Despite everything that science tells us, giant bipedal robots remain a favourite in all sorts of media, from Transformers to battle-tech and all points in between. There’s something just intrinsically cool about a massive robot with big guns shooting at other massive robots, even though in real life a bipedal robot wouldn’t be a lot of help in a war!
These bipedal mechs have ranged from man sized battle-suits ala Starship Troopers, to ten foot plus warmachines as in Warhammer 40K and then the really large ones as in Pacific Rim or Battletech. Battletech’s mechs serve as a particular point of reference for Techwars Global Conflict: lumbering mobile gun platforms that can deliver and take a hit from mounted heavy weapons. This stands in contrast to the superhero-style combat of the likes Evangelion or Gundam – our Techwars mechs walk through the landscape, firing big guns at each other. In my time playing the game, I never once saw an energy sword or shield.
Techwars is a multiplayer, online-only isometric shooter where players control mechs, fighting in battles that form a part of a much larger war between the Russian Dominion and the American-led KATO. Each faction has technologies and mechs not available to the other side so this first choice will turn out to be a fairly important one. After that, you will choose what style of mech you will be piloting, at least until you can unlock a few more. These range from the vast but fragile scouts to the slow but powerful destroyers. There are also storm-troopers who have a nice middle ground of firepower and toughness.
Once you’ve picked your faction and your mech, you’ll need to join the war by taking part in a battle. When you’ve been connected to a server and a battle has been found with space for a new player, your mech will be dropped into the fight. You’ll then observe your mech from an isometric view with others slugging it out with guns, missiles and lasers. Each weapon has its purposes; there’s no weapon that has no effect at all and veteran Battletech players will recognize the concept of “heat” which can cause your mech to shutdown if you don’t manage it properly.
The battlefield is quite large and, in some battles, you’ll spend a fair amount of time trying to find the “front-line” and take part in the action. Once a shootout starts, there’s a need for manoeuvrability and also firing accuracy. There’s a touch of the twin-stick shooter as your mech can move one way and shoot another, which makes sense given the context. The bigger, slower mechs also deliver some brutal firepower which will kill most mechs fairly quickly, so you’ll need to try to use cover, some of which is destroyable. Smaller mechs will need to use hit and run tactics rather than just standing and fighting but you can expect to see mechs blown up in a fairly short order – they certainly aren’t as hard to kill as a Battletech walking tank.
Once the battle ends, you’ll receive rewards and resources based on whether your faction won and how well you personally did. You can use these to upgrade various components on your mech, ranging from individual servos and components all the way up to the weapons. There’s a deep but somewhat opaque system for upgrades which could probably do with a more detailed tutorial.
On the subject of tutorials, the game uses a series of short written tutorials to walk you through the basic concepts, but these are far too brief and lack the sort of detail that allows a player to make an informed choice. There’s a very good chance that you’ll spend a fair amount of your early time playing Techwars not sure what you’re doing or why, though when in doubt you can just shoot at the other mechs and hope for the best.
Techwars hasn’t been out very long and there are definitely some teething troubles. I experienced network issues which prevented me from accessing my game, and with no single player mode you cannot play the game offline at all, though that is by design rather than by accident. There are also issues with low player counts, as sometimes it can take a while to get lined up with a map that has enough players to allow you to play, which can lead to a long waiting time between games.
In terms of game stability, I experienced a couple of hang-ups and crashes too, though only one that crashed me all the way back to the Xbox hub and dashboard. There are also issues where the game doesn’t explain what you need to do or why, and it could certainly do with a more involved single player tutorial, perhaps even a training mission to help explain what is going on and how to play.
In terms of actual gameplay, it’s simple enough and whilst there are a wide variety of weapons and mechs, you need to take part in games to earn resources which will then allow you to unlock more, allowing you to choose which mech to use in each battle, rather than your starter you are given. You have the option, of course, to spend real-world money to purchase in game resources. The game is free-to-play, however, so you don’t need to spend anything at all to play the game.
However, playing Global Conflict, as it stands, is currently quite a frustrating experience. Matches are often slow, mechs do not move very well and at times there are issues with sight-lines within the game as tall obstacles such as buildings can obscure line of sight or even make your own mech impossible to see. On some maps, you may spend half of the time just trying to find someone to fight against and, at least initially, you may struggle to tell who is who until they start shooting at you.
The graphics are fine, definitely not up to modern standards but this is a free-to-play game. The actual mech models are quite nice and Techwars apparently models the damage to individual components but this can be hard to observe. With the camera zoomed out, the detail and modelling is pretty hard to make out.
In terms of sound, it has an uninspiring soundtrack with old-school guitar riffs and simplistic pew-pew sound effects for the weapons. You’ll also hear some voice-overs from an unseen female announcer telling you what is happening on the battlefield, though at times you’ll not know what they mean.
At the moment, there are significant issues with network connection and getting into a game. Oftentimes it’s hard to even get connected, let alone get into a game that isn’t nearly over! This can lead to some frustration and make it harder for you to get your head around what is required in Techwars.
And that means, as it stands at the moment, it’s very difficult to recommend Techwars Global Conflict on Xbox One. The core concept is sound and even though the gameplay is a bit clunky, the game has its charms. However, currently there are too many technical issues, too much game information is obscured, and even if you can get into a battle it’s hard to fully embrace things.
The game is available for free, mind you, so you can give it a go without it costing you anything aside from your time. And with a little luck, the developers will manage to fix the technical issues that have been plaguing the game so far.