It has been a year since Battletech was released (reviewed here) and Paradox Interactive have not rested on their laurels. During this time, they have patched and expanded the base game, released two new pieces of downloadable content (DLC) – Flashpoint and Urban Warfare – and are developing a third and final piece of DLC in the form of Heavy Metal.
The core game of Battletech, now at Version 1.6, has been expanded to include a career mode alongside the existing campaign mode. This means that those wanting to replay the game will not have to replay the story missions of the campaign mode, thus adding to the replayability of the game.
Flashpoint introduces inter-connected missions – called “flashpoints” – into the base game. Urban Warfare, on the other hand, introduces new city-based maps, as well as further flashpoint scenarios. Both of these pieces of DLC also provide the player with access to new mechs.
The career mode has the player starting out as the head of a mercenary company with four mechs, leaving them to do as they wish. The career mode has been a joy to play, as it includes all the strategic management of the campaign, without having to replay the story. The game has also been expanded to include a player’s reputation with each faction, which has a legitimate impact upon the game. An example of this is if the player repeatedly takes missions against local pirate organisations, then the cost to join the black-market will increase. Likewise, having a higher reputation with a faction will offer access to high-profile missions that promise greater rewards.
The flashpoints in the career and campaign mode are definitely the highlight of the first DLC. Flashpoints are essentially mini-campaigns, usually about two to four missions long, but with no chance to repair mechs or heal pilots. Told through the same style of painted cut-scenes in Battletech’s campaign mode, these offer higher rewards and necessitate new strategies for players managing their mechs.
The game’s battles have also been expanded to include new elements. The first, and most fun, is that there is a chance that a second opposing force appears. These are no longer reinforcements for the antagonists, but an independent third-party who share the same objectives as the other factions involved. This encourages the player to revise their tactics to take advantage of, rather than be out-manoeuvred by, the opposing factions.
A new mission type that has been included is Attack and Defend, where swarms of enemy mechs attempt to destroy a base the player is defending, whilst the player attempts to destroy the enemy base. Again, this requires players to rethink their tactics, to include these new elements, as players can no longer wait for the enemy to come to them.
The terrain has also been expanded to include Mediterranean biomes and urban cities. The different environments have little impact on the terrain, but their atmosphere affects how well the mech operates, especially in terms of the heat generation/dissipation.
The urban environments introduce the greatest change by giving players the opportunity to battle within dense cityscapes. Naturally, these cityscapes will require a new approach, due to the buildings blocking lines of sight. Whilst this can be overcome by using jump jets to move over – or onto – buildings, the latter does mean the opposing mechs can destroy the building a mech is standing on.
The two released DLC bring five new mechs to the game. As Flashpoint introduces the Hatchetman mech, a close-combat mech is now available for players who prefer more brutal style. Expanding the combined arms approach are the new mech upgrades; Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) to hide mechs, and the Active Probe for finding hidden mechs.
Unfortunately, some of the downsides that were first in the game still remain. For example, there are still occasional clipping and visibility issues, due to terrain and environment features obscuring what is happening during the cinematic mode as a mech carries out its orders.
Overall, what was an already great game, has become even better, with it being updated to include new features. The expanded DLC are also excellent value for money by providing further replayability. Needless to say, I am looking forward to the third and final release of the Heavy Metal DLC later this year.