Battletech review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Medium: Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

Some of my favorite and earliest gaming experiences came from a turn-based pencil and paper game called Battletech. The original tabletop game came out in 1981 and with it a whole universe based on what happens when we leave the solar system. In 1988 Westwood Associates came out with the first Battletech video game called Battletech: The Crescent Hawk?s Inception and with it spawned many games based on the universe. Mostly on PC, there where a few that where released on console, some on SNES, Genesis and the original Xbox, there was even a game released on iOS. Harebrained Schemes have developed and now released the latest game in the franchise, so let?s find out how it stacks up.

Upon starting the game, players are introduced to a video of human history. It covers millennia in about two minutes, and the lore of Battletech is large and very detailed and the intro video is a nice way to get someone interested in the backstory. During conversations between characters, certain words are a different color than the rest of the text, and these can be selected to get more background on the different factions and clans involved in the galaxy. When the game begins, it does something that I do not like when it comes to a story — it starts at the end and goes back to the beginning. So in the introduction mission, when the person who started telling the story died, we know she isn?t truly dead.

Battletech is centered on the Aurigan Coalition, which is a few trade worlds that are run by High Lord Tamati Arano II. When his ship is destroyed, his daughter Lady Kamea Arano gets ready to assume the throne. Lady Arano is a skilled and accomplished ?Mech pilot and the first mission is to escort her to the palace for her coronation. Unfortunately, her uncle has other plans and decides to usurp her throne, and succeeds in shooting down her dropship as she tries to get offworld. The story then picks up sometime later after you hooked up with a mercenary crew and have proven yourself in combat. Aside from the start in the future and play in the past story, the rest of it is really good. Story missions, for the most part, can be played whenever you want. Doing side missions helps with raising money for travel, repairs and upgrades.

Control of the Mercenary squad falls to you. Everything from the budget, paying off the bank, maintaining your ?Mechs, paying your crew, to controlling them in battle. At the end of the month the budget can be adjusted. The more you pay your pilots, the higher morale your crew has and better bonuses a player can get for it. During the month, opportunities can come up to improve morale, such as your ?Mech bay chief has come across a merchant that has a good deal on repair parts. If you pay for the parts, he works a little faster and the ?Mechs can be repaired cheaper. Your Lance (slang for squad) of ?Mechs are fully customizable. Each ?Mech has different hard points. These are points on the ?Mech that different types of weapons can be equipped. There are three different types, ballistic, missile, and energy weapons. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Harebrained Schemes took a page from the X-Com games. When not in a mission, time passes. It takes time to fix and refit equipment and travel. The pilots need to heal when they get hurt. This also takes time. Players can spend time in orbit instead of traveling to make sure that everyone is healed up and all repairs are complete. If the mercenaries are out of money, you might have to go into a fight with some pretty battle worn equipment.

Once in a fight, everything is turn based. Smaller more maneuverable ?Mechs go first in the round, heavier go later. A pilot can always reserve action, this hold action can help bring the enemy to you, or it can be a reactive action to see what the enemy does first and adjust tactics accordingly. As in many tactical games, never show your back. The back side of your unit is less armored than the front and thus is more vulnerable to attack. During a units turn, they get a move command and an action command, in that order. There are three types of movement, walking, sprinting and jump jets. For the most part they are self explanatory, sprinting gives you farther movement than walking, but just like in X-Com, if you sprint, no attack or ability can be used. Jump jets allow you to move farther than walking, however, the penalty for using jump jets is a buildup of heat on your mech. Just remember the number one rule of fighting; combat is dangerous.

Heat can be a real killer. If a unit starts overheating, bad things happen. First the unit will start to take damage. Second, and probably more critical, targeting for the next round is impaired. This affects your chance to hit an enemy unit. If heat gets too high, the ?Mech will shut down and be vulnerable. If this happens the only action the unit can take is to restart the ?Mech. Hitting is based on a few factors. Range of the weapon, the stats on he pilot, if the enemy unit had moved during their last turn and several others. The best way to make sure that you don?t get hit in the middle of combat is to move. When a unit moves, it starts to get evasive points. When fired upon it starts to loose evasive points. The more points it has the harder it is to hit. The tabletop game did the exact same thing. Terrain also helps with cover, and although you?d think that a ten story walking robot would have a hard time finding cover, however, if a ?Mech is moved into a forest, they have partial cover.

Battletech is a pretty game on the PC and the environments are well detailed and diverse. Damage to buildings could have been done a little better, but it is a minor complaint for the rest of the game. Battle damage to units is well done, and for the most part the game does a good job of being able to tell which units are hurt at a glance. When weapons are fired the animations are also well done. A ?Mech that is about to lose its balance actually looks like it?s unstable and ready to fall, and If a unit is overheating, the game will display a ripple effect around the ?Mech to make it look hot.  The battle system itself has a lot of intricacies, it can seem overwhelming, and the systems in place don?t always do a very good job in telling players everything there is to know about it in mission. There is a lot of information to dissect but you have to go looking for a lot of it.

The musical score does a good job from the serene music while traversing space to the score when on a planet and a fight breaks out. All of the music in the game fits very well.

Battletech is a detailed and faithful creation of the tabletop game in video game format. The story is fun if predictable, since we know from the first mission that Lady Arano survived the assault on the place. Battletech is a complicated machine that in harder missions will show no mercy and just wreck your entire Lance quickly, if not prepared. That being said, work with the easier missions until you get your ?Mech legs and then start going after harder ones. You fill find this Battletech experience more enjoyable if you do. If you are looking for a heavy turn based tactical game with a lot of similarity to X-Com, or if you are a fan of the tabletop version, Battletech is a great game for PC players. Make sure you don?t pass this up.

Note: Paradox Interactive provided us with a Battletech PC code for review purposes.

Grade: B+