BattleTech review round-up: 'Feels like the board game in all the right ways'

If you've ever played a video game with giant robots in it that wasn't based on an anime, you've probably felt the influence of BattleTech. The intricate war game originated the MechWarrior series of first-person combat games and inspired many others, but BattleTech's own hard-hitting turn-based tactics have never seen a proper video-successor of their own. That's finally changed with Harebrained Scheme's BattleTech, the long-awaited result of a 2015 crowdfunding campaign.

How does this video game adaptation of such venerable source material hold up in a world of XCOMs and Into the Breaches? I collated some particularly illuminating snippets from across the Inner Sphere of games criticism so you can get a feel for how reviewers are finding various key parts of the game. 

Unadapted board games are cool too

Check out our list of the best board games and see how much you can do with some cardboard and minis.

Massive melees made manageable - PC Gamer (85/100) 

"The UI has so much information to impart that it can initially seem a little overwhelming, but with time and greater fluency I came to appreciate how much it manages to express with relatively few elements. BattleTech has no undo function for a turn gone awry, so it's vital to know exactly where your mechs will end up after a move, what they'll be able to see, and who can see them - the UI achieves this. There's plenty of detail to dig into, too - while initially you might see a red signature on the long-range scanners and not know what to do about it, with more experience you'll learn to pay attention to the tonnage of the incoming foe, weigh this against your understanding of the various mech types, and plan accordingly."

"Being able to field more mechs per encounter, deploy countermeasures and use off-field support would have been welcome evolutions to the formula, as would some implementation of friendly fire and a few more mechwarrior abilities; for as much as heat and stability help distinguish BattleTech's brand of turn-based combat from the competition, the breadth of tactics required to ensure victory are a little narrow. It doesn't hurt to have a light mech unloading the odd salvo into an enemy's flank from time to time, but for the most part you'll be needing to keep your squad of techno-pants within a half a dozen hexes of one another, while trying to keep the approach of enemy units as staggered as possible. Do that and you can't really go wrong."

A crunchy war game, adapted expertly - Waypoint (Unscored) 

"With this new adaptation, Harebrained Schemes have made a game that captures both the lurid imaginary spectacle of mech combat, and its tactical suspense. Crucially, however, they've left most - though not all - of the board game's daunting granularity and detail in the past. BattleTech takes dozens of different mech types and weapons, several different types of movement and attack, plus the crucial role of skilled pilots within those mechs, and puts them all inside a fast-paced tactics game. It feels like the BattleTech board game in all the right ways, but battles unfold in less than an hour, rather than the 3-4 hour sessions the board game demanded. You also don't need to keep a calculator and notepad next to you to play."

More accessible than you might think - Destructoid (8/10)  

"BattleTech operates on a turn-based combat system where cover matters, as does positioning. You can jump jet down heights to get a better vantage point, seemingly menial environmental factors like water cool down an overheated mech, and sprinting (a standard top-down strategy mechanic) grants evasion charges. Nearly every facet of BattleTech has its own rules, but its secret sauce is that none of those rules are overly complicated. For instance melee has its own parameters (it uses piloting skill, ignores evasion, and removes guarded), which is a specific answer to a specific problem. Hits and range also matter depending on your mech's loadout (something you'll know going in at a glance), and stats can go down on a whim. You'll need to know the kit of each mech to solve any problems that arise, but that comes naturally after just five mission or so."

A massive BattleMech garage in BattleTech.

RNG can be a huge bummer - IGN (7/10) 

"There's a lot I love about the strategy behind each fight; positioning, heat management, and targeting all offer interesting decisions to make and different strategies to learn. But it's hard not to feel that all those best-laid plans can go to hell simply because of a lucky shot or an unlucky miss, and in a way that's much more frustrating than you see in other percentage-based tactics games like XCOM 2. [...] The difference between dealing 100 damage to single part instead of spreading it out across multiple pieces is night and day, and whether or not you do is largely out of your hands. I've had dozens of moments where I only needed a few missiles to land on a specific part to finish it off, doing everything I possibly can to maximize those odds, but they'll just pepper the enemy's unscratched armor instead. That stings, and feels downright disgusting when that enemy then turns my way, gets lucky, and lands a full salvo on a nearly full health center torso to instantly destroy one of my more pristine mechs."

Giant robots can be awfully slow - Rock, Paper, Shotgun (Unscored) 

"The scales are tipped massively, maddeningly in favour of watching rather than acting here. Every animation is too long (even after all the 'glamcam' over-the-shoulder action sequence options are turned off), each action is followed by numerous ticker tape-slow stat and status updates, automated camera pans have all the speed and grace of a shopping trolley with four rusted wheels, and the entire game lapses into unexpected motionlessness for a few seconds as frequently as the exhausted pusher of said trolley. My heart sinks when new enemies lurch into view – not because of the (significant) threat they represent, but because more units means more waiting."

Looking for some more projects to follow? Check out our list of new games for 2018!

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.