Developer Blog 6: The Return of Horde

Gears of War 4 Horde Trailer

Welcome back to another Developer Blog! We had a crazy time at PAX - thank you to everyone who lined up to play our game, or joined us for our many streams over the PAX West weekend. 

Of course, the star of the show was Horde 3.0 and it's the star of today's Developer Blog. PAX West was full of uncut gameplay for you to feast your eyes on, so we've written a Developer Blog to give you more information on some of the questions out there in the community, and give you a deeper look at Horde 3.0. Welcome to Developer Blog 6: The Return of Horde.

Introducing Horde 3.0

Once again, Horde pits you and up to four friends against 50 waves of enemies in a fight for survival. You’ll need to build defenses – called fortifications – to aid in your survival, and work together to come out alive.

Every 10 waves, you’ll face a Boss Wave, which includes the toughest, biggest, baddest enemies in the game. If you were watching at PAX, you haven’t seen them all. You’ll have to play the game to see the rest. After every 10 waves, a new poison is introduced that ups enemy health, damage or accuracy.

One of the main focuses of Horde 3.0 is the return to emergent gameplay. We’re putting the power and decision making back in the hands of the player by allowing you to build fortifications where you want and when you want, and move those fortifications at any time during gameplay.

This is all unlocked via the Fabricator, a new device in the Gears of War universe that is a take on a 3D Printer. The Fabricator must be placed at the start of the game wherever you choose. It should act as the hub of your defenses, and you can move the fabricator to any location at any time throughout a game.. The choice is entirely in the player’s hands. The Fabricator is how you build fortifications by using Energy – picked up from fallen enemies on the battlefield – to construct your base. The Fabricator cannot be destroyed or harmed in any way, so the only thing that has to survive in Horde is you.

Speaking of survival, if a team-mate dies, they'll drop COG Tags. You can pick these up and run back to the Fabricator to revive them during the wave - but be warned, each subsequent revival on your team during a wave will cost an increasing amount of Energy. Thankfully, make it to the end of the Wave and all your dead team-mates will return.

Classes and Skills

We’ve also introduced a new Class system to Horde in Gears of War 4. Classes in Gears of War 4 are additive and not restrictive, providing bonuses to the way you want to play without forcing you to play the role in a specific way. It’s up to you, the player, to decide how much you want to play into your Class and Skills throughout each game.

Any Class can use any Character in the game, pick up any weapon in the game, and build any fortification in the game. Each class has different starting weapons, but you can switch those up with any weapons you find on the battlefield. Want to snipe as the Heavy? Go for it. Want to build Sentry Turrets as the Engineer? Sure, why not. The best teams will maximize the use of their Classes abilities to come out on top, and have a varied team to offer the most flexibility on the battlefield. We can’t wait to see the various builds, Class combos and surprising methods fans use to conquer the 50 waves of Horde.

In addition to the Classes below, there are 5 General Skills that can be equipped by any class to provide further versatility to your build. These Skills are especially useful if your team is missing a Scout or Engineer, as they offer additional ways to bolster defenses or Energy gain. The final skill is a Fabricator option called ‘Team Revive’, which can bring your team back from the brink in tight situations.

Here’s a breakdown of each class:

Starting Weapons: Enforcer, Gnasher, Snub
Passive Ability: Start with free Repair Tool

The role of the Engineer is to focus on fortifications – they can build more than any other class due to their discounts, make their fortifications more effective and repair fortifications faster at a lower cost.

It will be up to the player to decide how to build the Engineer. Do you want to have a varied defense by building lots of fortifications at reduced Energy Cost? Or do you want to focus your Skills on buffing particular fortifications, making them more effective than before?

The tradeoff of the Engineer is their lack of personal firepower. They have no skills that boost personal damage, and rely entirely on Energy to keep their impact on the fight at its most effective.

Starting Weapons: Retro Lancer, Boomshot, Boltok
Passive Ability: Start with free Boomshot

The role of the Heavy is all about dealing big damage to enemies, through the use of more powerful explosive weaponry, Heavy weaponry, or Turrets.

The Heavy has some interesting options to mix-up gameplay. Focusing on taking down big targets fast? The Marked Damage boost makes you deal extra damage to marked enemies, allowing you to take down high priority targets market by your team. Need an emergency support button? Call in the Mortar Strike to decimate a number of enemies fast.

The tradeoff to the Heavy is the focus on bigger, slower weapons. While the Heavy class can deal large hits of damage to enemies, you’ll need to make sure you’re consistently stocked with ammo to have the most impact. And don’t miss!

Starting Weapons: Retro Lancer, Gnasher, Snub
Passive Ability: Double Energy pickups during combat

The role of the Scout is to grab Energy mid-fight from across the battlefield, capitalizing on its passive bonus of Double Energy when picked up during combat to get resources back to the Fabricator. Combat wise, the Scouts Skills focus on close quarters shotgun combat.

The Scout can be built in a number of ways, from focusing on the Energy return, to recon for your team with X-Ray vision, and even to become a tanky powerful close quarters combatant.

The tradeoff to the Scout is the inherent risk that comes with the role. While powerful in the early stages, the Scout has a much tougher time gathering Energy in later waves when multiple poisons are active. The Scout needs to be played smartly, looking for opportunities rather than rushing out into the battlefield without careful surveillance.

Starting Weapons: Markza Mk. 1, Longshot, Snub
Passive Ability: Start with two marksman weapons

The Sniper is all about headshots and threat identification, using its long range weaponry to weaken or kill targets before they reach the defensive line.

The Sniper can attribute its bonus to any precision weapon, offering versatility on the battlefield. While you can take the Headshot damage boost, Markza focused players can take general damage boosts and reload speed to reduce the reliance on headshots and increase their DPS. The Sniper also has two unique Fabricator skills, either for eliminating targets en masse through a Sniper Strike or marking enemies with a Radar Ping.

The tradeoff to the Sniper is the reliance on precision. Especially with masses of enemies and under pressure, the Sniper’s damage per second can drop off if they aren’t consistently landing important shots. If both starting weapons are kept, enemies like Juvies are a much bigger threat to Snipers than any other Class.

Starting Weapons: Lancer, Gnasher, Snub
Passive Ability: Start with Frag Grenades

The Soldier is the ultimate in core Gears combat, dealing consistent damage over time with a variety of abilities that make them tough to kill and hard hitters.

The Soldier’s skills mostly focus on increasing your damage over time with assault rifles, either through bigger clips, more damage per shot, active bonuses, or a combination of those skills. The Soldier can increase its time firing from cover to damage opponents with the Cover Boost Skill or focus more on Grenades for area of effect damage or planting minefields. The big hitter in its skill arsenal is the Hammer of Dawn Strike, costing a lot of Energy to activate but dealing massive damage across the field.

The Soldier’s core combat focus means any build has few outstanding strengths or weaknesses, but Assault Rifles are the bread and butter of this class if you want to maximize its effectiveness on the battlefield.

Fortifications

Fortifications are the defenses you build to help stay alive.

Barrier
Barriers slow or block enemies that try to pass through them, as well as dealing small amounts of damage. The electric and laser wire fortifications earned at higher levels have been improved since Gears 3, only disabling for a very short period of time when players pass through them - rather than when the player is in close proximity.

Decoy
Decoys draw enemy fire, resulting in less pressure on your team and a great way to funnel enemies into powerful defensive locations. Later versions of the Decoy are mined with frags that explode when enemies destroy it, killing or damaging any nearby enemies.

MG Sentry
The MG Sentry helps provide additional damage on the battlefield in a limited area. MG Sentries cost Energy to maintain due to their reliance on ammo, which can be restocked with the Repair Tool.

Shock Sentry
The Shock Sentry is similar to the MG Sentry, but focuses on slowing and stunning approaching enemies in a narrow area of effect rather than damaging (although later versions deal a decent amount of damage). These are great for a defensive choke point where teammates are around to deal damage.

Turret
These player-controlled Turrets deal a massive amount of damage, but need to cool down regularly and drain Energy fast due to needing to be restocked. Later variations come with additional barrels and more protection for the user.

Weapons Locker
Weapons Lockers allow you to store weaponry from round to round, and will slowly refill the weapon’s ammo reserves. Smart teams will put rare high damage weapons into these Lockers to use whenever things get hairy. Later variations add more slots per Weapons Locker to be utilized.

Repair Tool
A replacement for the Pistol that allows the player to repair fortifications and restock fortification ammo at an Energy Cost. The Engineer gets this for free and can take Skills to make repairing more effective, but any player can purchase the Repair Tool should they choose.

The Fabricator will automatically level up when it hits Energy spending milestones, providing you more effective and powerful Fortifications to build. You can also upgrade existing Fortifications in the field by picking them up and upgrading them, for a cost.

Horde Progression

In Horde 3.0, there are two types of specific Horde progression on offer.

Class Levels represent your experience with each of the five classes in Horde 3.0, up to a maximum level of 10. You earn experience by for a Class by using it in Horde 3.0, which can be further boosted through the completion of Horde bounties. As you level up, you’ll unlock more Skill slots for that class to take into battle with you – up to a maximum of 5.

Skill Levels represent the power of your current Skill. You unlock Skills through Skill Cards, which can be equipped in available Class Slots. Skill Cards can be upgraded by finding duplicates of Skill Cards you currently own, up to a maximum of Level 5. Each level increases the effect and bonuses of the cards incrementally, reaching peak power at Level 5.

You can find Skill Cards in a number of various Gear Packs, earnable through play via in-game Credits or purchasable if you feel the need to accelerate your progression. You can destroy unwanted cards of any type to earn Scrap, and use it to create the cards you want if you’re chasing the progression of a particular skill.

It’s worth noting that everything you do in Horde 3.0 earns you experience towards your overall Gears 4 Level Progression too. We’ve balanced this against Versus Multiplayer gains to try and make it so that – however you want to play – you can viably progress your Gears 4 Level.

Seriously 4.0

It’s time to lift the full curtain on Seriously. In Developer Blog 5, we revealed the first details on Seriously 4.0 – our streamlined take on the achievement that represents Gears fans that show hardcore dedication to the game and mastery of all aspects of Gears of War.

To earn Seriously 4.0, you’ll need to:

  •         Complete the Campaign on Insane Difficulty
  •         Get to Re-Up 10
  •         Earn all Ribbons at least once
  •         Earn a Rank Placement in each mode
  •         Get all 5 classes to Level 10
  •         Level any 5 Horde Skills to Level 5
  •         Complete all 10 ‘on-disc’ maps from Wave 1-50 (any difficulty)

Short on Horde comrades? We’re excited to share that we’ll also have individual difficulty matchmaking for Horde 3.0, rather than one set difficulty for matchmaking. We hope this will help friends find new allies to survive 50 waves of enemies at their preferred level of challenge. You can also invite your friends to join in progress should you lose an ally during the fight.

And for those of you who have asked, want to play Horde without Skills equipped? Go right ahead. Want to play without Fortifications? Can do. We’re putting the power in your hands to play Horde the way that you want. 

That's it for this week's Developer Blog. We have more to come between now and launch - stay tuned!