I’ve never really gotten into an auto-battler before. I mean, there was a month when I played Loop Hero nonstop but aside from that, I’m a relative newcomer to the genre. So if you are a die-hard looking to see if Mechabellum is similar to your favorite… I’m probably not the person who can answer that question. But maybe that doesn’t describe you at all. Maybe you are like me, new to this sort of thing. In that respect, Mechabellum is a good-looking and sensible introduction to automatic murder machines.
Oh Heck, It’s Mech Tech
It’s a strong union between gameplay and genre. In an auto-battler, you drop little guys on a map and watch them single-mindedly pursue their primary function. That’s true whether or not the guys you are placing are actual automatons. In Mechabellum, as you may have surmised, you are placing mechs. And anyone with some Battletech or even Front Mission experience can get what happens next.
There are many different types of robot in the rock-paper-scissors of Mechabellum. They have different weapon ranges, different defensive abilities. They also can vary in speed and function. In those other games, you’d be the one taking the shots, but being an auto-battler, you just drop them and then take your hands off. You probably won’t walk away- you need to see if your guys make it. But if you’re confident, you can place your guys, trust they will do what they are supposed to, and move on to the next hot zone. That’s only if you are confident though.
There is a substantial tutorial in Mechabellum, covering everything from the different mechs, correct timing and placement, and how to level your guys up. That’s right, these mechs can go custom. Though you can play Mechabellum against the computer, this was made to be a multiplayer PVP game. This gives you a Warhammer feeling. This is your army, there are more like it, but this one is yours. And you go up against other player armies, just as carefully positioned as your own. Tactics on the battlefield are the most important thing, but maybe with enough planning you can assure victory before ever fielding your machines for battle.
I think I would probably prefer if Mechabellum had a dedicated single player campaign. That’s mostly a compliment- this is a great looking game. Made by a relatively new dev team, the look and sound and feel of Mechabellum beats games a lot bigger than itself. The fantastic animations are critical. I’ve always felt like the mechs in Battletech ran around weightlessly. But not only do these mechs properly lumber, you can feel the powerful difference between a light fighter and a gargantuan metal behemoth.
I actually think quality graphics go a much farther way than one might assume. Since gameplay is limited to building guys, placing guys, and watching guys, the player needs good feedback to immerse them in the game. If things make a turn for the worse, that only means something if the game can make you feel it, and watching your favorite ‘bot fall to pieces is wrenching. I found myself so tense, so absorbed, that I barely remembered to move on to my next area of conflict.
On the other hand, maybe this would all feel better if it was built on some sort of story. Mechabellum has enough to give you some context but there aren’t characters, or an arc. That’s not the kind of game that it is. It’s not good criticism to make up an imaginary game to compare it to, but considering the rest of the quality presentation, I couldn’t help but dream. I’m normally PVP shy, but the system is strong enough to protect you from truly noxious online BS. But I’m single player for life, and even in a good game, primary-PVP is a tough sell.
Mechabellum is published by Paradox Arc, an indie spotlighting branch of the massive games company. They have been associated with games like Surviving The Abyss, Stardeus, and Across the Obelisk. None of those games are the pinnacle of their respective genre. They’re all weird experiments that have a killer hook or a flawed by absolutely unique idea. Mechabellum feels of a type with those other games. It has a surprisingly strong sense of identity and it’s surprisingly well-polished, especially once you acknowledge it’s still an early access title. Building and fighting mechs is one of the most obviously appealing ideas in gaming. Mechabellum isn’t about to explode into the most popular mech game in the heap, but it’s ready to become an underground sensation that makes your cool gamer friends rave.
***Mechabellum PC preview key provided by the publisher***