MechWarrior: Tactical Command Hands-On Preview

Singapore-based Personae Studios knows that it’s been a while since anyone’s played a decent MechWarrior game. They’ve got the exclusive rights to any mobile MechWarrior games from here on out, and they’re using it to great effect with an upcoming iOS real-time strategy game that holds true to the MechWarrior universe.

Most of the MechWarrior lore comes from the novels, so Personae hired series authors Loren L. Coleman and Randall N. Bills to write Tactical Command’s story and dialogue. The game is set in the year 3050, but subsequent campaigns may explore other eras from the series.

You can control up to four mechs (or in MechWarrior lingo, a ‘lance’ of mechs) at once, by tapping on the units themselves, or a sidebar containing each mech’s detailed damage and heat info. You can also use multitouch to rotate and zoom the map, but you can’t zoom in too far, leaving the mechs feeling a bit puny in the great expanse of land.

By pressing and holding on an enemy with your units selected, you’ll be able to engage in a number of stylish attacks. You can perform a normal attack, which lets you move at the same time, or you can choose to aim carefully while standing still. In addition, you can charge headfirst into battle, call in a kitchen-sink ‘alpha strike’, or pick the always-popular DFA: Death From Above. Using massive attacks or running into battle can cause your mechs to gradually overheat, which will make them useless in the middle of battle.

Combat is clearly the main focus of the game, as there’s hardly any resource management. You will earn C-Bills and Tech resources during combat, which will let you upgrade your lance of mechs. In addition, one level had a repair station that could offer a limited amount of healing ability. But other than that, don’t expect Starcraft-level amounts of harvesting materials.

Watching mechs battle tanks and other mechs is always fun, but we were also impressed by the tough human enemies you’ll have to squash. In the MechWarrior universe, there are human foot soldiers called Elementals who wear giant claws and can literally tear your armor away. If one of these guys gets on your mech, you’ll have to use another unit to shoot them off. Little touches like this are not only great details for fans of the series, but they introduce tricky new gameplay elements as well.

MechWarrior: Tactical Command will be a pricy (but universal) app: It’ll cost $9.99 on the App Store when it launches in mid-to-late summer. For that price, you’ll get 21 levels set across three planets, including Twycross, where a number of events from the books occur. Personae is billing Tactical Command as a premium experience, and we’ll find out soon if they are able to deliver.

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