Battletech (HBS)

Me and the squad are going to wreck someone’s day.

Game Name: Battletech (2018)
Developer: Harebrained Schemes (Shadowrun, Golem Arcana, Necropolis)
Platform: Windows, OS X, Linux (reviewed on Windows, some screenshots from DLC)
Categories: Tabletop > Video Game Translation, SciFi Feudalism, Space Opera, Pirates, Mech Customization, Autocannons, Lasers, Pyrotechnics, Salvage, Turn-Based, Dot Grid, Pilot Advancement and Skills, Budget Balancing, Risk/Reward, Open-Ended Progression, Story/Career/Multiplayer Modes, Variable Difficulty, Kickstarted, Beautiful Concept Art, Acceptable 3D Visuals, Legendary Soundtrack, Limited Maps, Attempts at Mission Variety, Power Creep, Glitchy Release, Long Loads, Sluggish Pace, Dumb AI, Jordan Weisman

May Appeal To: my fellow lancemates, mech commanders, mercenary managers, battlebot designers, number crunchers, statisticians, gamblers, and anyone else who thinks that a millennia of technology and weeks of FTL travel should always culminate in a bipedal tank punching another in the face over a border dispute.
May Repulse: the antsy, the unfocused, the instant gratification demanders, and space drama-phobic invulni-gamers disillusioned that this plays like MWO or Mechwarrior 5. Forewarning: this game is a slow burn and skirting the edge of being poor and small decisions paying out in dividends is the primary attaction of investing time in it.

Comparable To: Starcraft II’s HQ navigation and specialist subscreens, Crusader King II’s random events, Front Mission’s melding of mech customization and battle execution, a turn-based Mech Commander at reduced scale, a less faithful and broader-appeal version of MegaMek. This game has a soundtrack to surpass even Mechwarrior 2, has almost the same number of mechs as MW5 (50+) and half of MWO’s (100). Lastly, Harebrained Scheme’s Battletech is so analagous to the pacing, cinematography, and design of XCOM: Enemy Unknown that I have little doubt the initial game pitch included a direct reference to that title by name. (Even the overlapping dates for progress results and R&D is similar though Battletech retains the robust mech customization -with hardpoints- from MWO/MW4.)

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Horizon Zero Dawn

There’s never been a more likeable, bow-toting redhead – including Disney’s “Brave”.

Game Name: Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
Developer: Guerilla Games (Killzone series, Shellshock: Nam ’67…. Is that it?!)
Platform: PS4, Microsoft Windows (reviewed on PS4)
Categories: Native American vibe, Apocalypse, Open World, Robot Utopia, Bandits, Corrupted Lands, Feuding Tribes, Fetch Quests, Light Conversation, Arena Challenges, Too Many Collectibles, Combat Centric, Elemental Attacks, Traps/Bombs, Bows/Arrows, Great and Complementary Arsenal, Weapon Upgrades, Animal and Bot Hunting, Gathering/Crafting, Material Hording, Limited/Quick Skill Progression, Shallow Armor Options, Memorable/Impactful Story, Convincing and Gorgeous World, Heavy Exploration, Uncanny Valley, Beautiful Score and Sound Effects, AAA Title but Inspired and Heartfelt

May Appeal To: survivalists, hunters, crafters, map sweepers, bow and arrow fans, sparkle-eyed believers in our ability to shape the future…. but also post-apocalypse nuts (sorry, judging holistically, it’s a positive reboot on humanity).
May Repulse: haters of the open-world formula or anything that isn’t Assassin’s Creed, the bloodthirsty, cinema-skippers, item collecting-shunners, those that blame the combat system instead of practicing, and anyone who is vehemently opposed to reading data logs.

Comparable To: the frenzied bot-exploding action of Binary Domain, the fluid terrain mobility and tribal weapons of Monster Hunter World, broad story concepts of Fallout 4, some Last of Us crafting, Mass Effect’s penchant for in-world wikis and NPC interactions, a heavy dose of cliff scaling from Prince of Persia (2008) or Uncharted’s environmental set pieces, and a heapin’ helpin’ of the detective modes from Arkham Asylum or Witcher 3. (This is a game well-versed in its ancestry.) And yeah, there’s influence from Assassin’s Creed in the form of stealth takedowns, elevated viewpoints, and a tendency for techno-overlay glimpsed through the old Animus imagery.

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