The mechs are back

It’s a great time to be a fan of giant fighting robots, and the upcoming MechWarrior Tactics is a big part of why. It offers a birds-eye view of turn-based tactical combat based on the classic BattleTech RPG franchise, in which the remains of a shattered interstellar empire wage an endless war for dominion over all humanity.

On the surface, MechWarrior Tactics should appear at least passingly familiar to anyone who’s played MechCommander or even the old Crescent Hawk RPGs from the late 1980s. It’s a bit like a pyrotechnical game of chess, with two teams of four “mechs” – the aforementioned giant fighting robots – blasting away at each other on a detailed, hex-based overland map. Gameplay is asynchronous, which means that each player issues attack and movement orders, after which the computer works out the results, giving the appearance of simultaneous action.

MechWarrior Tactics is aimed at emulating the experience of the tabletop RPG, which naturally means that every unit in the game will be highly customizable. Players will be able to purchase upgrade packs with either real money or in-game currency earned in battle, allowing them to change or improve weapons, armor, heat sinks and more. Heat management will be a big factor in battle, as will terrain, range and the right choice of weaponry; a particle projection cannon packs a vicious punch, but nothing beats a couple of small lasers in an up-close-and-personal knife fight. Even your individual mech pilots will have unique skills that change how they behave and perform in combat.

MechWarrior Tactics

MechWarrior Tactics

Only one-on-one multiplayer action will be offered at launch, although the developers haven’t ruled out the possibility of adding a single-player campaign at some point in the future if there’s enough demand for it. Like many free-to-play games, MechWarrior Tactics will offer randomized “booster packs” containing a mix of items, with special “theme packs” available during promotional events, allowing dedicated (and deep-pocketed) players the chance to get a leg up on the competition. I can’t help but think that randomized element might be frustrating for players who really, really need an autocannon and end up with a half-dozen SRMs instead, but to take a more optimistic approach, it may also encourage them to take new and unexpected approaches to their units and how they use them in battle. And when you get right down to it, that need to improvise is a big part of why the BattleTech RPG was so much fun in the first place.

MechWarrior Tactics is being developed exclusively for the PC. No release date has been set.