Sunday, March 18, 2012

BattleTech: Graduation Was Ruined

Jason looks appropriately outraged.

I promise you that my updates have not permanently regressed to a weekly thing. Unfortunately, my triumphant return to blogging was not accompanied by an equally triumphant cleansing of my task list, and the last couple weeks have been a bit overwhelming.

One of the many combat missions at the beginning of the game.

BattleTech has grown on me a bit, even though there's a host of things about it that I don't understand--and even though I seem to suck at it. It took me forever to get out of the training academy. I managed to screw up each mission at least twice, and a couple of them took me six or seven re-tries. But it wasn't so bad because I had time to mess around, make money, develop my skills, and figure out the game mechanics. A few notes:

  • I found that I could talk to my fellow students if I saw them walking to a building ahead of me. Then they'd be there when I looked around. Otherwise, it said, "nobody here seems interested in talking to you." They didn't really have much to say anyway.

  • I enjoyed the stock market investments a lot. I wish this was a feature of more games. I made so much money that it felt like cheating a bit; eventually, I was able to purchase all the training the game would let me buy, and whatever weapons I wanted.

I may never live up to my father's reputation as a MechWarrior, but I'll at least be richer than him.
  • I never did figure out the rules of when I got paid. As I wandered around, I'd see my money go up in $15 increments, but it seemed to be completely random. Sometimes, an hour would go by with no money. Other times, I'd go out to the kitchen to whip up some pasta, come back to my computer, and find myself with over $150.
  • The game has tiresome copy protection that has you naming mech parts before every training mission.

  • I'll save a combat tactics posting for when I understand it more, but it seems very tactical. The way you maneuver and use the terrain recalls Pool of Radiance even if the weapons and graphics are more reminiscent of Wasteland. You have the option to have little graphics show up for key combat events. I like the way Jason gets enraged and bangs on the console every time the mech overheats.

  • When you engage in combat, you have the option to fight yourself or have the computer fight for you. Either way, you have the option to see graphics or not, and different levels of text from "verbose" to "none." If you set control to the computer, say no to graphics, and no to text, you still have to wait as the computer does all the calculations behind the scenes and ultimately tells you the results.

Manual combat against another mech. I like to walk right up and kick them. That might explain my gunnery score problem.

  • From my repeated missions, my piloting skill reached "excellent" very quickly, but nothing I could do would get my gunnery skill off anything but "unskilled" until the final mission, when I finally made it to "amateur."

  • I continue to enjoy the scripted dialogue in the game from shopkeepers and mechanics.

I won't think of not buying it after that.

As I said, most of the training missions left my mech destroyed and had my little icon limping sheepishly back to the training center. Once I finally beat the fifth scenario, a fellow cadet named Rick Atlas asked to see me in the lounge. While we were talking, a drunk tech spilled a drink on me and Atlas stopped me from giving him a good thrashing (which was probably a good thing, the way the game has been going; I likely would have just embarrassed myself). The little scene ended with Atlas asking if I'd ever been to Starport and giving me some kind of electronic device when I said no. I think this came in handy later.

But I have been to the Tosche Station to pick up power converters.

The training missions started pitting me against multiple mechs, and on the seventh mission, I got an ominous message that the training opponents were "like nothing you've ever faced before." It soon became clear that they weren't training; the academy had been invaded by the enemy. As I tried to battle the mechs, I got an increasingly alarming series of messages that the citadel and its army were destroyed and my father probably killed.

I'm basically a complete coward.

The enemy mechs destroyed mine, leaving me to flee on foot. Sure enough, the training academy was in ruins.

My money was in there!

I was soon slain by a group of 5 humans who laughed off my pathetic attacks with a sword.

This is the "death" message.

Reloading, I decided to use my funds to stock up on a variety of weapons and armor. Little did I realize that I was completely wasting money and every time I made a purchase, it just replaced my old weapon or armor with the new one. Without meaning to, I ended up wearing a flak suit and wielding a short-range missile launcher as my weapon. When I reloaded and went through the invasion again, my short-range missile launcher proved quite effective against the enemies on foot (I haven't tried to battle mechs on foot yet), which makes me wonder why anyone would bother with a sword or pistol or lesser weapons.

Oddly, it doesn't seem to run out of ammunition.

The game suggested that I flee to Starport. I had no idea where it was, so I staked out in a random direction, but soon I noticed that the overland map had an arrow on it pointing me the way; I assume this is a consequence of Atlas's electronic device.

I encountered legions of enemies along the way, and by the time I reached Starport, I had virtually no health left. As I close the game for the night, I've just discovered that Starport is no safe haven, and enemies roam the streets, still looking for blood.

Notice my "body" or health meter at its minimum.

I really do like the combat in this game, even if I suspect I'll be letting the computer fight a lot of it. What I don't understand is how I got to "excellent" so fast in so many skills. It doesn't seem there would be a lot more categories to go ("stupendous"?), and the game's just beginning.

While you were all waiting for this posting, you had the dorkiest discussion ever on the thread to the last posting, but it got a little out of hand. I confess that I fall on the side of mecha skeptics: I don't see how they'd ever be efficient or effective combat vehicles. But I'm not personally invested in the opinion. And since they're clearly important to this game, I hope there's some way I can acquire one in Starport.


  1. "While you were all waiting for this posting, you had the dorkiest discussion ever on the thread to the last posting, but it got a little out of hand." - Absolutely amazing thing to say, considering the topic of the blog. hahahahaha

  2. I didn't necessarily mean it as a pejorative.

    1. hahaha, it's all good

      We're all total nerds.

    2. *bites pipe* Puff, Puff, Puff...


  3. Good thing that you enjoy the combat. Personally I liked it the first time I played it, but when I tried to replay it I found the combat too limited and the random encounters far too frequent.

    "my short-range missile launcher proved quite effective against the enemies on foot (I haven't tried to battle mechs on foot yet), which makes me wonder why anyone would bother with a sword or pistol or lesser weapons."

    This comment made me recall a comment I made on the Codex:
    Fighting man to man is rather boring, I think. Even with a machine gun it takes too long to mow down punks with bows and knifes, and zig zag movement doesn't seems to prevent them from hitting you with bows and pistols. So the tactic invented by the legendary 20th century hero back at Earth - Sledge Hammer - is the best tactic. Just stand still and blow them away with your rocket launcher.

    BTW, don't forget that Jason is wearing a uniform which may attract unwanted attention at Starport.

    1. Since I made this posting, I've now won the game, and I agree with you. The combat has a promising mechanic, but the frequency of random encounters was a bit much. More important, the combat really didn't amount to anything and was in fact completely absent from the last third of the game. Also, I never had to fight on foot again except for a few random battles in Starport.

      This game turned out to be extremely dumb.

    2. Just beat the game? But you just finished the tutorial, and posted on the first town. Is the game really that shallow, or did your posting lag behind your playing?

    3. The game is really that shallow.

    4. Damn. I have read the manual for the C64 version, and loved all the details and mech plans and such.

    5. If the details and mech plans and such had played any role at all in the game, it might have been fun.

    6. That is sad to hear. I wish someone would make a good RPG based on it. As silly as it is I want to play a giant mech stepping on people, and suck at real time games for the most part.

      Hmmm, Skyrim + mechs......

    7. Considering that the Shadowrun is being kickstarted, I believe a better Mechwarrior RPG would not be far off if Shadowrun is successful.

    8. I think that one is to much to hope for, the IP is all tangled up in Microsoft/Hasbro and other ownership craziness. Best hope would be for a new game which is similar yet different

    9. I don't think Hasbro has any link to Mechwarrior: The Tabletop rights are owned by Wizkids, and licensed to Catalyst I believe.

    10. I thought Wizkids sold it to Hasbro.

      Either way I doubt they are going to allow the creators to start a kickstarter for the IP they no longer own...

    11. Just in:

    12. haha I was already signed up on this site and forgot about it. I really doubt it will be any good but I am always willing to give things a try.

  4. Oh, forgot to mention, but it is possible to escape the Academy with your mech, since the fences are down when the Kuritans attack.
    It makes it a lot easier to reach Starport, since only other mechs and humans with rocket launchers can harm you. Which brings me to something that annoyed me. Why does the game even throw groups of humans without possibility of harming a mech against you? And why does the computer waste all that ammo on them on auto-combat when it can just step on them?

    The game has good writing and good premise, but is let down by some questionable design decisions.
    And some parts of the game feels more like an Adventure game than a CRPG. And I mean that as a pejorative. ;-)

  5. "Other times, I'd go out to the kitchen to whip up some pasta, come back to my computer, and find myself with over $150."

    It's great to see a game that appreciates fine dining. That must be a first for the genre and should definitely be noted in the Final Rating yes?

  6. *Grins sheepishly* Sorry about that.

    I don't know if you read much of the comments on the last thread, but this game is based on a tabletop wargame, where you would spend hours moving minature mechs around on a table done up with trees, rivers, etc. Often filled with sand so you could sculpt it into different terrain. As a result, I'm not surprised combat is better then most games; it is descended from a war game directly, instead of vaguely descended from D&D (Which had a terrible combat system until 2000)

  7. I seem to remember favouring the flamethrower, myself. If you were facing a mech on foot, good luck hitting it enough times with the rocket launcher to kill it before you were crushed or smashed or exploded. On the other hand, you could overheat it and then leg it if you had the flamethrower.

  8. I loved this game when I was a kid. Must've played through a dozen times. It was my gateway drug into the rest of battletech.

    The graduation fight is tough, but you can win it if you're lucky and carefull. Get the Chameleon and fire at them as you run away. Your large laser is longer ranged than their mediums and a few lucky hits can reduce the odds. Jenners are fast with a lot of medium range firepower, but tend to overheat. If you get far enough from them you can flee the combat.

    1. Matt, if you "loved" this game as a kid, you might want to skip my next couple of entries.

  9. What I thought of when you mentioned picking up Power Converters at Tosche Station:

    1. That was brilliant. You just introduced me to "Robot Chicken."

    2. You haven't seen Robot Chicken? The show is definitely hit or miss, but it has brilliant moments. - IMO, easily their best skit.

    3. I love Robot Chicken! All Hail the Chicken! :D

  10. Well it was a short game if you already beat it, but the years on the other hand are getting longer and longer, I didn't realize there were that many games. I remember when I was a kid and I was choosing a game to buy, and I didn't buy Super Mario Bros 3, because I wanted to "save it for later, in case they wont make any more games". For a Zelda and Mario fan such as me there was a shortage of games, but if you're playing every rpg ever released, then there's no shortage it seems. There's a lot of games on your list, and that's bad because I'm kinda hopping you'd get to the good ones soon, where graphics and sound are awesome, but if the games are going to become shorter and shorter that might still work out. I think it took far longer to finish Pool of Radiance than this. I recently watched a let's play of Pool of Radiance on youtube, just to see how you're supposed to beat it, and the guy was cheating by modifying his characters to maximum stats!

    Maybe when you rate the games you might mention the number of hours required to finish the game and how hard it is, that way I would know if a particular game is harder or easier than Pool of Radiance for instance (since it's the only game on this blog that I've played myself). I think games are going to get easier year by year.

    1. My spreadsheet actually lists the number of hours it took me, but you raise a good point: perhaps I should include a "difficulty" rating along with my GIMLET. And I should mention the hours in the final rating posting. Thanks for the suggestion.

    2. Oh, and technically Pool of Radiance LETS you set your own stats, so it's not quite cheating.

    3. Oh! The spreadsheet with rankings, I was looking at the master game list. Wow, 30 hours for Pool of Radiance, and I remember that you didn't cheat because you did roll your characters.

  11. There are only a few ways to get a mech. And none of them will be as good as your poor lost Chameleon(I think the only mech in the game with a large laser and very long range, unfortunately your gunnery skill won't make you very accurate). Being highly outnumbered also stinks.

    The random combat is much less troublesome with Tech Skill- each improved level of skill lets you do more and more. First lets you scavenge replacement armor(for what got blown off), with higher levels you can replace lost ammunition and some damaged components(making combat much less expensive).

    - Make friends with someone who has one.
    - If you have a high enough tech skill(which lets you repair/salvage parts after combat to fix up your mech), and have someone on foot with some piloting skill, you have a chance to repair and take one of the mech's you blew up.
    - There is an arena in the Starport, where you can try to fight one on one for money(its not worth the money). It is very difficult, but possible to instead of fighting to steal the loaner mech and high-tail it. Of course, this makes the entire Starport town hate you(and no longer let you back inside), which would be very very bad. (One thing I read suggested there was something like a 1/128 chance for a very powerful mech to be loaned to you).

  12. Congratulations with new header.
    Ultima IV (or V?), Might&Magic 1, Pool of Radiance, Starflight, Baldur's Gate, but what is that last one?

    1. I'll give you a hint: moments before that screenshot, an intrepid adventurer followed the smell of mammoth cheese into a secluded camp.

    2. Skyrim has replaced Oblivion?

    3. Agreed. That new header is the chez, Chet (though I liked the old one, too. I guess this one just is more representative of your current collection of awesomeness).

      Also, and I just thought of this, how many '80s kids' Christmases do you think you've experienced by now? It would be funny to have an updating count below the new header!

    4. Thanks for the comments. I mostly replaced it because the old one wasn't stretching all the way to the right-hand side. It wasn't out of a particular desire to replace the games.

  13. I've been following your blog for quite some time now, and even though I don't agree with some of your assessment of games, I still respect your opinion.

    I've been a fan of RPGs since the days I had a C64. Ultima IV is amongst my favourites, but as you can (maybe?) tell from my handle, there is another game that I enjoyed quite a bit (which, unfortunately, happens to be one of the ones you dislike quite a bit!).

    I have an Ultima IV story, but I'll save that for an Ultima IV entry. I just wanted to make a comment about the mechs you choose at the start of this game.

    Even though you didn't enjoy this game very much, perhaps some reader may find this helpful. :)

    As Old Man Matt mentioned above, you can leave the training grounds with the Chameleon, the only copy of that mech in the game! It is superior to the other ones you choose at the start, and far better than anything you can salvage in the game. I believe it is a heavy mech (or at least medium), and is a lot "tougher" than most mechs you face. It also has the best weapon spread available as well. :)

    I was reading the 2018/2019 entries, but decided to start from the beginning instead (saving the newer entries until I get to them). I've read all the entries from 2010 until this one so far (including most of the comments). I'm glad you're still blogging (even though it will be lessened with your new job...congratulations on that by the way! :)

    Have a great day! :)

    (I really hope this works, as I don't want to have to type it all over again!)


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.