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SummaryOne of the most overlooked strategy games ever
The GoodAlmost infinite number of varieties. Seven major categories of weapons, each with lots of variations, many different HERC chassis models each with different limits (and thus weapon packages), different bioderms each with different limits (thus matching the 'derm to the HERC is a full-time job), ability to apply chemicals to the 'derms during combat to give them temporary boost in ability (completely optional), almost endless variety of terrain and special terrain/field features (some beneficial, others ambivalent, others hostile) such as poisonous atmosphere (no ejections), heavy dust storm (sensors limited to point-blank range only), and so on, multiplayer support, deep backstory, good variety of enemies
The BadOnly two sides gets a bit boring after a while, some missions extremely tough, yet others extremely easy (due to the random generator), configuring HERCs and Bioderms gets tedious when you have to do so for multiple HERCs and 'derms, no battlefield salvage and tech discovery -- just revelation, variety of weapons can be overwhelming...
The Bottom LineMFC used to be the best tactical mech combat game. It supported multiplayer that's finely balanced through the credits system. It has a ton of options that allowed each player his/her own tactics / outfits. And the AI is challenging enough without being overwhelming. The random mission generator creates an infinite variety of missions for the campaign, and the later systems introduce variety of terrain / field features that seriously complicates your tactical planning. It is the perfect tactical mech game.
You start out with only two HERCs and 2 weak 'derms. Command them well, get promotions, and you'll get higher HERC and 'derm limits. Each Cybrid kills gets you bounty, which can then be used to buy more HERCs, upgrade HERC weapons and equipments, and better 'derms (and heal or train the ones you have).
Just managing the derms can take up quite a bit of your time when you get a few of them. The earliest derms have only rudimentary skills, and they reach their limits quite quickly. Later you will gain access to the advanced and "unique" derms, and they often specialize in different areas. Some may be good with projectile weapons, while others may be better with energy weapons, or special weapons, or piloting... and so on. However, each 'derm only has a limited lifespan and you have to save your best 'derms for the big battles. Each 'derm will need training to maximize its skills, and detox between missions. Considering on which derm to use in which HERC is a major undertaking when you have more than a few to command.
The HERC types range from tiny scout HERCs (also useful for suicide missions) to monstrous dreadnought HERCs, and everything in between. Each HERC has different size ratings, limiting its armor and shields, and movement. It also has different number of hardpoints, thus allowing for different combinations. Some HERCs may be energy-weapon heavy, while others can fit more indirect-fire weapons, yet others for shield-busters, and so on. No one HERC can do everything, and decided which HERC to bring and how to outfit each one depends on the tactical situation, 'derms available, and so on.
There are seven different categories of weapons. Each of them act differently. As all HERCs (and the Cybrid equivalent) are usually protected by both shields and armor, each weapon acts a little differently against shield vs. armor. For example, lasers are usually better against armor than shields, while EM weapons do massive damage to shields but very little against armor. As shields recharge, but armor does not, one of the tactics is to combine a shield-buster weapon with a an anti-armor weapon. Also, it is possible to concentrate a shield to a specific direction, and thus, another tactic is to distract the enemy by giving him multiple threat vectors, and thus he cannot protect all sides. Finally, the ELF weapons bypass shields completely (though it doesn't do that much damage). Different weapons also require different ammo, energy, hardpoint, weapons skill, and so on. There are also missiles and indirect firing weapons. Thus, matching the weapon to the HERC can be a full-time undertaking as well. Fortunately, one can easily save the configuration of the chassis, and simply load the config to outfit the HERC as ordered provided sufficient credits are available.
If you are playing a campaign, you generally have nine missions available at any time. The top four are mining missions, generally pretty easy and low risk, but occasionally it can be interesting. The next four are military missions, usually stuff like protect outpost, destroy Cybrid outpost, etc. The final mission is the big one: destroy Cybrid main base in this system. As there are only three systems, attacking the Cybrid base is a MAJOR undertaking, and you better be at maximum rank with maximum HERCs (fully outfitted too) and the best 'derms before attempting the big battle.
Once you've chosen a mission, your force is then inserted to the specified battlefield. Your insertion craft stays on the map unless it was hit by enemy. Then it will leave, only to return if you win or call for evacuation. The terrain elevation is modeled and visibility is affected accordingly. Hexes are used but that does not distract from the actual gameplay. You start with a map with only a small portion revealed. Your scout and other units will reveal more of the map as you move along. If there are friendlies on the map you can see them and the terrain around as well. As you locate enemies (i.e. they show up in your sensor range), you can then engage with bearing weapons from appropriate units. They will do the same, and you keep doing this and/or move until either side is annihilated or escapes.
In many missions, one of the objectives is to mine, and your HERC must be equipped with a mine extractor. Once the map is clear, you can choose to keep mining until full, or call in the auto-mine at 50% commission. That is worth credits as well. Each Cybrid killed and Cybrid structure destroyed is worth credits as well. That would be your primary income to fuel your HERC and 'derm expansion.
While the idea of playing bazillion missions just to support one big battle to win the system sounds boring, each mission is different. Starting location is different, enemy faced is different, and they will react differently. Even if you meet the same enemy chassis type, it may be mounting different set of weapons, or YOU may be mounting a different set of weapons, requiring a completely different set of tactics. Or the terrain / planet may require you to use a different tactic (such as a "no missile" planet, or a "no plasma" planet, and so on).
Multiplayer is simple and balanced, and easily handicapped by giving a few more credits to the side that needs it. You can even have the Cybrids still running about as a spoiler force.
All in all, this is one of the best turn-based mech tactical combat game available, PERIOD. Titans of the Sun may be close, but it doesn't replace this one. Highly recommended.