Price: $45 AU (on GOG)
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy, Mecha
Robot-on-robot action never gets old.
Battletech, the video game by indie studio Harebrained Schemes (I love the name already), which revives the somewhat ancient Battletech setting.
Back in the 90s and the 2000s, Battletech was a thing. Inspired by Japanese mecha / real robot genre (think works such as Mobile Suit Gundam or Armoured Trooper Votoms), Battletech produced a huge amount of table top miniature games, to an entire line of novels and comics.
The Battletech setting is both highly futuristic and yet anachronistically modern. In this universe, the year is the 31st century and mankind rapidly colonized the stars using a means of faster-than-light propulsion known as Kearny-Fuchida Drives. As humanity goes forth and conquer the stars, so do they form of kingdoms and polities, and inevitably conflicts over resources and grand wars of conquest occur, with each side using BattleMechs, piloted by MechWarriors, causing untold damage and casualties that number towards the millions. The ceaseless, intermittent large-scale warfare has resulted in a technological stasis and regression- as all effort is put towards building the latest, state of the art death-machine and nothing to improve the living standards of the common people. As a result, many commoners are forced to make a harsh living either as indentured servants, labourers, or resort to crime, piracy and banditry, but a brave and ruthless few claw their way out to become highly skilled MechWarriors and then sell their skills for the highest bidder as mercenaries. The player-created protagonist is one such person.
The game plays out both as a tactical turn-based game, and what is best described as Mercenary Simulator / Robot Manager 3025. The tactical turn-based component is very similar to Firaxis’ XCOM games, though opting for a zone of control grid over the square grid of the aforementioned series, and accuracy determined by both range. However, some of the subtleties in the engine adds variety to tactical decisions- such as the use of armor facings (I.e - don’t get hit in the rear), turning speeds and angles, and minimum / optimum ranges.
The fun part is however the Mercenary Simulator aspect- your troops go into battle with the accountant’s advice in mind regarding staying in the black. Staying in the black is your objective in the game, as an outfit in the red is game over- to earn the fistfuls, your outfit takes up contracts across known space- randomly generated missions. Unlike other games of its kind, upkeep on equipment and wages for your personnel exists, and constantly presents its own kind of menace- battle damage and injuries to your personnel translates to time in the med bay, which then means having to call up the second-string side, or simply having to wait it out and lose hundreds of thousands in C-Bills, the universe’s currency.
Any game featuring giant robots must come complete with a suite of customization options, and Battletech does not disappoint in this department. Whilst you aren’t able to go to town mixing and matching parts like the Front Mission series of games (If you haven’t heard of this franchise- I don’t blame you- it wasn’t marketed towards the West), the next best thing you can do, however is load up on its weapons, or, uniquely, how much armor you want to put on the damn thing, at the expense of more dakka.
Battletech looks fun, plays fun, and the marriage of both its combat and backroom aspect is one that is always entertaining. It is a title that is worth adding to the collection of strategy afficionados.