It’s been a long time coming for Battletech fans, but finally MechWarrior video games appear to be making somewhat of a resurgence.
From MechWarrior Online on PC to MechWarrior: Tactical Command on iPad, it seems that being able to stomp around in massive hulking robots armed to the teeth with lasers and chainguns is - would you believe it? - not out of fashion after all.
Mech my day
The most appealing element of the game for MechWarrior aficionados will probably be how close Tactical Command's RTS gameplay sticks to the original boardgame without falling into the trap of trying to be a straight port.
Rather than coming with health bars that get gradually eroded by laser fire, each mech’s limbs act as separate sources of health, as it were.
Should one of your robot’s legs get shot off, for instance, then it’ll limp around helplessly, while losing an arm is usually a bad sign in terms of firepower - exactly how it is in the Battletech boardgame.
Also making an appearance from the original is the idea of heat. Essentially a form of stamina, heat builds up when you're firing or running (and getting shot doesn’t help either), with the larger mechs more prone to blowing up should you try and do too much at once.
Your tactical considerations aren’t just limited to straight out point-and-shoot, either. Holding your finger down on an enemy brings up a more advanced move wheel, with commands like 'aim for head' or the hilarious jump attack available depending on the type of machine you’re currently ordering.
Mechs move around opponents in a delightfully tank-on-legs like way anyway, so just watching two of your troops strafe around a hapless enemy can be entertaining in its own right.
All the mechs in the game are taken from the original series, and the plot for follows the same clan-based universe as earlier titles.
There are 21 missions spread across three different planets to engage in, with my hands on taking place on the wooded first planet, Winfield. These missions tend to be multi-part affairs, and involve hunting down smaller machines like tanks as well as protecting refineries and coming to the aid of allies in danger.
One thing that may rankle, however, is the length of these levels. The third map took me over 20 minutes to play through, and it only ended because I had to dash to another meeting.
There are also a few issues with the controls at present, with my mechs occasionally forgetting to keep foes in their targets, entailed a few more taps than really should be necessary. The game is still work in progress, however, so there's every chance that these more minor issues will be ironed out by the time of release.
We’ll see if MechWarrior: Tactical Command can land a critical hit on our hearts when the game launches this summer.