Review: Constant Hard Choices As Time Traveling Mechs Take On Giant Insects In ‘Into The Breach’

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>Share this article via emailemailCreated with Sketch.>Share this article via sms>Share this article via flipboard >Latest from Metro.co.uk» >GameCentralWednesday 25 Apr 2018 1:00 am

If you enjoyed XCOM you’re going to love this new giant robot strategy game, that brings the MechWarriors back from obscurity.

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If there’s one thing we’d love to see more of in video games it’s giant stompy robots. Despite what you might imagine our predilections are only rarely catered for, so the idea of a new BattleTech game has been a cause for some excitement. Especially as it’s a Kickstarter-funded passion project by the creator of the BattleTech franchise and the producer of MechCommander and MechAssault. These are clearly people that know their giant robots, and we’re happy to report that they also know a thing or two about turn-based strategy.

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MechCommander and MechAssault were actually real-time strategy games, so this is similar to those games only in general concept. Instead it goes back to the original tabletop game for inspiration, in terms of both its setting and the gameplay. You don’t need to know that to play the game though, and if you’ve enjoyed the likes of XCOM and Into The Breach we can pretty much guarantee you’re going to enjoy this.

Or if you remember the MechWarrior games of the 90s there’s a lot of commonality with those as well, since it’s all set in the same universe and uses the same terminology. Once again you play the role of a mercenary leader in charge of a team of giant mechs, who take on missions for various Dune-style noble houses and have to maintain and upgrade your equipment between battles. So think Game Of Thrones but with building-sized robots.

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To be honest we’ve never really paid any attention to BattleTech’s backstory before, but as unappealing and cliché as feuding houses sounds the storytelling in the game is surprisingly good. There’s a sensible focus on characters rather than plot, and while the presentation is clearly constrained by budget it doesn’t create the black hole of disinterest you might have been expecting.

Once you get into battle the XCOM comparisons become clear, as you control your team of four mechs from an overhead viewpoint. Many of the specific options are different, since these are giant robots and not people with guns, but the idea that each can move a set distance and perform an action, such as firing their weapons, each turn is essentially the same. The biggest difference is that there’s no formal cover system, although obviously you can still shield yourself behind trees and buildings if you can put them between you and the enemy.

That doesn’t mean that BattleTech lacks depth though, merely that it has a different set of problems to worry about. There isn’t a rigid grid system that has you moving mechs around like chess pieces, but instead a much more analogue set-up where you have to pay careful attention to your speed, stability, rotation (most mechs can spin at the waist), and the angle at which you attack and are attacked from.

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Although having your legs shot from under you usually proves fatal mechs can happily lose an arm or two and still function. Heat is often a bigger problem, as your various robotic parts are in constant danger of overheating as you use them – although the game takes into consideration other factors such as whether you’re on a planet with an atmosphere or even if you’re standing in a lake.

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BattleTech (PC) – every decision counts

Since a lot of the mechs are quite slow and ungainly the abilities and morale of the pilots also play an important role, with each having a complex skill tree from which you can harvest a variety of useful skills such as locking onto targets more effectively or increasing evasiveness. If pilots are killed they’re gone forever though, so some difficult decisions have to be made when an experienced pilot is in danger and you’re not sure whether to eject them or try and save their mech as well.

Win or lose, at the end of a battle you have to sit down and do the numbers and work out what parts of your mech (and your spaceship) need to be replaced and which you can afford to upgrade. This tends to be the nerdiest element of the game, that could have done with a bit more automation for those who don’t want to worry about the 31st century equivalent of choosing which spark plug to use. But if there’s one thing you can’t accuse BattleTech of it’s a lack of depth.

This does create a problem in terms of accessibility though, as not only is the game more complicated than something like XCOM, with an unnecessarily confusing interface, but the computer is never in any danger of forgetting one of the rules or misjudging an angle. Add in random elements born from accuracy and critical hit rolls and you’ve got a game that can not only seem unfair but wildly uneven in terms of difficulty.

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Given how expensive even a clear victory can be this tends to force you into an increasingly defensive style of play. That may seem perfectly realistic, in theory, but it does undermine the game slightly when despite its great depth you end up playing most missions using the same small playbook of reliable but unimaginative tactics.

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That appears to be equally true of the multiplayer, at least at this early stage, but at least it seems less of an afterthought than in XCOM. Although only time will tell how much traction it gains with the fanbase.

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In terms of technical issues the game has all the expected bugs and glitches of a launch game on PC, with the cinematic camera being particularly unreliable at the moment. There’s also often a disconnect between what it looks like you should be able to aim at and what you can actually hit. Which is frustrating until you learn to trust the targeting tool and not your eyes.

Despite all its intricacies and options BattleTech never feels quite as open-ended or versatile as XCOM, but it is a different enough experience that it can happily survive the comparison. It’s not quite as accessible but give it just a little time and you’ll begin to wonder why more video games don’t feature 100-ton robots as their star attraction.

BattleTech

In Short: An excellent turn-based strategy that mixes tense battlefield tactics with an engrossing meta game of money-grabbing mercs and expensive-to-maintain mechs.

Pros: The tactical game is excellent, with plenty of depth and lots of unique features. Top-level strategy is also compelling, in terms of nurturing pilots and upgrading mechs. Surprisingly decent storytelling.

Cons: Unpredictable difficulty can lead to an overreliance on a small number of reliable tactics. Confusing interface and mech upgrades. Wonky cinematic camera and other minor bugs.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PC

Price: £34.99

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Developer: Harebrained Schemes

Release Date: 24th April 2018

Age Rating: 12

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Source : http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/25/battletech-review-robotic-strategy-7495236/amp/

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