From the creator of the original BattleTech board game, Jordan Weisman and Harebrained Schemes have assembled a new turn-based strategy video game in this massive galactic mech battle franchise.
Getting into the story of BattleTech honestly will take a lot of time and patience. The franchise itself has been established for almost 30 years with various iterations based on BattleTech’s table-top wargame such as the birth of MechWarrior series, an animated series and a long list of novels.
Let’s stop there before you get entangled with the game’s rich history. This latest entry to the franchise has brought the intricate mechanics of the board game from the past and woven it into a fully grown interactive tactical galactic war where humanity has spread across the stars waging interstellar wars with robots known as battlemech (or mech for short) representing their own nations and factions.
The game begins when your customised character’s childhood friend, who was the rightful successor of a monarchy, was been betrayed by someone closest to her. The successful coup led to the demise of your mentor and your best friend but you survived the incident.
After a number of years, you become the commander of a group of mercenaries for hire, travelling across the galaxy in a spaceship to pick up contracts from a diverse range of clients using your own choice of customised mechs in order to make ends meet.
Each individual mission is stretched in terms of time based on the goals and objectives whether it’s an escort mission or run-of-the-mill assault mission as it could take around 40 minutes to solve one mission. Taking on full responsibility as the commander, this party of four specialised pilots equipped with their fully upgraded mechs are at your behest to navigate through inconsistent space terrains and eliminate enemy’s mechs.
Teamwork is essential when waging war against other mechs in BattleTech. The game doesn’t rely in a single ability that could wipe out the entire enemy’s mech squad unlike in X-COM. Instead, it relies on the balance of risk management and careful decision-making in the battlefield coupled with each mech’s capability to obliterate the enemy mechs one by one.
Although there is no such thing as one-hit strike to all enemies, every successful attack towards the enemy will generate your morale bar and motivate your team members to perform a ‘called shot’ which could reduce the enemy’s mechs to scraps or enforce bulwark for your mechs to prepare for incoming attacks.
While plotting out your strategies and taking turns to execute combat, players have to consider every step because one mishap could result in a permadeath to one of your pilots like Into The Breach. You also have to be extra cautious with the diverse space environments because some locations make it harder for your mechs to cooldown after using a lot of firepower.
In case of a mission takes heavy toll on you and your party, you can immediately withdraw from the mission but it will cost you paychecks, which is essential to properly run your ship, and tarnish the reputation of your team.
Customisation of battlemechs is the key to successful missions. Once you’ve returned to your ship, you can modify your mech and your other member’s mechs according to your liking but it depends on the materials you salvaged from the missions. Certain missions can also reward players with new mechs as well.
Since mechs aren’t being mass-produced anymore, players have to make-do with spare parts to upgrade armour and weapons. You can alter the weapon system by fitting in lasers and rockets as long as you have the appropriate ammo and not exceed the recommended tonnage for each mech.
Other than customising battlemechs, pilots under your command will receive experience points after each mission. Players can use the experience points to upgrade their unique attributes which you can directly matched with the available mech types: Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault. For example, a pilot with a high ‘piloting’ attribute may be better suited to scout for incoming enemies or a pilot with a high ‘guts’ attribute can take a lot more damage from enemies.
BattleTech is not all about tactical robot battles but it’s also focused on your ability to run the mercenary business in order to keep your ship afloat. Money is used to pay for enormous debts to the bank each month, mech repairs, pilot salaries, ship upgrades and not to mention that you have to spend considerable amount of money for travel costs across the galaxy for contracts.
To manage a successful business, accepting and fulfilling contracts can increase the mercenary’s reputation which you can use to leverage for more cash, more salvage parts or both. However, be careful with contract negotiations as requesting too little money without ample spare money and enough spare parts to upkeep with the mechs repair could send you into bankruptcy.
Maintaining the lives of four pilots during combat and running a successful mercenary’s premise are among the challenges you have to face in the game. But nothing is more dull than watching the mechs slowly stomping away in the grid-based terrain, rotating themselves into the desired position, firing up the weapon, waiting again for a few moments to move again and repeating that process over and over again.
While I understand it’s a turn-based strategy game, the turn animations can be excruciating to witness that it could easily be overcomed with a simple fast-forward button. Besides, the game’s lack of tutorial to understand the complicated UI could impede BattleTech’s experience in the early hours into the game.
Despite the overwhelming scrutiny of BattleTech’s mech combat mechanics and fussy vessel management, these aspects actually complement the epic narrative of the game’s campaign. The narration of the game is sustained with silent conversation and a small radio chatter amongst the ship’s crews and the ever-changing dialogue options according to your own character’s backstory.
The text dialogues are also built-in with a complete glossary of tips which can be seen by hovering into the highlighted text which can help players to understand the BattleTech’s lore a bit more. Moreover, the futuristic soundtrack fits exquisitely with the well-tailored space politics between factions that are displayed in 2D cutscenes.
In the end, all good things come to those who wait. BattleTech is a satisfying turn-based strategy game that takes a long ride inside the battlemech and this game becomes a great addition to the long-standing history of BattleTech universe for both old and new fans.