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We love literally everything about MechWarrior Tactics, the free-to-play browser-based tactical strategy game currently in development at Roadhouse Interactive and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games. It feels like the developers cracked open our window while we slept, snuck inside like ninjas, opened up our diary, wrote down every weakness we have when it comes to online games, and then made a MechWarrior title based on our deepest desires.
As the name suggests, MechWarrior Tactics is a strategy game, pitting two players against each other in tactical, turn-based battles. The players take turns moving their highly-customizable mechs around the battlefield, tactically placing them in the optimal location for attacks. These turns are asynchronous, like playing Hero Academy or Words With Friends, so you can take your turn immediately or at your leisure. Once both sides have marked where they want to move their units the combat phase begins, which, unlike the move phase, happens all at the same time. Both players mark who they want their units to attack and choose which weapons they want to fire (usually all of them). Once they're both locked in things get really, really awesome.
Suddenly, the top-down view changes to a cinematic one showing all of the mechs running, leaping, and walking into location, firing their weapons at their targets as they go. It's awesome and beautiful, capturing the feel of MechWarrior battles by showing units getting blown apart in real-time. The developers said that their goal was to recreate the tense, epic feel of the tabletop BattleTech game, and we think they really pulled it off.
Above: The visuals are absurd, especially for a browser-based game
Once the chaos of battle ends the next round begins, and the action starts all over again, with a move phase, an attack phase, and another awesome cinematic scene. At the end of the game, all of these cinematic scenes will be weaved together into one video that can be replayed and shared, showing off the full war as it happened without all of the turn-based stuff in-between.
We're sure some of you cringed when you saw the words "free-to-play" and "browser-based" next to each other earlier, though you might want to hang up your old prejudices. Things have changed, and neither of those need to be dirty words any more. The game's free-to-play model is actually exciting, letting players buy booster packs of sorts, which give out new mechs, weapons, and items. These can be purchased with real money as well as in-game currency, so you'll never actually need to throw down cash. The booster pack system also has the added benefit if being really, really fun and addictive, as any Magic: The Gathering fan can tell you.
Above: Every battle looks epic and stunning
And running in browsers is no longer a bad thing, either. In the past it meant games like Mafia Wars and Poppit. Now it means games like Battlestar Galactica: Online and the Game of Thrones MMO, both of which are running in the powerful Unity Engine. The developers have been able to do amazing things with Unity, and unless someone told you that it was running in a browser odds are you never would have known.
We didn't expect to be completely floored by MechWarrior Tactics, but we absolutely were. Roadhouse Interactive and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games have managed to mix together the wonderful world of BattleTech with the asynchronous turn-based style of Hero Academy and the addictive micro-transaction system of Magic: The Gathering, and we're really excited to try it out for ourselves when it goes into beta later this year.