Community Review: BattleTech

Given how excited everyone was last week for the release of BattleTech yet, I'm hoping that a few of you will have some strong thoughts today.

Harebrained's turn-based take on mecha combat has been out for about a week now, unless you ordered through GOG and only got access on the 24th. Nonetheless, everyone has had a good chance to knock off a few generators and turrets by now.

If you haven't given the game a roll yet, here's the first 25 minutes or so from the campaign sans commentary. There's some light story spoilers, so be warned, although it's only what you would have seen already and its enough to give you a good sense of how the game pans out.

The main kicker with a game like this is that it's never going to be fast paced, but then nobody goes into a game like XCOM and complains that levels take longer than five minutes to complete. That's an especially oldschool thing as well, where missions could comfortably take 45 minutes or longer. A lot of old RTS games used to do the same thing; Jagged Alliance is coming to mind too.

But I'm curious: what's the game's performance like? How has the actual story panned out? How useful is the customisation, and how fair is the gameplay? I need to know.


Comments

    Game performance is hit and miss, with times of excellent FPS and then noticeable hiccups. Sometimes the game just happens to freeze momentarily before continuing your actions. There is disconnect when the game shows you the location and time of your mission and then throws you a loading screen. This could have been done better by having the loading screen first. While the first couple of missions are a decent tutorial, some features are not fully explained, such as your facing, which is crucial to ensuring your mechs can fire and/or defend against flank attacks.

    In terms of playability, it is definitely slow paced, and comparing it to Front Mission 5 seems to be a no brainer. I can imagine that it's links to the original boardgame means that rules are quite set in stone, such as the lack of return fire, co-coordinated strikes and inability to reset your moves position once you've confirmed it. These features make Front Mission 5 more free flowing and fluid. That said, the ability to use all your weapons and customize mechs to their individual equipment is deep, and the heat feature really brings a bit more realism compared to FM5. The times you will grit your teeth over whether your alpha strike will blow an enemy up, or whether those incoming missiles don't knock your own mechs dowb, can be thrilling at best. The camera controls are a bit underwhelming, and even when you change them to remove most of the automatic centering and cinematic views, the game will still center on something you're firing on and then not show the impact of other weapons on other targets.

    The management side of things gets a bit messy, and at first you will struggle a little getting used to fielding mechs, managing damage and injury, and paying bills. Once you get the concept of salvaging and selling mechs from parts, cashflow becomes a bit easier, and the story missions will make acquiring better mechs much easier.

    Overall, a solid game hampered by technical issues that hopefully will be wrinkled out with patches.

      inability to reset your moves position once you've confirmed it

      Hit or clikc on Move twice. As long as you haven't confirmed your facing you can reselect your destination.

        Ah got it, that along with the recent player-found movement/action speed ups has really improved my experience. Many thanks!

    I've been having a great time with Battletech. I'm someone who is brand new to the universe, so I can't comment on how true it is to what has come before, but I can say stomping around in a 100 ton Mech is my new thing.

    The story is an excuse for some really tough fights. Once past the tutorial, which is only really useful for people who have never played an Xcom style turnbased before, the first mission sets the scene for the game. Introducing the characters, their motivations and giving glimpses of rivalries that will doubtless result in some epic battles later on.

    I've only played as far as the 4th story mission, but each so far gives a formidable force of enemies to fight, sometimes with an additional strategic objective to consider. The story missions manage to give the feeling of how powerful these giant war machines really are.

    You face tanks, turrets and of course, other Mechs. While not to be underestimated, the tanks and turrets are side dishes to the true threats; Enemy Mechs. Turrets can hit hard, but easily taken out beyond their range to see, and vehicles can have similar armour and guns to Mechs, but get up close and stomp them into oblivion.

    Mech combat is where tactics sort out the men from the boys, because you are on an equal footing with the enemy. The only advantage you may have is which Mechs and their pilots you selected to bring along on the mission. But on the other hand, you don't know which Mechs the enemy will field either.

    I've only played the campaign, so only faced AI opponents, but they have a nasty tendency to gang up on the first Mech that shows a hint of weakness. This can be used to your advantage, but losing a Mech is very expensive, Hell, even losing an arm off a Mech is a headache.

    Last edited 30/04/18 12:35 pm

      they have a nasty tendency to gang up on the first Mech that shows a hint of weakness.

      That's what I do :)

    Have encountered exactly 0 bugs so far which is absolutely awesome.

    In terms of the story I'm not hugely progressed yet as i decided to do a bunch of side/filler contracts in order to get my mechwarriors some xp and build up a stock of parts/mechs. What I have seen so far though is great, it has some twists in there and reminds me of some sci fi novels.

    In terms of mech customization I'm still hanging out for more options. It feels mostly like the default setup is the one that works the best and you can only tweak things a little. I'm hanging out for some more versatile mechs that allow me to do the setups I want. Hoping heavy mechs will give me more room - I'm still at medium mechs currently with the odd bit of heavy salvage.

    In terms of gameplay it's great. You really get punished for mistakes but the punishment comes after the fight rather than during. Say you mess up, one of you mechs gets pounded, pilot gets an injury. That mech stays combat capable, you finish the fight and off you go...until you realise you have a 26 day wait on the injury and it'll take 15 days to repair the mech. If you have that happen to multiple mechs it means you have to sit and wait, costing you money instead of doing more contracts to earn money. Means you really want to play defensively to save on resources - pretty much how i imagine a mercenary mech squad would actually operate.

    The downside to that is if the enemy scores a lucky headshot out of no-where that's a guaranteed injury even if they don't pierce the armour. Feels like a bit too much punishment from RNG. I had one fight where two enemy mechs scored a bunch of headshots with large lasers for no apparent reason, had 3 pilots out for a while. Also had a random headshot from a PPC once that blew up the head and insta killed my pilot....I reloaded the save after that because screw RNG.

    Aside from that though the combat is pretty fun.

    Poor tutorial, average performance, long load times, and lots of time wasting hamper what should be a very good game. Nothing a few quality of life patches couldn't fix in the near future.

    I've lost 32 hours to it already, but I've been willing to overlook the bad for my long time love of the Battletech/Mechwarrior franchise.

    I'm loving the combat. I actually restarted the campaign after the moon mission because my mech stable could barely complete contracts after the ramp up to 2 skulls, so that means I was barely earning any c-bills due to repairs. And this is after I managed to salvage the entire heavy mech from the moon mission too. So I'm going super slow atm to build up a buffer.

    The story seems fairly typical Battletech politics so far from what I've seen, which I enjoy. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

    No bugs so far. Lots of tweaking you can do to make the game feel a bit more responsive animation wise, but I've just turned off most of the camera changes and that's good enough for me, since the game still goes much faster than the tabletop.

    And just like the tabletop, the RNG can be a bit BS, also SRM and LRM carriers can suck the Word of Blake.

      You aren't wrong about the carriers.. *Right clicks the vehicle to see what it is carrying* That's A LOT of missiles

        I save my precision strikes for vehicles just so I can get rid of the dual AC20 monsters and srm carrier.

          Vehicles & Turrets are priority targets in my game. When one attack can get that much firepower of the table, I'm in.

          We had a house rule on the tabletop that said if you killed a vehicle with a melee attack (ie. trod on it) you could still fire. That'd be handy about now.

    I suspect you will get most enjoyment out of the game if you have the right expectations going into it. It's a pretty faithful recreation of the tabletop game which could take you hours and hours to play a single battle and while faster than that it is a slow methodical game.

    I would like more varieties in maps as they repeat on a fairly regular basis.

    Jump jets.. Those things will save your life more than once and honestly I don't think the 3rd story mission can be completed without them. Flamers can save your butt as well. A Firestarter mech can jump in hit a dangerous mech with 6 flamers, over heat it to the point it can't use any of it's weapons, shut down or hopefully explode :)

    I agree with having to play defensively having a mechwarrior taken out can mean you have lost them permanently or they are out of commission for 3 months.

    There is so much to take into consideration as well. A mech outfitted with energy weapons is great on a ice world, or place with lots of water to cool, but in a vacuum or desert world? you will be running really hot and unable to fire as often.

    Customisation is pretty good, but certain mechs have specific types of hardpoints so will only fit x number of energy weapons, or missile weapons, etc which tends to limit your choices.

    It would be nice to be able to deploy more than 4 mechs, as it's horrible to be suddenly confronted with 5 opposing ones of equal strength and 2-3 light mechs running around and bringing down indirect fire on your head.

    I would agree taking your time with the random contracts, you need a stable of mechs in reserve otherwise you are going to go months without money

    Last edited 30/04/18 1:15 pm

    Other than technical issues, there is some serious need for buffs to friendly light mechs, in the later missions they can too easily be focus fired in one turn if they get sensor locked due to how heavilly outnumbered you get. I currently run a dragon as my scout for that reason and for that reason I will one day become a Steiner scout group.

    I find it odd that there is no ams systems, in a tactical squad game it feels like it should be neccessary to balance out lrm boats.

      Hah...funny you mention Dragon as a scout. Currently waiting for the fitout on mine to be complete so my scout can go from Spider to Dragon as he was taking way too much damage on the spider - lost a leg 2 missions in a row.

        The only use for light scouts are the convoy attack missions, otherwise an increase in firepower and survivability is much more useful.

    The game has an interesting difficulty curve. It starts off punishingly difficult but as your tonnage increases, your ability to deal with problems increases dramatically while also making huge early game problems considerably smaller than before.

    Further, as you gain experience, you gain wounds and as you level up the Argo, you can decrease the time taken to heal your mech warriors.

    Progression within the storyline gives you access to some pretty badass stuff, and prioritising pilot wounds can pay huge dividends when it comes to maximising your tonnage.

    I'm currently running 3 Assault Mechs, and a Grasshopper for sniping crappy mechs and kneecapping dangerous mechs.

    My only two issues with the game so far are the load times, which are bad, and that I can't choose from which direction to melee attack (or at least I can't work out how I do it). If I have the movement, I want to run around the back and punch them in their rear armour.

    They've removed the punch table (all melee attacks are the same, regardless of the animation), which I understand (can you imagine the RNG screams if headshots were 1 in 6 from melee?) and you can't yet use melee weapons (though I just read a post from Harebrained that talked about hopes for a Hatchetman, so that might change), but melee is still very satisfying. I'm training ones of my mechwarriors up as a melee specialist. She's in a Firestarter at the moment, which wasn't too bad in early missions, but is becoming a bit hairy. I have a Kintaro frame that I'll probably refit for her.

      Mama wants a Hatchetman :(

        Yup. And I want to rip the leg off a mech and beat it to death with it.

        What else are hand actuators for?

          Punching in the cockpit of an opposing mech and pulling the mechwarrior out.

            Now I want a mech with teeth to eat said mechwarrior

      About the directional melee attacks;
      First select the target. If it is in Melee range, there should be square brackets around it.
      Once selected, the "Engage" button appears.
      Before hitting the button, if your Mech can attack from other directions, they are shown like movement points on the ground around the targeted enemy. You can select them now.
      Like ranged shots, which armour sections you are facing are highlighted on the HUD.

        Thank you. I'll check that out this evening.

        Solves my biggest grumble, making the game even better.

      Melee movement/direction is decided after you set melee attack I believe... Once you click a target to melee attack, there are movement nodes next to the target showing where you can move to to set the angle you attack from.

      In other words... Click target to melee then select the location you want to swing from around the target.

        Thank you. I'll check that out this evening.

        Solves my biggest grumble, making the game even better.

    Games pretty sweet
    Tutorial should explain to peeps more at the start, like multi-target shooting, selecting which weapons to fire, the positioning of your mech and hit chances, etc

    But wheres co-op.... sad face

    The game kept crashing for me and running my gfx card at 100%. After the fifth crash trying to do the tutorial I asked for, and got, a refund. Bitterly disappointed.

      There is an Nvidia driver update for Battletech that limits the amount of frames the game renders, which should solve your problem...

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