Since our initial preview of Paradox-published BattleTech, Hairbrained Schemes have pushed out the backer beta for their BattleTech game. The beta doesn’t have a campaign or multiplayer, but it does show of the turn-based Skirmish mode. Hairbrained previously developed various Shadowrun remakes, and many expected them to simply bolt on the combat engine from those games to the BattleTech release; but fortunately they’ve stepped up their game. For BattleTech, Hairbrained has built a brand new Unity combat engine. The game itself is also going full 3D. So we get to watch several hundred tonnes of metal blown to pieces in a beautiful spectacle.
The engine switch has given BattleTech some much-needed heft. Where Shadowrun combat felt weightless – like a papercraft reworking of XCOM – BattleTech throws its weight around. When mechs are fired upon they shudder horribly under the onslaught. If they lose both their arms to laser fire they close the distance to melee and attack their enemies directly. It’s like they’re fighting the most expensive bar brawl ever.
BattleTech is an old franchise that originated from a tabletop strategy game, and Hairbrained is taking the series back to it’s roots, mostly. The familiar tabletop rules have been adapted for the PC release so that more esoteric rules are more streamlined. The strategic element of the game relies heavily on managing damage to certain areas and heat output. It’s entirely possible to overheat your mech and cause it to lose a turn of actions. And it’s also entirely possible to immobilize mechs by targeting certain parts.
Battles rely heavily on coordinating fire from heavier artillery mechs – like the Battlemaster or Atlas – while drawing fire with faster mechs like the Panther or Commando. Moving your mechs in coordinated setups will allow you to surround and wither away your enemy under sustained fire. The variety of combinations in Lance setups and pilot abilities means there may well be a healthy meta for min-maxing your layouts for battles. The battles will be hectic and explosive, so expect death and destruction.
But that’s not all the Hairbrained have plugged into BattleTech.
The singleplayer campaign and story places the player in the role of a mercenary company in the BattleTech universe. The player must manage their mechs and other resources while taking missions to fund their whole operation. “A mercenary company is more than just machines,” points out creative director Mike McCain. “It’s all about the men and women who pilot the Warriors themselves, the mech-techs that prepare them, the medical teams that keep them alive, and the engineers and navigators that run the ship. All the people behind the scenes. Unfortunately, you have to pay all of them.”
The campaign takes place across nearly 2,000 star systems that will change and become more chaotic as the game progresses. So having to choose what corner of the galactic region to carve out as your territory will become another crucial choice for players.
Overall, BattleTech is shaping up to be quite the interesting and explosive mech experience. And just to wet that palate until late 2017 when it releases, you can find a skirmish trailer for the game below.