I was a very eager backer of BATTLETECH on Kickstarter (though I’m not so eager about all-caps names) and when it was released earlier this week I couldn’t wait to jump into the campaign mode. I’m not going to review the game for you here because there are so many reviews right now. What I’m going to do instead is to recount to you my first three contracts as commander of a mercenary unit.

First though, it had been a while since I last played the beta, so I played a couple of skirmish games first to get back into the flow of things and let’s just say I enjoyed myself…

That third kill that I couldn’t remember in my excitement was a lucky headshot with an autocannon. The King Crab did get a small amount of revenge when its first shot of the game just casually ripped an arm off my JagerMech, butyes I can’t complain given how well it all went. The killing blow ended up being delivered by a Firestarter of all things.

Anyway, onto the main event. The campaign starts out with an introductory animated sequence apparently taking place after the events of the campaign and sets the scene for what you’re about to see. I won’t go into story spoilers here, so let’s skip straight to the next step: character creation. I didn’t spend hours customising every detail of my character, opting instead for one of the existing faces along with a random name. Meet Natalia Almeida, callsign Saber.

Battletech: Natalia Almeida

After her family was betrayed an killed, Natalia took her family Blackjack and became a freelance MechWarrior for hire. Eventually she found herself working as private security for a certain noble, which is where the campaign story picks up. Again, I’m not going to go into the main plot itself, but let’s just say Natalia likely had some very unfortunate flashes of déjà vu during that mission. The end result is that, alone again, she signs up with a mercenary unit and re-enters the freelance life. This time, at least, she has company. Three years later she has become commander of the unit, and that’s where our own personal story begins.

Battletech: Blackjack BJ-1
A Blackjack BJ-1, Natalia’s personal mech handed down through her family.

The first mission is selected for me: a company has hired us to retake one of their facilities that was the target of a… let’s say hostile acquisition. Get in quick, destroy the turret generator a site #1 so we stop getting pounded by all the nearby turrets, remove any opposition, and destroy a tower at site #2. Nice and straightforward. My lance consists of my personal Blackjack, plus a Vindicator, Shadow Hawk, and Spider. It does actually go quite smoothly, as long as we ignore the Spider getting pretty trashed and the Shadow Hawk pilot sustaining an injury from an LRM turret that was sitting out of sight. We all walk away from the objectives intact though, so I (perhaps prematurely) count it as a victory. And then things go a little downhill. Our client decides that if we don’t leave the planet then he doesn’t have to pay us. Suddenly we have turrets locking on to us and tanks incoming. Using what we learned at the start of the mission we immediately take out the turret generator at the site, eliminating one problem. The tanks also pose little threat in the end. It seems our client got a bit too cocky with his threats. And then the final tank drives into view, sights up on the Spider, and unleashes a single shot that smashes straight through its center torso. The mech drops, little more than a 30 ton paperweight without its reactor. Worse, I realize in silent shock, the pilot has been killed. The pilot was Dekker, who already has a reputation for being hard to keep alive, but still… We were so close to making it out of the mission without major problems! At this point the Shadow Hawk steps up and performs an alpha strike that likely left no intact pieces of the tank larger than my fist. My lance evacs and that’s the end of that. No money, no salvage, a dead MechWarrior, and one Spider in serious need of a repair and refit. Looking at the Spider after the event I realize I’ll need 4 jump jets and 2 medium lasers to get it fully up to spec again. Sigh.

Battletech: Spider SDR-5D
A Spider SDR-5D. Not shown: the extensive battle damage my one sustained.

At this point control is handed to me, the player, with regard to what contracts to pursue. The unit is in poor financial shape and our future is uncertain. My job, however, is made a little easier by there only being one available contract. Sweep an area, find a lance that has been harassing the locals, and take them out. This time hopefully we won’t have any surprises. We head out and deploy to the planet, our lance reduced to three members. When we find the opposing lance I’m pleasantly surprised to find it only consisting of two mechs—a Panther and a Commando. Fairly small mechs as it goes, though the PPC on the Panther has the potential to cause some problems. I have little cause for concern though. My lance takes up a position in the cover of some trees and unloads on the enemy mechs. A few rounds later and they’re scrap. I had reduced my salvage rights in an effort to gain some reputation and play the long game, but I still manage to pick up a jump jet to replace one of the damaged ones on the Spider, along with both the Panther and Commando chassis (though I’ll need a lot more parts before they’re usable). Importantly, we’ve made some money and gained some reputation. The former will keep us afloat a little longer, the latter will help us get better contracts in future.

Battletech: Panther PNT-9R
A Panther PNT-9R. It’s small, but it packs a punch with its trademark PPC.

For our next job I have a choice of contracts and I decide to go for protecting a mech repair facility against an incoming attack. That’s the sort of friend you want to make in this world. Again I make the drop with an understrength lance, but the reports claim the attacking forces should be fairly small so I’m not too concerned. Almost immediately a mech and two vehicles appear on our scanners. We watch them move around just out of sight range, clearly trying to tempt us away from our defensive positions, so I use the cover of nearby terrain to move in a pincer type maneuver and try to catch them in a crossfire. The mech turns out to be a Locust, which will be no problem at all. We make short work of the tanks and then chase down the Locust as it attempts to make a break towards some incoming enemy reinforcements. It doesn’t get far. The reinforcements arrive in the form of another Locust and a Jenner. The Jenner is a little more worrisome than the Locust, but in a spectacular display of bad judgement the pilot exposes their rear armour to me almost immediately. That’s not a move that can go unpunished and a couple of barrages later the mech is down. The Locust makes a brave attempt to complete its mission, but at this point it’s facing down three heavier mechs and doesn’t stand a chance. Another successful mission, another payday, and some more salvage, including two more medium lasers to put towards rebuilding my Spider.

At this point the main plot kicks back in and, while I am still able to pursue my own contracts, I will definitely be following the threads that are dangled in front of me. With that in mind, I’ll leave this report here with the three completed missions.

So far I am enjoying the game a lot. BATTLETECH adds its own spin to the original tabletop game while staying respectful to the feel of it and the universe it takes place in. At its best the gameplay is tactical and tense. I can truthfully say that I’m looking forward to continuing my career as mercenary commander.