GDC 2012: MechWarrior Tactics


As if MechWarrior Online wasn’t enough, GDC also gave me the chance to check an entirely different, but no less awesome take on the franchise. MechWarrior Tactics is a browser-based, free-to-play strategy game that follows the format of the tabletop game and adds some dramatic new elements, including concepts from collectible card games and loads of personalization options. Starting in 3025, just before the Fourth Succession War, MechWarrior Tactics is essentially a PC version of the tabletop games. It has turns, it has hexes, it has pre-set maps.

In the deathmatch scenario we saw, each player takes the field with a full lance of four mechs. Players alternate planning moves until all eight mechs have routes for the turn. You can opt to have your mechs run, which helps them cover more ground but hurts their accuracy in the subsequent attack phase. Some of the smaller mechs, the Jenner and Spider, for instance, can even use jump jets to cover lots of ground at once.

Once all the move orders are assigned, you can issue attack orders. Selecting each of your mechs shows the targets they can see and a color-coded percentage chance to hit with each of that mech’s weapons. It’s a very clean and clear system and it makes it remarkably easy to decide whether or not it’s worth wasting an autocannon shot that might better be saved for later.

Now comes the fun part. After you’ve assigned moves and attacks, the next few seconds of combat plays out in a real time cinematic. The interface disappears as the camera zooms in to follow your mechs as they run and jump across the battlefield and unload fire on their enemies. Missiles arc up and out, smashing into enemy mechs in a fiery explosion. Laser dart across the field, missing their targets and impacting the ground. After the turn plays out, the player returns to the regular interface to plan the next move and attack. The best news is that each of these replays are saved, so you can rewatch the entire battle once it’s over.

Throughout the course of the battle, you can earn various rewards, including booster packs, which will contain new items and mechs for you to use in your next battle. You might get an autocannon, or special ammo, or another heat sink, or a stripped down Atlas you can add to your stable. The customization options in the mechlab allow you to not only build the mech you want, but also outfit it with a unique paint scheme or decals. All of this stuff is visible in the game, which not only gives you a nice boost to your vanity, but also lets your enemies know right away the types of weapons you’ve brought to the fight.

Tactics is a very different game than MechWarrior Online, but it seems to perfectly capture the tabletop experience in a much more accessible format. Depending on how the collection options are implemented, this could very well be one of my favorite games of 2012.

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