Let’s Talk About MechWarrior: Dark Age

 

Hi everyone. Pull up a chair, take a sit, grab a cup of hot cocoa. I want us to have a frank, honest discussion about MechWarrior: Dark Age.

Now, I know that Dark Age wasn’t particularly well received by the BattleTech faithful. There are plenty of good reasons for that–the complete sidelining of all the major houses, the inability for anybody to communicate due to the HPG blackout, and ‘Mech stats that didn’t even bother to follow the classic ‘Mech construction rules are all valid complaints. Even for me, as someone who arrived at BattleTech a little later on, thought that Dark Age represented a franchise reboot that pissed all over the original game’s charms.

I mean, who wants to field an army of modified AgroMechs and unarmored infantry? Nobody, that’s who. A glorified farmer in a chainsaw-wielding tractor with legs is nobody’s idea of a sound military strategy.

Dark Age Panther

courtesy of Troll and Toad

But I don’t want us to just spend an hour bashing Dark Age and blaming them for BattleTech’s relative obscurity in this era of increasing tabletop gaming interest (I think that has more to do with the complicated web of licenses and ownership of the original IP). There were real, genuine merits to MechWarrior: Dark Age.

First, there were the models themselves. I know plenty of people love painstakingly painting their own figures and even customizing them into miniature pieces of art, but man, I don’t have that kind of time! Being able to get a fully-painted and even slightly opposable figure straight out of the box was actually pretty cool, if I do say so myself, and they weren’t half bad! Sure, sometimes the arms fell off at the slightest provocation, but they were intricate, fully-painted models that look good for zero effort. I call that a win.

And the Clix system wasn’t half bad either. Let’s be real: BattleTech’s rules are a wee bit on the complicated side, as my 300-plus page tome of Total Warfare can attest (I had university textbooks that were smaller–just sayin’). Simplifying everything down to “damage equals clicks”, and having your ‘Mech’s or tank’s (or whatever) stats modified to represent battle damage with every click was actually a really clever way of making combat easier to keep track of.

Admittedly, using a tape-measure for movement a la Warhammer 40K made the rules slightly more complicated, but it also meant that Dark Age could be played anywhere and even household objects could be repurposed as ad hoc terrain. Empty bottle cans became buildings, moldy pizza boxes became swamps, and that bit of carpet where your dog threw-up became a toxic waste zone.

For some reason, my miniature battles were usually fought in some pretty rank areas.

Dark Age Swordsworn

via Twitter

I even appreciate the random “loot box” nature of buying most MechWarrior: Dark Age boxes. It was a lot like buying Magic: The Gathering cards, which was another pastime that I genuinely enjoyed. And even if you don’t like that aspect, the age of the internet has made purchasing specific figures in Dark Age or any other collectible game easier than ever–just go on eBay and you’ll probably find what you’re after.

Tundrawolf

via eBay

Anyways, my point is that Dark Age gets a lot of flack, and while a lot of is deserved, it’s important to understand that it wasn’t all bad. There were some truly innovative of fun aspects of Dark Age, and I kinda wish that some of those aspects could be incorporated into the original tabletop game. But no AgroMechs, please. Those were stupid.

Also, I’m selling my old Dark Age collection. It’s spring, I haven’t touched the things in years, and I suspect wherever I wind up next won’t have the storage space for me to keep these plastic bins as monuments to my childhood. So they gotta go.

Details are on the eBay listing. Yes, this is a shameless use of a pulpit for my personal benefit, but someone else should be able to get some joy from these toys so they don’t just languish in my basement. That and it’s tax season and Canadian taxes are no freakin’ joke!

And if that ultimately means my old collection gets chopped up to be used as props in someone else’s custom miniature scene because Dark Age is stupid and everybody hates it, that’s fine with me.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The ‘Mechs That Time Forgot: Quad ‘Mechs

art by Shimmering Sword

art by Shimmering Sword

Well, they were never really forgotten–you can find Quad ‘Mechs as late as the 3140s with the introduction of Hell’s Horses QuadVees (and man, are those ‘Mechs ever a trip!). But Quad ‘Mechs, even though they certainly exist and a few of them are even fairly notable, are pretty easily forgotten. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because Quad ‘Mechs sort of ruin the whole image of a MechWarrior. ‘Mechs are often seen as these avatars of their pilots but made of metal and myomer, armed with more weapons than a battalion in today’s army and capable of leveling a city block with a single press of the trigger. It’s kinda hard to personify the person within if the thing on the outside is this four-legged beast.

For that reason, Quad ‘Mechs remain fairly rare in comparison to their two-legged counterparts, but there are also in-universe reasons why Quad ‘Mechs aren’t seen more often. Being rare and strange meant that technicians often didn’t know how to work on them, and it also meant spare parts were harder to come by. It’s easy to get a spare arm for a Centurion, but a spare leg for a Jaguar is a little harder to come by. You’d need a direct connection to the factory where the ‘Mech is built, which meant that Quad ‘Mechs often saw service only in the highest echelons of any military.

There were also unpopular with pilots for being… y’know, weird. You didn’t have a torso to twist, and not all Quads had turrets to make up for it. Having no arms or hands meant you couldn’t really interact with your environment in any way other than stomping the heck out of it, and on top of that, no arms meant no arm-mounted weapons, which seriously hampered a Quad ‘Mech’s firepower.

On top of that, everything on a Quad is essential. Sure, if you lose a leg you’re not nearly as useless as a two-legged ‘Mech, but losing an arm still allowed most ‘Mechs to run away to safety. Losing a leg seriously hampered a Quad ‘Mech’s mobility, making them unable to escape should a firefight turn bad for the home team.

That’s not to say that Quad ‘Mechs weren’t without advantages. Unlike other ‘Mechs, Quads could dance side to side in a sort of crab walk (even if the design was more canine than crabby) and they were very stable firing platforms (noted by their -2 piloting skill bonus when all legs are fully-functional). Quads are also shorter than most ‘Mechs, allowing them to gain concealment from terrain that would leave other ‘Mechs partially exposed.

Still, Quad ‘Mechs are rare in fiction and in real life. Just two Quad ‘Mechs have ever appeared in any BattleTech video games–the Scorpion in MechWarrior, and the Tarantula in MechWarrior 2–while the rest are rarely mentioned in novels.

Which is why I felt it was necessary to give these big four-legged brutes the proper tribute that they deserve. Let’s hit a few of the more well-known Quads and then you can inundate me with your favorite–and weirdest–Quad ‘Mech designs.

SCP-1N Scorpion

I admit, I have a soft spot for this ‘Mech. Not because I ever got to use it or anything (as I mentioned, Quads are notoriously absent from any BattleTech video games)–I just like the look of the thing. Kind of like if a modern APC sprouted dainty legs and tried to walk away from its problems.

I also like the design. A PPC and an SRM-6 is nothing to sneeze at (at least in the 3020s), and the Scorpion’s speed and sufficient armor meant that it could serve in a variety of combat roles. Things got even better after the Reseen designs emerged in 3067, although the SCP-12S version gets rid of the PPC for an LBX-10 in a move that makes it entirely ammo dependent.

Give me the SCP-10M with its Heavy PPC and vertically-firing LRM-10. Yes, it looks like it belongs more in anime than BattleTech, but dammit, it looks good.

GOL-1H Goliath

Now, if you wanna talk about ‘Mechs as walking tanks, it doesn’t get any closer than the Goliath. This thing is, quite literally, a tank that has sprouted legs. On the plus side, that turret means that you can shoot in any direction. On the downside, you look like a militarized giraffe that was recently decapitated.

The Goliath isn’t bad, as far as Succession Wars-era 80-ton assault ‘Mechs go. A running speed of 64 kph and an armament of two LRM-10s and a PPC puts it in line with most other 80-ton ‘Mecsh of the era. It even saw some prominence in fiction thanks to a brief appearance in Warrior: Riposte.

But man, does this thing look just freakin’ goofy.

The Reseen design improved things somewhat, giving it a more “beast of burden” look than a tank with delusions of quadrupedia (which is technically an Italian word I’m repurposing because it sounds cool). I do like the GOL-5D variant, but that’s just because I’m a sucker for a Rotary Autocannon.

ZPH-1 Tarantula

When I saw the Tarantula for the first time in MechWarrior 2, I thought, “Cool, a four-legged ‘Mech!” Then it died to a random PPC blast and I thought this thing was a fragile piece of !@$%.

And indeed, it is.

The Tarantula is a scout ‘Mech. It gives the Spider a run for its money with 8 Jump Jets, a running speed of nearly 130 kph, and an armament of 2 Medium Lasers and a Streak SRM-2. It also has ton more armor than the Spider as well. So why is the Spider so much more popular than the Tarantula when this thing actually looks like an arachnid?

Probably because the Tarantula looks freakin’ creepy. I wouldn’t want to pilot one, even if it is an extremely good scout ‘Mech.

BGS-1T Barghest

Now we’re heading into the Quad ‘Mechs that can really sow some discord. The Barghest might have four legs and all of its weapons in the torso, but those weapons are fierce. A pair of ER Large Lasers backed up by an LBX-20 is enough to give any ‘Mech a rough day.

Besides that, the Barghest was also one of the first Quad ‘Mech designs to look truly mean. It has the posture of an angry canine: hunched and ready to pounce. Plus, the design evolved in the absolute best direction, mounting Heavy Gauss Rifles, Ultra AC/20s, ER PPCs, and eventually Light PPCs and MMLs.

It’s just a shame the Lyrans didn’t make more of them.

TFT-A9 Thunder Fox

I have a confession to make: I actually really liked MechWarrior: Dark Age. Not the fiction, mind you–the whole HPG blackout and all these random factions made it weird. No, I liked the ‘Mechs, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Okay, I’m a little ashamed.

But the Thunder Fox is super cool. It’s a warhorse ‘Mech aimed straight for my heart. It’s cheap, it’s well armed, and it’s well armored. You can make an army of these bad boys and take down anyone in the Inner Sphere and still have C-Bills to spare.

Admittedly, the art and overall design make the Thunder Fox look a lot swifter than it actually is. Top speed is 64 clicks (which is not exactly stellar for a 55 ton ‘Mech) with a trio of Jump Jets to turn it around if it finds itself pointed in the wrong direction. It only has a ton of ammo for its Light Gauss Rifle and Streak SRM-4, so it’s not exactly equipped for prolonged engagements.

But you gotta admit, the Thunder Fox looks freakin’ cool. If I had to pilot a Quad, this would be the Quad for me.

So what’s your favorite Quad ‘Mech? Let us knew in the comments!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Catalyst Releases New Map Pack, New Fiction From Michael Stackpole In March Update

Catalyst Releases New Map Pack, New Fiction From Michael Stackpole In March Update

Catalyst has announced more new products to continue BattleTech’s 35th-anniversary celebrations.

Hello again, ‘Mech fans! We’re back with another update from Catalyst Games as they’ve announced new products to add to the successful release of the latest box sets, starting with the previously mentioned new map packs.

The first new map pack is simple called “Grasslands”, and as the name implies, it’s all about fighting on generally flat, grassy plains. Not a whole lot of difficult terrain, forests, or water to get in the way of a good slugfest here. Just a good, old fashioned, stand-up shootout.

Grasslands comes on 6, double-sided, 17″ x 22″ paper sheets, which means there’s actually 12 maps total. Each map can be flipped and swapped to either side and then lined up to make whatever grassy battlefield you desire. All maps feature the new art aesthetic that’s showcased in the new box sets, and 10 of those maps are brand new, never-before-seen designs.

You can pick up Grasslands for $29.99 on the Catalyst store, or wait until April 17th for them to arrive at your local games retailer.

Next up is an even more exciting map pack called BattleMaps. These are 4, larger, neoprene maps that come in 4 different flavors: Desert, Lunar, Alpine, and Savannah. But wait, that’s not all! On the other side of these maps are the Grasslands maps, so you get to double your battlefield possibilities.

Each BattleMap is 36″ x 22″ and is only available on the Catalyst web store. Each one sells for $29.99, but you pay for durability on these bad boys.

Along with new maps comes new fiction. Everyone’s favorite Michael Stackpole is back with a trilogy of new short stories that describe the Kell Hounds’ founding an early years as Morgan and Patrick Kell fought tooth and nail to create their own mercenary company.

The first book is entitled Way the Smart Money Bets and is available now, while A Tiny Spot of Rebellion arrives March 22nd. A Clever Bit of Fiction concludes the trilogy on March 27th. Each is available for $3.99 wherever good e-books are sold. Sorry, no paper release is yet planned for this trilogy.

We’ll conclude this bit of BattleTech consumerism with a bit of an update on the Beginner Box Set, which is back in stock online and in store. The reprinted Total Warfare manual is now out of stock, but a reprint is underway, while the reprinted TechManual is currently available online but not quite yet available in print–but Catalyst expects to have it available soon.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior 2: The Clans

Welcome to another part in Sarna’s retrospective series of old BattleTech video games.

Last time we took a look at the original MechWarrior and saw how it would set the stage for the breakout ‘Mech classic, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. But there was a lot of work to go from the pixelated and basic graphics of MechWarrior to the fully 3D environments of MechWarrior 2. So much work that it actually took two tries to get it right.

I speak of the long-forgotten first attempt at a MechWarrior sequel known as MechWarrior 2: The Clans.

That’s right: before we had MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, Activision tried their hands at a MechWarrior sequel that had way more than just Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon going at it for bragging rights.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s recap what happened after the original MechWarrior hit store shelves in 1989. To summarize, the original developer Dynamix got bought by Sierra On-Line and used their tech to create Earthsiege, and then later Tribes, and then later still go bankrupt. That meant that the original game engine left with Dynamix, leaving Activision to start from square one.

Which is exactly what they did starting in 1992. Activision gave the game an ambitious release date of sometime in 1993, which meant that the development team had just over a year to go from nothing to a full 3D ‘Mech simulator.

As any game developer can tell you, that’s not enough time. Especially for a team of roughly a dozen over-worked and underpaid people.

Adder

courtesy of Local Ditch

So anyway, 1993 came and went without much of a game, but Activision did put out a playable demo that showed just exactly where MechWarrior 2 was headed. What we get is a strange amalgamation of ‘Mech models that would become familiar in the real MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat and the old bitmap-style cockpit that was the mainstay of the original MechWarrior.

You can see where the demo was going with a lot of the cockpit stuff: the altimeter, bearing indicator, and torso-twist indicator look and feel exactly as they do in the final MechWarrior 2. The radar now sat dead center in the screen, while the exterior portion of the cockpit would bounce around with the ‘Mechs movement.

That exterior skeletal portion, as well as the green letters of the HUD, would be the only things that survive into the finished MW2. That and the overall look of the models, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the ‘Mechs we know and love.

However, there were a lot of limitations to the demo. First, you couldn’t get critical hits so you never had to worry about losing any of your components. Second, you couldn’t lose limbs which meant that losing an arm didn’t mean a whole lot. Instead, you just kept shooting until your armor and internal structure depleted, at which point you exploded.

Besides the whole fully 3D game thing, Activision had some big plans for MechWarrior 2: The Clans. Originally there were going to be 6 clans total, including Can Wolf, Jade Falcon, Smoke Jaguar, Nova Cat, Ghost Bear, and Steel Viper. There would also be 8-player multiplayer free-for-alls where everyone could enjoy a good ‘ol Grand Melee whenever they wanted. For its time, the game was really forward thinking.

So what happened to MechWarrior 2: The Clans? Perhaps in a sign of things to come, Activision’s marketing team and executives kept pushing for a finished game that was nowhere near ready to be published. According to an ancient article from Local Ditch, there were internal disputes over when to release as well as some legally questionable arguments between the game’s producer Kelly Zmak and Activision higher-ups. And even though the team had 3 programmers officially, most of the work on the game’s engine was being done by one guy: Eric Peterson.

Mech Bay

courtesy of Local Ditch

Eric would describe in his personal blog working 14-16 hour days on MechWarrior 2, although he admitted that had as much to do with loving the work as it did with any pressure from Activision. Eric would also be the only person on the original MW2 team to be credited on the final version of MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, with the second team’s producer explaining that much of the final game’s engine could be chalked up to Eric’s work.

By 1994, the original team working on MechWarrior 2: The Clans had all left Activision for greener pastures. At the time, it looked like Activision would kill the game entirely, but a guy named Tim Morten proved instrumental in convincing the bigwigs in charge to continue development. Tim would build on Eric’s original designs and eventually finish the game and release it as MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat in 1995.

The biggest differences between what would have been The Clans and MW2: 31st Century Combat mostly boiled down the story. The Clans was more of a random mission generator attached to a multiplayer game, while the MW2 that got released offered a single player campaign set during the Refusal War between Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon. It also meant that the other Clans would have to take a bit of a backseat (at least until the first expansion came along).

Technologically, MW2: 31st Century Combat had two big improvements over The Clans: dynamic lighting and a fully 3D environment. Lighting effects from explosions and even a moving sun would change the shadows and colors that the player sees to be far more realistic, while the 3D environment got rid of all the old bitmaps that made the game seem a lot more like the original MechWarrior than a true sequel.

We’ll take a bigger look at the real MechWarrior 2 next time, so stay tuned.

Once again, a big shout out to Chris Chapman who can be considered an official BattleTech games historian at this point. He also sent me an entire scan of the original The Clans promo box, which Activision sent out a little prematurely but Chris somehow still got his hands on one.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Catalyst Games Releases Succession Wars Record Sheets And Reprinted BattleTech Manual To Get Everyone Up To Date

UPDATE: Whoops! Looks like I screwed up: it’s the Record Sheets portion that’s new, not the Technical Readout itself. Either way, go get it!

Catalyst Game Labs have announced a new compilation technical readout volume as well as a new version of the all-important BattleTech Manual.

With the new box sets finally having made it to stores, it’s time for us to look towards expanding the new players’ repertoire. While the latest full version of the game, ‘BattleTech: A Game Of Armored Combat, came with the new BattleTech Manual, it didn’t come with an exhaustive list of every ‘Mech featured during the Succession Wars Era of BattleTech.

So Catalyst made a new tech readout with all of them in it. Simple problem, simple solution.

Succession Wars is a compilation volume combining ‘Mechs seen in Record Sheets: 3039 Unabridged, Record Sheets: 3050 Upgrade Unabridged-Clan & Star League, Record Sheets: 3058 Unabridged, and Record Sheets: 3075 Unabridged. I’m assuming only the ‘Mechs seen before the Clan Invasion are featured, otherwise it would be odd to call the new TR “Succession Wars”.

Catalyst describes Succession Wars as “the perfect ‘first Technical Readout’ companion to the BattleMech Manual. Combining the ’Mechs previously found in Technical Readout: 3039, Technical Readout: 3050 Upgrade, Technical Readout: 3058 Upgrade, and Technical Readout: 3075, this volume features some of the most common ’Mechs from the Age of War to the Succession Wars.”

And it’s got some sweet cover art. Love me a Dragon, Jenner, and Panther Kurita lance.

Succession Wars is $9.99 in PDF format, $39.99 in print, and $44.99 together. Meanwhile, the Record Sheets only is $9.99 with 290 sheets total.

Catalyst has also made the latest version of the official BattleTech Manual available for purchase as well at the same prices as Succession Wars. It has all the latest updates and errata already included, and another spiffy new cover art that would look sweet on anyone’s bookshelf.

I mean, who can say no to that Marauder? Anyone? I didn’t think so.

Get ‘em both today at Catalyst’s store.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior

Welcome back to Sarna’s retrospective on classic BattleTech video games! I’ll be your host as we look back on some of the games that made BattleTech and MechWarrior the storied franchises they are today.

We’re going to switch things up a bit due to some… we’ll call it “negative feedback” that was given during my last foray into the Crescent Hawks Inception. I understand that some of these classic games might not quite be the shining jewel of digital accomplishment when compared to more modern ‘Mech games, but at the time they were real accomplishments that should be respected for the stepping stones they were.

That and nobody likes having their childhoods shit on, no matter how awful the sound effects were.

So instead of a pseudo-review where I start tossing out crazy things like numbered scales, we’re going to just look at the game’s history and see what it contributed towards modern MechWarrior titles. Starting with the original first-person ‘Mech combat simulator, MechWarrior.

MechWarrior was originally published in 1989 by a little company called Activision–you might know them as the massive game corporation that’s slowly eating Blizzard Entertainment alive right before our very eyes. Back in the day, the evils of microtransactions and rushed development cycles weren’t nearly as prevalent, so Activision was just another little fish in the nascent pond of PC gaming.

While Activision published the game, it was created by a humble team of 17 dudes working at Dynamix Inc. Dynamix would eventually be bought-out by Sierra On-Line, creating both Tribes and Earthsiege as their subsidiary, but back in 1989, they were known for creating flight simulators like A-10 Tank Killer, F-14 Tomcat, Arctic Foxand Red Baron.

They also made Abrams Battle Tank, a tank simulator game that shares much of its engine with MechWarrior. I never played the original MechWarrior, but I did play Abrams Battle Tank, and the similarities in the first-person combat sequences are uncanny.

However, MechWarrior is only half about the giant stompy robot combat. Much of the game still harkens back to the text adventure style of gameplay exemplified in the prior Crescent Hawks PC games, with the player going from planet to planet seeking fortune and machinery as they build up the Blazing Aces mercenary company.

Almost all of the modern BattleTech games, including BattleTech and the upcoming MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, can thank the original MechWarrior for the whole “mercenary commander” gameplay loop.

In MechWarrior, you play as Gideon Braver, a disgraced Davion noble who’s forced to flee his home planet due to some inter-familial intrigue (ie. a bunch of ‘Mechs showed up and killed everyone). Since Braver has some cash and an old Jenner just lying around, he decides to take up the mercenary mantle and start making some green (C-Bills, that is). Braver will then journey all over the Inner Sphere, building up his company’s strength and meeting such notable BattleTech personalities as Natasha Kerensky and her Black Widow Company.

But Braver never really forgets his heritage and continues to pursue his family’s killers even as he chases after the almighty C-Bill and a better set of robot legs. It’s during these text-heavy portions of the game where the player can branch into several different endings, depending on what the player decides to do.

For the text portions of the game, you can see some very significant improvements in MechWarrior over Crescent Hawks Inception–most notably in the art. Full-screen, vibrantly colored pixel images add a lot more atmosphere, and additional music plays during certain areas of exploration (usually in the bar).

Sound effects are also improved, although still a far cry from what would be heard in the sequel, MechWarrior 2.

There are eight ‘Mechs the player can purchase (salvage is represented only in C-Bills and not in the burnt-out wrecks of your foes) including the Locust, Jenner, Phoenix Hawk, Shadow Hawk, Rifleman, Warhammer, Marauder, and BattleMaster. The Scorpion, Atlas, and Griffin are also mentioned but aren’t pilotable. Since the tonnage tops out at the BattleMaster and Marauder, this is the main reason why these two ‘Mechs still have reputations amongst the BattleTech faithful as being scary as all get out. 

As I mentioned before, much of MechWarrior’s combat will appear the same as Abrams Battle Tank as they use very similar engines. Terrain appears as large polygons while the ‘Mechs themselves appear as smaller, more colorful objects. The player can zoom-in to get a better view of their foes and engage with long-range weapons or wait for them to close to use things like lasers and SRMs.

There’s no denying that the combat is pretty basic, but you can see how MechWarrior created the template for all other games to follow. A giant radar dominates the center screen with heat and jump jet gauges to either side. Weapons status are all listed in the lower right corner, while enemy target data appears in the lower right. That’s all still essentially the same in MechWarrior Online, with the minor tweak of enemy combat data appearing in the upper right corner and the player’s own ‘Mech’s status appearing in the lower left.

(Things would get completely swapped around in MechWarrior 2, but we’ll dig into that later.)

With Dynamix doing such a great job of mixing the classic text adventure elements with a more modern 3D simulator, it’s almost sad that Activision had to go it alone for the sequel, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. But as I said before, Dynamix (and all their proprietary 3D engines) got picked up by Sierra On-Line, and that was it for them. 

If you want a great example of what a MechWarrior 2 made by Dynamix would have looked like, check out Earthsiege. It’s an interesting alternative view of what MechWarrior could have been rather than what it turned out to be.

With incredible thanks to Chris Chapman who provided a lot of invaluable information on Dynamix and MechWarrior’s development.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Forever Faithful, Blaine Lee Pardoe’s Latest BattleTech Novel, Now Available For Pre-Order

Forever Faithful

Blaine Lee Pardoe has announced his latest BattleTech novel is officially available for pre-order.

Has it been a hot minute since the latest BattleTech novel? It sure feels that way. The last full BattleTech book I read was The Nelus Academy Incident and before that another Pardoe masterpiece in Betrayal of Ideals.

Now Monsieur Pardoe has returned, but instead of telling the tale of the late, great Clan Wolverine, we get to hear the story of another dead Clan, the Smoke Jaguars.

As we all know by now (and if you don’t know, SPOILER ALERT), the Smoky Kitties bought the big one at the end of Operation Serpent, which you can read all about in the Twilight of the Clans series and is probably the best stretch of BattleTech fiction you’ll ever read.

But while the Smoke Jaguars were erased as a Clan, that doesn’t mean everyone that used to comprise the once great Clan completely disappeared. Scientist, technician, merchant, and laborer castes all were taken in by various Inner Sphere states and rival Clans, and the fallen Smoke Jaguar warriors who survived escaped to form various bandit groups.

But not all them. One, a Smoke Jaguar MechWarrior instrumental in the fall of his own Clan, survived the battle of Huntress. We never did find out what happened to Trent at the end of Twilight of the Clans, and now we’ll have Pardoe tell the rest of his story as well as the tales of several others.

Forever Faithful

From his personal blog, we get the first draft of the back cover for Forever Faithful:

“One is the traitor that brought the enemy to their doorstep: one is the Smoke Jaguar who was tasked with rallying them and failed; one is a Nova Cat Warrior with a vision of their true role in history; and the other is from Clan Goliath Scorpion who wants to harvest their remnants as museum exhibits.”

This was apparently edited and will not be exactly what we see on the back of Forever Faithful (if you see a back at all since I’ve certainly gone digital for my reading these days), but it gives us an idea of what we’re in for.

Apparently, this novel is a sort of successor to Surrender Your Dreams, a Dark Age novel that delves into the Fidelis, a special forces warrior sect within The Republic of the Sphere. Pardoe describes in his blog post that there was apparently a lot of debate following that novel as to just who the Fidelis were, and he pretty much just up and confirms that they are indeed Some Jaguar survivors.

There’s more behind-the-scenes stuff over on his blog post, which you should definitely read. And pre-order his book on Amazon or wherever you prefer to get your reading material.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Catalyst Announces 35th Anniversary BattleTech With New Available Products

35th Anniversary

courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst Game Labs is celebrating 35 years of BattleTech with a huge release of new products.

Way back in 1984, FASA corporation created a game universe that would inspire countless novels, sourcebooks, and video games. Well, actually, not all that countless, but I’ve never bothered counting them all, and I’m sure it’s a very high number.

To celebrate BattleTech’s 35th birthday, Catalyst Game Labs–the lovable rapscallions that serve as arbitrators of BattleTech lore and it’s tabletop roots–are giving in fully to their capitalist urges and holding a massive release of some exciting new products.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, a bunch of items went up for grabs on Catalyst’s website and in your local games retailer, starting with the box sets. Both the Beginner Box Set and BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat will be available in-store and online starting on Wednesday.

That’s not all: Shattered Fortress will also be available in major retailers on January 23rd, and is already available on Catalysts’ website (and has been for a few weeks now). On top of that, a 35th Anniversary Edition of the BattleTech Manual will hit Catalyst’s online store which features all previous errata and the coveted 35th-anniversary logo.

Look at that Warhammer. Doesn’t she look pretty? Wouldn’t you like one on a t-shirt or something?

Well, good news! Catalyst has developed a mind-reading machine that can also see into the future and has prepared a bunch of 35th-anniversary merch with that same Warhammer logo! That includes a t-shirt, hoodie, and a pin for when you’re forced to be fancy but still want to show your love of BattleTech to the world.

And the Warrior Trilogy is back in stores for an anniversary edition PDF or Print on Demand. I’ve read all those stories twice now, so it’s a little less interesting to me, but if you haven’t read them before, you really should.

Now, normally we stick with BattleTech related items on Sarna, what with it being a BattleTech wiki and all, but Catalyst also watches over Shadowrun which is another FASA-born universe that I have much love for. If only the rules weren’t a complicated mess in desperate need of some D&D 5th edition simplification, I’d be playing it as my tabletop RPG every week.

It’s also Shadowrun’s 30th anniversary, so Catalyst has a bunch of new PDF sourcebooks and merch on sale too. A unique 30th-anniversary logo adorns a t-shirt, hoodie, and pin just as with the BattleTech merch, allowing you to show your love of the Sixth World in style.

Full details can be found over on Catalyst’s website.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy

stay syrupy

New MechWarrior 5 Trailer, Pre-Orders Online Now

King Crab

Now that the holidays are over, we turn our sights to the future where we have a lot to look forward to in the BattleTech world. Chief among them is the hotly anticipated release of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, which hits digital store shelves on September 10th.

We’re less than 9 months away from release, which means it’s time to get that hype train moving. And what better way to get it rolling than with a brand new game-play trailer?

This trailer initially released through IGN a few weeks ago, but then Piranha Games put it up on the MW5 YouTube channel after they got their exclusive clicks in. We here at Sarna would be jealous, but we don’t even have a YouTube channel to provide our own exclusive video links (but that does sound appealing–hit me up PGI, let’s talk).

Anyway, what we see here is a quantum leap forward in graphics. Finally, we see some real weather on these planets in the form of rain and fog. Fog of war becomes quite literal in this clip, with players relying on instruments and laser beams to see where the enemy is located. It looks really good, although frame rate still seems to be a bit of a problem. Maybe that’s just an issue with whatever software was used to record the footage.

In addition to the reminder that MW5’s development continues with steady progress, Russ Bullock himself (he’s the president of PGI, don’t ya know) posted his own video to let the BattleTech community know that pre-orders are now available.

Called the “Community Edition”, these pre-orders all come with a variety of goodies for both the impending MW5 as well as PGI’s other game, MechWarrior Online. In fact, the rewards for MechWarrior Online seem to be even greater than the rewards for MW5. Purchasing the top-tier “Ultimate Community Edition” gives MWO players 30,000 MC, 90 days of premium time, a free Marauder II, and a ton of C-Bills and experience points.

That’s an in-game value of stuff in MWO way more than the $119.99 you spend pre-ordering MechWarrior 5.

For MechWarrior 5, each tier comes with various incentives to pre-order, such as exclusive in-game skins, digital downloads like desktops and soundtracks, and access to the beta test and the official MechWarrior 5 Discord server.

So1ahma provided a handy chart that breaks down the rewards over on Reddit, which also includes the approximate cash value too (kudos to you, So1ahma).

Personally, I think it’s a little weird that pre-ordering one game actually gives you way more goodies for a completely different game that is only partially related. It’s also a problem for those who really want to pre-order MechWarrior 5 but don’t even play MechWarrior Online–all those digital goodies are just going to waste.

But hey, it’s there if you want it.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechCommander Gold – Darkest Hours Gets 4.0 Release

via RizZen

Happy New Year, ‘Mech fans! I have to start this year off with an apology: I caught wind of this story well before Christmas, but with the holiday rush, I just didn’t have time to give it the attention it so desperately deserves. But by golly, we’re getting to it now, because this is news that any die-hard MechCommander fan should hear.

The original MechCommander Gold has been updated and remastered for you retro-gaming pleasure.

via RizZen

courtesy of RizZen

It’s called MechCommander Gold – Darkest Hours (a take on the original’s Desperate Measures expansion) and it’s more than just a remaster. Darkest Hours also adds 20 new pilots, merges the original and expansion campaigns, and expands them to include so many more user-created missions that it’s practically a new game. Some of those original story missions have also been updated too, so even the familiar standbys will seem like a fresh new experience.

We have RizZen to thank for this labor of love that he’s been working on since 2017. He’s compiled a host of previous additions and user expansions to include in Darkest Hours and created several resolution updates so everything doesn’t appear all pixelated (although, true MechCommanders will play on the original 640×480 for the genuine experience).

I remember playing the crap out of MechCommander, to the point where I mastered the entire game with nothing more than a company of jumping Cougars. The expansion added Shadow Cats to my playthrough which gave me a considerable armor boost, and a twin-PPC Bushwhacker build was easily my most favorite for an Inner Sphere-only playthrough.

via RizZen

The fine folks over at No Guts No Galaxy have provided hosting for Darkest Hours’ game files, but that’s not all! There’s also a huge player’s guide section that will provide new players with all the information they need to jump into this classic game. Veterans will find value in the guide too in order to handle all the new missions that have been added.

So start your 2019 off right with a retro experience unlike any other. Darkest Hours works on Windows 10 all the way back to Windows XP (something that even Microsoft can’t say) so even the most potato-like of machines can get this game running.

And as always, MechCommanders: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy