Mecha Roguelike: GearHead Updated

GearHead [official site] is a fantastic, free roguelike in which you can build and customise giant robots, and then pilot them through random missions that fit together to form a plot with a proper beginning, middle and end. I first played it over a decade ago and have always assumed we’d covered it at some point in our illustrious history. Not so.

Now is the perfect time for some coverage though because creator Joseph Hewitt has just released an update after a nine year hiatus. I may as well admit that I’m in no position to analyse the changes, not having played the game for years (I’d forgotten there was a more spacey sequel; the original is superior) but I’m excited to jump back in.

If you’re waiting for Harebrained to release BattleTech and hoping it’ll bring back the joy of Mechs, you’d be a fool not to download GearHead. There’s a full changelist for the 1.200 update but after nine years, even if you’ve played the game before, lots of things will probably seem new to you, unless you’ve been playing every day for the last nine years. Such is the ever-changing nature of roguelikes. Never the same story twice.

And never the same mech twice. I remember reading forum threads about the ludicrous customised builds people had managed to make by tinkering with the in-game systems. There are controls and scales for both on-foot movement and mech combat. In the latter mode, you’ll most likely have limited mobility in the early stages of the game, swivelling and directing your massive metal monstrosity and planning movements in advance.

In the later stages, you’ll be hovering or just straight-up soaring through the air. There are even arachnoid mechs up for grabs should you wish to scuttle toward victory.

You won’t have to fight on your own as, in the best mech traditions, there are both friendly pilots and mercenaries to team up with. I always tried to bring a good team to the biggest fights but some people take pride in tackling them alone. My favourite things about the game were:

a) taking a break from mech piloting to go on a ‘dungeon’ crawl, on foot. I love being able to switch between the two scales, like flicking from Warhammer Epic to regular 40k.

b) intimidating enemy pilots so that they ejected from their mechs before I’d roughed them up too much, so that I could salvage all of the best parts.

Yeah. GearHead is great. You should play it. The new release comes hot on the heels of the latest version of Free Pascal, which was used to build the game, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux and FreeBSD.

I find it fascinating that Hewitt is playing through his own games in preparation for work on a sequel. You can follow his playthrough, with commentary and post-mortem analysis, starting at this post.

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  1. quietone says:

    Nethack and UrW on Steam, and now Gearhead gets updated?
    What a time to be alive!

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Yeah, I played the hell out of this back in the day. I really thought a line had been drawn under it.

  2. Kaeoschassis says:

    Well this is fantastic news. Nice first thing to see when I log in. Will definitely be checking out, it’s been ages.

    If I may raise one objection though? I wouldn’t say the first is necessarily superior. Some of the most fun I’ve had was in GH2.

  3. TTex says:

    This game intrigues me, but I’m having a hard time finding any sort of tutorials or the like to get my head into it. Even finding any Let’s Plays or something of that nature on youtube so I can see how others play it seems to be a pretty difficult quest.

    • vahnn says:

      But the fun of roguelikes is learning the systems and figuring out builds and tactics through experimentation and trial and error! For me, anyway.

  4. bouchacha says:

    The scaling used for the screenshots looks odd. This is apparent in the Stardew Valley post too. It looks like someone is changing the size with a nearest pixel scaling instead of some other filtering.

  5. TechnicalBen says:

    You are kidding right. You are literally kidding. 10 years old? And I’ve never heard of it? Even though I’ve been Googling for 10 years for a “isometric mech RPG tactics/realtime game”? Really!?

    So much so were my searches in vain, I downloaded Stencyl in the hopes of making something even partially related (no chance ;) ).

    Might give this a go instead! :D


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    Cvnk says:

    Oh hey and it’s open source too. Neat.

  7. says:

    Thank you for sharing this game.