MechWarrior Tactics is free to play, turn based, and take our money
MechWarrior Tactics is a free-to-play, turn-based, asynchronous multiplayer game. You move your units across a hex-based level and try to blow the living shit out of anyone stupid enough to challenge you to a fight. There is nothing to buy before you try the game. You will just sign up on the website, download the Unity plug-in for your browser, and begin to play with a good amount of Mechs, weapons, and customizable options. You will be able to set the round time to a few minutes if you’d like to finish a game quickly, or you can play a round a day if you’d like a more low-pressure experience. You will be able to play multiple games at once, just like Hero Academy or Words with Friends. MechWarrior Tactics brings more depth and a wealth of options to this style of play, which is a welcome thing for MechWarrior fans starved for new games. The table-top gamer in me began to twitch looking at the hexes on the demo level and the upgrades and weaponry available for each Mech. Here’s how it works: You choose which of your Mechs will fight, the other player fields their own lance, and then you move one of your units. Then the other player moves a unit. This continues until every Mech is in place, and then both sides select their targets and choose which weapons on each Mech will fire. Since each Mech may feature a number of weapons systems and heat is always an issue, your targets and methods of attack can be micromanaged, or you can attack with a full salvo. The round resolves with a short video showing the results of everyone’s actions. You will actually be able to watch the entirety of your match once its over through one of these impressive mini-movies, filled with smoke and explosions. These “cinematic replays” can be shared with friends if you’re able to demolish an opponent in a particularly nasty way. Each match will give you reward of more credits to purchase upgrades, even if you lose. The terrain also gives you different advantages: Higher ground is helpful in a number of ways, and by standing in water you’ll be able to fire more weapons without as much worry about heat. Of course, things have to be monetized somehow.
Here’s where the free to play ends
“When a player comes to the MechWarrior Tactics site and signs up, we’re going to given them a bucketful of stuff to play with. Immediately be able to jump into battle and beat the snot out of other Mechs… but eventually, you’re going to want to play with more toys,” I'm told. This is where the monetization comes in. You can buy STACs, or “Surplus Technology Armored Containers.” Think of them as booster packs for your game. Each STAC will have a random assortment of weapons, armor upgrades, pilots, technology, heat sinks… all the fun things that can be used to modify your Mech. If you're lucky, you may even find a Mech completely decked out with amazing weapons. You then take these things into the Mech bay and add different abilities and loadouts to your Mechs before battle. Do you want a scout? A tank? Something in between? It’s all possible, and every change you make to your Mech will be visible on the character model once a game begins; you can see what you’re up against by visually checking out your enemies. STACs can be purchased with in-game currency, but of course you can also pay real money if you'd like to give yourself a large amount of options in tuning and loading up your Mechs. That's the key, and it's repeated over and over during our demo: You can buy choice, but you can't buy wins. To keep things fair, a point system is in place to make sure each side is balanced. A huge, lumbering Mech covered with missiles will be worth more points than a tiny Mech with only a few lasers. Each side is given a limited amount of points they can use to put units into the round, and Mech will use up a different amount of points based on a number of factors. Players are giving themselves more options when they buy STACs, but they won’t be able to outspend their opponent to win. The point limitation for each side means that each collection of mechs will be as balanced as possible. “You won't be able to buy advantage,” I'm told. The digital nature of the game means the complexity of the a table top game remains, but the experience is still welcoming to new players. “No more going through tables, no more looking at charts, no more rolling dice, we wanted to bring the intensity back,” Chris Cleroux, the game's lead designer, told the Penny Arcade Report. All the number crunching goes on in the background, and the rules are handled by the computer. You can click on units or terrain if you'd like to learn about the game, and the menus will show you all the information you need. The asynchronous nature of the gameplay means that each round can be as long or as short as you'd like. Players will be able to sip their coffee and plan their next move for hours if the other player agrees to a longer game. You'll be given a full lance to play with as you sign up, allowing you to jump directly into battle, and the team has announced and shown the Jenner, Atlas, Hunchback, and Spider Mechs already. More Mechs will be announced later. There will be leaderboards and ranked games for the competitive. The cinematic replays can also be shared. I'm not very interested in those things, however. I just want to sit in front of my computer, spending way too much time putting together the perfect army of Mechs. Judging by my performance in Hero Academy, they will be sent to their doom.