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Archive for June 12th, 2009

Chris, this one’s for you.  Marmosetofdeath, you might like it, too.

I’ve recently finished another playthrough of MechCommander 2.  I’m also playing Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis.  In both games, I find that I really like the ability to take the enemy’s resources and use them for myself midfight.  It appeals to the strategist in me, and the tactics of doing so make battles much more interesting than simply going into a battle rage and destroying everything that’s not mine.  (It’s also more realistic; scorched earth warfare has a tendency to cause more problems than it solves in the long run.)

Strategic “asset acquisition” is common in the BattleTech* universe, and most long-term campaigns are built around salvage.  I’m not terribly conversant with the board game (though I keep meaning to learn it), but in MC2, you can even salvage a ‘Mech mid-mission and plunk one of your pilots in it, making your force stronger for the rest of the mission.  It’s actually almost necessary for some missions with low initial drop weight.  You can also capture enemy buildings, and an enemy Repair Bay is an excellent tool.  This is guerilla warfare in spirit; making use of what you have, and applying a Jujitsu mentality of using the foe’s forces against them.

It’s very, very satisfying to manage a careful headshot on an enemy ‘Mech (killing the pilot or making them eject, leaving the ‘Mech largely intact), and then turn around and make it your own… especially if it’s a really big ‘Mech (expensive, in other words), or one that you’ve wanted for a piece of the puzzle that is your optimal strike force (I love Mad Cats/Timberwolves, and salvaging one is high priority).  It’s especially fun if you can turn it around and almost immediately use it to pummel your foes.  (And in multiplayer, sometimes you have to destroy your own downed ‘Mechs to deny them the opportunity to salvage them.  Corpse burning is more visceral, but it’s not much different.)

Reading the Arthas novel in close proximity to finishing MC2 is what sparked this line of thought… mechanically,  the violent appropriation of enemy resources is very akin to the classical notion of necromancers expanding their horde.  Arthas kills opponents, then reanimates them to serve in his army.  My ‘Mech group headshots foes, then sends in their own pilots to control the downed machines.  They rise, staggering to their feet in their funky-legged gait, and fight against their former allies.  The final foes in any given mission typically faced a force half comprised of their fallen ‘Mechs.  If there were any psychological warfare mechanics in the game, I’d suspect that would be a significant factor.

I hope the parallels are pretty obvious.

In TOKOL, you can “persuade” foes to join your cause midfight.  Anyone can persuade for their action per turn (with varying levels of success), and only a few units can’t be persuaded.  Apparently, loyalty is a fairly fluid thing in the TO universe.  (To be fair, it’s easier to persuade opponents when they are beat up a bit… not unlike the real world.  And in a mercenary existence like we see in most fantasy stories, loyalty to one’s own skin isn’t all that uncommon.)  Such persuasion is very useful in TO, both for swelling the ranks of your army (especially since foes usually are at higher levels than your carefully trained recruits) and for loot acquisition (you can offer persuaded foes a permanent position at the end of combat, and if they stay with you, you can swipe their gear, even if you then immediately dismiss them).  Persuaded foes get the standard “Guest” AI (they aren’t immediately under your command), so they can be considerably stupid at times.  Again, not unlike zombies.

So… as much as it pains me to admit it, maybe I do like zombies, or at least zombie mechanics, inasmuch as I love the ability to turn the enemies’ resources to my own nefarious ends (even if I’m fighting on the side of the angels).  I’ve always though that turning an opponent to your side was a more complete victory than just obliterating them.

I still don’t like the theme of zombies, but from a gameplay mechanical standpoint…

OK… I like ’em.

*I typed that BattleTesh the first time, and had to go back and correct it.  How… odd.

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