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Mech Engineer Early Access Review – Challenging to Play

Mech Engineer is a dark sci-fi mech assembling manager with semi-auto battles against mutating, alien bioweapons. Developed by KiberKreker in December 2020 on Steam early access, it picked up a legendary publisher MicroProse in early 2023 which is what piqued my interest in the game. MicroProse has been faithful to its progenitor since it’s spiritual return as it has been releasing many niche strategy and simulation games that generally have a smaller scope focused on inventive mechanics. Waronoi, DROP – System Breach and Second Front have been covered here and are well worth a look after you’re done reading this too!

Gameplay in Mech Engineer is divided into two main phases: the build phase and the battle phase. The build phase is focused on resource management, city upgrading, pilot interaction, and mech assembly where you play as the chief engineer of a mobile city. It’s your job to design, build, and maintain the mechs and city industry that will defend your city from the alien threat, and provide basic orders to the mech pilots.

In the build phase, you’ll need to gather resources, research new technologies, and assemble your mechs. You’ll need to carefully consider the different components of your mechs, as each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, a powerful engine will give your mech more speed and maneuverability, but it will also generate more heat, which can damage your other components. There are also many resource restrictions so in addition to the pros and cons of certain choices, you’ll need to balance your usage of resources between upgrading your city, building more mechs or building better mechs – or a mix of all three – and there are pros to each strategy.

Once you’re happy with your mech design, it’s time for the battle phase, which can be when you send your mechs out of the city to explore for resources or events, or in defense of your own city. In the battle phase, you’ll watch your mechs fight against the aliens. You can give your mechs basic orders, such as move, attack, and defend, but the battles are mostly automated and the orders themselves can have delays before they’re received by your pilots. You need to be aware of ground elevation and seek the high ground at every opportunity to improve your fields of fire. There are also research trees which add additional options and layers for mech design, but this just adds to the feeling of being overwhelmed with choice.

This is a real niche game and it has taken me several months to get my head around the overall engagement as a player which has delayed the review substantially as it deserved more than a reflexive bad review because the interface didn’t click with me. Mech Engineer is a blend of strategy, simulation, and action, and there’s a lot to think about, from resource management to mech design to combat tactics. There are endless many possibilities for mech designs, so you can experiment and find what works best for you.

With so many systems and mechanics to learn, it is tough and overwhelming at times to get into. The battles can be slow and repetitive with the automated combat and at times feels unrewarding for the time invested in the mech build phase. The UI is unique, that’s for sure. I can’t say it’s a bad choice as I see what the developer was going for, but it does come with some cons – it makes it hard to see what’s going on until you’ve learned how it does things… which is another sore point. The game does not display information or show you how to do everything which leads to a very frustrating experience a lot of the time. There’s a fun game in there I’m sure of it, but the interface really holds you back from enjoying it I find.

To the developer’s credit, there have been a steady stream of solid updates, changes and fixes over 2023 and if this is your first chance at playing, you may not experience some of the problems I encountered last year. It’s a unique and challenging game that will appeal to fans of strategy, simulation, and action games so long as you can put the time and effort in to learn the opaque systems.

If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding game with big stompy robots and don’t need pretty 3D graphics like Armored Core VI, Mech Engineer is definitely worth checking out. I just did not find it something I could casually pick up and play, it took a concerted effort just to login to the game and remember the intricacies of the interface for city and mech management before diving into battles. The game is still in early access and is receiving regular meaty updates so I will definitely keep checking in from time to time, but it may pay to wait until a full release announcement.

This review utilised a key provided by MicroProse and Mech Engineer is available now on Steam early access.


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