One area of fantasy and
science fiction that I have always been a big fan of is the whole concept and
idea of gargantuan walking tanks, otherwise known as mechs. Everything from
Robotech way back in the day to the more recent Gundam series has been on my
list of things to watch as I’ve grown up, and when I was in my late teens I
began playing the 3-D RPG board game Battletech. Well, years have gone by, and I
have all but forgotten about how fun that game was until now. A company called
Matrix games has released a PC title called Titans of Steel: Warring Suns that
resurrects that kind of play style and enjoyment found in those hex map board
games. No, this is not a Battletech game and no, you won’t see any ripped off
names in it from the other series. This is an original title by this developer
that simply uses a similar concept and it works out pretty darned good.
As with most mech games that
are out, Titans takes place in the future. This story happens amidst and after a
huge intergalactic war has broken out. Key resource and commerce systems were
engulfed in the struggle of the galaxy, and none of the warring factions could
afford to supply the battles. Soon, the Titans were created … huge walking
machines with a single pilot grouped into squads and sent out to destroy and
defend. Many of the outlying systems soon were forgotten and lost in the
struggle, and they began to form their own system of government and started
settling their differences in giant arenas with Titans and their pilots duking
it out to the death. The larger worlds soon learned of these competitions, and
soon began to build their own training camps to train and hire the best pilots
in the universe known as jocks. You are the commander of a Titan squad, and it’s
your job to lead your crew to victory.
Up front and by glancing at
the back of the box, Titans may seen like a simple board game where you just
toss big robots onto the screen and go at it. In fact, it is more of an RPG and
strategy game when you get down to it. The game is played online or off in
arenas consisting of hexagonal shaped tiles and a total arena size ranging from
small to huge. Each hex has a certain terrain or modifier to it, which may or
may not effect things like moving or even taking damage and falling down based
on a skill check. For example, stepping on normal land won’t do anything for or
against you, but if you step in quicksand you will have to make a skill check to
save vs. leg damage and possibly falling on your face. In addition, things like
heavy trees, buildings or smoke can be used to your or your enemy’s advantage to
block line of sight or even set traps or ambushes. Each movement, reload, and
swivel plays into a certain round time, since movement and combat are all played
out in a turn-based strategy style of play.
The RPG element of the game
comes in the form of your jocks that you pick up from the training academy, each
one being named and modified by you. You get to go in and select the race that
you would like each one to be, the gender, and then you get to go in and add or
remove skill points to various attributes like Intelligence and dexterity.
Afterwards, you can go in and pick a variety of pilot skills to use like
wilderness survival, leadership, medical, and a bunch of others. As you progress
and win, you will earn skill points to apply to your pilots and help them grow
more adept with each battle that they fight.
Now in order to fight in the
world of ToS, you’re going to need Titans. Matrix did not provide anything less
than about 130 of them to select from, each in one of four classes ranging from
Recon and Light Titans to the big Heavy and Assault class models. Each class
offers about 35 of them to select from in all, so there’s plenty to play around
with and each one can be stripped down, added to, and modified as you see fit.
The neatest element of this however is the fact that despite all of the
different ones you can choose from, you can actually go in and build your own
from scratch including the frame, engine, armor, weapons, and everything else
that goes along with it. This of course makes the game even more fun, especially
when you take a squad of your best Titans and wind up demolishing the
competition. By beating missions you will also earn money which you can then use
to upgrade, repair, or buy new Titans.
One thing that I was
especially impressed with was in the movement and battle systems of the Titans.
There is a simple to use control panel at the bottom of the screen which allows
you to issue move commands or orders to rotate the Titan, while flipping to the
combat panel enables you to lock onto a potential target, fire weapons, or even
eject if things just start going badly. It took a couple of tries to get used
to, but after I played it for about the third time and got the hang of it, I
realized that it was not only easy, but Matrix seemed to have covered everything
that I felt needed to be done while playing.
The only thing that I feel
could have been changed is in a no-forgiveness kind of “once you’ve started,
that’s it” kind of thing. For example, I started a game and my lone Titan pretty
much got slaughtered, so I figured that I would quit and head back to make some
alterations and try again. Well, I went in and found that my pilot was listed as
“MIA”, and I had to recall him which cost money. This wasn’t too bad up front,
but as you go on and spend money for upkeep or whatever losing battles or
quitting and recalling can start getting quite costly. Basically, there was no
way to just delete the autosave and try again … instead you had to just delete
the squad you were using and build a new one. The Titans that I created were
still there thankfully, but it still was time spent doing something I had
already done vs. playing the game some more. It wasn’t a big deal up front, but
could really be a headache later on in the game.
Graphically, ToS looked good
for what they were trying to do. There’s no major flash or extravagant FMV’s,
but the game is built to be simple to get into, challenging, and enjoyable vs. a
major motion picture event. There are a few mech designs, and they were well
animated even if small. The terrain also looked good, and hexes with possible
problems were noticeable. There were even things like fires which would break
out or little smoke clouds that would rise up from buildings which just added a
little personality to the overall game.
The sound was good as well
from the walking of the Titans to the phasing laser fire or staccato of machine
guns, and a band named Crownd did all of the music. Tracks consisted of good
solid rock beats that just added a good, gritty kind of atmosphere without being
annoying, and enjoyed listening to them while I played.
Overall, Matrix games has
produced a good, fun mech title which is reminiscent of some of my favorite
board games from back in the day. While there isn’t as much going on graphically
or whatever as some other titles out, I quickly found myself sitting for hours
and playing constantly while time just seemed to stop existing. If you are a fan
of strategy or RPG titles, or are a fan of mech games as well, Titans of Steel
will surely bring hours of fun and creativity to your PC gaming world.
The game is easy
to get into, and while there is a learning curve to setting up potential
strategies or even learning where and what hexes to navigate through, it only
takes a couple of tries to get the hang of it. The Titan construction and
building was extensive, and included a vast number of parts ranging from
computers to armor, and a ton of possible weapons to outfit your creation with
ranging from lasers to cannons to short-range missiles and even melee weapons
like chainsaws or power axes. Even still, everything was laid out in an
easy-to-understand format and will provide a lot of replay value with the almost
endless combinations you can try out and modify as you go. Not being able to
cancel a saved game did prove to be a downside for me personally, and could get
aggravating later in the game if you make a mistake or don’t save it.
bad, and good for the game style that they have here. The Titans were animated
well, even if they were small and simple in overall design, and there were added
effects like fires or smoke as buildings or whatnot would get destroyed. The
overall hex maps themselves didn’t have too much overall variation in looks, but
things like trees and hills were added in to mix them up a bit.
consisted of the thumping of the Titans walking and your on-board computer
periodically giving you info and updates as to what was going on. The battle
sounds were also good, and lasers, whooshing rockets, and machine gun fire would
dot the speakers as the battle raged on. The sound was done by a music group
named Crownd, and sounded good for what they did with it. It wasn’t too
overpowering or underused.
There is a
learning curve when you start up, but there is also a tutorial to guide you
through everything like moving, auto piloting, firing, and re-loading weapons.
The game is definitely challenging, but not too the point where it got
frustrating to play it.
Take the fun of
the older hex map games and put the whole concept into a PC title with enough
animation to make it interesting but not kill it. Overall, I have to say that I
was really impressed with what Matrix did here.
You can actually
play three different ways in multiplayer … Hotseat (up to four players on one
PC), internet, or LAN. The internet game is done by going to
www.wargamer.com and looking for registered opponents, and unfortunately
there were none on while I was playing this game for the review. I did however
get to play a few games of Hotseat, which was a blast to put my Titan designs up
against a friend.
Matrix did a
great job in taking a board game style and incorporating it into a 3-D
presentation. The building of your squad and Titans is a blast, and adds to the
addictive quality and replay value of the game. If you like strategy RPG games
and are a fan of mech games … pick it up. Titans of Steel is one of those
unique, addictive and enjoyable PC games that moves away from the mainstream and
as we all know, titles fitting that description just don’t seem to come around