|This game, on the other hand, achieved far less than I had a right to hope for.|
BattleTech started off promising, but boy did it turn stupid real fast. When it ended, it was a complete surprise. I thought the game was just beginning, and at most, I was ending the second chapter, not the entire game. I won it in about eight hours. It's a good thing it ended when it did, though, because by that time it had pissed me off so much that I was thinking about quitting.
Let me try to summarize what happened. After fleeing the ruins of the training citadel to the Starport, I explored for a little while, bought some clothes to replace my Lyran Commonwealth uniform, repaired my armor, got healed in a hospital, fought a couple of battles in the arena, and attended a medical seminar to boost my doctoring skills. I then attended this "inauguration ceremony" to welcome the new Kuritan overlords to the planet. At the ceremony, I was roughly accosted by Rex Pearce, one of my father's associates who told me he was a member of the Crescent Hawks, a mercenary band run by Archon Katrina to which my father belonged. (I thought this game was supposed to be about the Crescent Hawks' inception!)
|One by one, the Crescent Hawks joined me.|
Rex told me that my father had found a stockpile of a bunch of mech parts and Katrina wanted me to help find the cache. This depended on a password that my father had left me on a holodisk plus a retinal scan of Rex, who joined my party. He suggested we find the other members of the Crescent Hawks, who must have scattered when the Kuritans attacked.
The next phase of the game consisted of my wandering around to the different cities on the island and picking up the other members of the Hawks. Rex came with his own mech. I salvaged another one after winning a combat, and picked up a third when I rescued a Hawks member from jail. During the rest of the game, two of the original three mechs were destroyed, but I was able to replace them by salvaging new ones and paying beaucoup bucks to have them repaired at the Mech-It Lube.
|I never found out what this was about. Despite having a "damaged engine," the mech still ran fine.|
I ultimately ended up with five party members, including a technician (Edward) and a doctor (Zeke) who couldn't pilot mechs but were instrumental in their roles. As we roamed the land and fought, I adopted the general expedient of attacking when I outnumbered the enemy and retreating when I didn't. Although I won most of the combats handily, it generally cost more to repair and re-arm my mechs than I made from the kills.
|This is after firing about $600 in rockets.|
Thankfully, my investments continued to perform well and netted me most of the cash that I needed.
One of the guys that tried to join my party, "Rick," turned out to be a spy. The game told me I was suspicious of him immediately, and he tried to betray me in the next combat.
Fortunately, I was able to kill him without any problem:
None of my skills increased from use--I guess they only do that during training--but I was able to pay to get various members skills in medicine and repair.
Anyway, a holodisc reader cost something like $7,000, which I never had. I happened to return to the barracks at the training academy, where I found one and used it to read the holodisk. In it, my father told me about the cache of parts but the disc was damaged. Rex suggested we take it to a Dr. Edward Tellham, one of my father's associates, to get it fixed.
Interspersed with this were weird little episodes in the various towns. In one, I broke into the mayor's house to try to use his holodisc reader and ended up with some slapstick nonsense when he came home unexpectedly and I had to try to hide and distract him to escape. This wasn't anything I played; it was just text the game gave me. In another town, I went to a movie theater and watched a ridiculous film (shown in animated cut scenes) about MechWarriors. Neither was important to the game's plot.
|None of this is making me feel that my previous disdain for the BattleTech franchise was wrong.|
At length, through my explorations, I found Dr. Tellham's house and went through this weird extended episode in which he tried to intimidate my party and Jason turned all emo on him. This followed a series of questions about medicine, technology, and mech piloting that my various characters were able to answer. I'm just going to type this part out so you can see how goofy and verbose the game got here, plus how bad the writing is:
You bravely hold your ground as the face comes so close that you could use the pupil of its eye as a full-height mirror. The face stares at you for a while and then hisses out its question: "Jason Youngblood. Tell me where your father is!"You say you don't know. The face repeats the question."I don't know!"It demands an answer."He's dead!"The face grows more angry."He's dead, he's dead." The emotion is taking you over. The face bellows "TELL ME!""Tell you? I'll show you!" With that declaration, you unholster a machine gun and fire round after round at the horrible face. A look of genuine surprise shows on the face and it vanishes. You continue firing, tired of these games, tired from exhaustion, and fueled by frustration. As soon as your ammo clip runs out, a side door pops open, and the face reappears. This time, it's human-sized and attached to the rest of the body.Still running on adrenaline, you heft the machine gun and demand an explanation from him regarding the questions about your father. Dr. Tellham explains that Jeremiah still owes him some C-bills and some Xantarian ribeye steaks for the lock he created, and he just wanted to collect. You then demand the meaning of this gauntlet you were forced to run. He explains that it is meant to scare off peddlers and salesmen. The questions will screen out anybody who is too unintelligent to waste time talking to. He then expresses sorrow over your father's death, because Jeremiah was a good man.This brings you back to the real reason you are here. You show him the holodisk and ask if he can repair it for you. He says that it would be the least he can do, after what he put you through. He rubs some complex goo on the disk, then runs it through some sort of buffing machine. When that is done, he hands it back to you. You examine the surface of the disk and are impressed with the excellence of the repair. There is no evidence it was ever damaged. Then you ask if there is a private room you could retire to, so that you may view the rest of the message. He leads you to a small room with a viewer on it. You watch the rest of the message and learn the password. There is also quite a bit of mushy stuff, and it takes you several minutes to regain your composure before you can return to the others.You offer to pay off your father's debt, but the eccentric old inventor waves it away, and instead asks what he can do for you. You ask for directions tot he nearest Star League Cache, and are shocked when he tells you that it is hidden in a cave just southest of here. You thank him, and leave his hut.
That was as painful to read as it was long. Anyway, I found the entrance on an island and entered.
At this point, the game turned into the most ridiculous B.S. I've ever experienced in a CRPG. The cave was a maddeningly long and pointless affair in which I had to open a series of 10 doors. Each door required a combination of three "imprints" on a keycard. Machines that made these imprints were found at various places in the maze. When you walked up to a door, it didn't tell you what codes you needed, only whether your key card had the wrong codes. If none of this makes any sense, the point is I had to wander around the maze for about an hour, trying different combinations of imprints, until I finally got the doors open. There was no skill to it, only rote repetition. And there were no encounters or anything in the caves. By the time I was done, I was steamed.
|You had to try this multiple times per door, and it's not like the terminals were close to each other. This may be the dumbest game puzzle I've ever seen.|
At last I found the cache of parts, at which point I had to send a message to Katrina to tell her. This required solving a puzzle in a map room by which I bumped into planets and changed them into squares. It wasn't so much a puzzle as a copy-protection exercise; the chosen planets had to match indicated ones on a map that came with the game.
|When I saw this map in the game materials, I allowed myself the fantasy that I would actually be traveling to other planets.|
Once I had the code entered, I was able to fire up the "Hyper-Pulse Generator" and call Katrina. I fully expected her to assign me some new quest, but instead this was the end of the game! She offered me a commission in the Lyran Commonwealth, but I declined in favor of pursuing my belief that my father was still alive, so she made me the new head of the Crescent Hawks instead. Joy.
What makes this particularly ridiculous is that I really didn't have to fight any battles! The game is called BattleTech, for god's sake, and it goes on about the different tactics and mechs and weapons, but when it came down to it, I only needed to know how to fight to get past the random encounters, and frankly I could have evaded or fled most of these. The last third of the game had no combats at all, and there was no final battle needed to win. All the encounters were random--nothing scripted, no major villain. I never even fully upgraded all my mechs. I really have no idea what this game was supposed to be about.
This is too bad, because the battles had some promise. Most of the time, I let the computer fight them, but every time things looked evenly matched, or worse, I manually controlled my mechs. Successful combat, I found, required concentrating fire on individual enemies, killing them one at a time. There were terrain considerations; hiding in trees made it more likely that enemies would miss, but increased the odds of the trees catching on fire and overheating my mechs. (Overheating is a big part of the game, and it depends on how fast you move and how many weapons you're firing.) I was just starting to get good at it when suddenly the game ended.
The video below shows some manual combat followed by a computer-run combat. In the latter one, I lose one of my mechs but am able to salvage a new one from the detritus of the battle. The first battle begins with me thinking the enemies are south of me instead of northeast, so I end up walking the wrong way for a few minutes.
And this video shows the end of the game, setting up for the sequel: BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge. It's not a CRPG, though, and after this game I wouldn't play it even if it was.
I'll save the GIMLET for next time, but it's not going to be pretty.