PC/Mac Reviews

Battletech Review: Building a Better Battlebot

I’ve been ready for a good mech game for a while. So, looking at Battletech, I was excited but somewhat hesitant. It looked super complex and in a way that I normally have issues getting into. However, as I played more and more, I found that the systems, while complex, provided an incredibly satisfying and rewarding game that made me legitimately wanting to play more and more.

There is an absolutely vast amount of lore to the Battletech universe that, quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared for when I came into this game.Thankfully, the story of Battletech the game feels far more contained and it never feels like you have to go outside of the game to understand what’s going on. The game opens on the coronation day of Princess Arano. You are acting as a mech pilot and bodyguard to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. However, her uncle betrays her and you are barely able to escape with you life. Some years later, you are leading a mercenary mech group with a whole lot of debt when a mysterious benefactor offers you a deal you can’t refuse.

The story is pretty typical sci-fi and is mapped out as a flashback, so you can make some assumptions about how things will go down. However, Battletech has some pretty specific sci-fi tropes and plays off of them very well. There’s a great sense of atmosphere from the fake random name generator which creates fantastic sci-fi names, to the fact that you use mini-figs to design the color pallet of your mech company.

In order to keep your company afloat, you need to take on various missions throughout the galaxy. These tactical battles are no joke. If one things goes wrong (which they frequently will), you’ll need to improvise in order to make it out of the missions alive and with your mechs as intact as possible. Battles can be best described as XCOM but with more emphasis on specific pieces of your mechs. You position your mechs on the battlefield, trying to give yourself the best angle of attack while still defending your mechs as much as possible.

As you attack, there’s a heavy emphasis on damaging specific limbs that have certain weapons attached. If you can take out an arm, you might disable the weapon attached to that limb. If you disable that weapon, your enemies have fewer and fewer choices on how to attack you. Conversely, you can easily get screwed if you take damage to specific parts. If one of your legs is damaged, for example, you lose the amount of space you can move, making evasion way more difficult.

This is the real challenge of Battletech. If things go good, you take little damage and are able to complete missions quickly. However, if things go bad, matches slow down dramatically. You are actively punished for making wrong moves or taking too many risks. And considering how slow the missions move regardless of how well you are doing, you feel every single wrong move in your soul.

Performing well is critical to everything about Battletech as money is incredibly important. Pilots get paid a set amount each month and while you can decrease their pay, they’ll underperform in battle without decent pay. On top of that, repairing mechs takes money, so if your mech is junked, it’s going to take a long time to rebuild, and you’ll have lost the weapons you had on that mech.

Time is also another huge consideration, as pay comes out each month. If a pilot is injured, they’ll be unavailable for a set period of time, ranging from a few days to a few months. If your pilot is experienced in battle, losing them can be crushing for your team composition.

If it’s not clear already, Battletech is a systems heavy game and there are a lot of systems working together. Learning to pack your mech with as much weapons/ammo while not over filling them is crucial to making battles easier, and finding out what upgrades you want for each pilot is critical to planning out how you’ll play down the line. There’s so much stuff to learn and you’ll learn most of it the hard way. While there are some tutorials, a lot of the systems are taught through text boxes and it can be super difficult to remember what impacts what.

However, there’s something really incredible about Battletech that keeps me wanting to play more. Missions are brutal but usually if you play a bit more conservatively, you can make it out with minimal damage. Surviving each mission with nearly no damage after you’ve struggled and struggled with other missions feels incredible. Losing or taking a ton of damage hurts you, especially after you’re team has grown on you. Battletech succeeds for the same reason that XCOM and other really good turn based strategy games do: they make your in-game success feel like actual successes.

SCORE: 9.0 out of 10

A code for Battletech was provided to Pixel Related for review.

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