Written by  :  Jack Spencer Jr (2)
Written on  :  Jan 14, 2001
Platform  :  DOS

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Look, Ma! I'm piloting a Mech!

The Good

(this was originally a emailed response to Tony Van's comments. He suggested I post them here. His comments are in "quotes")

"Having played the BattleTech board game, I loved the chance to jump in a 'Mech and slug it out. The graphics of the game really good, and the ability to fly around the universe to get contracts was very cool."

Agreed. There was a lame-o plot as most games back then sort of needed, but it was easily ignored. The advantage to that is it felt more immersive this way, like you really were a Mech pilot living in the Battletech world.

Of course, this immersion is extremely limited since you can little more than take missions, hire/fire mercs and get you stupid mech fixed after those darn Locusts tore you a new one again. But for an old IBM XT EGA graphic game, it showed promise for future editions.

The Bad

"I hated the game balance, since it was not faithful to the boardgame (i.e. in the board game, you cannot just aim for the head, which of course is the fastest way to victory in this game)."

This comment is what made me write this in the first place. I think this is an unfair comparason of an essentially abstract boardgame with dice, numbers and stuff to a fully rendered computer simulation of an environment.

Naturally head shots are difficult in the board game. If head shots were even remotely as easy as they would be in real life, the game would be riddled with head shots. and head shots would account for 85% of all kills in the game. But the board game deals mostly with abstracts and numbers.

The computer game is rendered in 3D polygons. (which simulates reality in a way numbers and dice just can't)

Here's your view. There's your crosshairs. There's his head.

Why not shoot it?

To be fair, it probably is a little too easy to take out the heads, but it isn't always so easy. I've made a habbit of going for the head, and it isn't always as easy as you may think. I've often had to go for the legs to take out a mech.

I since thought about it, Tony is suggesting an inaccurate gunsight to reflect the board game rules. While this may appeal to Battletech purists, general audiences would've disliked a firing system so difficult to use.

Perhapse a difficult level setting?

"Also, I REALLY hated the idiotic "negotiation" routines, where you would just stay at the high number until the other side came closer to what you wanted."

I will agree that this interface got to be tedious after a while. But once you get rich enough, you could just take what they offer.

"Finally, I found the interface needlessly difficult (i.e. no way to cycle backwards a step in radar, so you have to cycle up 3-4 steps to wrap around) and forget giving your lancemates any decent orders."

Again, this interfaces could have been better.

Personally I found the orders for you lancemates limited but adequate. Go here, charge in, guard this point, etc.

As often as not, the lacemate will ignore your orders or attack enemies once they came within sight.

As I said, limited, but they took care of themselves in the heat of battle. It also raised my expectations for later installments in the series.

The Bottom Line

"Obviously, I had higher standards then others back then, since everyone else in the world loved this game."

I wouldn't say higher so much as off slightly.

Your complaint on head shots suggest you were looking for things to be somewhat closer to % chances from the board game. I stand by my assessment that the comparason is rather unfair and unrealistic.

Truly unrealistic would be making it as difficult to hit the head as it is in the board game. Why would it be so difficult to simply put you crosshairs on the head?

Probably the best way to look at it is not so much as an accurate representation of the Battletech board game, but as a "flight simulator" type game, in which you pilot a giant robot. In this regard, I would call Mechwarrior a success.

"However, I liked the later versions better."

I will strongly disagree with you here.

After trying the original Mechwarrior, I tried the Super Nintendo version which wasn't even a pale shadow. Basically it was a first-person version of Robotron: 2084. You run around (didn't feel like you were in a giant robot, you just glided around) shooting the other guys until they blow up.

I got MW2 and I found it closer to the SNES game. In MW1, you blow a leg off and the mech falls over, and effectively is out of the combat. In MW2, you shoot a leg off and the mech remains standing. Essentially, you have to shoot the mech until it finally explodes.

I prefer the MW1 way since targeting a vunerable spot like the head or the leg 1) takes the enemy out of the combat as quickly as possible 2) allows you to conserve ammo/heat for the other enemies around 3) you get more salvage that way (blow the head off, you just have to remove the extra crispy bacon, put in a new seat and you have a perfectly good, nice new mech. Blow it up and you have many fragments, some big, some small.)

I really can't speak for MW3 & 4, although I haven't heard much good, but I defniately disliked MW2. Pretty graphics do not a good game make.

In the final analysis, I think you were expecting the board game rather than the fligh (mech?) simulator MW1 was. The interfaces could have been better, which raised my expectations for future installments. Unfortunately, they didn't deliver.

But that's my opinion.