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BattleTech the Reboot (An Archdruid Contest Entry)


This is my second entry for the @archdruid Gaming Contest: THE PRESENT hosted by @veryspider and @elfranz. My first entry was about the supreme awesomeness of the XCOM reboot by Firaxis!

There is no bigger expression of ultimate nerdiness than BIG STOMPY ROBOTS! (with lasers...). So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a huge huge fan of the BattleTech Universe. It's a universe where the MechWarriors of the BattleTechs are the medieval knights of a completely fractured future (every gaming future is dystopian and fractured...) where the Universe has fallen into a new Dark Age after the fracturing of the Star League.

Anyway, I had realised that I had already written a couple of posts about so I was hunting around for them... (I really should keep a list of my longer form posts...). So, here are the links to my previous nerdgasms about this reboot of this revered franchise.

BattleTech (2018) - PC Game Review

BattleTech (the board game)

RogueTech - a BattleTech mod (First Impressions)

I would have to say that there have been few games that I have looked so forward to. I backed the Kickstarter... and had asked for GOG key. However, on launch day/week, I was so cranky about the way that updates were being pushed to the GoG version that I immediately bought the game AGAIN on Steam at full price! So, I wanted this game SO MUCH that I paid twice for it!

The Universe


The BattleTech Universe is set in the far future (around 3000-3050, depending on the particular game setting...), with humanity spread out among the stars (no aliens...) after the development of an FTL drive enabled easy (if expensive) travel between the vast oceans of space between habitable planets in the galaxy. This initial expansion finally settled into a Golden Age that was heralded with the formation of the Star League, with unprecedented advances in technology and the general well-being of humanity.

However, like all good things... this Golden Age came to a sudden halt after a dispute over succession of leadership led to a galaxy wide Civil War. The bulk of the military (the Star League Defence Forces) refused to back any side and instead exiled themselves (under the leadership of Kerensky) from known space, embarking upon a centuries long travel to avoid open conflict. This exodus of the last bastion of civil order led to the complete disintegration of restraints upon war, and the various Great Houses immediately set upon each with a fury that brought upon a new Dark Ages. Advanced Technology and Manufacturing were destroyed and the ability of humans to travel, communicate and even survive among the stars was brought to it's knees.

Eventually, the Successor Lords came to their senses and realised that this open and unrestricted warfare was going to result in the complete and utter extinction of humanity. Thus, the Treaty of Ares was proposed, which restricted combat away from manufacturing and technological centres (note, this did not include civilian populations!) in order to keep alive the dwindling stores of knowledge and advanced technology. However, despite this intervention, much technology was lost to humanity.. and this Star League era technology would become known as LosTech.


The BattleTech game puts you far from the central areas of conflict, far from the gigantic Successor States. You are a mercenary fighting on behalf of the former ruler (Kamea Arano) of the Aurigan Reach, a small Periphery State that has fallen to a military coup led by the Directorate faction. The Aurigan Reach is a tiny player even in the Periphery, sandwiched between two stronger Periphery States (the Taurian Concordat and the Magistracy of Canopus) and sharing a border with the Successor State power, the Capellan Confederation. Much of the territory of the Aurigan Reach was considered to be planets and star systems with little strategic worth and not worth holding and defending by the larger powers.

However, it appears that the coup was orchestrated by the larger Periphery powers (possibly backed by one or more Sucessor States) in a power play due to the rumour of LosTech being found in the Aurigan Reach territory. If LosTech rumours were found to be true, then all powers (included the powerful Successor States) would stop at nothing to be in possession of this incredibly technological advantage. As the existing rulers (the Arano family) refused to deal with the stronger powers, a more sympathetic ruler was installed via a military coup. It is interesting to note that the coup leaders are not painted as evil, but are more concerned about the long-term survival of the Aurigan Reach, as they viewed non-compliance with the Periphery and Successor State powers as guaranteed suicide for the Reach.

The Developer

The BattleTech reboot was developed by HareBrained Schemes which also developed the computer adaptations of the ShadowRun RPG franchise. I was a little bit wary of this developer taking upon one of most beloved franchises... I had mixed enjoyment with the ShadowRun games, there were things that I did really enjoy about them... but in many ways, I did find them too limited to enjoy. Perhaps it was because they were also targeted at a mobile market at a time when mobile computing power was not adequate for the challenge. As mobile games, they are some of the best out there... but for a PC gamer... that just isn't enough.

However, my fears were quelled a bit as I read more about leaders at HareBrained Schemes. These were developers who had worked on the MechCommander series (an awesome 90's tactical adaptation of the BattleTech universe!) with Microprose ... in fact, the head (Jordan Weisman) was THE GUY who created the BattleTech francise at board game and wargaming company FASA (the original owners of the BattleTech boardgame).

Added to this, there was strong intergration and contact with the existing BattleTech community online... who had been long pining for a BattleTech game to fill the vast void since the last release of a branded PC Game (MechWarrior and MechCommander being the last iterations on the franchise.).

A Kickstarter was launched for the development of the game... which saw phenomenal success... being one of the first few projects to blast past it's funding goals and going over a million dollars in pledged donations. The hype and desire for a BattleGame was real.... the nerds of the '90s had grown up and now had access to money to fund their dream game!

More recently, Paradox has bought HareBrained Schemes... I love Paradox, and I'm happy it was them that bought them... they are a studio and producer that are really focused upon making the ultimate PC games... hardcore and in depth... not a yearly cash in franchise (no names...).

The Game

You can read most of what I thought about the game in my full review, but I have to say that I was stunned and impressed. Most of the board game was ported faithfully and sucessfully to the PC adaptation. Line of Sight, Heat management... and most importantly turn-based tactics were all present and accounted for. Everything about the tactical game was recreated with a beautiful attention to detail and design. It was the adaptation that all of us were looking for!

The addition of the mercenary metagame was also a great design choice. The BattleTech Universe is one that is based around scarcity of access to materials and technology. A struggle to salvage more parts than you lose in battle... victories that cost you too much in repair costs and lost technology and parts are just not worth it... even if you get paid. Having Mechs out of commission can leave your company severely vulnerable in the next fight... and fixing them might just take too much time as operational bills wait for no-one.

As I had mentioned in the review, I did have some little quibbles about the game. Chief among them was the lance restrictions on the drop into battle, limiting you to only fielding 4 BattleMechs per mission drop. There is no real reason why a mercenary company would restrict themselves in this way... if you need to win, you do what it takes to win. I wouldn't field only 4 Mechs if I had pilots and spare inventory to field 20... I think this was a gameplay/tech limitation as too many Mechs on the field would render the game difficult to balance... however, it resulted in the fielding of heaver Mechs in preference to light Mechs due to the sheer survivability and firepower of the heavier classes. It was a fundamental flaw which I hope will be fixed in coming iterations of the game...

In addition, there was the scarcity of contracts... always there were two (or three) on offer... and they just didn't have a wide variety of flavour or nuance to them. Go here, destroy this... protect this... Sometimes, you would find yourself with no real viable contracts on offer (too difficult for your company...) and you would have to take a operating loss and flee to a different star system. Not fun...

The Mod

Well, modders always come to the rescue in PC gaming! That is one of the best things about PC gaming... the mod scene is stupendously good and can sometimes come out with a mod to a game that is even better than the original template that it was built upon (like XCOM!). This is something that console gamers really really miss out on.

RogueTech was this mod. A complete overhaul which dumped you into an open world sandbox version (no story) of the game. This mod also upped the difficulty to reflect the fact that the BattleTech universe was an uncaring and viscous place... with mercenary companies forming and being destroyed every day. You are struggling to keep your ragtag group of mercenaries alive, with scrounged parts and morally dodgy contracts from day one.

The entire ruleset is ported and implemented (as opposed to a stream-lined version for the vanilla game) and the FULL roster of Mechs and inventory both useful and otherwise is also ported over. There is also the promise of LosTech and Clan implementation in future releases!... and just for fun, the AI is updated to be less forgiving! You will shed tears as your mercenary drop is shredded by a poorly chosen contract that is a trap and your best Mechs and pilots a screaming as they are ripped to shreds as you flee in your Argos dropship... Vengeance will have to wait...

It's a bit of a hack job at the moment... with bugs popping up every now and then... and installation is a big pain in the bum... but this sort of complete overhaul mod is what makes PC gaming the ultimate in gaming.

The Future

This is the new Rennaisance for BattleTech on the PC. After so many years of wishing and wanting... the community got a game that was worthy of the franchise.... it's not perfect, but it is an amazing first iteration... and with modders already hacking and modding the vanilla game... the promise is there (if the developers continue to embrace the community) that we are going to get a second iteration that will follow the route of the XCOM franchise which has just gotten better and better with each release.

Will we be following the future history of the Aurigan Reach? Will we be seeing the return of the Clans (the old Star League Defence Forces)?... will we be jumping to a different narrative location?

Will the developer address the community requests (my personal one is for a larger unit count, limited only by dropship drop capacity...) and concerns?

I'm hopeful... and still hyped! This is one of the very few games that has stayed on my primary gaming machine... and I expect it to do so, at least until the next iteration is released!

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