I’ve now clocked in a solid 100 hours in BattleTech, with my latest run being focused on using what I’ve learned from my previous character to run through the plot in an ideal way. No lack of ‘Mechs, pilots, or components will mar my perfect experience. I’ll always get the ‘Mech I want, and I even went so far as to mod the game so I started off with a bespoke lance consisting of a Firestarter, Jenner, Shadow Hawk SHD-2D, and a Griffin GRS-1S.
That was just so I could have a slightly different experience than my previous playthrough. Since everything is randomized, all ‘Mechs after the first few missions will always be different outside of the story missions, so I didn’t have any concerns about boredom after I got started.
But now that I’ve achieved what I’d like to consider as “veteran” status in the game, I felt it right that I bestow upon you, dear Sarna reader, some of the tips I’ve learned in my career as a mercenary lance commander.
To start, I’ve always found that grinding out a bunch of easy missions early on will make the tougher missions that much easier for you later. The reason here is that grinding simple missions gives you XP that will make your pilots better. Once a pilot reaches certain milestones they get a huge power boost which can help turn the tide of a battle in your favor.
“Being able to move and shoot first is huge.”
One thing I’ve found to be a huge boon is the Master Tactician skill. Found under the Tactics tree at level 8, it allows your ‘Mechs to move at a higher initiative. This means that Assault ‘Mechs move at the same time as Heavy ‘Mechs, Heavies move at the same time as Mediums, and Medium ‘Mechs move at the same time as Lights.
Being able to move and shoot first is huge. If you can take out a few dangerous opponents before they have a chance to fire it will allow you to take on waves of opponents that would seem impossible to defeat on paper.
Master Tactician will always come with Sensor Lock as a secondary skill, which leaves tertiary skill to choose. I like to have a mix of Bulwark, Evasive Movement, and Multi-Target for my pilots. Bulwark is good for heavies and assaults to belly up to the line and face-tank whatever the enemy throws at them, while Evasive Movement is great for scouts and fast-movers. Multi-Target is better for missions with a lot of soft targets such as tanks or structures, but it can be difficult to predict if a mission will throw a swarm of Galleons at you or not.
What ‘Mechs you use is far more dependant on what ‘Mechs you fight than anything else (unless you want to mod the game as I did), but there are a few to keep an eye out for thanks to their weapon-efficient loadouts.
The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is a personal favorite. You can load it up with 1,000 armor, 3 Medium Lasers, 2 SRM-6s, and 2 Small Lasers to turn it into a tough and deadly brawler. For whatever reason, the Shadow Hawk deals increased melee damage compared to other Medium ‘Mechs–closer to a 70-ton Heavy–so it’s the perfect design to get up close and personal with.
Light ‘Mechs eventually become too poorly armored to use later in the game (although I’ve heard some skilled commanders have beaten the game entirely with Light ‘Mechs), but the Firestarter is another close-range brawler that is utterly terrifying. Keep the Flamers or swap them for a battery of Small Lasers, and either way, once it gets in close whatever it’s fighting is dead.
The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is the perfect design to get up close and personal with.
The Orion is relatively common and can be customized to be almost anything: a close-range brawler, a long-range sniper, or even a missile boat. In the Assault category, I came across quite a few Highlanders in my first playthrough and found them all to be equally amazing.
Short Range Missiles are, ton for ton, the most weight-efficient way of dealing damage. Before the latest patch they were utterly devastating when combined with Precision Strike, the ability that allows you to use morale to target specific components, but since then their ability to core a ‘Mech in a single salvo has diminished somewhat. Still, they’re potent, and a personal favorite of mine.
Laser boats were previously too hot to be effective, but the patch has also lowered the heat cost of Large Lasers to the point where they might be usable. I’ll have to do more testing, but I’m looking forward to finding a Black Knight or a Grasshopper to test it out.
If you can find a PPC+++ then they might be worth using, but generally I found them to generate too much heat for too little damage to be of much use.
Long range weapons aren’t really all that great in BattleTech thanks to a fog of war that reduces visibility to barely a few meters in front of you. If you feel you must take something with some range, Long Range Missiles are your best bet. They can fire over obstacles to soften your opponents up, and they deal a ton of stability damage with the right mods.
Autocannons are certainly better balanced in this game than on the tabletop, but they’re still not efficient enough in terms of damage per ton to compare with lasers and SRMs. On Assault ‘Mechs it’s not so big a deal since they have tonnage to spare, but on Medium and Heavy ‘Mechs, it’s strictly worse than a loadout weighted toward missiles and lasers.
One last thing: the key to success in BattleTech is using your Precision Strike and Vigilance abilities to their fullest. This means that opting for some increase morale upgrades in the early game might be even more important than faster repairs or healing in the med bay. Just have a team of 8 or more pilots and swap them out when they get a little banged up.
A veteran I may be, but I’m still far from a BattleTech expert. Think you might be one? Then submit your tips and tricks in the comment section below to prove it!
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.