Monday, October 14, 2019

Big Stompy Robots: Battletech

The October Humble Monthly bundle included the 2018 mech combat game Battletech. I have always loved big stompy robot games and I have very fond memories of playing  Battletech: Mechwarrior games from a quarter of a century ago when they vied with Metaltech: Earthseiege for the mech gaming crown.

This latest Battletech game ticks a lot of boxes for me. It has a story based campaign set in the very rich lore of the Battletech  universe. Combat is turn based so no twitch shooting is required. The player controls a squad of mechs which are simulated down to the sub module level giving lots of of variables to play around with and control. All of this is right up my alley. Unfortunately my first couple of hours in the game tarnished this shiny picture some what. The game feels buggy and unoptimised. At times the action is jerky and have I experienced sound dropouts and a crash to desktop during combat. The crash happened as I was attempting the surprisingly challenging first mission that the game throws you into after a hopelessly inadequate tutorial. I thought I was doing well as I overcame the easy enemies of the first few encounters but the mission went on much longer than expected and ground me down by attrition. Even though the enemies were weaker than my forces the oncoming waves were smart enough to continually focus on the single most damaged member of my party. Given that the loss of a single member ends the game this meant I had to reload several times before I managed to successfully drag that most damaged mech to the end. 

Normally this level of hassle early in a game would cause me to move on. Life is too short and there really are too many games to play. I did mention however that I have always loved big stompy robot games and Battletech has done just enough to rekindle my enthusiasm. I can feel myself getting sucked in once again to logistical calculations of loadouts and tactics.

Aside: The fact that Battletech runs quite poorly on a modern PC highlights what an incredible job the programmers of earlier games did on much more limited hardware. Earthsiege  from way back in 1994 for example had a very similar level of complexity with real time simulation of mech combat down to sub component level. That game ran flawlessly on my 50MHz 80486. Battletech runs somewhat haphazardly on on a modern PC with a six core 3.6GHz CPU and decent GPU.

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