A few weeks back I discovered that MechCommander Gold has been released as freeware. I checked out several screenshots and reviews about the downloadable PC full version Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, and found out that the game doesn't involve any base-building.
Okay, I thought, this must be like Ground Control, but without the 3D terrain. While I've no problem with sprite-based games, the fact that this one doesn't offer base-building left me kind of puzzled as to what it can offer to players. I mean a 2D real-time strategy game without base building? Maybe this game died and rotted under the sun as soon as it saw the light of day, I thought. Nevertheless, I still downloaded the game because of three reasons (one of which---hands down---dominates the other two):
1. It's part of the Battletech-MechWarrior franchise.
2. It's free!
3. It features a generous bird's-eye view of a MechWarrior's sweat-covered cleavage. In a full motion video. While she's in a cockpit, driving her thang.
I downloaded the game, and stars of Kerensky! The game delivers. This is unarguably one of the best 2D, sprite-based RTS games I've played.
The download link and the full review---and yes, a picture of a sweat-covered cleavage--after the jump.
If my meager knowledge of Battletech/MechWarrior lore is accurate, the downloadable full version Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game transpires during 3060 when a massive Inner Sphere task force invaded the Smoke Jaguar's homeworld. (The game begins with an FMV that flashes the caption "The counterattack begins.")
As stated, MechCommander Gold utilizes sprites, meaning its graphics are not rendered in 3D but instead uses pre-rendered images, including such effects as explosions, laser fire, etc. While this puzzled me initially as to how the game can entertain players---given its lack of a base-building apect---the game implements LOS (line of sight) and elevation benefits quite accurately; place a sensor-laded recon vehicle atop a mountain and huge chunks of fog of war vanish like - well, fog.
...while zooming in lets you see special effects in all their 2D glory. Here, W-Variant Commando-class light mechs fire their energy weapons at a hapless tank. Giving a command to use only energy armaments conserves missiles and ballistic weaponry.
While not as powerful as that of today's games, the game's audio still features bass-laden effects that are adequate enough to engross you as you lay waste to everything with what are essentially giant, walking tanks. The game's attention to detail also helps in creating a satisfying gaming experience, the turrets of tanks follow their targets, trees bend, and then break as your mechs walk through them, fires spread and burn surrounding trees (Hah! Take that Far Cry 2!), and explosions unleash light that affects the surrounding terrain.
What I like best about this game though is that it has taken what has made Battletech so popular --- the ability to tweak your Battlemechs. In this game, you can outfit your mechs with a wide range of short-, medium-, and long-range weaponry that encompass energy- and projectile-based armaments. From armor-shredding autocannons to the dreaded Extended Range PPC, nearly all the weapons of the earlier Battletech games are here.
You just can't go willy-nilly and slap on weapons to your mechs however --- mission parameters will dictate the total tonnage you are allowed to deploy. Also, your mechs come in the light, medium, and heavy classes. These tonnage categorizations ultimately limit what you can equip your juggernauts of war.
To further expand the diversity available to you, each---yes, each---of the mechs come in three variants:
1. A(rmor)-variant - extra armor, no jumpjets
2. W(eapons)-variant - more powerful weapons, no jumpjets
3. J(umpjets)-variant - with jumpjets, more mobile; less armor and weapons
The weapons too, have things you should consider, they each take up space; the more powerful the weapon, the bigger the space required. Medium and heavy mechs, needless to say, can easily shoulder the bigger guns, while the light mechs sport greater mobility; they can run around and attack the less protected parts of their larger counterparts.
Heat, another important part of the Battletech games, has been implemented into this game too. It doesn't appear as "heat" per se, but rather, each weapon has a "recycle" rate, which is the amount of time a weapon needs to "cool down" before it can fire again. It's not as good as that employed in the tabletop game, but the addition of this "recycle" aspect gives players something to ponder on and tinker around with other than the usual mission micromanagement and tactics.
The game also involves other war machines that aren't ambulatory --- there are sensor-laden recon vehicles, tanks that pack enough firepower to draw sweat from even the most skilled mechwarrior, and even minelayers/sweepers. They may not be awe-inspiring 30-ton death machines, but their mobility and their specialized roles make them indispensable components in most scenarios. Still, these are assets that shouldn't engage in protracted firefights with battlemechs and should only be used as support forces.
In a laudable design decision, the developers of this freeware strategy game have made it so that the paper-thin vehicles come with their own crew. This way, your veteran mechwarriors will only be driving heavily-armored mechs (as they should be). It conveniently streamlines the gaming experience in that you won't get headaches allocating precious manpower to conventional vehicles that easily crash and burn.
The game also allows you to hire additional mechwarriors. They also have skills (Gunnery, Piloting, Sensors, and Jumping) and these improve over time as they participate in missions.
You can all buy the above in-between mission from the Purchasing menu. It's the macro- and micro-management of tactics and resources, the tweaking of weapon configurations, and other planning-intensive aspects (should I call for fire support now? Should I buy that Hollander or repair my existing mechs?), that make this game highly addictive. Add the fact that you can instruct your forces to aim at specific parts of enemy mechs just so you won't damage their components so that you can salvage and reuse them later and you can see that this game has a lot of replayability and freedom to engross tweak-happy players for weeks.
Now for what I don't like about the game:
1. It's old and it's in 2D. Who cares though; X-com, for me, still remains to be the greatest game of all time. I just thought I'd mention this.
2. The AI, while not buggy, is not incredibly smart either --- badly outgunned vehicles make beelines for your mechs, instead of driving away and bringing reinforcements. (Like I said, the game is old.)
3. You can't save mid-mission. This is okay though as it's a game that presents players with limited resources. Still, for people who have limited time, this can prove to be a major pain.
4. The menu, at first, was confusing.
5. No tutorials.
6. No manual included with the full version RTS download. I had to google for it.
7. You can't see the radius of artillery strikes unless you commit to it and click an area for bombardment, making the whole affair tricky if there are structures lying around that you don't want damaged. For a PC RTS that's based on a tabletop game, it's odd they didn't see this. The devs should have used a more accurate "blast template" icon to let players readily see the area that a strike will encompass.
8. With games like this, you can just cheat by playing a recon mission, scout everything out, and then reload the mission. I don't do this though (unless I get wiped out) but still the knowledge that I can do it bugs me. Maybe in the future someone will think up of a game like this one with a random terrain generator. (Like the downloadable free full RPG game: Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall sans the pre-fab feel.)
Still, don't let the cons dissuade you from playing this one. If you like stats, tweaking, tactics, military science-fiction, mechs, and don't mind 2D, sprite-based graphics, this downloadable full version Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game is for you.
And oh, I nearly forgot:
(Read before clicking the download link below: DISCLAIMER: While I have played this game and have not detected any malware, it doesn't erase the possibility of the download site being hacked, etc. Furthermore, MechCommander Gold is not a property of this site. I will not be held liable for any damages that may occur to you or your system while using the freeware. Install at your own risk.)
>>>Download Battletech - MechCommander Gold, the downloadable full version Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, HERE
>>>The installer is an ISO file. Don't know how to install an ISO file? Click HERE for a step-by-step guide (with screenshots) on where to download the latest version and how to use Daemon Tools Lite.
>>>See more downloadable full version strategy games HERE
>>>See downloadable free PC FPS multiplayer shooters HERE
>>>Click HERE for more Mechcommander Gold resources (map editing tutorials, saved games, etc)