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game news: BattleTech has grown into a sprawling, must-play mech war sim

 

Harebrained Schemes pulled off something special when it released BattleTech back in 2018. It was a tight, satisfying squad tactics game with giant robot tanks, delivering customization, book-balancing mercenary management and lots of laser-induced explosions. Our own Chris Thursten scored it a very respectable 85, and things only improved with patches and DLC. That alone should be plenty of reason to pick it up and play it.


But some fans (myself included) felt it was a little limiting. While it captured a lot of what made the original ‘80s tabletop game great, it felt a bit restricted in scale. Why am I only deploying four mechs, and with arbitrary tonnage limits when I’m not having to track armor levels on paper? Why do light mechs fade into uselessness? Why does it feel like I’m running a Pokémon team instead of a private army?


Enter the BattleTech mod scene. Over the past four years, they’ve done a Reverse Ikea on the game, taking it apart and then somehow reassembling it with five times as many components as it originally had. Here’s why you should be playing BattleTech in 2022, and especially trying out the massive expansion-and-overhaul mod BattleTech Advanced 3062.


If you wanted to command a true mercenary army of mechs, tanks, aircraft and infantry in a galaxy’s worth of lucrative contracts? Now’s your chance. 


INSTALL THIS ONE

What's the best version of the game?

For the purpose of modding, you’ll probably want the Mercenary Collection version of BattleTech, available (and frequently discounted to around the $25 / £20 range) on Steam, GOG(opens in new tab) and lots of other smaller storefronts.  This includes the base game and the three DLC packs that made up the season pass. Where you buy the game is of no concern, as all mods are hosted externally.


While most smaller mods don’t require them, and there are modular components to make individual DLCs not required for some of the major mods, the three add-ons each add notable features that I’d consider fundamental to BattleTech as it stands today.


If you must pick and choose, the three DLCs add:


Flashpoint: Several story driven ‘flashpoint’ mini-campaigns, new mission types, new mechs

Heavy Metal: One more flashpoint, eight new mechs, eight new weapon types

Urban Warfare: Multiple flashpoints, urban maps, a new mission type, ECM tech & new mechs


The one thing not included in the Mercenary Collection is the Shadow Hawk Pack DLC, which is a single skin for a single mech that you’ll probably barely be able to see in most situations. Previously a pre-order perk, there is no good reason to buy this. 


FIRST STEPS

BattleTech


(Image credit: Harebrained Schemes)

Before you do anything else

If you’re a newbie to BattleTech or are coming back to the game after a couple years, you could do a lot worse than just reinstalling and taking a stab at the game with all its DLC and patches. The campaign is the smoothest way to learn the complexities of mech tactics, and the more sandbox-styled Career mode is much expanded thanks to several new mission types and several ‘flashpoint’ mission chains, adding some campaign-like scenarios to punctuate the daily laser grind.


You could play strictly vanilla with the DLC, but here are the small mods I recommend: 


Vanilla quality of life mods


BattleTech Mod Loader/Modtek - A fundamental package required by a lot of BattleTech’s mods. Doesn’t do anything by itself, but you should follow the instructions to install it before anything else. Make sure you run ModTekInjector.exe at least once or it won’t do anything.


BattleTech Performance Fix - Less quality-of-life, more technical essential. BattleTech’s load times and general optimization were never the greatest, and patches and DLC didn’t make things much better. This helps speed things up. Once you’ve downloaded Modtek above, just download the Performance Fix, unpack it to your Mods folder and you’re good to go.


Unofficial BattleTech Patch - Smaller and less comprehensive than it sounds, but it fixes a handful of old bugs that still plague the game to this day, the nastiest of which was the Brace order (telling a pilot to hunker down for a turn) not properly cooling down a mech.


Skip Intro - For some reason the game runs the intro animation every time you play. You can skip it after a while, but not playing it at all is nicer.


There are of course plenty more options over on Nexus Mods to let you customize it to personal taste, but really, what you’re here for is the power of running a real mercenary operation, right? A dropship loaded with heavy weaponry, a mountain of salvage awaiting at the end of every operation. It’s time to go large. 

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