Battletech is a turn based strategy involving the core fundamentals of Sci-Fi adventure, space and mechs. Developed by Harebrained Schemes, the team behind Shadowrun, the hit series from the same genre, and published by Paradox interative, players familiar to the series should find themselves at home
At it’s heart, Battletech offers tactical warfare with an incredible amount of customization. Add an atmospheric soundtrack and a space sci-fi setting, and you’ve got yourself the recipe to a successful sci-fi strategy game. At first glance, Battletech gave me the XCOM feels but then it begins to distance itself from the classic alien infested TBS.
Battletech borrows a lot of elements from XCOM and the Shadowrun games, but in the end manages to forge it’s own identity. The constant feeling of importance you get while playing the “Commander” resonates with XCOM and so does the base building and resource management. The HUD and the overall UI is more consistent with what the Shadowrun games offer. However, when it boils down to customization, more specifically the mech customization, Battletech offers unparalleled levels of it. For any particular mech, you can have n different modifications.
The mech modification isn’t just shallow leveling up or grinding. There is so much to consider and balance. The mechs are divided into four types, light for scouting, medium for light combat, heavy for moderate combat and assault for, well the name says it. While loading your mech with weapons, you have to consider the implications too, for example every mech has a limited weight capacity. Powerful weapons are heavy and often produce a lot of heat, reducing the heat efficiency and consistency of the mech in combat. It also leaves less room for armor, depleting the durability as well in the process.
In Battletech balance is the most important principle. Spend too much on any particular area, you’ll fall short on some other. For firepower, funds, the mechwarriors, and pretty much every other aspect of the game too. Choosing contracts too requires player thought, as sometimes the repair costs might not justify the salary, but the extra reputation might be more helpful in the long run. Reputation lowers costs in stores and recruitment charges, and makes that faction reward you with more lucrative contracts.
The same goes for ship upgrades. Mech Bay upgrades increase active mech count, crew upgrades improve repair times, while ship upgrades help with the travel duration. There’s always a compromise and a trade-off, just as I explained above balance is necessary otherwise one thing or another will go failing on you when you least expect it.
Enough about that, let’s move onto the story and the characters. The player helps an exiled princess’ efforts to regain the throne from her cruel uncle. The story in Battletech is rather unimpressive, and the characters least serve their purpose at the very least. They just fill in the gaps between the various mech-battles, mech-building and inter-planetary travel. This is one department where Battletech can’t quite keep up with the likes of XCOM.
Another unique mechanic in battletech is the inclusion of Biomes and environmental impact on your battle mechs. If you’re in a warm habitat, your heatsinks will function less efficiently whereas in tundra region the effect will be reverse. Similarly forests provide cover reducing the accuracy and mountainous areas degrade mech stability. The developers have laid an enormous amount of stress on strategy.
Unlike the traditional method of wearing down enemy armor and then eliminating them, Battletech features internal and external armor. If the enemy penetrates your external armor, they’ve got a chance to hurt your character so having a fat armor doesn’t make you invincible. Furthermore, each individual mech part has it’s individual health, and the location of the weapon in the mech actually matters.
If you’ve installed a cannon in the arm and the arm gets blown off, the weapon becomes inoperable. Likewise, if your mech loses it’s leg it’ll get knocked down and if both legs are stripped it is removed from combat. I really appreciate this combat system. It allows for strategic elimination of larger enemies possible using a smaller mech possible.
Coming to the weapons themselves, use of partial weapon systems is also an option either to conserve ammo or to reduce the heat. If you’ve got the ability you can also fire different weapons at separate foes and choose which ones will be loaded at whom. There are so many variables when it comes to combat and customization that it can’t possibly explained in a review. You can only grasp it fully after playing the game for a while.
This game has only one flaw, and it’s a technical one. The performance is lackluster in Battletech. The game’s graphics are far from impressive yet it tanks the most powerful of systems. I ran the game at 4K with a GeForce GTX 1080Ti, and yet the frame rate often dips to the 30s, sometimes even plummeting down into the 20s. Although the game is still playable, given that it’s a turn based strategy, it’d still prefer if it performed as admirably as the other mechanics of the game.
There is only one conclusion here. As long as you even mildly like tactical or turn based strategy games, you need to buy Battletech ASAP. It borrows the UI and combat mechanics of XCOM and Shadowrun and molds them into a much better form. A form purely inspired by tactics and strategy. The customization of the battlemechs is phenomenal and the combat more than just backs it up. There are a few technical issues, but nothing game-breaking and we expect them to be fixed soon enough.