BattleTech is the newest game in the long-running Mech Warrior series that began with humble tabletop Mech combat using figurines but progressed into literature, comic books, MMOs and even proper singleplayer games.
BattleTech stands separate from the previous games in this massive series, mainly because of the sheer amount of effort and intention put into this installment. Alongside the record-high number of staff and man hours put into BattleTech, Hare-Brained Studios partnered with Paradox Interactive, meaning they had access to incredible amounts of funding.
BattleTech was first demoed last year at Paradox Convention, and it was meant with a rather general feeling of “Meh.” The simple combat demo showed off seemed rather dull and uninteresting – fire weapons, maneuver around the field into better firing arcs; the whole thing seemed the sort of game that “other” people might enjoy.
However, the actual release of BattleTech is a different experience entirely.
What the sample game showed off last year lacked were two things: context and investment.
The context is how incredibly deeply you become sucked in to the story – you need to fight with the rightful Queen to the Aurigan Coalition, avenge your murdered mentor and bring peace and stability back to this area of the galaxy, all while working with your witty and ever-so-slightly insulting crew to make things as ship-shape as possible.
The investment – perhaps the most important factor in BattleTech’s success – is in choosing and outfitting your Mechs personally.
Each Mech has a number of different weapon capabilities, including Autocannons, Lasers and Missiles, plus a myriad of other categories in between. Balancing that with Jump Jets, Heat Sinks and the ever important armor, you can design your Mechs however you want. The same base Mech can be a deadly missile boat, or a sturdy melee brawler, depending on how you outfit them.
To go along with that, each Mech is piloted by a crew member that you hand pick and train yourself, increasing skills to create the most efficient fighter possible.
All this is important when your favorite Mech that you’ve spent thousands of C-Bills on, piloted by your favorite Pilot, is horribly exploded by an AC-20 shot to the chest. You mourn the hours put into designing the Mech, the time training the pilot but, most importantly, you mourn them as something close to you, not just as a reflection of your time.
BattleTech manages to inspire in you a desire to keep your Mechs alive, both because you want the story to progress and the good guys to win, and because you so desperately want to keep Dekker alive – you’ve put so much time into him, dammit!
BattleTech works because it is fun and engaging to shoot enemy Mechs – that much is obvious. But the most important reason why it works is that of the attachment the player has to the game itself.