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BattleTech Kickstarter Update #34: All About Melee

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BattleTech Kickstarter Update #34: All About Melee

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 20 December 2016, 16:01:49

Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes; Kevin Maginn; Mitch Gitelman

This year's final BattleTech Kickstarter update is rather different from the previous one. It's all about the game's melee combat (i.e. giant 'Mechs beating each other up!). The melee combat model Harebrained Schemes have chosen is fairly simple, but it sounds and looks extremely satisfying. I'll quote the main part of its description here, but you should definitely check out the full update to see all the cool animated GIFs.

Bringing these three concerns together -- complexity, head shots, and visual consistency -- we decided to collapse all melee actions down to just one, “Engage”. When you engage, we look at your relative size, your relative position above or below the target, whether you have arms suitable for punching, whether those arms are intact or blown off, and so forth. Then we pick an attack that best fits what you have available.

To ensure this isn’t unfair to some ‘Mechs, we also collapsed all the consequences of the attacks into one outcome. This means that, in terms of effect, a punch and a kick are the same thing, a shoulder check is the same as a punch, and so forth. Some ‘Mechs are still more powerful in melee than others due to both tonnage and design; the Atlas is always going to wreak more melee destruction than the Catapult. But every ‘Mech can melee, regardless of their build.

The system works like this: every ‘Mech has an “engagement range” at which it can move up and take a swing at an enemy. If you’re within the engagement range of a target when you start your action, that target gets a gold box around it to show that you can punch it. Then, as your entire action for the round, you move up and swing (or kick, or shoulder-check, or stomp).

Which of the possible attacks you perform is based on your ‘Mech, your opponent’s ‘Mech, and your relative heights. If you’re standing on a hillside facing an Atlas whose head comes up to your waist, you’re going to kick the Atlas. If you’re driving a Catapult, you’ll kick or body-check, but never punch (you have no real arms!). If you engage a vehicle or a downed enemy, you’ll try to stomp them instead of kicking. The goal is to make sure that whatever your situation, the attack looks and feels like it solidly connected.

‘Mechs do melee damage based on their tonnage, and whether they’re particularly good at melee -- you can build your ‘Mech to be a punching machine by installing melee-focused actuator upgrades, and Jordan and I both still dream of one day getting the Hatchetman. In keeping with the goal of making close-range melee a decisive moment in battle, the damage is tuned to be quite large. After all, you’ve had to walk up under a hail of fire from every long-range and mid-range ‘Mech, survive all of that mostly intact, and then hit with an attack. Gambling all that on a single attack roll is risky, so we want to be sure you’re well-rewarded for doing so.

Probably more important than the damage of a melee attack is the instability it inflicts. Melee is by far the easiest way to knock another ‘Mech down. Especially if you outweigh the target, you can put them on the ground with just one or two attacks, leaving them vulnerable to further attacks and forcing them to stand up on their action instead of moving. And, of course, when you fall down, if your MechWarrior fails her piloting roll, she’ll take an Injury. Enough knockdowns and an enemy pilot could end up as a red paste inside the cockpit.

We also wanted ‘Mechs to be able to use some of their weapons in melee, but that led to a problem: even as powerful as punching was, short-range, high-damage weapons like the AC/20 were the kings of melee. We wanted melee range combat to be for everyone, not just the Atlas and the King Crab. So when you punch, you don’t use all your weapons.

This turned out to be an excellent opportunity to address a part of the game I wasn’t satisfied with: the small weapons. Machine guns, small lasers and flamers are woefully underpowered, underused, and generally a poor choice when you’re customizing. Especially when melee is so powerful relative to other weapons, why would you ever fire your small laser at all?

So the small weapons are simply incorporated into your melee attack. If you have them, and you punch, you also fire any small weapons you have. For a good time, get in close with a Firestarter and punch the enemy. You’ll also blast them with four flamers worth of damage and heat, on top of the punch itself. It’s pretty great, and gives ‘Mechs with high tonnage and small weapons (looking at you, Battlemaster) a reason to have the small weapons: the punch rips off the target’s armor, and the MGs spew possible criticals into the structure.

I’ve talked about how we rolled most of the melee actions together into one overall “Engage” action, but there’s one melee attack we kept separate. We knew from the start that we’d be including the Death From Above attack as a special and deliberate action. It’s too iconic a moment to not let you choose it yourself.

If your ‘Mech has jump jets, and you’re within the melee engagement range, you can jump and land on top of your target, smashing them to the ground. It’s powerful, does a ridiculous amount of damage, smashes your legs up something fierce, and it looks really damn cool.

In a recent fight, I DFAed an enemy with my Shadowhawk (and let me tell you, the SH is nothing to sneeze at when you use it as primarily a melee attacker). I landed as the enemy ‘Mech’s head and center torso both turned black. I’d basically ripped it in half with the DFA. Mission accomplished.

After several rounds of iteration (as always!), we're very happy with the state of melee in the game. It feels really satisfying to engage in, and ensures that the battles that make it to close quarters become bloody and decisive, rather than bogging down in frustration. We're excited for you to punch 'Mechs in the Kickstarter Beta next year!
The update also includes an extensive changelog detailing everything that Harebrained Schemes have added to the game over the past several months. The combat portion of the game is already in alpha, and everything is on schedule for the beta release next year. Good news to end the year with.

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