Battletech is one of our most eagerly anticipated games. Developer Harebrained Schemes have already done stellar work with the Shadowrun series of RPGs, now they’re turning their attention to making a proper XCOM-like Battletech strategy game, something more in tune with the original tabletop game rather than a simulator/action game like MechWarrior. We’ve already tried out the Skirmish mode, and now HBS and publisher Paradox invited us to take a look and play a mission of the Single-Player Campaign. And boy, does it look great. We were excited before – now it’s a potential Game of the Year 2018 contender.
Our Gameplay Stream of Battletech Skirmish Mode!Check out our list of the Best Strategy Games on PC!
In the story mode, you play a group of mercenaries going from mission to mission, ostensibly hired by some princess to help her regain her lost throne. But mostly, make money taking odd jobs and contracts on the side to pay your guys but in doing so consistently get into trouble. Fortunately creator Jordan Wiseman made the comparison to Firefly/Serenity before I was able to – because it’s totally Firefly. With Mechs. Don’t forget the Mechs.
You can't take the sky from me.
The mission we played saw two squabbling companies fighting over mining rights on a dusty planet. The opposing force, Majesty Metals, had taken over two mining platforms and your group of mercenaries had been hired to take them on behalf of the other group. Both platforms were staffed by a decent assortment of Mechs and Tanks, and were surrounded by turrets. Getting in would not be easy.
I opted to head for the Alpha base and made my way in that direction, before I realized that the turrets on the hillside would cut me to pieces and the control centre for them is at Beta. Plus, the mission briefing said Beta would probably be better for that exact reason (I may not have been listening to it properly – hey, this is Firefly, I had to make some silly mistake that would cause good funny drama later).
So I changed course and headed to Beta, spreading my fellows up around the mountainous terrain, and promptly got set upon by Rocket Turrets who had a much bigger weapons range than I expected. Then all the enemy Mechs flooded out of the base, and all of them ganged up on one single guy in my team. I’d feel picked on… if one of the enemy guys hadn’t have tried to flank me, and I immediately moved around him the next turn, fired every weapon I had at his back and downed him instantly. Who’s the bully now?
Meanwhile my other guys successfully took out the Turret Control Centre and all those pesky turrets went dead, so we could then concentrate on saving my poor sacrificial Kintaro Mech that for some reason earned the ire of the entire opposing force. Now surrounded and outnumbered, we quickly downed and destroyed all but the smallest enemy Commando Mech who decided to give us the runaround and hide in some undergrowth – effectively, much to my annoyance. After failing to shoot him from every direction my Kintaro once again just walked right up and punched him to death. This was beginning to be a theme.
I took things more cautiously with Alpha. They didn’t have turret support anymore but they did have a Shadowhawk Mech and a load of tanks, and my poor Kintaro was on his last legs. I carefully stationed my team like hawks on the edge of the cliff overlooking the base and rained fire down on the protecting force. To very little effect unfortunately, other than getting their attention. I realized I would have to get closer. I kept a couple of the hillside while I moved the others in for the kill. I even managed to rocket jump-execute a few tanks on the way, which was incredibly satisfying. I even managed to do that to the Shadowhawk but it didn’t quite finish him – but the next volley of rockets did. Hooray!
I headed back to the extraction point for a well-earned payday, but this wouldn’t be Firefly without a sudden but inevitable betrayal. Yes, my employers decided that now they had control of both mines, and my Mechs were hurting a little, they thought they could get away with not paying me. And killing me, of course. They thought wrong. They made the same mistake Majesty Metals did – keeping the controls to their Turrets in a single highly blow-up-able building. With that building blown up and the Turrets deactivated, it just took a few jump-splat-executes to destroy all the paltry tanks they’d sent my way. Now, about that payday…
Battletech will be available on PC in Early 2018. There’s a Steam page up but we have no idea of the pricing just yet.
After playing the mission, Jordan Wiseman showed off what the between-missions time would play like. It can precisely be described as Firefly meets XCOM. XCOM in terms of play, Firefly in terms of feel. You go back up to your ship, which you can upgrade throughout the game, meet with your crew, and do various duties before picking a new contract.
Duties include fixing up Mechs or their MechWarriors, making new hires, researching and building new upgrades, negotiating contracts, customizing Mechs, and settling disputes. Disputes are arguments between crew and are just the best. Jordan showed off a neat one involving The Last Cup of Coffee on the ship which everyone was fighting over. You can split the cup, tell everyone to stop being stupid and get back to work, or just steal the coffee for yourself. We stole it, obviously. More of these events pop up as you pass time waiting for upgrades to build or repairs to happen, much like in XCOM.
Mechs can be fully customized with all sorts of upgrades and weapons, and you’ve got to take Weight into account as well as the various stats such as Speed, Heat Efficiency and Firepower. It’s no good loading your Mech up with SRM rocket launchers if he’ll only move an inch at a time and overload after firing once – it’s a careful balance. Or you can just use the Recommended and ignore customization altogether if you just want to play the game.
Negotiating Contracts is pretty cool too. You can actually barter with the contract giver for how much money or salvage you get, and if you do both quite low you can get a boost to your Reputation instead. Of most interest though was the Star Map – apparently the entire Campaign will only take place in a single sector of the Map, which is only around 10% of the map’s size. Contracts can take you elsewhere, but the Story won’t. Apparently various DLC and expansions will add new Story Missions to the remaining 90% of the map, and no word yet if those will be paid for.
We were excited about Battletech before, but after playing a little of the campaign and seeing how fun the between-missions stuff is, it has now rocketed to become one of our Most Wanted Games of 2018. In fact if Harebrained Schemes and Paradox pull off everything they’ve described to us, it could even be a 2018 Game of the Year contender. Yes, we haven’t even decided our 2017 Game of the Year and we’re already thinking about next year’s.
One thing’s for sure though – show up with a game that mixes Firefly, XCOM and BattleMechs and we’re gonna pay attention to it.
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Finding out what weird and wonderful events await us, even if they’re all just about coffee.
About Chris J Capel
Chris joined us in 2011 and loves Star Wars, comics and bad videogame movies.