It’s certainly taken some time, but as promised in our previous look at the game, I’ve finally found someone to test out the BATTLETECH multiplayer experience. Tony “Deux” Wendover agreed to be my honorable opponent-cum-guinea pig, and we shared a grueling hour-long battle, putting every aspect of BATTLETECH to the test. How’d the game hold up? Read on to find out!
We decided to stick with a relatively light engagement believing that it would allow us to get more than one game in (which we were very wrong about, as it turns out). I decided to go with a pair of Centurion CN9-As, a Panther PNT-9R, and a Commando COM-1B as a scout ‘Mech. Unlike in my vs. PC games, I wouldn’t know what my opponent decided to field until I met him on the field of battle.
Before commencing our duel I took special care to ensure that my Commando pilot had the Sensor Lock skill, as I knew from my previous experiences that it would prove invaluable for long-range combat. Without it, it can be very difficult to exchange fire at extreme range.
I should have known this wouldn’t be as easy as fighting a computer, but this was why I’d brought a dedicated scout ‘Mech.
The drop counter ticked down, and then I was presented with a brand new map as our combat arena. The terrain was basically a rocky desert much like Arizona, filled with buttes and mesas, as well as curious mineral fields that Deux kindly explained to me acted as amplifiers for energy weapons. Not only would the crystal formations make any ‘Mech’s energy weapons more powerful when standing inside them, it also made that ‘Mech harder to hit for the enemy. I tried to keep that in mind as I ran my lance north trying to stay on top of a ridge.
My Commando scouted ahead as it was significantly faster than the rest of my lance. The game gave me a general direction of where my opponent would be coming from, but besides that, I had precious little information until I made contact.
The Battle Begins
As my Commando passed what appeared to be a gas station and approached a butte its sensors rang out with contacts: two light ‘Mechs of unknown type. Excited, I gathered my lance on top of a small hill on the opposite side of the butte and ran my Commando into a nearby forest for cover and so he could keep his sensors on the approaching ‘Mechs.
My enemy must have detected my lance as well since the two blips stopped approaching just as I’d gotten my lance into firing position. I should have known this wouldn’t be as easy as fighting a computer, but this was why I’d brought a dedicated scout ‘Mech. I ran my Commando into a mineral field to the east of the butte and used the pilot’s Sensor Lock ability to identify one of the enemy ‘Mechs: a Panther.
The confidence I’d gained from knowing one of my opponent’s chassis was short-lived, as that same Panther jumped forward and fired its PPC into my own Panther. It struck the right arm and exposed its own PPC to critical hits as all the armor had been melted off.
I’d thought the jump into combat would prove risky for my opponent as it brought it well within the range of my Centurion’s AC/10 and LRMs, but my return fire proved ineffective as the AC/10 missed wide as did most of the missiles fired.
Then from the west, a mysterious flight of 5 LRMs struck my beleaguered Panther in the side. My sensors hadn’t picked up anything that far out, so it caught me entirely by surprise. An LRM-5 I knew could mean a Shadowhawk or a Vindicator, both capable long-ranged designs. It also left me in a strange position: I knew there was a ‘Mech far enough to the west to be out of range of my sensors, but there were two light ‘Mechs just ahead of me within firing range. I could split my forces as my opponent had, or I could press onward and try to take the light ‘Mechs before they could retreat.
I decided to press, jumping my Panther forward into a mineral field to get it out of the sights of the mystery ‘Mech and into cover, while my Centurions juked into a nearby forest. Along the way they opened fire on the enemy Panther, again missing with their AC/10s. This would become a theme for the rest of the game.
For their part, the enemy decided to start targeting my Commando that had been using Sensor Sock and allowing the rest of my lance to fire on them. Their PPCs missed, and only a few errant SRMs managed to touch my forward scout. My light ‘Mech then crept forward to continue to bear witness to the enemy when the fourth and final ‘Mech appeared on my sensors behind the butte. I now knew where my enemy was, but I only knew that one of them was a Panther.
Sensor locking the Panther again allowed my Centurions to fire indirect LRMs as it retreated behind the hill, with around half pocking armor all over the enemy light. One Centurion opened up with its deadly AC/10 and finally struck its target. The savaged panther limped back into cover while my Commando dogged it, while the mystery ‘Mech in the west tried to provide covering fire by lighting off its LRM-5 on my scout, again with most missiles missing.
The tag team of LRM carrying ‘Mechs like my Centurions and a scout ‘Mech with Sensor Lock was proving to be my best asset, and I was loathed to lose it so early in the engagement.
Then, in a surprise move, a second enemy Panther jumped on top of the butte and fired down on one of my Centurions. It managed to do some damage, but the tactic left me confused as it exposed this newcomer to fire from my entire lance. But game mechanics managed to save him as he jumped away before my heavier ‘Mechs could open fire. The enemy Panther took a shot in the leg from my own Panther before firing its PPC at my Commando, pegging it dead in the chest and exposing its center torso before jumping back behind the butte.
With my scout ‘Mech grievously wounded I decided to maneuver him to behind my side of the butte so as to avoid enemy fire entirely. The tag team of LRM carrying ‘Mechs like my Centurions and a scout ‘Mech with Sensor Lock was proving to be my best asset, and I was loathed to lose it so early in the engagement.
A Change Of Tactics
We were once again in a bit of a stalemate, with three of the enemy ‘Mechs on one side of the butte (two of which were certainly Panthers), my lance on the other, and a still unidentified LRM-5 carrying ‘Mech somewhere to the west of me. I decided it was time to move on that mystery ‘Mech and get out of this silly business with the butte.
I kinda wish there was another word to describe it, but it’s too small to be a mesa and too big to be called a hill. Butte is basically it.
Anyway, my paired Centurions began to maneuver to the west while my damaged Panther and Commando stayed behind to keep the enemy at bay. My Panther and an enemy Panther traded fire, with mine ending up the worse for wear, while my Centurions closed to within sensor range to ID the mystery ‘Mech as a medium. No surprise there – Shadowhawks and Vindicators are both medium ‘Mechs.
One of the enemy Panthers exposed itself a little too far around the butte and took fire from my Centurion’s LRM-10 and AC/10 for its trouble, taking its PPC-carrying right arm clean off. Sensing blood I doubled my Centurion’s back so they could continue to wail on the open Panther.
Suddenly, the western mystery ‘Mech decided to make a break for it and managed to get itself close enough to my Commando that I could finally identify it: a rare Griffin GRF-1S. Not what I was expecting, and certainly a tough foe to handle as it was faster and more armored than most of the ‘Mechs I was fielding.
While I was distracted by the Griffin a third enemy Panther peaked around the opposite side of the butte and managed to get a bead on my Commando. The PPC blast took the right arm Large Laser clean off, while the SRMs further damaged what little armor remained on my poor scout.
My Centurions again chased away the encroaching Panther, but not before the Griffin launched a spread of LRMs into my Commando, taking off its other arm. My armless Commando then tried to bury itself into the wall of the butte to save itself and just use sensor lock for the remainder of the engagement.
Frustrated, I decided to take a move out of the enemy’s playbook and jumped my Panther on top of the butte to fire it’s PPC down on its closest foe. The PPC missed, but the SRMs savaged armor all over the previously damaged Panther as well as providing targeting data for my Centurions to rain LRMs from afar. I was also finally able to identify the last enemy light ‘Mech: yet another Panther PNT-9R.
Deux had more tricks up his sleeve. He jumped his previously PPC-less Panther not just on top of the butte, but on top of my own Panther as a Death From Above maneuver. Both ‘Mechs took damage and fell over in some sort of hilarious synchronized dance. Unfortunately, my ‘Mechs were too close to the butte to fire on the toppled Panther, while my opponent’s ‘Mechs could pump fire into my downed Panther. Which they did, destroying it. One ‘Mech down for the good guys.
I responded with more LRM fire but my enemy sensed blood in the water. He brought Panthers around both sides of the butte to try and get a bead on my crippled Commando. His Panthers took devastating fire, and I sensed my Commando’s days were numbered. I did what any good commander would and decided to suicide charge my Commando into the enemy, firing its remaining SRM-2 as it went.
Surprisingly, the Panther’s return fire all missed and my Commando got into melee range, headbutting a Panther from behind. As the Panther turned to face its wily foe it exposed its back armor to my Centurions, allowing me to savage its rear armor and blow off a leg. It fell over, but while I was distracted the Griffin came back into range and fired its Large Laser and LRM-5 at my Centurion. It still had plenty of armor and shrugged off the assault while returning fire with everything it had. Again, my AC/10 missed and only a few missiles and a Medium Laser struck the target.
I was beginning to think my Mechwarriors would need to hit the gunnery range rather hard after this engagement. If they lived through it, that is.
The Panther on top of the butte got up and rained down SRMs but received a battering from my Centurion for its trouble, losing both side torsos and a leg. Meanwhile, my Commando continued to melee attack, kicking the shins of the downed Panther in front of it. Despite some setbacks, things were looking up for our heroes.
That’s when the third enemy Panther jumped on my Commando, killing it.
I was in a bad spot. Although two of the enemy Panthers were little more than hobbling torsos, having lost both arms and a leg, they still had an SRM-4 to fire with and jump jets to continue an aerial assault. There was also a completely fresh Panther and a mostly undamaged Griffin to contend with, while my Centurions were starting to feel a little worn from combat.
I swung my remaining forces wide into a forest for cover while the enemy Griffin and Panther continued to trade long range fire. My AC/10 again missed the mark again and again while the enemy’s PPC never seemed to miss.
In desperation I split my forces, leaving one Centurion to contend with the pack of Panthers while the other hunted down the Griffin. My Centurion pilot managed to finally catch the Griffin in the open, savaging its right torso to the point where it cooked off the remaining LRM ammunition. Unfortunately, it had already spent most of those missiles, leaving too few remaining for an instant kill but still removing the arm and leg. It was almost defenseless, or so I thought.
Down, But Not Out
Meanwhile, the Panther pack had done a number on my remaining Centurion, taking off its AC/10 right arm (not that it was doing me much good). The crippled Panthers were doing their best to hop from one side of the butte to the other, while the mostly fresh Panther on top kept raining fire down into my medium ‘Mech.
The opposing Griffin proved to still be in the fight as once again a Death From Above maneuver was performed, only this time on my Centurion. Somehow it managed to take off my Centurion’s leg despite the fact it was jumping on top of it, and both players scratched their heads in confusion at the sight. Worse, my Centurion was knocked over, losing precious time righting itself while the Panther pack closed in.
My other Centurion finally managed to kill one of the damaged Panthers, but the pack had closed and was now within jumping range. The remaining crippled Panther jumped on top of my armless Centurion, committing honorable seppuku in its quest for victory. I respected its decision to give its life for the cause but hated the fact it had knocked over my only upright Centurion.
A normal commander would have surrendered at this point, but I am no ordinary commander. Even while my Centurions were being kicked and blasted with PPCs, we fought on to the last. My Centurions rose like the mighty gladiators they were and continued to fight back, taking aim at the dangerous PPC-toting Panther but again failing to disarm the deadly opponent. The Centurion tangling with the Griffin also took a point-blank shot with its two Medium Lasers, and despite the fact that they were separated by mere inches one laser shot wide.
In return, the crippled Griffin ducked its head and charged, headbutting my Centurion in the chest and disabling the engine. I was down to a single ‘Mech.
Never give up, never surrender. My remaining Centurion blasted away at the Panther while the crippled enemy Griffin did what the previous two Panthers had and hopped one-legged to within melee range. Overheating, and unable to split my fire between two targets, the Griffin closed to within headbutting distance.
Then the medium ‘Mech bowed, as though honoring its foe, before it thrust its deadly head straight through my Centurion’s chest. I had lost.
I was heartened by the fact that there was barely a single enemy ‘Mech between the two surviving chassis, and that each of our engagements had devolved into fisticuffs. Had my AC/10 shots found their marks, it could have been a very different game. Also, I’ve determined that a ‘Mech’s head is actually the most deadly weapon it possesses and will base all my future ‘Mech choices on the size of its metal cranium.
Thanks again to Deux for the delightful game, and I hope to get another one in by the time the next big BATTLETECH patch hits.
And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.