“Hey Matt,” David said. “Do you want a game to review?”
“Well duh. Which one?”
“Battletech. Because you’re the only one of us who didn’t buy it yet.”
And now with my shame on full display (I was going to get it right before release, I promise!), it’s time to do a little digging into Harebrained Schemes’ latest game, Battletech (on Steam or on GoG).
First, some controversy
Before going into the game proper, we may as well address the elephant in the room.
We here and Anjel Syndicate believe that games are for everyone and celebrate diversity as well as good English.
The singular “they” is legitimate, and we think it is pretty great that Harebrained Schemes included that as an option. The only effect on gameplay is… how characters address you. If this is shocking and upsetting to you, then… I don’t know what to tell you. I suggest some vigorous soul searching near the ocean during a sunset.
This Isn’t a History Lesson
As the resident tabletop game reviewer here, I could sit here and wax poetically about the history of Battletech as a franchise, the miniatures and tabletop games, the Genesis and SNES games, the initial PC Battletech games from the late 80s/early 90s, the Mechwarrior series or the MechCommander series or the massively multiplayer online iterations. I could gush on and on about the really cool Battletech pods at arcades where you could actually get in there and flip switches and get as close as you can to piloting a real mech. I won’t, because this isn’t a history lesson and we can all Google, but I can tell you from personal experience that most of the games using this IP are worth exploring. I personally enjoyed the MechCommander series and if they ever release the Crescent Hawk series, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat for pure nostalgia purposes. That said, let’s get into the game proper.
I Made a Mans
One of the best things that stood out to me initially once I clicked the Campaign button was the help text. If this is your first time into the world of Battletech, they’re going to throw a ton of terms at you that won’t make sense. They label terms specific to the universe and a quick mouse hover will give you all the relevant information you need to figure out what is going on, if you so desire.
Character creation is just deep enough to let you make a character that can focus on what you want to do with them. Just going through each of the options available will tell you, in no uncertain terms, exactly what’s going on up to this point. I went Kurita, but the fact that they let you go past the major houses was really nice of them.
Boy, There’s Lots of Parts!
I won’t go into the story parts of the campaign, to save you from spoilers, but I can say that it’s worth doing a fair bit of side missions before tackling the next main mission.
Why? Because you have mechs, and mechwarriors, and they both need newer, shinier stuff. Mechs can be customized with new parts (depending on the slots on said mech), and mechwarriors can get XP that you can use to train them further. On top of that, you’re going to want to upgrade and get shinier, bigger mechs! For that, you’re gonna need credits, scrap and parts.
Mechs are accumulated in parts. The game will tell you how many scavenged parts of the whole you need to get. They can be bought from the various planets you go to, or you gather them on the battlefield after you core out the competition.
It’s also worth noting that not all parts are equal – a M Laser ++ is decidedly better than the base.
A key feature of the campaign is monthly expenditures. Mech storage isn’t cheap, and those mechwarriors you send out on missions need to get paid. If you don’t have money to pay for it all at the end, you’re going to have a bad time. Worse? If your mech loses an arm or a leg (or two of each, or heck, all of the things), it’s going to take time and resources to get them back to mission ready status. If your mechwarrior gets a concussion, time in the medbay is time not ready for those money-making missions. More on this in the next section.
Kill the Meat, Save the Metal
It’s time to talk about combat.
This iteration of the BattleTech franchise goes back to it’s roots. Good, old-fashioned turn-based combat based on an initiative system depending largely on the mech in question.
The first thing you’ll learn quickly is that combat is pretty brutal. You can get a lucky PPC shot, hit the enemy mech right in their stupid face and they fall right over. On the other hand, they can do the same to you.
You will quickly learn how the save/load game feature works.
Mechs can (by default), move, then attack. You’ll want to pay attention to the map as some areas are beneficial to stand in (forests give cover) and others are bad (don’t be like me and stand in the hot lava). On top of that, each planet has it’s own overarching features that affect everyone in combat.
Firing weapons heats up your mech. Heat sinks dissipate that heat. Too much heat at the end of your turn? The mech starts melting. Too much heat on top of that will cause a shutdown for a turn or two to keep it from melting all the way through. Standing in water is a Good Thing (especially with your initial mech, the Blackjack).
As of this writing, multiplayer is handled by their publisher, Paradox. It’s all PvP, although there is a mode where you can test out your favorite lance setup against NPCs. I didn’t get a chance to try this out (due to account issues – I know I have an account with them!) but playing with others sounds like it’ll be awesome. Once I get my stuff lined up, maybe I’ll challenge Anjelus to some battle and stream it.
A Little Rough Around the Gears
It’s worth noting that at launch, the game is playable but the game isn’t quite as optimized as I would hope it would be. There are obvious pauses in the gameplay during movement that I noticed, and waiting for the NPCs to play their turn is a great time to go get a snack. When the game throws five slow vehicles in a row, I can feel my beard grow.
There were no actual crashes that I saw, but those slowdowns were noticeable. Here’s to hoping they patch it out soon.
My only other complaint would be with the voice acting. Some of the characters are a treat (the voice actress for Glitch needs to do so many more things), whereas others can get pretty grating after a bit.
The Bottom Line
If you salivate at the thought of a turn-based mech game, buying this game is a no brainer. You should already have it.
If you don’t know what Battletech is, but you like mechs and really enjoyed the XCom series or games of that ilk, it’s worth diving in immediately. The difficulty is around that level to me, and the customizability will feel great for you.
For the rest of you, if any parts of the game sound good then it’s worth at least looking up a streamer or a Let’s Play to verify, but I would lean towards a buy. Strategy lovers will be pretty happy here, as will tactical roleplayers.
A Steam key was provided to the reviewer for the purposes of this review, even though seriously he was going to buy it right when it came out because seriously he is kind of a nerd for this sort of thing.