly limited in scope. Two: No duplicate characters are allowed in one match. This means that a team cannot run three Kait’s and two Del’s. Why this matters in a PVE mode is baffling. If players want to run an unbalanced team, they should be able to without the game auto-adjusting team composition.
9 Bad: Limited Roster
Speaking of the roster, horde mode in Gears 5 has a grand total of 6 playable characters. 8 if you pay a little extra and one more if you played it early. Just for a little perspective, if you only count the 6 base horde characters, it means that Gears 5's horde mode has fewer characters at launch than Apex Legends had when it dropped. With all the characters strewn throughout the Gears universe, you’d think there’d be more than 6 characters to play in a 5-man mode that limits you to one character each in a game. And why is Batista a skin for Marcus and not his own character?
8 Bad: Over Dependence On Certain Characters
Since horde mode is role locked now, it’s forming a meta more than it ever has before. This means that some characters feel essential to completing 50 waves, especially on higher difficulties, while others are devalued. This isn’t a huge issue given the small roster of characters currently.
But every character now has abilities and modifiers exclusive to only them, and every fortification isn't always available to every character at any given time, so not having a certain character might make it feel like a loss came from just not having them in the game. If more characters are added, how will they be balanced when considering that the additional Halo guest characters have fewer skill cards and less useful and practical utility overall compared to their launch counterparts?
7 Bad: Underpowered Ultimates
Every character in horde mode has a unique ultimate that charges up over time. Heard that one before? Well, some characters’ ultimates are incredibly underwhelming. Kait’s cloak can be fun to fool around with but provides little utility in late-game situations that don’t involve picking your teammates up in a slightly safer way. Marcus’s ultimate isn’t worth using if you don’t have the time extension modifier or are just trying to focus down a large target, and even then, it isn’t always guaranteed to make a difference. Kat’s holograms are useful for all of three seconds, even with time extension modifiers and are nowhere near a replacement for decoy fortifications.
6 Bad: Hunkering Down Still Prevailing
Gears 5’s horde mode was supposed to encourage players to take more aggressive playstyles and branch out from the tried and true hunker down in one spot strategy. At least that’s what it was supposed to do. Hunkering down in one area of the map is still the most reliable way to go. It’s still just too risky to spread resources out around the entire map even with the power tap’s introduction. Who needs a power tap anyway when you can just burn unwanted weapons in a forge for extra energy after every wave? It’s a safer option than babysitting power taps and provides about the same amount of return on investment. And forget about flanking when enemies are omniscient of every players’ position, bop you in two hits and take forever to kill.
5 Bad: Useless Perk System
Perks give players additional benefits to their selected character. You can spend power to level up your perks with each purchase becoming more expensive than the last. This would be pretty neat in adding an extra layer to the gameplay if they actually mattered.
There’s still no better place to deposit your power than into fortifications or weapons and most perks make so little of a difference in late-game situations that they’re not even worth thinking about. They also just get way too expensive to keep up with them. On top of that, you can only purchase them in between waves. You’ll probably be too busy setting up for the next wave to be concerned about buying them.
4 Bad: Sentinels
Oh, boy. If there are indicators of horde mode having some luck involved, this enemy is the biggest one. Making a return from Gears 4, Sentinels are worse than any boss in the game and they're even more of a problem in Gears 5. On higher difficulties, these things can instantly end a good team’s run in less than 10 seconds and you can do absolutely nothing about it. All they have to do is hit you with two rockets to kill you. And since they can fly and have a shield, they can easily float pass all your defenses and bop all five players in no time flat. It takes an unreasonable amount of focus fire to kill these things. So good luck getting your entire team to react fast enough.
3 Bad: Character Grind
In addition to the character role-lock, Gears 5 features a leveling system for every character. Reaching higher levels allows you to equip more skill cards to that character. The reason why this is bad is that it further encourages players to quit out of matches or be denied matches in the game browser because their main isn’t the desired level yet. Even though the level has nothing to do with skill, it provides you with more utility which has greater value in this game. And the grind can be long given this horde mode’s increased difficulty curve. In video games in general, your main isn’t defined by your level. It’s defined by what you’re most comfortable with. The level is just a byproduct. And for a PVE mode, this sort of grind seems silly.
2 Bad: Jack
Jack deserves his own spot because of how much horde mode—and the campaign as well—is so shamelessly built around him. This little robot changes the math of the game so much that most options in horde mode aren’t even an option if you aren’t running him. You want that pilfer pickup/weapon in the middle of a wave? Good luck getting it without a Jack. You want to take an aggressive flank? Have fun without a Jack to cover you. Four players get downed simultaneously? Hope you have a Jack to pick them all up. And how else would you feed a forge consistently or collect large amounts of power pickups without risking resources or your life without a Jack?
1 Good: Acquiring Skill Cards
Getting skill cards for whatever role you choose to play is a big improvement from Gears 4. Instead of rolling the dice with loot boxes and risk getting skill cards for a role you don’t even play, Gears 5 rewards you with skill cards after every game based on the character you played during that game. Chances for better cards are increased by difficulty and how long the game lasts. This makes getting cards for the role you want much less of a hassle. You still have to put up with getting useless team score cards for every character, but you take the good with the bad.