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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: September 29, 1999
A little over a year ago a highly anticipated title that combined the real-time strategy of Command & Conquer with the fiery action of MechWarrior called MechCommander was released. Unfortunately for MicroProse and FASA Interactive, it was hampered by a number of drastic flaws that included extremely unyielding difficulty levels and a poorly designed interface. For those who have been hoping the game would become more accessible, the wait is finally over. MechCommander Gold is the second offering by FASA Interactive, and their mission is to correct the problems with the original and give us BattleTechers our dues.
The story picks up right where it left off. The Inner Sphere initiative on Port Arthur against Clan Smoke Jaguar was a phenomenal, but costly, success. The Clan has been left in shambles, completely defeated by your much smaller forces. All of the worlds under Clan Smoke Jaguar’s control have been freed and it looks like you can now return home. But it’s never that easy…. Upon receiving what you think is your congratulations and a long overdue vacation from Colonel Reese, you are shocked to learn you have another mission to complete.
Though Clan Smoke Jaguar has been defeated, one of its officers was not. A colonel in the Star League, Marcus Kolare, has taken control of the planet Cermak. Cermak was once a Star League outpost — nothing remains now except the ruins of crumbled cities. What would a renegade colonel like Kolare want with a planet full of useless junk? His reasoning is unclear, but our objectives are to find out why and defeat him, and his forces, once and for all. To aid in this cause, Reese has sent new weaponry, features and mechs to build up our forces.
MechCommander Gold succeeds where MechCommander failed. The promised upgrades could not have come at a better time, both for the Inner Sphere and for those developing and publishing the game. Gold adds six new mechs, new weapons, new missions and, most significant of all, features that fix many of the problems encountered in the original. While the addition of six new mechs — three for the Inner Sphere and three for the Clans — make this expansion title a little more exciting, its appeal lies firmly with the added features.
The newly adorned features begin with the interface, which has undergone a facelift. Perhaps the best addition is waypoints — micromanagement has now taken the back seat it should have all along. As a mechcommander, you are now able to focus on problem areas rather than following the movement of every single mech. Two new battle commands have also been added to enhance your gaming experience and control. The first is a command that allows you to conserve ammunition. You can order your mechcommanders to use energy instead of ammunition weapons, which limits the chances that your troops will run out of firepower. The second of the battle commands are the fire support mission hotkeys. Now, with the touch of a key and targeting using the left mouse button, you can call in small artillery strikes, sensor probes, camera drones or large artillery strikes. Overall, these simple additions of a hotkey here and there have made battles much more manageable than before. Previously, the MFD offered almost no useful information in the heat of the fight, and was a detriment when speed was essential to your success. These hotkeys will save you and your team by returning the battlefield to more even terms.
MechCommander Gold adds ten new weapons that upgrade those currently found within each type. Both the Inner Sphere and the Clans receive three new autocannons, including light, medium and heavy versions. In addition there are new rifles, lasers and the Heavy Thunderbolt, which can cripple a mech. Additionally, the new mechs make some of the older ones seem obsolete. The Stiletto is extremely light and fast, making it great for reconnaissance; the Bushwacker, a medium size mech that is fast and has great maneuverability, is best in short range attacks; and the aptly named Mauler is a little lighter than an Atlas but offers long range armor-shredding weapons. To combat these new mechs, the Clans have added the Shadow Cat, a fast, well-armed scout with great armor, and the Nova Cat, previously an Inner Sphere mech captured by the Clans during Operation Bulldog. It’s been refitted to become a short-ranged machine capable of killing anything and everything in its path. The last of the new mechs is the Turkina, a heavy mech that uses more energy weapons than are typically found on such a large design.
Finally, the multiplayer experience has also been nicely enhanced. Ten new missions increase its replayability, but 20 still isn’t a very large number. The multiplayer mode’s true beauty lies within the newly added mission editor. Players are now able to create their own worlds to play in. One of the biggest complaints about the original was the repetitive nature of the multiplayer games, and with the editor, this complaint has been nullified. New palettes have been added for the terrain and buildings, allowing designers to alter the look of their missions.
All the additions to MechCommander Gold make it a title worthy of purchase if you weren’t one of those who made the mistake of purchasing the original. Anyone who has played the first title will be pleased with the new features, but to be honest, there are better titles out there. With MechCommander Gold, FASA has finally delivered on their original promise — to bring BattleTech to the computer RTS genre. For my tastes, though, it’s too little, too late.
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