Turn-based tactical strategy games tend to be a dime-a-dozen affair on PC. Whether your tastes lie with purely strategy AAA releases such as XCOM or you prefer the genre laced in with RPG mechanics and in smaller doses with Shadowrun Returns, PC gamers are rarely left wanting in this regard. With so much competition, developing a new franchise within these parameters in 2016 could almost be considered a fool’s errand. Yet, this is exactly what TASTEE: Lethal Tactics set out to do, but don’t be fooled, their work is anything but derivative, far from it, as it carries a unique micro-management twist which I had never seen.
Lethal Tactics introduces us to a stylized modern-day setting in which gang crime and the mob have run amok to uncontrollable levels. Amidst this lawlessness, you are tasked with handling an unofficial covert operation meant to take back law and order by any means necessary.
I will be the first to admit neither Lethal Tactics’ theme nor its art style are particularly appealing to me. Now granted, I do appreciate a good cartoony art-style, but here it seems underutilized. Of course, considering how the game is still in early access there’s a good chance its presentation will improve dramatically upon final release.
Luckily, presentation qualms aside, TASTEE provides one of the most interesting genre innovations I’ve seen in a while. All character orders are extremely micromanaged. Rather than moving your team across a grid, you have a free map and must instead chart waypoints along the desired path. Throughout each waypoint, additional commands can be given such as running, walking, ducking and at what point they should change the direction they’re facing. So for example, you can set a character to walk a longer path from point A to point B, ducking near open windows as they’re crossed and staring at the opposite direction for enemies.
It’s a genius idea which is further strengthened by the fact that there aren’t ‘turns’ in the traditional sense so much as sets of 20 seconds in which all action takes place. This mean, all orders given must be doable during this small time-window or they will be left incomplete.
To add tension, players can only bring a maximum of four characters onto a map, all of which can easily be killed in a single strike. This means that all of your carefully calculated and time-consuming planning can be torn asunder with one wrong move. Adding even more fuel to the fire is the fact all turns take place at the same time.
This mean all sides plan their next move simultaneously and once the action begins, you might find yourself rushing into empty rooms as your target already left or even walking past them while staring at the wrong direction. Suddenly, players are now required to not just react to each enemy’s movements, but to plan ahead and accurately predict their plans. Despite being given less than a handful of playable characters, each turn can take quite a while to complete as you carefully craft each action.
Lethal Tactics allows for both a single-player campaign and multiplayer matches. During the campaign, you’re given a main task to complete per mission and several side-missions which grant additional rewards. These can then be redeemed towards purchasing upgrades for characters and classes.
The online portions are currently lacking in a stable playerbase, an issue which is likely to worsen as time progresses. Here, players will generally attempt to dispatch the other’s team, but considering the micro-management necessary, planning of your movements can take a while.
TASTEE Lethal Tactics is one of the most complex tactics games available. It masquerades itself as a simple title, but the intricacies required the master it are some of the deepest I’ve seen, perhaps even too deep for most. The fact is, its brilliant game design is both a strength and a weakness as it could turn-off players who prefer faster paced strategy games.
TASTEE Lethal Tactics was played on PC with preview code provided by the publisher.