Mechcommander 2 by Microsoft is an intriguing RTS game released by Microsoft in 2001. Set in FASA's Battletech Universe, the game chronicles the military campaign(s) of a mercenary "MechCommander" on a planet torn apart by civil war.
The game's graphics aren't bad by today's standards; they still get the job done nicely. The reviewer has played the Battletech board game, and found that the various "mechs" in the tabletop game transferred very well to the PC. It is quite easy for anyone familiar with the tabletop game to ID the mechs used in the game by sight alone, especially the (in)famous Atlas, Mad Cat (aka "Timberwolf"), and Catapult designs. Naturally, this will be an added bonus for fans of the franchise.
The storyline sometimes feels forced, and actors won't win any Oscars - but both are of acceptable quality. Unfortunately, the missions are linear in nature, and the player is completely unable to affect the plot's outcome. The "solo" missions included in the game are all campaign missions that the player can replay and, while this is fun for a short time, a random mission generator would have been appreciated.
The ability to customize your own mechs really added a fun element to the game, and the discovery of new weapons systems as the campaign progressed helped the reviewer through the rather unremarkable storyline. Indeed, many of the missions become very easy or very hard depending upon what loadouts your mechs carried with them into battle.
Mechanically, the game played well; however there were several UI issues that marred gameplay. First, there was no "group" shortcuts, which was annoying. Next, the reviewer found that if he had selected a "repair vehicle" it was sometimes an exercise in frustration to deselect the repair vehicle and re-select a mech during combat, as the selected repair vehicle would often just try to repair the mech I was trying to switch too unless I did it "just so".
Another issue I found was that the act of left-clicking to select a mech could be a pain, as you had to click the pilot's portrait (or close to it), not just the much larger box the portrait is in. Finally, the mechs themselves had a tendency to be really dumb sometimes, with long range equipped mechs running towards an enemy unnecessarily, and jumpjet-equipped mechs never using their 'jets without specific orders to do so (no matter how obviously useful they would be).
Oh, one last gripe - the in-game "key bindings" list does not include all the key binds. The missing keys were listed on the game reference card included with the game (and included in this download as a PDF). It would have been nice to have been able to edit/identify all of the game's keyboard commands from within the game itself.
Most of the UI and AI issues are partially offset by using nothing but mechs equipped with jumpjets and medium or long range weaponry, and giving them a permanent "hold" command. Then use the "jump" command to move your boys/girls around to keep them out of trouble. To be fair, about 66% of the time they functioned fine on their own... however that remaining 33% usually mandated an "abortmission- and-try-again" situation.
The game uses a "trigger-based" or "event-based" scheme during each mission, so most scenarios revolve around the player using an "fight-repair-repeat" strategy to overcome the vastly superior numbers of the opposition. Naturally, this means that it quite impossible to fail the vast majority of the missions if the player is patient and properly equipped.
Quick bit of advice: salvage every mech you can at the end of each mission, then sell every mech you don't intend to keep for a quick profit. If you want to keep a mech, but aren't using it, strip it of everything 'cept the frame to free up cash for buying the salvage from the next mission. Do this each time and you will quickly develop some very deep pockets.
All-in-all, despite the many minor flaws, this game proved to be a real gem; I can't say it's the best game I ever played, but it was both fun and different when compared to the horde of Warcraft and CinC clones that were being put out around the time this game was released. Anyone who enjoys FASA's Battletech series will enjoy this game, as it captures the flavor and heart of Battletech quite well.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Like the original, MechCommander 2 is a real-time strategy game based in the BattleTech universe of warring factions and giant combative robots. Several enhancements have been made over the original, some relatively minor and some with potentially huge effects on strategy and gameplay.
The "fog of war" has been replaced with a line-of-sight system of reconnaissance and targeting, making unit placement on the new 3D maps an extremely important consideration for offensive and defensive maneuvers. Instead of adding support vehicles to the main squadron, air support and salvage vehicles can be called out in the heat of battle. The game also features customizable Mech pilots that gain experience and carry over from mission to mission.
The game comes with a sophisticated mission editor, which should allow players to create maps that are as dynamic and complex as the missions included in the game. Three factions compete in MechCommander 2: House Steiner, House Davion, and House Liao. At the time of the game's release, the BattleTech universe had already existed in the hearts and heads of gamers for over fifteen years. Designers made a special effort to pay due homage to that impressive history.
People who downloaded MechCommander 2 have also downloaded:
MechCommander Gold, Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, MechWarrior 4: Vengeance, MechWarrior 3, MechWarrior 2 (Limited Edition), Homeworld 2, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, Star Trek: Starfleet Command 3
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