I was looking forward to checking out Battletech at Gamescom, even if it was the only game I would check out that wasn't really an RPG. The presentation of Battletech started with Mitch Gitelman from Harebrained Schemes providing us with some information on the history of Battletech and what Harebraines Schemes is making. He discovered that many of the journalists he spoke to never heard of Battletech before. As it has such a very rich history, he wanted to share some of it by means of a few slides.
The Battletech franchise is over 30 years old and was created by his partner Jordan Weismann as a tabletop wargame. From there it went on to be all sorts of things. There have been hundreds of additional game supplements all about the game settings, different factions and its history. The Battletech setting goes on for hundreds of years, so there are different eras of Battletech. Over 200 novels have been written and they are still being written today. There is an animated cartoon and several derived video games, from the MechWarrior, where you were inside the cockpit, to the MechCommander series, an RTS game Mitch worked. MechAssault was the very first multiplayer game on Xbox Live. The last turn-based Battletech game was released in 1990, 27 years ago and Harebrained Schemes is now working on the next one, going back to the roots of that tabletop wargame.
The game was funded in an hour on Kickstarter in 2015 and raised over 2.7 million dollars and is still getting money to this date by late backers.
Battletech is an open-ended, story driven, mercenary style game. As the mech commander, you are the owner of a company of mercenaries. You have to pay them and have to pay for the upkeep of your starship that travels from planet to planet. You have to keep the moral of your members high. You have to repair your mechs, pay for those repairs and refit them. So, there is quite a bit to manage, it is a whole simulation of operating a mercenary organization. You fly from planet to planet in an open-world game, or better said; an open universe. You fly around and take these contracts with different noble houses or corporations. The game takes place in 3025, which is 30 years before the clan invasions. In the success of this game, they would like to keep the timeline moving forward with the next big milestone being the fourth succession war. Mitch himself sees the game as a mixture of Game of Thrones with Pacific Rim.
Next to the mercenary simulation there is also a big single player story that weaves through it and where you try to help a queen who has lost her throne to her uncle and is now involved in a bitter civil war and she hired you for special operations, some of them behind enemy lines to regain her throne. Even when that story is finished, you can keep on playing the open-ended mercenary game for as long as you want. So, you can keep on training your mech warriors and customize your battle mechs further. The game also supports head-to head multiplayer where you fight against another player. Next to that there is also a single player skirmish mode, which is what we got to play.
The story missions are all hand crafted. The mercenary missions are procedurally generated, meaning that the maps are created by hand, but the enemy on that map and the mission are procedurally generated.
The hands-on demo started on a non-terraformed planet and I had four mechs under my control. The camera in the game can be freely rotated and moved in four directions.
My mechs were on this barren planet and in the distance there was a beacon. That beacon indicates the starting point of the enemy. So I headed towards that beacon to get myself some combat. The four battle mechs I had were all different. One was a Victor, which was the largest mech, containing a bunch of very dangerous short range weapons. The quickdraw is a heavy mech and it had 6 medium ranged lasers, which can fire very often, but they will heat up the battle mech and as there is a person sitting above those engines, you should take care of not generating too much heat. The Shadowhawk has weapons in every weapon range and is therefore very versatile. The last mech is the Firestarter, a light mech that is very fast and equipped with very short range weapons and a flamethrower that can cause the enemy to heat up and make it shut down during combat, making it very vulnerable.
You can walk each mech individually to a new position, by selecting the mech and clicking where it should go. It is also possible to use the thrusters of the mech and make it fly there, which is faster over larger distances.
Each mech has a number of chevrons displayed above it, when you hover the mouse over it. The more chevrons that are shown the harder it is to hit. When you are for moving, you are more difficult to hit, so more chevrons will be shown for you. These chevrons are also displayed on your opponents, making it easier for you to determine, which ones are hard to hit and which ones are not. When you have selected one of your mechs, all of the weapons that mech has will be displayed on your screen. This makes it also possible to disable some of them in case you don't want to use them all, or prevent your mech from heating up.
You cannot select all the mechs and move them all at the same time. You have to move each of them individually, as each of them has different move ranges. Moving a mech is done in two phases, first you click where it should go and secondly you set the direction the mech should face, by rotating a view cone displayed on that new position.
As mentioned, combat is turn based. When a mech gets to go is determined by the type of mechs you have, for this there are four phases, starting at phase 4, where light mechs move. Medium mechs on 3, heavy on 2 and assault mechs on 1. My team consisted of one each. There is an option to reserve your unit and have it make its move in the next phase. There can be some tactical advantages in that when you reserve your light mech all the way to phase 1 and let it execute its action there. Then after the enemies' turn the light mech gets to go again, so you basically can get two moves shortly after each other. Combat is very much about getting your mechs in the right position and execute the right action while making sure that the mech does not get overheated or finds itself in a vulnerable position.
Each of the mechs has special abilities. The sensor-lock allows the mech to target and enemy and lock on to it and reveal it, so it can be fired upon. It also removes two chevrons from the targeted mech, making it easier to hit. These stack also, if another mech with that same special ability does the same, it would remove two more chevrons, making it even more vulnerable to an attack. Sprinting is another special ability, but when you do that the mech cannot fire. In case a mech can fire, a straight red line is displayed between the mech and the enemy, indicating there is a line of sight. In case of an arced red line, only long range missiles can be used.
As mentioned your mechs can heat up. This is visualized by a heat gauge. If the mechs become too hot they will be disabled, which is never good in a fight. By turning of one or more of your weapons the level of heat you have will be reduced and you won't damage your mech when you fire with it.
In the fight, one of my mechs was able to walk over to a smaller mech and punch it, which was very effective as it damaged one of its legs, making it unstable when it would get back up again. Using another mech I did some serious damage to the enemy mech by making a hole in it. If I would hit at that position again later on, the mech could have its internal systems fried.
The game also has an ability to jump, wich Mitch named "Dead from above" making it possible for you to land on your enemy and fire all your weapons on it, which can be a very damaging attack. Next to several attack options you can have your mech also take a defensive stand, resulting in a reduction of damage inflicted to it.
Before the battle was over, I had to go again. I can't comment on the simulation part of the game as it wasn't shown, but the battle sure was challenging and I certainly would like to have played more of it, but that will have to wait until I get a next chance.
If you like, you can watch this 51 minutes video where Mitch explains the game and shows pretty much everything I wrote above and more.