Man, buying Battletech was a mistake. I haven’t gone to bed before midnight since I started playing it.
I’ve had a fondness for this sort of tactical turn-based strategy rpg for quite some time. Man that’s a mouthful, I gotta find a better name for this genre. The first one I ever remember playing was Shining Force II on the Genesis. I don’t remember much about it any more, except that I’m pretty sure I never finished it. It had a feature that I typically considered “hardcore” but in hindsight is more of a defining element of the genre.
The feature is permadeath. Any unit that falls on the battlefield is lost. While there are variations and differing conditions from game to game, this exists in SF2, Final Fantasy Tactics, XCOM 1 & 2, and of course Battletech.
Now, quite some time after I played Shining Force I discovered Final Fantasy Tactics on the playstation. I liked Final Fantasy, and it looked kinda like that Shining Force game I used to play, so I tried it. To this day I still consider it a great title that did a lot of things right. This was quite a jump in time too. I just wasn’t aware of titles like Tactics Ogre on the SNES, or any others for that matter. FFT was the first thing I had seen that resembled Shining Force. I liked FFT so much that I’ve owned several physical copies of PS1 and even the version on android.
After playing FFT to death they did eventually release handheld sequels as well. I’ve played the first one a little bit, though I didn’t own it, so I haven’t played it extensively. It didn’t quite grab me the way the original did.
Then years passed and I wished they would make more games like Final Fantasy Tactics. I was painfully unaware of any other titles. It wasn’t a really popular genre and if you didn’t know a series existed you weren’t likely to hear about it. I did eventually encounter Front Mission 3 and played it as well. It was similar but it had mechs with interchangeable parts. It was a little less hardcore but I liked it. I didn’t see many more games in this style for quite some time after that.
Then XCOM happened. I don’t remember, at this point, how I came to own it. I believe it was on console. It added a new element I hadn’t seen before, base management. Building a base, managing energy, funding, salvaged resources, personnel, technological research. It was a form of strategy that went well beyond the immediate battle in front of you and made it a much deeper experience overall. I did eventually beat XCOM, then my brother, I believe, gave me a copy with the expansion that I also played at length. The nice thing about XCOM was it’s various options to tweak the difficulty. I consider “Ironman” mode a default On option now. It’s basically just an autosave function. Reloading a save after a battle goes south felt kindof cheat/exploit-like to me. Ironman removes the temptation.
One of the things I love, and hate, about XCOM is how absolutely brutal the game is. Especially early in the game when a couple of shots from basic sectoid can easily take out a single unit.
Naturally when XCOM 2 came out I was all over that. It is an inherently different game and I haven’t spent enough time with it to finish it. I remember when they announced Battletech as well. It might have escaped my attention had it not been compared at length to the more visible XCOM.
I told my coworker, who also likes XCOM, that it’s like XCOM if it had been made by the IRS. I swear I’m doing everything for this mercenary company except the taxes and I’m waiting for them to ask. I like it so far, I’ll probably have a post this Sunday about it.