Harebrained Schemes/Paradox Interactive
I’ve always been a big fan of giant robots commandeered by human pilots (okay, I’ll admit I liked The Transformers too, shhhhh). I never got into playing the tabletop Battletech and MechWarrior games, but used to watch others as they played them. I’d thought that I had finally gotten over the whole giant robot thing—as if it were a phase that all kiddos go through—until old fashioned monster movies began coming back into style. I must say that when I saw the first Pacific Rim the nostalgia came rushing back and I became a little misty (it was just after having a big yawn in the theater that’s all).
When I’d first heard that someone was making a new-fangled Battletech game, I wondered if it would bring back that old sense of giddy nostalgia. But more importantly, I wondered if it would be a good game, period. Too many of the childhood series that I admired have been dashed to pieces by the irresponsible or inept hands of reckless developers.
I’m happy to report that the recently released digital representation of the classic Battletech table-top board game isn’t one of those disappointments. You can see and feel the transmogrification from board game to video game everywhere. In a reductive sense, Battletech may seem similar to X-Com. Both are turn-based affairs, personnel training and management, and perma-death, but that is where any comparisons end.
In this universe, human pilots control BattleMechs, (or ‘Mechs for short), which stand anywhere “from seven to sixteen meters tall, and weighing from twenty to one hundred tons,” and are “the end result of more than three thousand years of battlefield technology development. Combining awesome destructive power and unparalleled maneuverability, the BattleMech is perhaps the most complex machine ever produced. The undisputed master of thirty-first century warfare, the BattleMech seems destined to reign supreme for centuries to come.” –from Battletech.com.
In short, these things are the ultimate killer robots, and you are lucky enough to pilot them (at least virtually). Battletech is a deep and granular game, and since it’s turn-based allows you to take your time developing your combat strategies. These giant ‘mechs take turns blasting and pummeling away at each other until the battlefield is littered with both perforated chassis and mangled, metallic appendages of various shapes and sizes.
The game really drew me in from the get-go because of the writing. While I played through the excellent and thorough tutorial I quickly became entranced by the space opera-y storyline and gripping characters. You can tell by the banter back and forth between the various characters that the writers had a blast distilling the epic source material and setting. There is plenty of Machiavellian scheming going on between gritty mercenaries, conniving pirates, and haughty nobles to entertain all but the most jaded of folks.
There is a vast array of tactical considerations that must be taken into account when playing Battletech, both in a macro and micro sense. When you’re not in combat, the management meta-game will keep you very busy. Busy doing what you ask? Pretty much every minutiae that has to do with the maintenance of your ‘Mechs. First of all, them big ‘ol hunks of alloys and plastics are expensive to keep on the battlefield. And you’re always going to be short on funds. Therefore, deciding what to put on which ‘Mech can be critical to whether they survive or whether they end up as molten slag.
I remember salvaging a few good items after a particularly epic, multi-‘Mech battle, and thinking: Alright, I’m gonna be sitting pretty for a while with these new parts.” Soon after that, I got ambushed by some rather scurrilous characters and got a couple of my ‘Mech’s limbs shot off because of poor planning. This game will punish lazy and happy-go-lucky tacticians alike.
The battles themselves look brilliant. The ‘Mechs look as they should, gigantic, gleaming gladiators ready to dole out death to all comers. When they stomp around on the battlefields they feel weighty and grand in scale. The range of tactics that they can engage in are also impressive, such as flying over your opponents and blasting them from behind, or getting a target lock on them and firing a missile at them from behind cover. Battletech is really a fantastic smorgasbord of futuristic sights and sounds.
Battletech is a wonderfully digitized rendition of a classic, science fiction IP. It is filled to the brim with all sorts of strategic considerations, fun and complex combat, a great storyline, and an engaging management system. Just be sure to allocate plenty of time to become familiar with its myriad of interlocking elements.
Battletech features great graphics that make its turn-based gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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