MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
|MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat|
|Designer(s)||Sean Vesce, Zachary Norman|
|Platform(s)||DOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
July 24, 1995
|Genre(s)||Vehicle simulation game|
MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat is a vehicle simulation game developed and released by Activision in 1995, as part of the MechWarrior series of video games in the BattleTech franchise. Originally developed for DOS, it was ported to a variety of platforms including Windows, Apple Macintosh, and the game consoles Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation (as MechWarrior 2: Arcade Combat Edition).
The DOS, Windows, and Mac releases shared the same gameplay, while the console conversions tweaked the game's mechanics to emphasize arcade-style action over the tactical-simulation of the original PC release. A number of enhanced versions were released to take advantage of the 3D graphics accelerator cards at the time.
MechWarrior 2 features a soundtrack composed by Jeehun Hwang, and a rendered intro sequence by Digital Domain.
At the start of the game, the player must choose to side with one of the two Clans involved in the Refusal War: Clan Wolf or Clan Jade Falcon. The battles in the game take place on planets named in the various BattleTech source books on the war, as well as expanded universe novels such as Bred for War. Each battle has a specific goal such as search-and-destroy, reconnaissance or a base strike. Initially, the player controls one Mech, but in later missions has access to squad commands. Between missions, a mech lab allows players to customize the weapon, armor, engine and heat sinks of any drivable mech.
MechWarrior 2 is played as a tactical simulation, incorporating aspects of both real-time first-person combat and the physical simulation of the player's mech. The player can choose between several control modes, from a basic "point and shoot" mode, to an advanced mode that allows the player to manage the legs and torso of the mech independently. The mech's on-board computer provides feedback to the player, ranging from the proximity of friendly and enemy forces to system damage and ammunition depletion. Among other things, the player must carefully manage heat buildup; the mech's computer will attempt to perform an emergency shutdown if heat levels rise too high, though this can be overridden by the player. However, rising heat levels caused by the repeated firing of weapons can result in ammunition explosions and damage to the mech, including the loss of limbs actuators, and, ultimately, overheating will result in catastrophic detonation of the mech's fusion engine.
MechWarrior 2 is a game re-creation of the "Refusal War". The player can choose to be a member of one of two clans, either Clan Jade Falcon or Clan Wolf, while engaging in a total of 32 missions (16 missions for each clan) in the year 3057 time frame. Set shortly after the Battle of Tukayyid between the Inner Sphere and invading clan armies, the plot revolves around an ideological conflict inside the clans. It focuses only on clans Jade Falcon and Wolf, both of which represent a different side in the struggle — Crusaders and Wardens, respectively.
The Clans are the descendants of the Star League Defense Force, most of which was led by their commander Aleksandr Kerensky into the unknown regions of space in an attempt to save the warring nations of the Inner Sphere from obliterating each other. These forces eventually splintered and formed 20 separate groups, called the Clans, creating a society entirely based around warfare and creating the perfect warriors for their advanced BattleMechs.
Over the years of isolation, two schools of thought divided the clans. Crusader clans wished to return to the Inner Sphere as conquerors, forcing the nations to unite and recreating the Star League. The Warden clans, on the other hand, believed that the clans should act as protectors of the Inner Sphere, only intervening if a threat of sufficient magnitude was encountered.
Eventually, the Crusader faction won out and the Clans returned to the Inner Sphere as an invasion force containing only of a small fraction of the clans including the Jade Falcons, Clan Wolf, Smoke Jaguars and the Ghost Bears. The invasion force consisted of both Crusader and Warden clans (chiefly Clan Wolf). The Wardens participated in an attempt to mitigate the damage caused by the Crusader clans. The invasion continued until the invading clans were challenged by the ComStar organization to a fight on the planet Tukayyid. If the Clans won, they would gain control of Terra (controlled by ComStar at the time) and if they lost they would halt the invasion for 15 years under a truce.
The battle was lost by the Clans and their invasion was halted for 15 years. In the wake of the defeat, Ulric Kerensky, the (then) leader of the invasion and warlord of all the Clans, as well as a staunch Warden and member (and former leader) of the Warden leaning Clan Wolf, was charged with treason and accused of purposely losing by the Crusader elements of his Clan. They claimed that because Ulric was a Warden, he engineered the defeat to sabotage the invasion, as well as accusing him of genocide since the Truce would prohibit the Clans from continuing what they saw as their sole purpose for living: war. They called for him to be stripped of his status, opening the door to ignore the Truce and continue the invasion.
As the basis of Clan law was might equals right, matters could always be settled by combat (in this case through a "Trial of Refusal," refusing the verdict against him) and Ulric issued a challenge to the Crusaders to uphold his status within the Clan Council and, as a result, maintain the Truce of Tukayyid. The Jade Falcon clan, the strongest of the Crusader Clans as well as an historic enemy of Wolf Clan, took up the challenge.
This is where things stand at the start of the game. In the conflict, which became known as the Refusal War, the Jade Falcons fight to uphold the Council's judgment of guilt, allowing an immediate resumption of the Invasion against the still-weakened Inner Sphere. Ulric and the Wolves, however, are grimly determined to fight a war of extermination against the Falcons (primarily using the Crusader elements of the Wolves themselves, in a plan by Ulric to weaken the Crusader faction among the two most powerful Clans as much as possible) and leave them too weak to pose a threat to the Inner Sphere.
MechWarrior 2 was originally planned for a release in October 1994, but a number of development problems, including an almost complete overturn of personnel in the development team, led to it being considerably delayed.
The Saturn and PlayStation versions were developed by Quantum Factory. Project coordinator Brian Clarke remarked that they were adapting the game to appeal more to a console gaming audience: "Instead of doing a sim game, we're making the crossover into a console type game, where it's more action-oriented and fast paced, and also doing things like adding power-ups so it's more of an arcade experience. We're also adding more enemy mechs to each mission so there's a certain carnage element to the whole thing."
Neither the Saturn nor PlayStation version is a port of the other; the code was built from the ground up for each version. All 32 missions from the PC version were included in the console versions, though some were shortened in order to maintain a fast pace. These versions also include 16 new missions. According to producer Murali Tegulapalle, the team considered including missions from the Ghost Bear's Legacy expansion and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, but decided that since those missions were all designed with a PC gaming audience in mind, it would make more sense to design new missions in keeping with the console versions' overall philosophy of offering a more fast-paced experience than the PC version.
MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy
MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy is the follow-up expansion pack for MechWarrior 2 released in November 1995. This expansion pack gives the player a chance to play as Clan Ghost Bear. It gives players access to fourteen new BattleMechs and a number of new weapons, plus twelve new missions in a number of new environments, such as outer space and underwater. New songs for the CD soundtrack are also added, that fit specific atmospheres. If the player manages to complete the 12 missions of the regular campaign without being killed or failing one mission, he enters the competition for a blood name. This additional campaign consists of five missions.
Taking place after the Refusal War, Ghost Bear's Legacy is the story of a new Ghost Bear warrior living in the Inner Sphere. Fighting off raids by mercenaries initially, everything changes when a raid by the Draconis Combine is successful in stealing the genetic material of the Clan founders Hans Ole Jorgensson and Sandra Tseng. Enraged by this attack, the Ghost Bears send units to track down the culprits, only to find the matter is not as simple as first thought. It would appear that the Draconis Combine has been framed for the raids as the BattleMechs used in the raid had been captured by Clan Smoke Jaguar several months before. This starts a search through the Clans to find out who is responsible. Strategically, this is essential; if the culprit were able to successfully finger someone else, a war would instantly ensue that could leave the Ghost Bears vulnerable to attack.
Eventually it is found that the Smoke Jaguars themselves lost the BattleMechs in a raid by Clan Wolf. After the Refusal War, the Wolf Clan had been divided into the Crusader faction under Khan Vlad Ward (who remain aligned with the rest of the Clans) and the Warden faction. Sending units to investigate either possibility, the truth is soon discovered. It is two rogue Galaxy Commanders of the Crusader Clan Wolf (The Jade Wolves) who had stolen the material in the fake raid. The units sent to investigate Clan Wolf in Exile are allowed to honorably withdraw by the Wolves and the stage is set for the final battle.
MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries
Sales of MechWarrior 2 surpassed 500,000 copies within three months of release. According to market research firm PC Data, it was the 12th-best-selling computer game in the United States for the year 1996, after claiming sixth in the rankings for the first half of the year.
MechWarrior 2 was critically well received. Maximum lauded the cutscenes, graphics, training section, customizable mechs, music, and sound effects, but concluded that "If you put all this great quality stuff together, it's still hard to explain what it is that really makes MechWarrior 2 strut. It could be something to do with attention to detail and a sense of continuity which combine to create a feeling of completeness. The game feels confident, it feels deep." A critic for Next Generation called it "the best 'mech simulator currently available", making particular note of the rendered graphics and attention to detail in the game world. He complained at the fact that the initial release was single-player only, but noted that an add-on disk for networked multiplayer was due out by the end of the month. GameSpot praised the game for its high resolution graphics and its requirement of strategy and planning from the player. The control complexity was likened to that of a flight simulator. GameRevolution also noted that the controls were not overly complex for a simulation, and a throttle-control joystick was particularly intuitive. NetMech had some problems with stability and smoothness.
PC Gamer US named MechWarrior 2 the best action game of 1995, while Computer Games Strategy Plus declared it the year's top "sci-fi/fantasy sim" title. The editors of PC Gamer US wrote, "MechWarrior II has everything an action game needs — beautiful graphics; great sound effects; smooth animation, even at high resolution; lots of options; and tons of firepower — all set against the wonderfully rich background of FASA's Battletech universe."
In the third quarter of 1995, Activision reported up to an hour's wait time to talk to their game counselors, chiefly due to a flood of calls from gamers asking for MechWarrior 2 hints.
In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 27th best game of all time, calling it "an amazingly immersive experience". That same year, it was also ranked as the 64th top game of all time by Next Generation.
In 2000, Computer Games Strategy Plus named MechWarrior 2 one of the "10 Best Sci-Fi Simulations". The magazine's Steve Bauman wrote, "While subsequent games, whether it's the seemingly thousands of variations Activision released in its wake, or the more recent sequel, feature better graphics and production, this is the still the benchmark."
Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot predicted that the PlayStation version "will receive decidedly mixed reviews. Fans of the original will likely feel the game has been watered down to appease the younger-skewing console demographic." Instead, reviews were overwhelmingly positive, and many critics outright praised the way the adaptation from PC to console was handled. For example, GamePro remarked, "The term 'PC port' often makes console gamers wince because many PC titles suffer severely in the switch. MechWarrior 2 deftly avoids that pitfall, ditching the complexity of the classic PC sim in favor of gripping arcade-style mayhem." Next Generation announced, "Activision finally releases a console version that does the [MechWarrior] series justice. MechWarrior 2 for PlayStation is a faithful recreation of the PC title, although a few modifications were made with the arcade-oriented console owner in mind. The combat arenas have been condensed to prevent unnecessary wandering around, and a non-campaign mode has been included for some quick, no frills fighting." Gerstmann himself, while criticizing the appearance of the exploding mechs and the music, concluded that "For those of you who want a quick-and-dirty combat simulator with a lot of things to shoot, and can get past the uninspired graphics, MW2 fits the bill nicely." Even Crispin Boyer of Electronic Gaming Monthly, one of the few to dislike the changes, summarized that "Although it has been dummied down a little from the PC original, Mech 2 is still one of the most complicated and rewarding sims you can play on the consoles-and it's definitely the best console mech game available."
The Saturn version received similar similar critical praise. Sega Saturn Magazine's Matt Yeo remarked, "Fans of the original PC game will find little to gripe about here, the game's much-heralded strategy elements having been retained ..." GamePro stated that aside from "slight differences in graphics and control", the Saturn version is the same as the PlayStation version.
The Mechwarrior 2 soundtrack received near universal praise from game reviewers. The soundtrack was composed by Gregory Alper & Jeehun Hwang. It was said to create a new standard in video game music when it was released. The music was stored as standard audio CD tracks allowing the music to be played on a standard Audio CD player.
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