BattleTech Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Harebrained Schemes
Release Date:2018-04-24
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

But the most important ability is Precision Strike, which gives you a bonus when you target a particular part of an enemy mech.  Why is this significant?  Because destroying certain parts of a mech, like its head, legs, or central torso, knocks it out of the battle.  Precision Strikes require "resolve" to execute, but you earn resolve automatically each round, and this is boosted by the morale of your crew.  By the end of the campaign, I was earning so much resolve that I was able to perform two Precision Strikes per round, and that was usually enough to kill any enemy mech, heavy or not.

Of course, while you're dishing out damage, you're probably receiving some as well.  Each part of a mech (such as an arm or a leg) is protected by armor, but once that has been destroyed, the mech can start losing the parts, as well as the weapons and ammunition they contain.  Then when you return to your ship, it costs you money to make the repairs.  Repairing armor is relatively cheap, but replacing parts and weapons can be expensive, especially if you lose difficult-to-find weapons that contain bonuses (for extra damage or accuracy).  Sometimes, missions might cost you more in repairs than you gain for winning, which means you have to be careful and perhaps withdraw early if things are looking bad.

To help you out, after completing a mission, you get to salvage some of the debris from the field.  Mechs leave behind "parts" when you disable them, and if you salvage three parts from a particular mech model, then you can combine them together to create the mech.  The less damage you do to a mech, the more parts (up to three) it will leave behind.  Some mechs you see all of the time, and so it's safe to just blow them away, but other mechs (like the king crab assault mech) are much rarer and more valuable, and if you disable them carefully (by, say, repeatedly knocking them over), then you can gain the mech much more quickly than otherwise.  You can also pick up weapons and other accessories when salvaging, and if all else fails, then you can buy stuff from stores, including the useful but expensive black market.

Campaign

The campaign in BattleTech revolves around Kamea Arano.  During the first mission, she's betrayed by her uncle on her inauguration day, and from there you have to help her gain allies and take back her throne.  But sadly, Kamea is the narrator for the story, and this removes any sort of tension about what might happen, especially when she "dies" during the coup (and you later learn it was just propaganda from her uncle).

The campaign includes about a dozen story missions, but you're also forced to complete random mercenary missions in between, meaning the campaign is likely to include 30+ missions.  There isn't any limit to how many mercenary missions you can accept, so if the next story mission looks like it's going to be too tough, then you can just go on mercenary missions until your mechs and pilots are in better shape.  Sort of annoyingly, though, the game only gives you missions right around what it thinks you should be able to handle, so you might find yourself in a situation where none of the available missions look promising, and there isn't anything you can do about it other than grit your teeth and try to survive what comes next.

By and large, the writing for the campaign is not good.  It's not filled with typos or grammatical errors or anything, but it's just dull.  None of the characters are interesting or memorable, and they don't talk like real people.  Instead, they orate at you and make speeches, and the bad guys in particular only do things because that's what the plot requires of them.  As an example, Kamea's uncle's daughter suddenly decides that she's no longer Kamea's best friend, and in fact now hates her.  But why?  Because the campaign requires a villain who can pilot a mech.

The missions themselves are also dull, primarily because they're so much alike.  The random mercenary missions are all about the same (go kill 4-8 enemy mechs), and the story missions only add one extra wrinkle to them.  For example, at one point you're tasked with capturing an ammunition factory before Kamea's uncle can make off with what he needs.  To win the mission, you have to defeat the mechs and turrets guarding the factory, but -- here's the wrinkle -- you can also blow up ammunition crates to damage the defenders.  The crates are like big bombs that can help you out, but the more you destroy, the less reward money you get at the end.  So do you take advantage of the crates or not?

If the campaign had only included story missions, then they would have been different enough to keep things interesting.  But throw in a couple dozen or more mercenary missions, all carbon copies of each other, and the campaign turns into a giant slog.  Worse is that the game is so poorly explained, and the interface so unhelpful in places, that the early missions can be a giant headache to complete, with lots of saving and loading to get you through.  I pretty much hated the campaign during its first half, when I repeatedly got my head bashed in, and then once I figured things out (or maybe the missions just got easier, who knows) I only found the campaign tolerable.  Either way, I didn't particularly enjoy the 80 hours I spent with the game.

But just in case your views on the mercenary missions are different than mine, one of the patches for BattleTech included Career Mode, which is basically the campaign minus the story missions, where you can earn a score to brag about.  This sounded terrifically boring to me, so I didn't explore it deeply, but maybe it's a way (most likely with the help of mods or DLCs) to extend the worth of the game.

Conclusion

Clearly, I wasn't a big fan of BattleTech, but I might have approached it for all the wrong reasons.  I thoroughly enjoyed Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun games.  They were a nice blend of turn-based combat and RPG goodness, and I thought BattleTech might be more of them same.  But no.  The RPG goodness completely disappeared -- the writing took a nosedive, character builds are non-existent, and you don't make any meaningful story-based decisions -- and I didn't even enjoy the combat.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but in my view BattleTech is a game to skip, even if you can find it for far cheaper than its current $40 suggested retail price.