Patience and planning are two aspects that are not just important in life, but essential if you want to enjoy Battletech, the videogame adaptation of the old tabletop classic that also spawned the Mechwarrior franchise.
Developers Harebrained Schemes made the wise decision by choosing to house the game in a genre best suited for its real-life counterpart – turn-based strategy.
Every action and move you take in Battletech is akin to playing a turn of a board game, and there is plenty to love about that.
A customization system with depth, complex and interesting scenarios, and the management of a group of space mercenaries provide a thoroughly deep and enjoyable experience, but only if you are into that sort of thing. There is undoubtedly a steep learning curve to all the systems, and the plodding nature of how the game plays out can be a high barrier of entry for those expecting huge mech battles and flashy explosions in every turn.
Dropping into missions with up to four BattleMechs in tow, along with unique pilots that can be upgraded, the objectives are often to blow stuff up, or establish a good old defensive holdout. What makes the admittedly repetitive formula so attractive are the Battlemechs themselves, with each class significant in their own right and realised in a fashion like only Battletech can. From the design, to how they are put together, they are undoubtedly the stars of the show.
These huge machines of destruction stomp through the battlefield, survey their surroundings, rotate like a rusty hinge, and prime their weapons, before unleashing the full armaments at their disposal. If that sounds like a lot, imagine watching that in action over and over again. Additionally, there are plenty of other pauses that contribute to long waits, even when it is not your turn.
While this is acceptable for a tabletop session, it is utterly agonizing to be twiddling your thumbs while the A.I decides its movement in a video game.
While some alterations via the game’s debug mode can speed things up, the original vision leaves much to be desired and can turn players off right off the bat.
If you are able to overlook the slow nature of Battletech, then you will find a gem of a strategy title. Mastering the many systems at your disposal, making sense of the information overload, and coming up and executing the perfect engagement plan always bring satisfaction. The risk and reward nature of the game will often result in battles where losses are inevitable, but also acceptable if you plan for it.
Placement, terrain bonuses, heat, and the various weak spots of said mechs are just some of the mechanics to have in mind whether you have just started or deep into Battletech. The high ground might be advantageous in scouting, but renders your weapons useless at the range, while disengaging is always an option if you want to keep a valuable pilot alive by hunkering down behind buildings and foliage.
The more you learn, the more the beauty of Battletech’s systems reveal themselves. A seasoned mercenary perceives the unfolding battles differently, and you will soon forget the plodding nature of the game, and focus on your next sequence of actions. The turns may still be long and drawn-out, but evolve to become highly tactical and educational.
Outside of combat, your leadership skills will be tested as you lead your band of merry mercenaries across the systems and take on missions in order to pay off your debts. Nothing in Battletech is free – salaries, repairs, upkeep, upgrades, even travel – will cost you precious currency.
Deciding how to negotiate your contracts to favour either salvage (for maintenance or upgrades), the reputation bump for the hiring faction, and your mission fee will test your business management acumen. A careless decision could easily spell the end of your outfit, so always keep plenty of spare cash and salvage lying around.
With a variety of weapons and about 40 different models of hulking mechs to unlock, it is heaven to those that love to outfit their mechs their own way. There is no perfect configuration, and it is up to the player to find the balance between the many factors like heat, weight, armour, and firepower.
Battletech is more than just about the battles, with a heavy dose of lore and narrative that drives the entire purpose of your being. A devastating coup has left a vacuum of power, and you are caught right in the middle of it. It is familiar ground, but done tastefully with gorgeous artwork, well developed characters, and great sound design overall. If you are searching for a well written space fantasy involving giant mechs, Battletech is your next stop.
Truly a time sink of epic proportions, Battletech makes no apologies for staying true to its tabletop roots and bringing a historic world into the turn-based strategy genre. If you can power through it, you will unearth an enjoyable game filled with interlocking systems that are so well integrated and designed that they move in perfect unison like a well-oiled machine, and an instant classic.
Battletech is available on Steam for Windows and Mac for S$34.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An authentic experience that brings a tabletop game to an interactive medium, Battletech is a purist’s dream come true.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10