‘Mech game fans are a very particular group of people. You have to be when you’re playing a game where you’re lumbering around a map in what’s essentially a walking battle tank. There’s no room in this genre for sloppy work, not when a lot of the fans were brought up on hardcore boardgames in the Battletech universe, where controlling every tiny detail about your ‘Mech is essential to survival. Which is why MechWarrior- Tactical Command for iPad is such a letdown on so many fronts.
So, then, how does a developer with a great license let down the fans? First off, let’s start with the “Tactical” part of the game’s name, as “tactical” this game is not. Well, first let me give you non-’mech fans an overview of the game. The MechWarrior universe, much like the Warhammer 40k universe, is one filled with nothing but war. It’s kill or be killed. In MechWarrior, you pilot giant walking tanks, aka – BattleMechs, or ‘mechs for short in battles across various planets. ‘Mech combat is unlike most other games, as it takes more than just a fast trigger finger to win. You have to monitor speed, heat buildup, ammo and more. When you get shot, or shoot someone, it’s not just a “bang, I hit you with my ak47 and you’re dead”, it might barely punch through the armor, or it might blow up one of the opponent’s weapon systems, or a lucky hit might kill the pilot. There’s a huge amount of detail in the combat. Which is why MechWarrior- Tactical Command is such a letdown, it takes all this detail, and waters it down into a quick playing, shallow real-time-strategy game.
Back to the tactical part of the game, or more precisely, the lack of tactics. Battlemechs, much like any other combat unit, are very specialized, you have heavy-hitting Assault units, long range bombardment units, fast scouts, etc etc. In Tactical Command, none of this really matters, for a few reasons. First off, there’s the A.I. that controls friendly and enemy units – it’s just brain-dead. Long-range units, the minute you assign them a target, will do dumb things, like instead of blasting from long range, they’ll run right up to the target and hit it with their weakest weaponry. Scout units, that should never be trying to slug it out with the enemy, will, the minute you assign them a target, get right in its face and try to duke it out – and two puny lasers versus a gigantic assault ‘mech is a bad idea.
Along with the poor unit A.I., there’s the fact that two key features of MechWarrior games; heat and ammo, are simply glossed over. Actually, they aren’t, in my recollection, even mentioned in the tutorial/tips in the game, which is bad, since they are core to ‘Mech combat. Heat is important, as, if you overheat from unloading every weapon you’ve got, your unit will shut down and you’ll be a sitting duck until it cools off. Ammo is pretty obvious, more is better, and if you run out, you’re done for. Both of these elements are tracked in the game, but never seem to be very important, as I never even knew they were tracked until reading one of the developer’s blog posts.
If the gameplay doesn’t let you down, the visuals certainly will. When you have stunning titles like Wild Blood on the App Store, staring at MechWarrior: Tactical Command’s bland landscapes and detail-free ‘Mechs almost feels like punishment for wasting $9.99 US on this game. Even when zoomed in, there’s not much detail to the units, which ruins the sex-appeal of using some of the cooler looking ‘mechs. The environments and buildings are likewise bland, with huge open expanses that feel like the developers couldn’t be bothered to paint some new ground textures. Only in the short cutscenes do you see an inkling of what could have been, visually, in this game.
Is there anything good about MechWarrior: Tactical Command, you ask? Yes, the control scheme for selecting and directing units is pretty intuitive and custom-tailored for the iPad. That said, it’s one thing to make it easy to tap a ‘mech and then tap a destination for it, it’s another for it to actually execute that order. As I mentioned, sometimes, the ‘mechs get stubborn or stupid, and ignore your commands.
MechWarrior: Tactical Command is a pretty barebones ‘mech game, and you’re better served, if you’re a fan of the “giant robot” genre, picking up something like Metal Brigade: Tactics, which is genuinely ”tactical,” not just in name. The developers are rapidly putting out patches (they just fixed some significant crash bugs), and maybe they’ll patch in some better gameplay, but for now, it’s playable, but not fun.
Audio/Visual - 2/5: Lack of detail in the ‘mech units, bland environments. Feels like a 1st-gen iOS game
Gameplay – 2/5: If your idea of tactics is “tap a unit, rush the enemy, hope for the best” then you’re all set. Otherwise, the only good thing is that the controls are well thought out.
Innovation - 1/5: Nothing could be considered innovative about this game except that they used a high asking price ($9.99) to allude to it being a high quality game.
Value -1/5: Currently priced at $9.99, there’s at best, 99 cents worth of value in what has been released. Especially with all the bugs and crashes it launched with, and the overall lack of “fun.’
Final Score - 2.5/5