Friday, June 2, 2017

The Promise of Battletech

It’s Friday, so I’m going to hop in the Rambletron for a minute and wander through my history with the Battletech Universe across its many media platforms.  There are some things that i like very much and other things that i wasn’t as keen on, but today i’m going to talk about the many different times i’ve seen this universe expressed in video and computer games. 

The first game i remember seeing for Battletech is actually Crescent Hawk’s Revenge, because my brother was playing it on his computer in 1988ish.  I watched the game, but didn’t really get into it.  Flash Forward a couple of years, and i pick up Mechwarrior 2.  I also picked up the Battletech game on Sega Genesis, and still haven’t beaten that cheating Thunderbolt at the end of the game.  
Mechwarrior 2 was the first game that i really dug into and had a lot of fun playing.  I was in middle school at the time, and i found myself enraptured with mech on mech violence and the First Person Shooter aesthetic.  I played Mechwarrior 2, Mercenaries, and looped back around and picked up the Power Hits collection (which had the Cresecent Hawk’s Inception, Crescent Hawk’s Revenge, and Mechwarrior in one easy package).  Pro-tip, don’t try mechwarrior on a Pentium without a DOS box.  My Friends and i played Mechwarrior 3 at school in high school, and i picked up the Mechcommander games in college.  
For my 21st Birthday, i got a brand new, state of the art Xbox.  (this was their initial release, and i got one from Walmart, yay Capitalism).  I asked for the console because of MechAssault, and i fell in love with that game.  It was so much fun and i remember spending hours and hours playing through the missions and the stories.  I bought MechAssault 2, and while i didn’t enjoy that game as much as its predecessors, I played it a lot, and finally finished it.  (This is the game where i had the fun experience of accidentally stepping on the powered armor i needed to complete the game and destroying it right before the final boss and having to restart the level).  
Time rolls on and i fall away from PC and computer gaming and focus a lot more on tabletops, but i keep hearing good things in the market, and i manage to get a buddy of mine to play Mechwarrior Online.  I still need to upgrade my internet connection to get into it deeply, but i love the look of the game.  Then i see something i had not expected flash across my various newsfeeds.  
“Battletech Returns to the PC.”  
I do some digging, and i find out who’s making this game, and the other things they’ve made.  Harebrained Schemes has made among other things, a trio of Shadowrun Games (all of which i own now, thank you kindly Steam), a game called Necropolis (Still need to pick that one up) and are building a Battletech PC Game.  To this date, it’s the only game i’ve backed on Kickstarter, and it took all of 3 seconds to make that decision.  This is also a game that i realized i would need a better computer for, and spent the next year putting back spare cash to update my system (and i have a new IBUYPOWER gaming PC that rocks because of this game).
Flash Forward again to last night, and i installed my Beta copy of the Skirmish game.  For 19 minutes i felt like a kid sitting down to play my first game of battletech again.  I built a lance on the fly, got stuck into the game, and got my ass handed to me.  It was wonderful.  This is the Battletech game that i have wanted for on the PC without realizing it. It’s not a 100 % recreation of the Battletech Rules, and with the level of PC hardware that’s available, i think i would have been upset if they had just ported over the tabletop game.  What they’ve done is a wonderful reimagining and integration of a computer game that looks, feels and sounds like Battletech.  
Thank You, Harebrained Schemes, Mitch, Jordan, Tyler, AJ, Mike, Kevin, Kiva, and the entire staff for putting this game together.  Special thanks to Jon Everist for putting together a kicking soundtrack, and the entire audio team did a masterful job with the sound and the fury of Mech on Mech Violence.  
Now i’ll give you my first blush of the game.  First off, Holy Hannah the AI is solid.  It makes good decisions, it plays smart, and doesn’t do stupid things.  It’s also amazingly brutal.  In my game, i watched a hostile Hunchback ignore another Hunchback to take a pile of shots on a prone Jenner at point blank range.  
The Skirmish mode is a lot of fun.  Currently there are 6 maps that are available for play, and a variety of weather and other conditions.  The skirmish match is lance on lance, and you have a C-Bill cap to pick up your lance.  Currently there are 3 game levels, 15 Million, 20 Million, and 25 Million C-Bills.  There are several mechs in each weight class and a couple so far have variants available.  You can select a variety of pilots (and the VO on the pilots is fantastic.  “I am Going to Die” in a thick russian accent was the highlight of my game), assign them to your mechs, and jump into the game.  There are preset lances if you don’t want to pick and choose, but the game currently lets you tinker with the Force you’re bringing and the OPFOR.
The Skirmish mode doesn’t have a tutorial or a learn to play option, so the first few games are going to be rough.  I hope the campaign mode has some tutorial missions to break in new players, because the AI isn’t kidding around.  For a first look at a Beta version of this game, i am in love with it, and i hope that this success enables future growth in the Battletech Universe.  
This is a snapshot of a specific era and a specific place in the Battletech Universe.  There are hundreds (probably thousands) of other snapshots that you could do as a game like this, but i am happy with this as an introduction to this universe and the wonderful things you can do with it.  8 stars, 15/10, would support again.

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