Video SeriesZero Punctuation

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries & Wattam – Zero Punctuation


This week in Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and Wattam.


January is like my parents’ marriage – cold, miserably prolonged, and entirely lacking in sexy times. Fuckin’ release schedule like an old leftover pilchard in a tupperware box I’d rather be using for something else but no one will eat it means it’s back to reviewing the last few games from 2019. What’s that you say, tiny pilchard? Have I tried Pathologic 2? Oh for fuck’s sake, not you as well.

Look, I gave it a try, I found it dreary and inscrutable, alright? Maybe I’m just not smart enough to get it like you. Why don’t you sod off back to your little intellectual enclave in the fridge and discuss the merits of Cartesian dualism with the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter while I drag my neolithic brow over to the Epic store to play a game about smashing toy robots together. I am not getting defensive, do you wanna fight?

Anyway. Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is set in 3015 during the final decade of the Third Succession War. I don’t know what the fuck that means, I just lifted it off Wikipedia. I might as well have just been blowing raspberries for that entire sentence. To its credit, though, the plot of MechWobbler 5 doesn’t seem to require much background lore. We play as Generico McWhitedude who came straight from the discount protagonists shops’ range of own-brand products, just as good as the top names but without all that expensive personality, who is a rookie at a mercenary outfit being trained in the use of war mechs by his dad, who I guess gave him the job ‘cos he was sick of him lounging around in his very generically decorated bedroom, but then evil mercs come and smash up the place so we become head of the company ahead of several vastly more qualified people because it’s who you know.

The game then Mechwobbles between ground level mech combat missions and management mechanics in which we make repairs, hire pilots, refill the pick and mix dispensers, move around the cosmos and pick our next combat mission. I’ll be honest with you – MexWobbly 5 didn’t hold my interest for very long because both its gameplay modes made me think the same thing. “This probably really appeals to someone. And they probably think of it how they hope other people think of them – that you just have to get past the incredible awkwardness. As you might expect from mechas, the actual gameplay is like an FPS had a horribly deformed baby with vehicle combat that’s inferior to both, so holding forward makes you accelerate rather than just walk, and you don’t turn towards what you’re aiming at, so my merry strafing runs would usually end with me lurching straight into a mountain.

It takes some getting used to and I’m not sure I want to get used to it as I’d have no use for the skills elsewhere in life, unless for whatever reason I find myself needing to use a potter’s wheel that’s been mounted to the top of a wonky supermarket trolley. Plus, there’s something horribly wrong with the friendly NPC AI. I go to all the trouble of hiring these dudes and giving them mecha to pilot and there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell them not to stand in the place where the missiles are going so the repairs after every mission cost me an arm and a leg, in that he literally got his arm and his leg blown off.

One time dumbtwat wouldn’t even move until I lasered him in the face to wake him up, and that’s not going to look good on the employee review, is it, how I had to mess up my nice clean laser with his face and now it’s caught a bad case of stupid. I’d like to take a longer look at the management mechanics and their interface, but I can’t, because my eyes keep falling asleep when I try. The battlemech loadout interface is all columns and boxes and useless information, like a spreadsheet submitted as evidence in a fraud case in the hope of boring the jury to death. And then you find it’s mostly pointless to fuck around with because the weapons already on your mechs by default are usually better than the ones you find and in any case your weapon slots are all fussy little bitches that will only consent to holding weapons of a specific type and specific size that were manufactured after 1980 in a cruelty-free facility. As I said, Sexwiggles 5 is the sort of thing that would probably really appeal to someone, just nobody I’d relish taking a long car journey with.

So let’s move on to the other game I played on the Epic Store this week, Wattam, or to give its full title, watta massive waste of time. No, bad Yahtzee. Wattam is the new game by Keita Takahashi, dude who made the excellent Katamari Damacy. Which you’d think would recommend him, but he followed up Katamari with a game called Noby Noby Boy which was less game than pissing about simulator, and between that and Wattam it’s now clear to me that Katamari Damacy was a freak incident when Keita Takahashi and the concept of gameplay briefly aligned with each other before their opposing trajectories sent them both flying away into space.

Wattam begins with us controlling a dude similar to but assuredly legally distinct from a Mr. Man character who’s alone and sad in an empty plain, but quickly alleviates his loneliness by befriending a nearby rock, but Mr. Rock only possesses rudimentary limbs and a face and no sex organs so Mr. Man must continue befriending random stuff he finds. Until by the end of the game you preside over a little world full of inanimate objects with arms and legs, and you can control any of them you want, and you can make them all join hands and dance ring a rosie while making baby noises, and then eventually you blink and wonder what the fuck happened to your life. It might sound like another pissing about simulator but it does have a story and a progression path; you unlock more areas and characters by solving puzzles.

Now, video games have been mistreating the word “puzzle” for many years, ever since Quake called it a puzzle whenever there was a door that had two buttons to open it instead of one. And the puzzles in Wattam mostly run thusly: character A wants to meet character B, game literally points you to character B, bring character B over, giggles and cake ensue. If that’s a puzzle then taking fists up the arse from men in truckstop bathrooms is being happily married. Yahtzee, are you playing a baby game for ickle kiddies and complaining it’s too easy? Blimey, Pathologic 2 brought out all your insecurities, didn’t it. Shut up. In this age of adult colouring books and blockbuster movies based on 90’s toy commercials its hard to say what is and isn’t for kids anymore.

And besides, there’s a slightly bizarre edge to Wattam that gives one pause for thought. See, some of the characters have special abilities. Mr. Mouth has the ability to eat other characters. And having done so, he can then poo them out, thankfully without the assistance of Mr. Lower Intestine, and those characters will then be poos, little happy poos with arms and legs dancing about and having fun ‘cos they weren’t sure they were into the whole being digested lark but now they’re generally optimistic about their new identity. There’s even a puzzle where one of the poos sits on top of a waffle cone and pretends to be ice cream to prank someone, and I wouldn’t want my kids latching onto the prank potential of coprophagia. Wattam’s blurb states that it’s a game about friendship, but I don’t agree that it is.

What this game is really saying is that the only way to be accepted by society and your peers is to blindly follow instructions, and that if someone chews you up and shits you out you should just be grateful for the attention. So apparently it’s a metaphor for your first job after leaving college.

About the author

Yahtzee Croshaw
Yahtzee is the Escapist’s longest standing talent, having been writing and producing its award winning flagship series, Zero Punctuation, since 2007. Before that he had a smattering of writing credits on various sites and print magazines, and has almost two decades of experience in game journalism as well as a lifelong interest in video games as an artistic medium, especially narrative-focused. He also has a foot in solo game development - he was a big figure in the indie adventure game scene in the early 2000s - and writes novels. He has six novels published at time of writing with a seventh on the way, all in the genres of comedic sci-fi and urban fantasy. He was born in the UK, emigrated to Australia in 2003, and emigrated again to California in 2016, where he lives with his wife and daughters. His hobbies include walking the dog and emigrating to places.