Metal Slug Tactics is an outstanding tactics Roguelike | Hands-on preview

by on June 10, 2024

As gamers we are used to occasionally having to wait a long time for exciting new games. There are few feelings better than when a game is worth the wait, and after years of anticipation something truly remarkable releases and you finally get to play it. That isn’t always how things turn out though, with countless more examples of games going through development hell and disappointing everyone. Well after many years of waiting I am pleased to announce that Metal Slug Tactics is a wonderful game, and based on the upcoming demo I think the full game will eat up a whole bunch of my time.

The cast of the SNK classics are all here in Metal Slug Tactics, and the world is in danger from terrorism as it always was. Only this hand selected group of super soldiers can save the day, so they’re shipped out to deal with the looming threat of soldiers, tanks and screen filling machines of death. The demo allows you to play through the first area of this adventure, the desert, and take on the first powerful boss.

Metal Slug Tactics

If the title didn’t give it away, Metal Slug Tactics is in fact a Tactics game. This means on your turn you’ll move your three units of choice around the map, and fire your weapons at enemies in the hope that you’ll deal with them before they retaliate on their turn. With a whole lot of different weapons, skills and clever mechanics to take into account though it’s not that easy.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Metal Slug Tactics you’ll need to get used to is how aggressive it expects you to be. Each turn if you move a unit close to their maximum distance you’ll gain adrenaline to power their special attacks and a bonus shield that blocks a couple of points of enemy damage next turn. In a genre where you’re often encouraged to carefully pick off enemies it’s a little jarring to run in all guns blazing, but if you don’t you’ll likely fail at your mission.

Each individual mission of Metal Slug Tactics will present you with a small battlefield to fight on, and provide you with a main objective and a side objective. Some stages are about keeping a single unit alive for a set number of turns, others just want you to shoot down specific enemies. Side objectives are worth aiming for too because they’ll give you a range of rewards from weapon mods to bonus experience, but don’t expect completing them to be a cake walk.

Metal Slug Tactics

To really succeed in Metal Slug Tactics you’ll need to figure out exactly what each character is good for. My main girl Eri for example uses explosives in combat which are great for hitting multiple bad dudes at once, whereas Fio has a powerful machine gun that’ll likely kill a single unit and the power to move enemies around with her special ability. Alongside using your regular weapon attacks, you can also orchestrate support attacks which trigger any time you attack an enemy in range of an ally. Especially when dealing with tougher foes or bosses this is absolutely essential, and adds yet another layer of complexity to this tricky tactics game.

While you’re learning how all these systems work you will fail a mission or two, and because Metal Slug Tactics is also a Roguelike that means starting a whole run again. The randomness of each mission and the rewards you get for beating them really makes the game hard to put down though, and you’ll only lose a run entirely if the entire team dies (and are never punished for losing a unit or two otherwise with permadeath). The setup kind of reminded me of Into the Breach, with multiple missions to choose on each map until it’s time to fight a boss and move to the next themed world of tactics fights.

Metal Slug Tactics

For doing well in a run you’ll earn currency that can be spent to unlock new loadouts in your base between runs. Changing out a character’s weapons makes them feel like an entirely new unit, and could make someone you don’t click with suddenly become one of your favourites. I imagine this will be expanded even more in the full game, and I can’t wait to experiment with all the different options.

Metal Slug Tactics is already an outstanding tactics Roguelike based on the demo alone, with a ton of interesting systems that work together wonderfully. With a sprinkling of SNK nostalgia and a ton of replayability, it’s hard to imagine the full game being anything but sensational.

Metal Slug Tactics is coming later this year. You can play the demo now.