Harder, better, faster, smoother: BattleTech's big update does almost everything you want
The massive v1.1 patch is here
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.
- 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.