I played the Mod with certain houserules which may affect my review to the mod. Here are my House Rules.
- No Autosave/load during missions; on launch there is no turning back (unless mission failed)
- Pilots are Permadeath
- Mechs are Permadeath (salvage is exempted)
- Every Mission has a 30 - 45 minute timer in real time; 30 mins if there are no bonus objectives, 45 if there are at least 2 bonus objectives. Mission is considered failed if timer runs out.
- Bonus Objectives are considered main objectives and thus have to be completed as well (or failed if it does happen)
- Missions are played at Elite Difficulty only; no changing in between missions.
- No abusing of known bugs (the tonnage cash bug); I've broken this rule once but because I got "robbed" when I upped the tonnage to include my Marauder and had the game crashed and thus "bugged" it to recover the C-Bills I've lost.
- Quicksave/quickload is allowed in Mission 12 - Mobile Intercept: Killdeer only before engaging the "bugged" Aerospace Fighter that will crash your game (incase your pilots suck and missed their volleys all the way to the edge of the map... zzz...) for the sake of convenience. Standard House Rules reapply once the said fighter is downed.
Thank you for reading this far. Now, let me begin.
The biggest improvement offered by this Mod is the AI coupled with the Revised Carver V Campaign. The improvements to the AI which eliminated the gamebreaking abuses such as luring and camping gave life to the meticulous gameplay of the original version. Combat is now challenging and not a chore and large-scale confrontations such as sieging bases and lance-to-lance combat became suddenly more interesting. This, coupled with the improvements to the tonnage and technology available to the faction the AI is currently in control of vastly improved the playability and difficulty of each mission. No longer can the player underestimate the bandit uprisings you are sent to eliminate, and confrontations between the three houses you will encounter will be bloody and if you are not careful, Pyhrric, as the War in Carver V escalates.
This grand-scale of increased AI firepower and intelligence is complemented with the adaptation of the Original Mech Commander's inventory/salvage system. While buggy and somewhat abusable, as it is the lack of available clan weaponry and better mechs forces the player to be more creative in selecting and upgrading both the already limited pilots and mechs in order to complete the mission. You will be outgunned, outclassed and outnumberd (unless you burn C-Bills) for the most part during the campaign, the enemies are doubled in firepower, quantity and tonnage. I almost always end up having my mechs extract with at least a part of them at Red or missing an arm; yes I suck.
Salvage and Resource Points are now a top priority during mission deployment. Active versus standby pilots is now a concern especially when choosing how many mechs would you want and/or can be salvaged or which/how many pilots you would want to promote during the course of the game. This limitations in Salvage is also expanded in certain missions (1/3 of the whole campaign if I recall correctly) which does not allow the player to salvage downed mechs in post-combat briefing which is at times annoying (I missed my share of Warhammers twice!) but at the same time adds to the intensity of the conflict itself; there is no time to loot mech commander, the enemy is near!
The combat system is revamped; weapon ranges have increased and I observed overlapping weapon ranges more effective, ensuring short-medium-long range weapon combinations are all actively used in the dynamics of combat. Ammunition is cut almost by half (and machine-gun arrays have ammo as well!) which as consequences, imposed new problems in weapon choice. While weapon damage is also increased as well, the feasibility of using weapons such as L Autocannons and Gauss Rifles become more and more a No No given that they come with 12 rounds at most; while powerful indeed, with the increased tonnage and technology given by the Mod to the opposition, the battlefield (for me at least) is dominated by cost/effective weapons such as M Autos and LRM's, while energy weapons are still the staple bread and butter weapons to use in the game. Of course this does not mean that the said weapons are useless, in fact, I have lost 5 pilots (yes I suck sue me) because I let a Hollander, Hunchback or even a Victor break my firing line and shot through my support mechs (yes I know I should stop using hellhounds and shadowcats) so I imagine if MP is available in the near future, the said weapons will become playable; I will bravely say that the limitations w/ the ammunition are fine as it is, maybe if I wanted an increase it should not exceed that of 50% base.
With this change, clan mechs and technology is a must-have and a powerful asset to salvage/fight for. Taking the Weapons Facilities still unlocks the said weaponry in the newly designed Mechbay/Components screen, but are sold in limited quantities (about once per each mission). This created a problem in playing the game. While the limitations in the available technology surely made the game more in-line with the unfolding story and Canon (I don't know battletech that much so sue me if I'm wrong in my research), the whole campaign is suddenly translated into a "pokemon" like adventure story, where you got to catch them all (the clan mechs and their weaponrys) in order to get as many clan technology as you can. MechCommander 1 solved this problem by introducing the persistent damage in post-combat briefing and redeployment as well as destroying weapons torn from your mechs during battle, limiting the availability of the technology (and thus in-line with the Canon). Of course this can be remedied by imposing another house rule myself (no salvage + strip of extra mechs), but I think with the future of Omnitech and the developers addressing the problem and changing the entire Component system in the next update is a sure sign of hope that this "pokemoning" of mechs and technology will be fixed and hopefully be in line or better than MechCommander 1 (much harder please!
) . But then again, salvage is part of the Battletech universe so at the end of the day, it is just myself and my roleplaying versus powergaming self reacting to this improved gameplay mechanics.
I also have problems with the quantity of available mechs versus what is practically usable in-game; my current lance (I'm short of pilots lol) uses a Cyclops, Annahilator, a Mad Dog, Timberwolf and a Hellhound. Before I acquired the said mechs I used Bushwackers. I never got to use maybe 90% of the mechs you advertised except when I am about to strip them after salvage. While the variety is certainly good from a replay-value standpoint (I'll replay the game using commandos and valkyries lol) the overwhelming amount of mechs available seems a waste of developer's time considering that most players have their own favorite mechs to play with (Summoner, Warhammer, Mad Dog and Hellhound for me
) and thus most variants will end up being unused and forgotten. however, saying this is a-bit ungrateful to the artist involved in the mod and I guess the community at its core are hardcore battletech fans which is understandable if they insist of including as many mechs as possible. But it is at the end of the day, a plus to have such variety in a large Universe that is Battletech.
C-Bills and game economy is perfectly balanced, except after discovering the well known bug (as mentioned by the developers as intentional for testing purposes). Mission pay is craptastically low, which if you did a little research in the BattleTech Universe is perfectly fine, considering that a Warship in the canon is worth around 100k C-Bills and in the retail version that equates to at least 3 missions (2 if you salvage) and my roleplaying self then wants to close the game and uninstall to play Galactic Civilization instead; if I have this squat full of money, i'll stop mech commanding and build star fleets instead. Therefore, the economy is quite realistic and challenging, considering that the new Components system is now a limited purchase per upgrade. But while you can still earn a-lot of C-bills salvaging unwanted mechs, the increased difficulty of missions counterbalances this, as you are either forced to increase your deployment tonnage range (not available in the retail) or suck it up and play with care, using the already limited mechs and technology available to continue on with the game. I chose to up my tonnage and the 10k C-Bill penalty per 5 tons is perfect and balanced. In my current save-game I am playing around with 200k C-Bills and I'm just 3 - 4 missions short of the Finale (Currently in Mission 19 - Mobile Assault Mount Cho) selling salvaged IS mechs and deploying medium-heavy lances (w/ Cyclops and an Annihilator as "champion"mechs) so C-bills are still easy to make, but you have to work hard for it (I.E deployment changes mentioned earlier).
Environment and Graphics:
While I do understand that the the Platform now supports higher Screen Resolutions as high as 1920x1080, I mostly play at 800x600 32 bit for stability and efficiently, regardless of PC performance. I also am unfamiliar with the technical terms programmers used to label graphic improvements so I am generalizing my review.
The graphics are very much improved in Omnitech than in the retail version. The detail has increased and with the higher resolutions (I tried once) the models are all perfectly colored and shaped. While playing at higher resolutions is at times a chore (slow mouse, bad UI), it is the fault of the original game and not of the developers, however if there is a way to improve the UI in later updates it will be very helpful and nice especially since much work of the artists and programmers are lost if we the players are torn between a BAD UI versus good graphics ingame. I prefer a Good UI that is friendly and pleasing to look at unlike in MC2 where the command box is not proportional to the resolution and thus at times feel (silly) making 800x600 a more better option aesthetics wise.
The new textures to buildings, doodads, units and environment is noticeable especially when zooming in and out. The original game had dull detail and very artificial; in this mod I felt as if the world is a little more real, albeit still lifeless after all the bad guys are dead and nobody is around to panic at the destruction of their neighborhood. I think an improvement here would be to include "civilian" sprites that are neither aligned to both sides which are unarmed and are programmed to "panic" and "run", and making the neutral vehicles move during mission especially on maps with civilian property. It would make immersing with the game more plausible, and enriching the game further.
Well the actors may suck but at least it brings another dimension in story telling. While I do understand that the source-code of the game did not allow you to retain the videos from the original, I think as if a part of the story was lost even with the audio is retained in the mission. Other than that, there are no change I've observed and its still the same old game.
Ultimately the changes in the game are massive that it is worth the hassle of playing through regardless of the very minor and few random crashes and glitches you may encounter ingame; the game is still stable. While Multiplayer is still in the works, the re-playability of the game is assured thanks to the developers of this mod and my only gripe is the lack of a readme file to determine the compatibility of the mod to user-created campaigns found online and advertising to generate potential sponsos/developers/players/testers/fanbase. We need more players! XD
I give this mod 8/10, 9/10 if you point me to the right direction of downloading user-created campaigns while I continue studying the editor to create my own campaign and contribute to this wonderful revival of a once sad, sad game forgotten by Micro$oft.
Thank you for reading this far, some questions though
1. Are the maps in www.mechcommander.org
compatible with the mod?
2. When is the next update?
3. How far long until you guys release a MP option?