TASTEE: Lethal Tactics review (PC)

TASTEE – Lethal Tactics kind of came out of nowhere for us. As a turn-based strategy game, it was up against some stiff competition, since in recent months we had already tested The Banner Saga 2 and XCOM 2 – both excellent examples in the genre. Here are our thoughts on TASTEE – Lethal Tactics by Skybox Labs.

The basic formula for TASTEE is a familiar one, but it’s delivered with plenty of attitude. This is due to the mercenaries that you play with each having their own distinct personality, and because the action can get pretty intense once you’re done with your planning and plotting. It’s also a hard game, that is certain to provide plenty of challenge even for die hard strategy fans – with a fair share of trial and error involved in certain missions.

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Part of this is due to TASTEE’s relative lack of a tutorial. There is one, but it’s so bare bones that you feel completely inadequate when you enter your first few missions and get slaughtered time and time again. Sticking with it helps, because you slowly uncover some of the intricacies within TASTEE’s tactical mechanics. Effectively using the skills of your various mercenaries is almost always essential, and there are four character classes you’ll be using. There are gunmen – trigger happy and good with machine guns. There are shotgun experts as well, who do well up close and personal. Then there’s the sniper, who can provide cover or clear the way for you once you get to a vantage point. Lastly, there’s a bomb expert – which can be a real asset if you managed to plan ahead.

Playing TASTEE reminded me a bit of a mix between XCOM (or Jagged Alliance) and the old Commandos series of games. The differences between the various characters in TASTEE are so distinct that they provide a bit of a puzzle element to a combat scenario, although the right choice isn’t always an obvious one. Luckily, the game is broken up into a planning phase and an action phase, and you have all the time in the world to plan your actions. While doing so you can preview how your plan with unfold, so (to a degree) you’ll know if your plan is going to work before you execute it. There are plenty of commands to choose from, so you’ll likely spend plenty of time in planning mode.

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The time spend in planning mode is probably why we didn’t enjoy online multiplayer as much. When you’re in planning mode, the game is essentially paused… except you don’t notice because you’re incredibly busy planning and scheming – which is a large part of the fun. When playing online, you actually *feel* the pause, since nothing seems to happen if you’re playing against someone who takes their time. Depending on the player, this could take over an hour – making it feel like the equivalent of “chess by e-mail” or something like that. It’s great that online multiplayer is here for those who enjoy it, but the 30 mission single player campaign resonated better with us.

Despite the rocky start in terms of the difficulty level and so-so tutorial, we really enjoyed TASTEE. It’s deep, it’s complex, and it’s satisfying when a plan comes together. It’s not as good as XCOM 2 or The Banner Saga 2, but it’s well worth playing for fans of turn-based strategy, especially if you’re interested in a real world setting as opposed to a sci-fi or fantasy one.

Score: 7.8/10

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