By: Brian Gunn
TASTEE: Lethal Tactics is the debut PC game from Skybox Labs, a studio primarily known for their porting work as well as the expansions to resurrected classics like Age of Mythology. Can their original work stand on its own merits, or are they more suited to working on another company’s property?
TASTEE: Lethal Tactics is a game that owes a lot to Frozen Synapse. It should be no surprise then that it controls fairly similarly to that breakout title, and most fans of the asynchronous turn-based tactics niche will be right at home.
While there are some hot keys, this is a mouse-heavy game, with very fine movements that need to be tweaked, and the game allows plenty of options to get your perfect strategy down to the finest details.
While it might play a lot like Frozen Synapse, TASTEE: Lethal Tactics has a somewhat unique visual style to set it apart. It is very cartoonish, almost in the mold of something like Team Fortress 2.
Character designs are fun, though the enemies in the campaign could’ve used more personality. This is also a game of intricate tactics, however, so they wisely did not go too crazy with the visual design as clarity and being able to easily read a situation is needed for victory, and they succeed on this.
Sound design doesn’t leave much of an impression. Music is a lot of low tempo stuff seeming to strike a mood of being in a ragtag group of international mercenaries, but it doesn’t stand out.
Occasional blasts of a shotgun are pretty satisfying, but some of the other guns lack impact. The lack of voice acting is a shame as well — given the exaggerated art style and hero-unit setup, it could’ve been useful to give the cast some character.
It is difficult to talk about TASTEE: Lethal Tactics without constantly comparing it to Frozen Synapse. The 2011 title, which was a major success and offered a fresh spin on strategy games, has had many imitators. The two games even share marketing tactics. When you buy a copy, you’re actually buying two, with one to send to a friend.
TASTEE: Lethal Tactics is a simultaneous turn-based tactics game. For those that haven’t played a game of this type before, this means it’s a little different than traditional turn-based games. Both players choose what to do and send the turn to the computer, which then simulates the action.
So, for example, if you blindly send someone running in the open and the other player set his sniper to watch that area, your soldier is going to lose his head. Think of it like a more advanced version of playing chess by mail. You don’t actually need someone online to play them, and you can have multiple games running at once.
You have a squad of four soldiers, and it’s your task to send them throughout the battlefield. There’s a wonderful tension to the game as you have to attempt to predict your opponent’s movements while advancing on your own as exposed units do not last long.
Within the basics of an order you can tweak it in many ways. Sprinting, for instance, will get you extra distance per turn, but your unit won’t shoot at anyone he sees until he’s in position. You can also tweak a unit’s view multiple times per turn so that they cover different areas in case you fear a flanking maneuver.
The main way Lethal Tactics stands out is that it is a Hero Unit style game that is all the rage these days. While some units share a weapon type, they’ll have a unique ability to abuse, too.
For instance, one of your early shotgun wielders has the ability to destroy barriers, while another can scout around him, discovering hidden enemies. This allows you to create a custom squad so that matches are a little more varied.
There is a single-player campaign of 30 missions, though it largely serves a very long tutorial. You actually need to play it in order to unlock all the characters as well, so it becomes sort of mandatory, which might chafe players looking to jump right into multiplayer. The missions themselves are on the bland side as well, rarely feeling like anything more than bot matches.
While TASTEE: Lethal Tactics isn’t a bad title, it struggles to really find its own identity. As such, it is hard to recommend it over Frozen Synapse or that game’s upcoming sequel, though if you’ve played it already and want another spin on the genre, Lethal Tactics may be worth a look.