Apr 09, 2021 Written by:ROG

Armored ‘Mechs, deep strategy, and galactic adventure abound in Battletech

Articles: Gaming
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I maneuvered the lance to a treeline for some cover from enemy fire and got a lucky headshot on the enemy heavy ‘Mech. After that the combat got substantially easier, and I had enough salvage to rebuild the ‘Mech myself. As I patted myself on the back for a well-executed mission, one of the final enemy light ‘Mechs maneuvered behind Ghoul and shot his machine in the rear-center torso, the most lightly armored and vulnerable section of his BattleMech. In one shot, I lost one of my veteran pilots and best ‘Mechs. Now I had to make a choice. Should I reload the mission and risk the salvage I had just acquired, or let my second-best pilot die?

These are the kind of decisions that the game Battletech asks of me. Set in the same universe as the tabletop game of the same name, Battletech captures the magic of the original while making combat and customization smoother, faster, and simpler. The result is a faithful reimagining sure to delight both newcomers and series veterans alike.

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Image source: Gamesplanet

The base game has a well thought out and paced campaign. I enjoyed being a mercenary for a faction that I had never encountered before, the Aurigan Coalition, while I followed the twists and turns of a bloody coup. I also tried the career mode, which is unattached to the campaign but uses the same map and allows me more freedom to live the life of a mercenary company commander in the Deep Periphery, taking odd contracts and slowly building a fighting force. Supplementary missions add context and variety to the career experience. On a semi-random basis, “flashpoints” will show up in the Star Map. Some of these focus on light ‘Mechs only, or using a pre-determined lance that I couldn’t modify. These missions flexed strategic muscles I hadn’t been using and were a welcome change from the base game.

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Image source: Gamesplanet

Even after I finished the campaign and experienced much of what the career mode had to offer, I was able to continue my adventure thanks to community developed mods. The scope of some of these add-ons is nothing short of incredible. The Battletech Extended 3025 – Commander’s Edition mod let me play with some of my favorite ‘Mechs from previous games in the franchise, and it greatly expanded the galaxy map while remaining faithful to the series’s lore.

My expectations for the mod were high, but it exceeded them immediately. On my first drop, I launched with a ‘Mech called the Javelin that I had never seen or heard of, and the opposing force fielded a Stinger and a Wasp. So far, three of the eight units were brand new. As I slowly progressed up the weight scales and saw more medium, heavy and assault ‘Mechs, I found myself continually referencing Sarna, an online Battletech archive, to learn more about the units and their variants.

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Image source: Gamesplanet

The mod not only adds more planets to explore, it adds a significant chunk of Battletech history for me to dig into. As in-game time passes, I can access more advanced technology, including coveted Inner Sphere and Clan designs. This gives me better armor, structural supports, engines and guns even for ‘Mechs that I already owned. Being able to upgrade my older rustier designs with shiny new guns and more advanced heatsinks kept my favorite ‘Mechs competitive as time marched on in my mercenary run.

One feature that really surprised me was the addition of the complete galaxy map. The base game was set in the Rimward Periphery, a small and not often visited region. With the addition of the complete map, I could experience the full scope of the Inner Sphere, a bitterly contested region where feudal style governments wage constant war against each other. I can hardly believe how much content this added to the game. I launched the game in the Draconis Combine, and just traversing from my starting planet to the beginning regions of the Free World’s League took about a year of game time (¼ of the map).

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Image source: Gamesplanet

The modmakers drew from the series’s rich lore to add welcome variety to the opponents I faced as I crossed the galaxy. Great House forces used regionally appropriate ‘Mechs and variants, so I had a completely different play experience every time I traversed a national border. For example, the Free World’s League forces are unique and deadly due to their frequent use of indirect fire weapons. Regardless of cover, I found my team taking damage each and every turn from various directions. As soon as I had enough reputation, I quickly left for other parts of the Inner Sphere.

I also appreciated the quality of life improvements offered by the mod. Its shortening of AI controlled allied vehicle and ‘Mech turns is a welcome change. I haven’t used a timer, but it feels like the turns of my AI teammates are 50% shorter, a change that makes escort missions in particular much more engaging. Some of the longer escorts were five to ten minutes shorter than they would have been in the base game.

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Image source: Gamesplanet

After building up my ‘Mechs in a long series of adventures across the galaxy, I undertook my greatest challenge yet. I decided to head to the galactic “north” and test my luck against the Clans. In Battletech, these are the ultimate bad guys, running the best of the best equipment that isn’t available to purchase or find in the wider Inner Sphere. Their 50-ton mechs were able to absolutely shred even my 90-100 ton modified battle machines. I was in for quite a ride.

I spent as much time fighting against Clan Wolf as I did against all of the Great Houses combined. It took all of the equipment, strategy, and luck that I could manage, but I slowly acquired my own lance of Clan ‘Mechs. I was missing one critical piece of the puzzle, though. I needed a Kodiak. I’d longed to pilot one of these fearsome 100-ton Assault ‘Mechs since the days of MechWarrior Online. In order to realize that dream in Battletech, I needed to venture even further and challenge Clan Ghost Bear for the chance at some Kodiak salvage.

It took a few more days, but after hammering at Clan Ghost Bear I was able to find three pieces of Kodiak salvage. I’ll be honest, even with tweaking this is not my best assault ‘Mech. In terms of raw combat power and flexibility, the Dire Wolf easily takes the crown there. But when I see the Kodiak in my ‘Mech bay with my custom blue and orange paint scheme I feel a sense of connection with the greater Battletech universe. Nothing is quite as satisfying as ending a mission with a melee kill with my Kodiak. The wolverine style claws mounted on the ‘Mech are explicitly described in the source material as “ceremonial only.” However, the visual spectacle really makes the effort I took to piece this thing together worth it.

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Image source: Gamesplanet

After thanking the Clans for their generous donations, I had one final task for this career: returning to the Inner Sphere to assert my absolute dominance. My retribution tour included Earth, Tukayyid and the Free Worlds League. When I first encountered those forces I had to fight for my life, but with my lance of four Clan 100-ton ‘Mechs, I felt like my own marauding force. Heavy and Assault mechs that used to be a threat were simply destroyed one turn after they appeared within sensor range. Forged in the cruel fires of Clan space, my units made quick work of mere Inner Sphere ‘Mechs. Even when I start an engagement with rookie crewmembers, raw recruits with no actual combat experience beyond time in the simulator, my units can simply walk up and one shot most opposing ‘Mechs. I can see why the introduction of the Clans to the tabletop game created balance concerns.

I can highly recommend Battletech to strategy fans and sci-fi aficionados alike. It’s kept me entertained throughout my 350 hours and counting in this game. The base game provides a fantastic core experience, and the modding community layers a wealth of content on top. Whether you have experience with the Battletech universe or are just curious about what it feels like to play with big stompy robots, I encourage you to give this game a shot.

By Lane Prescott

Articles: Gaming
Article Tags: Community
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