At last check, I had put in over 300 hours playing BATTLETECH, which is highly unusual outside of a deep role-playing game. If this trends continues, I may overtake my Skyrim hours. And all this for a game that I described as a little bit lackluster in my original review of the core title. Granted, the Flashpoint DLC was a nice addition that added some much needed excitement away from the “help the princess” main storyline. But even so, BATTLETECH has never gotten close to being a five GiN Gem Game. That hasn’t stopped me from playing it for almost half a month of real time. And it didn’t stop thousands of gamers from voting for it and helping it win the GiN 2018 Strategy Game of the year.
BATTLETECH is a game that fosters both love and hate. Love because it’s set in a world that many of us adore, with a rich backstory of human expansion, fierce clans and provisional governments, backstabbing, intrigue and of course giant robot death machines stomping around. Many of us, myself included, have also enjoyed the tactical battle game, which I played with a great group of friends in college gathered around a hex map into the late hours. And we also hate BATTLETECH because of its shortcomings, which include a lackluster main campaign, a very limited supply of mechs, a low number of maps, absolutely no reference to any of the vaunted clans and their supped-up mech designs (no Mad Cat?!?), and some serous optimization issues on anything other than the latest and greatest hardware.
I bring up the love and hate thing here because that easily applies to the latest DLC, Urban Warfare. In truth, the amount of content is probably not worth the $20 price tag. And it total, it provides a lot less of it than Flashpoint did. But players are probably going to get it anyway, and love at least some parts of it.
The biggest addition is the urban environment as a combat zone. Once installed, cities can pop up as battlegrounds for missions either in the main storyline or the career mode. And the city battlegrounds are good. They are very detailed compared with the other more woodland or desert plains type of maps. There are billboards with advertisements for various products from the game’s lore, corporate buildings sporting their logos, fountains (which count as water spots for extra cooling), parks (which count as forested tiles) and streets lined with cars and trucks. Unfortunately, the cars don’t move, so it does seem a little static, but I like to think that everyone got out and ran for cover when the mechs dropped in.
Everything in the city is destructible, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you use it. Using jump jets to vault onto the top of a tall building can give you line of sight right down the gullet of your enemies, but also puts you on a destructible platform. One time an enemy Javelin, one of the new light mechs that came with the DLC, jumped up and was spotting for LRM barrages from catapults hidden in some back alley somewhere. I had a low chance to hit the speedy bastard, but an easy shot on the building he was standing on. I felt kind of bad bringing down an entire high rise to get at one mech, but as the building crumbled he fell and shattered both legs, knocking him out of the combat. That forced the catapults to come forward for direct line of fire shots, whereupon I promptly cored them using accurate long-range laser fire as they stuck their noses out. The urban environment is great fun, with endless opportunity to separate and eliminate your opponents with clever strategy.
Other things gained in the DLC include two new battlemechs. The Javelin is kind of okay at close range, at least early in the game. It’s fast and has an SRM punch. But they become about as good as locusts or commandos from mid-game on, perhaps worse because of a dearth of long range weapons. The computer likes to send swarms of them after you. I call that target practice. The other mech is the Raven, which I loved in previous Mech games. Here instead of just reducing the effectiveness of enemy sensors, it lets you create a sort of cloaking device shield around both the mech and the surrounding area. That makes you immune to indirect fire, but mechs and vehicles with active probe can still reveal you. Then again, so can line of sight as you are not invisible visually, just to sensors.
There are a few new vehicles added to the game as well. The most notable is the Gallant urban Assault Tank, which is kind of like an RV mounting a pack of three “++” weapons that can fire at all ranges. It’s powerful and fast, but a bit like the old “shotgun on a beer can” reference from WWII about the American anti-tank halftracks. It can dish out powerful blows, but gets one shot killed by almost any mech of sufficient firepower that shoots back.
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A new mission type has also been added called Attack and Defend. Like the artillery spotting maps from Flashpoint, this one seems pretty unfair. You are supposed to defend a base while also moving forward to attack an enemy one. But the enemy one is able to call for reinforcements every few rounds. So if you don’t take it down quickly, you will get overwhelmed. But if you charge everyone forward to slog your way past the defenders, then your base will probably get attacked and destroyed. You can win these missions, but it requires balance, heavy mechs and a little bit of luck. I didn’t have a ton of fun with them, but played them a few times.
Finally, there are some new Flashpoints added too, which is nice. The Flashpoints are really fun to play, with ethical decisions and everything, unlike the linear main campaign. More of them is always good.
In the end, if you like BATTLETECH, you will like Urban Warfare, if nothing more than it makes the core game better, and because of the city battlefields. But as a complete package, for the price, it’s kind of weak. One only needs to look at the many amazing player-made DLCs for comparison. Rogue Tech is one of the best mods that I have seen, and done without any help or even support from the developers. Harebrained Schemes and its new owner Paradox really should start supporting the modding community. Games like Skyrim or even Harebrained’s other big title, Shadowrun, have official mod support and are still being played years and years after their release. BATTLETECH needs extra content and a deeper community that it won’t get if the three planned official DLCs are everything on the improvements map.
There is a rumor that the next DLC will enable modding, and I hope that is the case. Without that, or perhaps a new 40-hour, high-level main campaign or something of that nature, BATTLETECH as a mainstream game may have run its course.
In any case, BATTLETECH: Urban Warfare is a nice addition to the core game. It’s probably not worth the price, but if you love the game and the world, you can probably stomach that without too much pain and enjoy the limited but nice new features the Urban Warfare DLC offers.
Developers: Harebrained Schemes
Platforms: PC, Steam