Gem Wizards Tactics – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based tactics
Developer: Keith Burgun
Publisher: RedDeerGames
Platform: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Gem Wizards Tactics – Review

Site Score
Good: Every faction has a different playstyle
Bad: Not enough mission variety
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(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)

We’re definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to turn-based tactics games on the Switch, ranging from indie gems like Wargroove all the way to big hitters like Project Triangle Strategy and the upcoming Advance Wars remake. Because there is such a huge selection of titles available in the genre, solo developer Keith Burgun certainly has his work cut out for him if he wants to carve out a niche with Gem Wizards Tactics. But who knows, maybe the game has a few tricks up its sleeves. Read on to find out whether or not Gem Wizards Tactics is the magical adventure it purports to be.


Although some effort was put into creating a backstory for the world that Gem Wizards Tactics is set in, there isn’t a real narrative arc present in the game’s main campaign. The closest thing that we get to an actual story, a mode called Derby’s Story, is little more than an introduction to the universe. It sees you take control of a business demon, named Derby Pocket, as he becomes involved in a conflict with the Potato people. The main campaign then simply involves picking one of the game’s available factions and then taking on the other factions in a series of battles in order to destroy the so-called Omni-Gem. It’s a bit of a shame that things aren’t fleshed out more, because one of the more important elements of any good turn-based tactics title is that you get to know the characters that make up your party and that you eventually grow attached to them. This isn’t the case here, and as such, it becomes difficult to actually care about the plight of your party. Gem Wizards Tactics clearly focuses on its gameplay experience first and foremost, and although there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it does feel underwhelming compared to rich stories that are typically found in other games in the genre.


Gem Wizards Tactics utilizes a simple but lovely pixel art style, which is reminiscent of old-school turn-based tactics games. It’s a bit more advanced than the graphics of something like the original Fire Emblem, although there still is a lot of repetition and little variety with the various elements that make up the map. That said, we absolutely adored the sprites for the different units, as they look cute -even if they are supposed to be menacing. The simplistic approach means the game’s visuals aren’t too taxing on the Switch and it’s still easy to identify every unit at a glance even though the sprites aren’t overly detailed.


The unique identity of each faction isn’t just reflected in play style or appearance but in the soundtrack as well. Every single one of the factions gets their own specific soundscape, which is a really nice touch, whether it’s the synth tunes of the Alcove Prefex or the 80s-inspired hair metal accompanying the Business Demons. The various tunes are the highlight here as there is no voice acting and the sound effects are serviceable but not particularly memorable.


Gem Wizards Tactics offers a very straightforward approach to the classic hex-based turn-based tactics genre. After a short tutorial, you are able to either play through the aforementioned Derby’s Story mode, which is a short but sweet little adventure that delves deeper into some of the game’s finer mechanics, or head into the main campaign. Here you get to choose one of the game’s different factions, which range from classic wizard archetypes like the Azure Order all the way to more outlandish designs, such as a race of sentient potatoes (no, really). One of the nicer features is that every single one of these factions has a completely different roster of combatants. Every faction has a unique playstyle as a result, which adds some much-needed diversity to the experience. As you progress, even more factions are unlocked as well.

The game’s main unique selling point is that Gem Wizards Tactics uses procedurally generated maps. The idea behind this is that no two battles will play out the same, and that there is nigh-infinite replayability because of this, which sounds great in theory, but in practice, the result leaves a lot to be desired. Because of the randomly generated nature of the maps, there is very little variety in terms of actually playing the game, as scripted events aren’t possible. Other games in the genre typically add variation to the objectives, such as having to defend a specific location or escorting NPCs to safety, but unfortunately, Gem Wizards Tactics lacks these story-driven missions. Instead, your aim is typically to simply capture a number of strategic points, represented by flags, on any given map in order to claim victory, although Derby’s Story does offer a little more objective variety, such as having to keep all your units alive. These instances are far too rare of an occurrence, however.

This brings us to what is perhaps Gem Wizards Tactics’ weakest gameplay element: it is very, very repetitive. While each faction plays very differently and every map is unique in theory, after a while things simply start to blend together. The result is a title that feels shallow and after playing through the campaign once with each faction just to see what they play like, there is simply very little reason to keep playing. The difficulty scales up as you make progress, which basically boils down to “enemies get tougher and more numerous”, but unless you really enjoy grinding, you’ll find that the overall Gem Wizards Tactics experience feels rather shallow.

Admittedly, the game does offer some incentive to return to it in the form of daily challenges, and there are some neat little extras as well, including a map editor that allows you to create your own battlefields. The strange thing here is that there didn’t seem to be an option to share your own creations online or download maps made by other players. Perhaps this is something that was left out of the Switch release and is present in the Steam version of the game, but it is baffling because having community-generated content implemented as a key feature would massively increase the value of Gem Wizards Tactics.

At the time of writing, there is a massive 85% launch discount in place on the Switch, which runs until the 20th of March. This means that you can pick up the game for a very affordable €1.94 or your regional equivalent, and while we do have some gripes with Gem Wizards Tactics, the game is definitely worth it for that price. At the normal price, however, the game becomes a much tougher sell. While you’ll definitely get a couple of hours’ worth of fun out of messing around with the different factions, Gem Wizards Tactics faces some stiff competition around the €15 price point, with the biggest detractor being Wargroove, a title that is superior in every way. If you’re considering giving Gem Wizards Tactics a shot, we suggest that you either jump the gun right now or wait until it is discounted again eventually.


Although Gem Wizards Tactics isn’t a terrible game, it’s difficult to really recommend it simply because it’s a very bland one. There are some good ideas here, such as having every faction have a different playstyle and having procedurally generated maps, but ultimately, the only real difference between the battles ends up being the enemy factions’ level of toughness. For genre aficionados, there simply isn’t enough here to warrant a full-price purchase, and newcomers to turn-based tactics games have plenty of other options to choose from. If you can pick this one up with a hefty discount, there is some fun to be had here, but if you’ve got €15 to burn on a tactics game, there are far better options out there.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Gem Wizards Tactics - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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