Lethal Tactics is a game developed by SkyBox Labs who previously worked on the modern expansions and remasters of the Age Of Empires/Mythology series. So it only makes sense that SkyBox Labs moved on to developing their own strategy game.
Lethal Tactics is a turn based tactical shooter that draws inspiration from many different sources and although you can see the XCom: Enemy Unknown inspiration I feel that the game is overall akin to Door Kickers and Frozen Synapse. Lethal Tactics follows the same style of gameplay bringing back that Rainbow Six planning phase style of game in which you are able to plan out each round’s moves asynchronously.
The gameplay is split into two main phases, the planning and execution where most of your time will be spent in planning while you sit back and often grimace during the execution. Each round begins with an initial snapshot of the battlefield you see the last known locations of the enemies, the objectives and of course your troops. It is up to you to then decide the best course of attack to move your guys around to take out the enemies without losing anyone (…hopefully).
The moment-to-moment gameplay is gripping and really does put you on the edge of your seat as you lose sight of a guy and have to guess where he’s heading. However, this does slow the game down a lot and if you want to play truly tactically you will run several scenarios to determine the one with the best outcome. As there is no “redo” button and the smallest mistake will end up with one of your guys dead; the testing and planning are certainly the bulk of the game. I greatly enjoyed this aspect of refining and tweaking my plans but some may find it slow and tedious just redoing and reworking the same moves. However if you are a fan of optimization and perfecting tactics, you will get a lot out of Lethal Tactics.
The graphical design is very nice and the cartoony aesthetic provides a lighter tone to the game, making it more approachable for those who don’t like the gritty nature of other tactical games like Door Kickers. Lethal Tactics has a Team Fortress 2 charm to it and although there is a bit of blood when you eliminate enemies, it’s never grim. All the arenas are well designed with a lot of detail being put into the general look and feel of the game and it does help the game to shine.
The game comes with a story-driven campaign, online asynchronous play, and a single-player skirmish mode. After playing around with these different modes I found the campaign to be rather underwhelming. It has a very loose story that doesn’t have much substance. It is fairly obvious that it has been thrown in as an afterthought. The single player missions feel more like puzzles than tactical strategy where you are shooting for a way to solve them rather than really thinking about the strategy needed and a lot of this comes down to the AI which seems rather scripted. It is a nice addition and offers a different style of challenge but I was not so taken with it overall.
It feels to me the true meat of this game comes with the online play, and it seems Lethal Tactics, very much like Frozen Synapse, has been built around the online play. Luckily the online play has been built in an asynchronous manner allowing avid players the chance to compete with one another over an extended period which helps indie games with small hardcore communities as it allows for a highly competitive scene despite the small install base.
For the price, Lethal Tactics does offer a great value proposition, especially after the last major update that added in single-player. If you are a fan of Door Kickers or Frozen Synapse then Lethal Tactics is well worth your time already and with the developers actively taking community feedback expect an even better game by release.