by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
I live for turn-based strategy games. Well, maybe not live for them, but you get my point. I also like them tough. I have the achievement for XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s Ironman mode on Classic difficulty. I wrestled through it despite the teleportation bug destroying my playthrough mid-way not just once, but twice. I’m beating myself on the chest here for a reason; I feel strangely compelled to share my battle prowess so that I can feel a little better about sucking so bad at TASTEE: Lethal Tactics. It is tough. Too tough.
Part of the problem is that I don’t like my guys dying. When they do, I feel like I have failed them, as well as the mission. I cannot shake that feeling even when the game itself tells me the mission was a success. Twelve hours into TASTEE, I have yet to finish the first mission without someone dying along the way.
TASTEE instills the player with a sense of control, but this is slightly false. In most turn-based strategy games you move your units one by one, resolving conflicts with enemy units as you go. Here, though, your team of mercenaries-for-hire moves as one. You plan out the individual moves of your team members, telling them to run, take cover, look in a certain direction - anything that you feel is necessary to keep them alive and further the mission. The one command you do not plan, is shooting at the enemy. Depending on which actions you have planned, your guys will fire at the enemy as they come into view.
That slightly false sense of control comes from the option to preview the outcome of the turn before giving the final go-ahead. You push a button and your guys move as if it were the real thing, a practice run if you will. Previously known or guesstimated positions of enemy gunmen are taken into account and give you some idea of what to expect. Timing is everything and if you get it wrong, the round can turn into a long string of bad luck. You see, the enemy plays its turn simultaneously to yours. This lessens the value of the predictions from the preview phase, throwing a wrench in all your careful planning. It’s kind of like going hunting for deer and the animals surprise you by shooting back.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that you do not know what will happen - is - the challenge, it is the game. If you play any game long enough you’ll get right down to its nuts and bolts. But I never got that feeling with TASTEE. The tutorial explains the base mechanics and has you run in and out of view of an enemy quick enough for him not to be able to respond. It has you create waypoints. It teaches you how to make your guys look in a different direction while walking. It shows you how to crouch. What it doesn’t do, is tell you how to use cover. What obstacles you can hide behind is clear enough, but many won’t allow you to fire from your position, despite giving the impression that you can. The tutorial also does a poor job of explaining what triggers what response. The running makes sense, but do characters with sniper rifles respond and fire slower than pistols? Can a sniper fire while walking? Where does the shotgun fit in? There are some hints in various tooltips but it’s nowhere near enough.
The human factor
The AI has hired a bunch of campers that may walk but seem to have a strong preference to stay exactly where they are. If they are looking in the direction you are coming from, they are likely to pop your team members the moment they come into view. Against an AI player, you’ll do most of the walking, and the dying. At least that is how the first mission has been treating me and I gave up on it after a while.
I fared a bit better in multiplayer.
TASTEEfeatures asynchronous multiplayer, allowing you to play a game round by round with a friend over the span of days should you wish to do so. Hopefully, though, the people you meet online will stick around for a little longer than that, preferably till the end of the match. When they do, the matches are far more dynamic and more tense than they are in the single player missions. You’ll end up cursing and cheering your way through the matches, enjoying them as long as you don’t run out of patience with one another for taking too long to set up the rounds.
After going through the “five stages of game rejection” (frustration, doubt, disbelief, anger and dismissal) due to how tough
TASTEEis, I ended up recognizing it has its place in the world of gaming. I cannot quite shake the sense that its developers have balanced the game based on their own experience. Sometimes developers forget that their audience has not already been playing their game for 400 hours.
Yet despite that, I recognize that there is an audience for this type of game. I’ll enjoy a few more matches myself but can’t quite muster the patience for there to be a long-lasting friendship between myself and
TASTEE: Lethal Tactics. If you do have the patience to spend five minutes setting up your turns, and dig the idea of taking a team of mercenaries into battle, then the game’s concept, aesthetics and complexity will give you a challenge that you have a right to brag about for years to come.
Deep, complex turn-based gameplay
Requires more patience than the average gamer can muster