MechWarrior: Tactical Command
MechWarrior: Tactical Command is a real-time strategy game by Personae Studios based on the popular BattleTech franchise. It contains some of the best looking cutscenes I’ve seen on the iPad and unlike previous MechWarrior games, actually comes with a full cast of characters and a detailed narrative.
Unfortunately that’s about it as far as positives go, because MechWarrior: Tactical Command has an abundance of problems that suggest it should have been tested a lot more stringently than it was. Major game crashes, black screens, unmovable characters, and poor game design were just some of the many problems encountered.
MechWarrior opens with a very nicely-rendered FMV explaining the detailed backstory to the game. Five rival factions are competing for control and two of them, the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth, have merged to create one super-faction aimed at taking total control from the others. You start off playing for the Fed-Com alliance and battle against the Draconis Combine.
At least I think that’s the story, only that isn’t very well explained either. There are handy bios available in the Memory Core section of the game explaining the importance of each faction and the technology available to each, but you’ll soon find yourself cursing at more than the lack of narrative direction.
Once the cutscene ends you are put in control of two Fed-Com soldiers and the tutorial begins. The game is played from a birds-eye view and you must instruct your soldiers to walk, run or attack by tapping where you want them to move. So far so easy. That is until you encounter the many hills that the map comprises of. Of course your soldiers in their mech gear cannot hope to climb over the three-foot high hill in front of them, but neither can they intelligently navigate around it meaning you have to instruct your soldiers on exactly where to move to every five seconds. If enemy soldiers are nearby, scrolling over to them won’t be possible because you’ll be spending all your time guiding your soldiers around a tree that they just can’t figure out how to flank.
Then the game will crash. In my first run-through just as the tutorial was close to finishing, MechWarrior completely cut out and I was thrown back to my iPad’s main menu. Re-opening MechWarrior, I found that the game hadn’t autosaved any progress in-game meaning I had to restart the level all over again, a frustration which reoccurred several times across each of the next five levels. You can forgive a game for crashing and losing your data once, but several times on each level suggests a severely broken game which should have spent more time in beta testing.
If you do manage to avoid any in-game crashes then be prepared for a gameplay experience less exciting than watching grass exist. Your soldiers move incredibly slowly across the battlefield and when engaging the enemy seem to spend most of their time wandering around aimlessly instead of firing back, more often than not ending with the enemy turning them into mech-soup. The actual objectives in each level are fairly generic: with “capture the enemy’s mech” and “secure the battlefield” describing most of the missions.
The actual characters you control and take orders from are charming enough in their own way, even if their dialogue is overly clichéd and the attempted banter painfully scripted. The voice actors do a good job in making their characters seem genuine and charming (even if token Brit “Beckman” sounds like Lloyd Grossman’s less well-spoken brother) but that isn’t enough to even begin making up for the huge problems that MechWarrior: Tactical Command has.
I always make a point of completing a game I review or at the very least get as close to completion as possible to give a fair summary. Unfortunately the absurd number of crashes and lost data associated with MechWarrior means I haven’t been able to complete it. I’m currently in the second of three worlds but at some point in the second mission, my iPad will cut out and I’ll be forced to start it again, no matter how quickly I try to complete the objectives set of me and my team. If you have enough patience to restart each level and force your way to the end (after paying a hefty $9.99 for the privilege) you deserve much more than the sarcastic overtones of Beckman to thank you. You’ll also be several years older.
I haven’t even mentioned some of the other major problems that plague this title: soldiers frequently ignoring commands, the generic low-res battlefields, the frustratingly slow pace at which “injured” mechs move across the map or hearing recently-killed infantry praise you for a job well done. I could continue but I think it’s clear enough: MechWarrior: Tactical Command is a broken game.
I genuinely hesitate to even score a game which has clearly not gone through the appropriate QA but if Personae Games have released it, then it is liable to the same scrutiny and criticism that awaits any game. I don’t know whether a rush to meet deadlines or a half-hearted attitude led to the game being released in this state, but that is exactly what MechWarrior: Tactical Command is: a total state.