• Battletech PC game review by Rick Moscatello




    Roughly awesome.

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    Battletech is an old game, based around big robots (“battlemechs,” or just mechs). It’s set in a universe with a history every bit as rich as Star Wars. Key details involve civilization has fallen somewhat from a more technologically advanced past, where wars were fought with mechs, the kings of the battlefield. Supposedly mechs are rare now, but that’s basically rubbish—everyone always has plenty of them. It’s just as well, because fighting with big robots is pure fun, plain and simple.

    There have been many Battletech PC games over the years, with wildly varying quality. The earlier games were actually better, as developers took the opportunity of more advanced PC technology to make Battletech into a real time game…smashing down robots in a flash of sparks actually detracted from the majesty of slowly destroying these huge machines, as well as detracted from any actual strategy. Because of the more recent failures, developers were shying away from making another game—even with a great license like Battletech, you might lose money.

    Kickstarter came to the rescue, and fans chipped in nearly 3 million dollars to make the game. I’m wary of Kickstarter games—the sharp time and financial constraints mean that the game will have minimal development, and that usually leads to a shallow game with easily determined best strategies…and not a thing more than whatever the Kickstarter promised.

    In this case, the Kickstarter is already using an established and successful set of rules, alleviating many of those fears. That said, the developers decided to change many of the rules around (including, inexplicably, the way how all the weapons work), but the system is so robust that you can do much to it and make a decent game (incidentally, Battletech has had many imitators over the years, most of them decent because the basic system is just that good).

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    You want salvage rights over money.

    Battletech has you play the leader of a band of mercenary mechwarriors (i.e., pilots of mechs), taking contracts to do various deeds, collecting money and salvage rights for your service. The basic military structure of the game is a “lance,” a collection of 4 mechs. Mechs come in various weight classes, from light (starting at 20 tons) all the way up to assault (at 100 tons). In theory, mechs can perform various roles, but the Kickstarter development rears its head quickly: there’s no benefit to have anything but the heaviest, most powerful mechs you can get. You never get to use more than 4 mechs, incidentally—almost all missions will see you outnumbered by 2 to 1 (if not more), with enemies being mechs and/or various types of tanks or turrets.

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    Completely customize the lance

    One of the big draws of the game is you can design your own mechs, and there’s a full system allowing you to modify your mechs, changing their weapon systems, heat sinks (key to Battletech rules is your mechs tend to overheat if used too much, making you decide just how much you want to press your luck…it’s less of a factor in this game), flight capabilities (more like long jumps than flight), and other factors. Again, the developers changed the rules, and there’s a “hard point” system so you can only put certain weapons in certain places on certain mechs. It’s actually a good decision, as the rules for this PC game make missile weapons pretty much awesome—you’ll want mechs which can carry missiles over anything else.

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    Headshawt!

    It’s not just a matter of finding the right mechs, as few are for sale. You’ll need to capture them on the battlefield, hopefully with minimal damage. Your best case scenario is a headshot, which can net you a mech in near perfect condition. Failing that, you might have to defeat several mechs of the same type to get enough functional parts to make a mech…they’ve certainly done this aspect of the game well enough.

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    Home sweet home.

    There’s an extensive and fun campaign, where you’ll eventually acquire your very own dropship (a specialized mech transport), which you can upgrade over time into an impressive mobile base (with many features, such as a zero-g swimming pool, enhancing morale). You’ll also find some “Lostech” mechs, based on forgotten technology and far superior to the more recent models. If you’re lost with all the references and new words, it’s not a problem, as you can highlight any (of the many) unique words to the Battletech universe to get a more detailed definition when they appear in the game.

    There’s a small roleplaying element to your mechwarriors, which gain experience and improve over time—again, it’s crudely done (there’s like two actual choices for character development, and a bunch of bad ones) as per any Kickstarter game, but sufficient.

    It can be hard to avoid the many rough edges of the game. Perhaps the worst of it is when your transport flies in and lands on your mechs…squashing them flat and likely killing the pilots. Kings of the battlefield, indeed. It happened to me in multiple missions, forcing me to reload. Save often, of course, although those load times can be rough as well (it takes time to get to the load screen, time to bring up the save games, time to load the save game, then time to get to another load screen, then you click to load the actual saved game).

    All that said, this is a very playable Battletech game, well worth the frustrations in exchange for the joy of blowing up many, many, big robots.


    Overall rating: 89


    (As an aside, the best Battletech PC clone is Titans of Steel: Warring Suns. While a pretty hard core game with basic graphics and no story, it covers turn based mech combat better than any of the dozens of other games, with up to 32 mechs slugging it out in battle—not bad seeing as it came out over a decade before the game reviewed today.)
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Battletech PC game review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post
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