BattleTech: Heavy Metal impressions (PC)

The new Heavy Metal expansion for Battletech rounds out the season pass for the mech-strategy epic from Harebrained Schemes. It’s out now, but is it worth picking up?

With MechWarrior 5 just around the corner as well, it’s a good time for fans of giant mechs. But while MechWarrior gives you direct control over these mechs Battletech is much closer to the traditional board game experience – and Heavy Metal is no exception. In fact, it’s an expansion that has deep roots in the board game era, and thus is probably best geared towards long time fans of the franchise and existing BattleTech fans.

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There are seven new mechs to play with (and against) in Heavy Metal that all stem from the tabletop incarnations of the game, and although prior knowledge isn’t required to enjoy them (their stats kind of speak for themselves is you have prior BattleTech experience) it adds to the nostalgia factor for longtime fans. In addition to the classic mechs, the expansion also adds a brand new and original mech, called the Bull Shark. There’s a nice range here with fast and agile units as well as real powerhouses that can deal a ton of damage. They also have their own unique skills that fit their “role”, giving them just that little bit more to help them stand out from the existing roster.

Heavy Metal also adds a range of new weapons to the mix, which add new loadout options for existing mechs as well. Both the new mechs and the new weapons feature in a new mini campaign that is included with the Heavy Metal expansion. Meant to be played after you’re done with the main campaign this is definitely one for seasoned BattleTech players, and it’s a great way of introducing the new units and seeing how they fit in with the existing roster.

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The campaign’s fairly long with characters and events that tie in with BattleTech’s long history, but I’ll readily admit that I’m way more invested in the videogame version so I’m not that familiar with the Black Widow and Bounty Hunter characters that are featured here. As with the rest of the content, there’s an advantage if you’re a long time fan – though the story can be followed without prior knowledge as well.

Gameplay-wise, if you look beyond the interesting storyline (which features a mysterious ship), things haven’t changed that much. After the initial story setup, a lot of the missions will feel familiar to gamers who’ve played through the Flashpoint missions before, and I thought Urban Warfare did a better job of using terrain to give you more tactical options. In Heavy Metal you still get enhanced tactical depth, but it’s mostly from the new units and weapons and using them effectively requires quite a bit of advance knowledge.

As a result, I would recommend Heavy Metal only to those who are already pretty invested in the main game and still feel its pull. The new expansion isn’t different enough to draw you back in, let alone attract new players. Those might want to start with the base game, which is still excellent.

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