It’s odd to think of Mickey Mouse while ordering a giant robot to rip another robot’s arms off, but in the words of its creator Jordan Weisman, Battletech is kind of like Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland. Opened in 1955, the park was an homage to the march of science that inevitably struggled to keep up. Its present-day incarnations are a bizarre mishmash of the vintage, the cutting edge and the merely obsolete, Flash Gordon-brand retro colliding with touchscreens and VR. Similarly, Battletech is a vision of human history up to the 31st century that began life as a table-top strategy game in 1984, made up of once-outlandish concepts such as artificial muscles that now seem positively quaint.
The series wears its age more gracefully than Tomorrowland, however, because its campaign is as much about obsolescence and forgetfulness as the far future – a re-imagining of the fall of the Roman Empire and ensuing “dark age” that rebuts the concept of history as a steady, linear advance. It’s a solid footing for a strategy sim in the vein of Total War, comparable to Warhammer 40K’s Imperium but less, well, preposterous, though I still think the turn-based battle system Adam sampled in June is Battletech’s strongest asset.