by Thomas Mikkelsen
reviewed on PC
Putting the Mech suit back on
It's been 19 years since I played a Mechwarrior game. And many of you are probably thinking: "This is the first Mechwarrior game I've played 'cause I wasn't walking yet when Mechwarrior 4 came out." Well, lucky you. You still have the use of your knees and don't make weird noises when tying your shoelaces. I was 15 when Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance launched and 17 when the Mercenaries expansion dropped. Maybe a bit old to be into sci-fi robots, but what can I say... I'm immature.
Turns out, I still am. I love the freedom to jump between planets, manage my squad of mercenary mech pilots, upgrade, repair, go bankrupt, start all over again, etc., etc. I can only shake my fist and scowl at my friend and colleague Quinn Levandoski for snagging the review copy for the base game, which he gave a well deserved glowing review.
But you're here to get an answer to a specific question: "Is the Legend of the Kestrel Lancers expansion worth my cash?" And the answer is: "it depends." Shocker, right?
Legend of the Kestrel Lancers takes place during the 4th Succession War and has you play through 14 pivotal mission campaigns in this vital conflict. What you'll notice almost immediately is that the scale of the battles you'll be fighting is ramped up. Sometimes to a chaotic degree. If you enjoy the map size and enemy numbers of the base game, you might want to stick with that, 'cause things can get hectic in the expansion. Like, I-just-got-my-leg-blown-off-by-a-mech-I-didn't-even-noticed-while-accidentally-blowing-up-an-ally hectic.
The expansion addresses one of Quinn's major gripes with the base game – the lack of melee combat. You can now equip your mechs with hands made for punching, which comes in real handy in close-quarters urban conflict. However, I will say that while trying to use it, I ended up taking more damage from crashing into the mechs I was trying to punch than I delivered to them. That may very well be because I'm a crap pilot, though.
The new environments (mega-city and jungle especially) are super fun to stomp around. Every city battle leaves whole neighbourhoods in ruins, and crushing trees under your feet brings the scale of these behemoths into your consciousness. The new mech variants and garrisons are nice and all but barely worth mentioning. But where this expansion truly shines or falls flat - depending on who you ask - is in the story.
Some people play games to blow things up. Others play them keep their maths skills up. Yet others play them for the story. If you're the last type of player, this expansion is tailored specifically for you. The base game is so open that you can play it for weeks and only get short snippets of narrative going on around you – apart from the first few missions where you gain command of the outfit and have to escape the system. But this brings you to the centre of a grand-scale conflict, not only on the ground but in the drama and politics you experience pre- and post-mission.
Storytelliing is the winner
If you just like to blow stuff up with high-powered lasers and rockets, this might not be your bag of tea and you may not get a lot out of it. If you get the most satisfaction from playing the market, maximising profit, and running SWOT analyses on potential targets, it won't revolutionise your game. But if you're into storytelling and are willing to read stuff to get the most out of it – which I assume you are since you're reading this – then Legend of the Kestrel Lancers might just be worth a purchase.
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Engaging story, grander scale, melee combat, tighter & more destructive environments.
Whether it's worth the price is debatable