There’s three units closing in on my position. I’m down to one shotgunner. I have to capture two zones in the next eight seconds of game time or I’m hosed.
I clear all my orders. I tell my shotgunner to sprint. I’ve got one shot — literally, if he stops and shoots, he’s only got time for one.
Do I make it?
TASTEE: Lethal Tactics specializes in those tense moments. It’s a small-unit-tactics game from Rise of Nations developers SkyBox Labs, who are self-publishing on Steam for the first time with this game. If you described it as “XCOM: Enemy Unknown without the base-building”, or as “Frozen Synapse in more than one colour”, you wouldn’t be far off.
When you fire up TASTEE: Lethal Tactics for the first time, you’re automatically taken to an unskippable tutorial that teaches you the game’s basic mechanics. Right-click on units to assign orders like Crouch, Stand, Free Fire, Wait, Sprint, or a special ability. Orders are carried out from top to bottom. Each round is a limited number of seconds of real time. You can demo your actions, then submit them, and watch your team carry them out.
You start with four roles available to you — door-breaching Shotgunners, grenade-launching Bombers, long-distance Snipers, and all-’rounder Gunmen. Eight more characters are unlockable, each of which has an RPG-like upgrade tree with multiple abilities. As you play through the missions and earn Stars, you can use them to improve your units.
I have a persistent habit of using food and flavour-based words to describe things, so you’ll have to pardon my continuation of that habit here, but TASTEE: Lethal Tactics feels… crunchy. As your units roll out and execute their orders, either in the single-player PvE missions or the decidedly more dicey PvP matchups, the strategic depth and the way the game mechanics interlock combine to make you absolutely feel like the guy in the control room in the movies, issuing orders to the small-unit-tactics experts on the ground. It’s excellently done.
The art style, graphical quality, and sounds are solid and serviceable. The UI is intuitive and smooth. I rarely found myself running into walls trying to figure out how to execute something — it was all there in front of me, laid out in a smart, sensible way.
Also, I have to give a shout-out to TASTEE: Lethal Tactics for providing something rarely seen in video games these days: asynchronous multiplayer. You can have multiple matches going at the same time, but you don’t have to be logged in at the same time as your opponent. Receive the moves they just submitted, consider your strategy, lay out your orders, execute, and send ’em back. It feels a little like play-by-mail chess from back in the day, but with guns and door-breaching.
TASTEE: Lethal Tactics provides a satisfying strategic amuse-bouche, at a price that’s just right. If you’re interested, it’s available on Steam for $16.99 CDN, and in my opinion, the gameplay’s more than deep enough to justify the price.
Jesse Mackenzie is the Managing Editor for AYBOnline.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, and his opinions are his own.
Disclosure: Our review copy of TASTEE: Lethal Tactics was provided to us by developer/publishers SkyBox Labs.