BattleTech at PAX 2016

Anyone who loves giant ‘mech combat, knows the name BattleTech. It is, after all, where it all began. The original BattleTech was created by Jordan Weisman as a tactical tabletop game in 1984. Since then, the game has evolved into a massive franchise spawning a multitude of video games, an animated TV series, a collectible card game, and a series of over 100 novels. The BattleTech universe is expansive and vast, but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped growing. A new game being developed by Harebrained Schemes aims to take players back to the original BattleTech, but this time, in a beautiful, complex, and war-torn digital world.

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Personally, the BattleTech universe holds a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to it by a friend soon after the launch of MechWarrior 2  and we spent countless hours playing it together. I was instantly hooked and since that day, I have played every MechWarrior PC game to date. MechWarrior 4: Vengeance consumed so much of my early teenage years that I don’t even want to begin to think about it. It was also where I joined my first online gaming clan and still retain some of those friendships to this day. The MechWarrior series and the BattleTech universe will always mean a lot to me.

That being said, this new game excites me. It is not the type of ‘mech game that I am used to, but that is what makes it so appealing. Also, this game is not being created by some third-party outsider. Jordan Weisman himself, is at the helm of it all; making sure this game lives up to the BattleTech name and ensuring everything stays as true to the original game/universe as possible.


NOTE: At the end of this article, there will be opinions and thoughts from Mat “Guitarguy” Olson. He has far more experience with turn-based tactical strategy games and his insight will prove useful. He accompanied me to our meeting with Jordan Weisman at PAX West 2016.


The new BattleTech is a tactical turn-based strategy game that will take players all across the galaxy, known as the “Inner Sphere” in the BattleTech universe. Jordan described it to me very well when he said that is essentially Game of Thrones in space. For hundreds of years, the many houses of the Inner Sphere have been waging all out war against one another for control over who will claim the title of First Lord and rule from the throne over all the other houses in a new Star League. In this game, you play as a band of mercenaries working for which ever house will pay you the most…but it gets far more complicated than that. The war has dragged on for a very long time by this point and because of that, technology is precious. Salvage is worth a hefty price and ‘mechs themselves, are few and far between. Only the nobility is left to pilot these massive multi-ton weapons of war. The player controls a lance of four MechWarriors and their actions play a major role in deciding how the single-player campaign will play out. Do you develop loyalties to one house or do you play all sides in an effort to cash in as much as possible? Do you accept that risky mission for House Liao or turn it down in favor of one from House Davion that is less dangerous? How will House Liao react to that decision? Your choices matter just as much as your funds. Not that funds don’t matter…because you’ll have to pay to repair your ‘mechs, upgrade them, and pay your pilots. Remember, for you and your crew, this is a business and businesses need to make money.

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The game offers an expansive single player story-driven campaign, but will also include a skirmish mode for quick player vs AI matches and a PvP mode for taking on other players to see who the best ‘mech tactician truly is. These multiple modes should prove to provide endless hours of gameplay and entertainment. The game is being built in Unity 5 in an effort to make the battlefield experience as immersive and awe-inspiring as possible. Each of the four BattleMech’s under your command will have their own unique abilities and armament of weapons. Not all ‘mechs were created equal and using them properly will help ensure victory for you and your crew, which of course, means more cash. Also, with each mission you compete, the more experienced your pilots become and the better they become at their job. Each pilot will have their own skill tree for you to advance them along as they become seasoned veterans of the battlefield.

 

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Playing the game itself is surprisingly fun. At first, I questioned whether or not it could keep my attention because the idea of a turn-based system sounded slow and not nearly as exciting as the usual fast-paced ‘mech combat that I am accustomed to. However, it moves rather quickly and although you have unlimited time to make your moves, I found myself second-guessing my decisions many times. Not because they were obviously the wrong move to make, but because I cared about my pilots and my ‘mechs. I was only playing a small demo on the show floor of PAX, but…I cared. Maybe it was because of my history with the franchise, but even so…that says a lot. Each move you make is crucial and you really feel when you make the wrong one. ‘Mechs are massive war machines, but they aren’t invincible. On the other side of that coin, making the right move feels fantastic. Using your light scout ‘mech to flank the enemy and then unleashing on it from behind while your assault ‘mech obliterates it from the front in a ball of smoke and fire is a perfect example of a well-executed tactical move that will make you feel like a true BattleTech commander. Combining your ‘mech’s abilities/weapons and using the terrain to your advantage are absolutely critical to success and the survival of your lance.

I’ll leave Mat space for his final thoughts below, but feel free to check out some of these awesome videos, images and links for more on the game and feel free to ask me any questions you may have at any time!


Mat here! As an enjoyer of RTS games, I never really had a whole lot of experience with the Battletech universe, but this game is giving me a ton of reasons to start dabbling in it. The hardest thing to do in an RTS game is making it fluid and fun without losing your attention. Luckily, Battletech does just that.

As soon as I got onto the keyboard, I felt right at home. With the game being turn based, you’ll have time to think carefully about what your best mode of action will be; whether a diversion and flank or head on assault would be better, or maybe figure out who poses the biggest threat first.

I found myself favouring a flanking strategy, sending my scout off to the side with the sprint ability, letting me move farther without attacking, while my heavy guys did the lifting. This also goes to show how smart the AI can be too, as I payed for it by losing that ‘mech soon after finally executing my plan. Since there was a ‘mech with the ability to use jump jets, I quickly avenged that loss by jumping on top of a cliff and letting ’em have it.

As you play and attack each enemy ‘mech, you will start to cripple their weapons or certain pieces of crucial armour that will hinder their abilities to fight you. I’m really excited to see this as there hopefully may be an option to specify where you want to aim, and strategically cripple the enemy or go for a kill shot right out of the gate.

Another great addition is the heat meter on the bottom left of the screen. As you attack with each weapon on your ‘mech, their heat levels will rise depending on which one you used. This can add a good balance of heat management and battle so you’re forced to decide if unloading your full arsenal is worth it, or sitting back for a round may be a better option. With that being said, it’s great to experiment with the different options you’re given, like moving your scout back through the queue until they’re last to go, so that they can have two moves in a row because they’re the quickest and have the highest initiative (protip!).

As a final note, I would strongly recommend picking this up or trying it out if you have the chance. It looks great, the UI is efficient and nice to look at, and watching those ‘mechs explode is just a blast.


BATTLETECH GenCon 2016 Cinematic Teaser

BATTLETECH #SuperPreAlpha First Look!

Harebrained Schemes Official Website

BattleTech Official Website

BattleTech Kickstarter