Harder, better, faster, smoother: BattleTech’s big update does almost everything you want

battletech-patch

BattleTech might have stomped its way straight onto the turn-based mech combat throne, but while its central torso was strong and mighty, its outer armour sported a few noticeable holes. We’d been promised a patch that would introduce speed-up options for those who crave ’em (hello!), along with tackling its weirdly greedy GPU needs and adding new difficulty toggles for battle-scarred veterans who can blow through the campaign with their battle-scarred eyes closed.

Well, it’s here now. BattleTech v1.1 does a lot more than that, and the game feels and runs so much better for it, as well as providing me with a bunch of strong reasons to start a brand new campaign. That said, I’m not totally enamoured by exactly how they’ve implemented the speed toggles.

There’s a big, huge list of fixes and changes here, but let me pull out those I feel are the most meaningful and add my experiences of them so far.

  • Global combat speed-up toggle.

It’s there, it works, it’s perfectly easy to turn on from the settings menu, but it’s… weird. Rather than a straightforward speed multiplier to everything, what it does instead is accelerate most combat actions, including walking. By which I mean, rather than walking faster, it’s like someone presses fast-forward a moment after a Mech starts walking. It makes for a much faster game with very little of the time-wasting and dead air that characterised BattleTech at launch, but it feels a little jerky and, call me a hypocrite, it’s too fast. I wish there were a slider rather than a single toggle. I think I might stick to mods for the time being.

  • You can now press Space to accelerate any action if you leave combat speed set to default.

This is the middleground option – rather than making everything faster, you can skip through anything that particularly takes too long. I like it in principle, but right now it feels as though there’s a delay between pressing it and things speeding up. I’m not sure if there actually is – it might be because the speed accelerates gradually rather than switches immediately to full-pelt – but again it just feels a bit off, as welcome as the option is. I think I’d dig it more if Space toggled between fast and slow mode, rather than a one-off fast-forward.

  • General combat speed optimisations, including reducing some of the pre- and post-action delays.

Yep, there’s less dead air before and after your Mechs do their thing. It’s subtle but noticeable, and, with the game left to standard speed, definitely takes the edge off the general sense of waiting around. Hurrah!

  • Customise the appearance, names and voice of all MechWarriors, the starting quartet excepted.

Nice to have – sort of an obvious thing, really. I’m happy to stick with whoever the game gives me, but XCOM squads themed after friends and Game of Thrones characters was a big part of that game’s success, so this is a smart thing to have included. Pronouns can be freely altered too, by the way.

  • Interface improvements for the store and inventory

Again, subtle but improves the sense of flow, this time in the base/squad management side of the game. There’s stuff like a shortcut to jump straight to the store while in the MechLab, so you’re not laboriously moving back and forth between screens to identify and find a certain part. There are expanded tooltips to explain why your Mechs have the ratings they do, and more visible numbering of how much of part X or Mech Y you have. I reckon there’s work still to be done on the UI here, but it’s definitely headed in the right direction.

  • Ultrawide monitor support

Despite being an ultrawide owner, I’ve never been in the ‘No 21:9 support is criminal!’ camp. I understand that catering to a niche is a low priority for a harried game developer. However, any game that does manage to tick the ultrawide box is a game that doesn’t immediately get saddled with an angry Steam forum thread about it. Also, games look fantastic in ultrawide – it’s a shame when they can’t showcase themselves that way.

  • Assorted performance improvements

Look, BattleTech does with it needs to do, visually-speaking, but it’s hardly the most dramatic-looking game around, which made the fact that it worked my GPU harder than a maxed-out Far Cry 5 a little hard to swallow. I’m happy to report that my PC’s fans aren’t quite so deafening now, and I’m getting a few more frames per second running it at Ultra settings than I was. Speaking of which, ‘Ultra’ is the new name for the previous ‘High’, and there’s now a new ‘High’ that keeps a few options lower without making too much difference to the appearance.

It also no longer brings my PC to its knees when only displaying the mostly-static base mode screens, and having lots of savegames isn’t doing quite such a number on load times. It could still be a lot nippier, all told, but it’s definitely better.

  • Balance tweaks

BattleTech’s mech-specific rules – the role of heat management and stability in 90-tonne death machines – are one of the things that make it stand out from the turn-based pack, but too many overheating warnings or knockdowns can become a bit of a grind. As such, most of its weapons now generate a little less heat. Not dramatic, I think, but enough to mean it’s often an extra turn of action before you get a damage or shutdown warning. And most of its Mechs now have better stability. Particularly, Assault Mechs now have twice as much stability, which will hopefully make the game’s heaviest war machines not seem quite so ill-footed. Lest this sound like it’s making things too easy, bear in mind this applies to enemy Mechs too…

There’s also been an adjustment of mission difficulty ratings, to better reflect what you’ll actually face on the ground. A good thing – a few times I was blindsided by far too many enemy reinforcements during what had been listed as a cakewalk. Additionally, we’ll now see both easier and harder missions in any system, where before the choice was often much of a muchness.

battletech-missiles

  • New difficulty options

BattleTech kept me busy for [checks] 54 hours, but I drifted away once I’d finished the story campaign, even though there was an effectively infinite amount of procedurally-generated missions left to do, with loads of Mechs yet to collect, and I’d barely had a chance to use the Atlas and King Crab I’d won from the last plot-led mission. And even though BattleTech’s rather dry, oddly pro-monarchy story hadn’t particularly grabbed me. It seemed that I needed some purpose, despite myself. But starting over didn’t appeal either.

Now it does, because there are a bunch of new toggles to remix and toughen the experience, much like XCOM’s ‘Second Wave’ options. Mostly notably, there’s now a single-save, no takebacks Iron Man mode, but we also get switches for many individual difficulty options. We can ensure every incapacitated pilot dies, or any Mech whose CT is destroyed is lost. We can specify that rare salvage can only be bought and never found, or make building a new Mech require more salvage. So we can really make this tough-as-nuts if we like.

The opposite’s also true – if you’re finding yourself dashed against the rocks all time, you could set the game to dole out more experience points, cash or salvage, or to throw less hardcore enemies at you. Whether raising or lowering all that stuff, you can do it at any point from the settings menu. The exceptions are Iron Man Mode and increasing how much salvage is required to build a mech, either of which require a new campaign.  These are good things to have, massively increasing the chance that I’ll go back to the game – as I did with XCOM, repeatedly.

All told, a very good update indeed, although I wish the speed stuff was slicker and more tweakable. I do think I’ll return to modding the ini files for now, and on that front, the update opens up a few more visible options to do just that.

The update’s available now via Steam, and will cost you a couple of gigabytes. Here are the full release notes for your reference – note there’s a lot more than I’ve mentioned.

22 Comments

  1. Hoot says:

    “General combat speed optimisations, including reducing some of the pre- and post-action delays.”

    The pre/post action delays were the thing that caused me to refund the game at launch. I honestly didn’t mind the speed of the animations, but the pauses between actions, turns and pre-post animations were just too much. I knew if I played for any length of time too much of it would be just be sitting there looking at a stationary/dead mech or a “YOUR TURN!” screen.

    This patch has put it back on my bargain bin list at least.

    • vahnn says:

      Same here. There were lots of niggles here and there that could largely be overlooked, but those SECONDS of literally nothing happening before and after anything and everything happened were killing my soul, so I had to refund.

      Any word on how improved those moments are? A reduction simply will not cut it. Zey mahst be… ELIMINATED.

  2. Chem says:

    I’m probably gonna start a new campaign tonight and crank up modifiers to let me skip having multiple light mechs in the early game. Just enough to get the mechs I want and then let the game catch up in it’s power level.

    Real glad this patch came out as it and the one that let you skip the beginning solve most of my gripes about the game.

  3. Foosnark says:

    I made the minor tweaks to delays in the INI files, but I recently found that turning off Mechwarrior chatter speeds things up quite a bit. I kind of miss Glitch’s enthusiasm that way, though.

    My main speed/performance related complaint is outside of combat. On a decent computer with plenty of RAM and an SSD, when you have 7 mechs, it should not take 40 seconds to confirm that you want to scrap one of them, nor should it take a full minute to load into the refit screen.

    I’m in the habit of playing puzzle games on my phone while playing Battletech.

    • Tholesund says:

      I’m not sure if the bug’s been fixed in v1.1, but in previous versions of Battletech at least, the UI became slower as the number of campaign saves increased. Deleting saves had the reverse effect. I recall somebody claiming that the issue is present in several other Unity-based games as well, but have no idea if that’s true.

  4. Riaktion says:

    On the other hand I have found the way the speed toggle has been applied has very smooth and slick. The way the mech movement zips along until the end of the path their taking, where they slow down to normal speed in a fluid way is lovely, and the sped up shooting feels a lot more dangerous to me now, lasers and missles all hitting together and the faster flight time of the missles themselves makes it feel like they hit harder. Really like the change.

    More sliders, and options… Sure, for example I’d prefer it if the jump jet animation wasn’t sped up but I haven’t found this implementation jerky at all, quite to opposite. Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

    As you say, excellent update all round, looking forward to the future for this game but if nothing else is released ever again, I’d be happy with the product we now have.

    Onwards and upwards 😊

  5. IroesStrongarm says:

    In regards to Ultrawide support, I understand when its not available for a game like Pyre that has hand drawn backgrounds.

    For fully 3d rendered games I personally find its not acceptable. The amount of effort required to support it in a proper engine is minimal.

    • Kohlrabi says:

      The problem is not so much the “game window”, but the UI layout. Ideally you do not add “dead space” in the UI when running at a different aspect ration, but reallocate the items on screen a bit.

      • IroesStrongarm says:

        That’s a fair point. Personally I’d accept the UI remaining in its 16:9 format if no other option is available to the team.

        • Marr says:

          Have the UI defined via .ini files and the player community will have ideal setups for every screen arrangement inside a week.

  6. Marr says:

    Remembering Shadowrun Returns, this all seems like standard operating procedure for Harebrained Schemes. First release is a horribly broken disappointment, major patch a few weeks later that fixes everything after the commercial damage has been done, then a few years of sequels and DLC with great stories that really lean into what the engine can do. Very much looking forward to phase two of Battletech.

    • TheOx129 says:

      I agree that HBS’ reach often seems to exceed their grasp, especially on initial release, but I think it’s a bit much to call the initial release of their games “horribly broken disappointments.”

      I’d say HBS games tend to be 7-8/10 on release when taken as a whole, but bugs and design quirks and such knock it down a point or so. Then, after a year or so of patches and DLC, the “director’s cut” gets released and it’s an easy 9/10.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It wasn’t horribly broken on release. Some people had performance issues on hardware that shouldn’t have it, but that wasn’t universal. It ran fine for me, on a medium-spec gaming system. There was a bug causing slowdown with large numbers of save files that was quickly patched.

      There are a few places where you can see the game wasn’t fleshed out quite as well as it was originally intended, like the faction interactions. But overall, it was a fairly solid game on release. This new major patch is mainly just QoL improvements and a few weapon balance changes, and mopping up some of the smaller remaining bugs. It’s a very solid game now, and I’m looking forward to whatever they’re planning for DLC.

  7. geldonyetich says:

    This sounds like a great patch! Higher Difficulty is just what I need to give the game a replay, and with proper widescreen support and speedup it should be well worth it. Good job, Harebrained Schemes!

  8. Premium User Badge

    ooshp says:

    Wait, they doubled the stability on assault mechs? Now I’ll have to waste morale on precision strike if I want to core them? Poo to that.

    Large laser may not be the most pathetic weapon in the game now either with its heat almost halved.

  9. BobbyDylan says:

    I’m mid campaign right now. The new patch landed yesterday and the game feels soooooo much better. Small things, like no longer is there a 3 second delay when opening your Load game lists.

  10. lrbaumard says:

    Hi Alec,
    been playing the game for quite a bit now and am completely hooked and loving it.
    I read your original review and was put off by it but you are 100% right in it.
    Even with the recent speed patch, i do find the game frustratingly slow and stop-starty to the point where I find half of matches are spent watching things happen or the AI processing your/ the computer’s actions
    And you’re also 100% that its worth it through this, i’m completely hooked by the game but i can see that before this current patch the game was probably a pain to play
    I think your original review is bang on the mark and you were honest and factual and don’t let the response you received put you off from reviewing like that in the future!

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