11
Jun
13

Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries for DOS

Mercenaries main menu

Mercenaries main menu

Mechwarrior 2 is one of my all time favourite games, I got it in my early years of university some time after it was released. I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the game and found it very immersive. The game was originally released back in 1995 by Activision. Even though there is a DOS version I have the Pentium Edition which runs only on Windows 95.

In a Timber Wolf

In a Timber Wolf

Todays game is actually a stand-alone expansion to the original called Mercenaries released the following year in 1996. The version I have is both for Windows 95 and DOS, the latter being the better of the two as I will explain later. Mercenaries is also the first game I played on the internet (at the time via dialup). I was never a serious player like many other people were, but I managed to hold my own in many battles.

The Starport on Outreach

The Starport on Outreach

You play the game as either a member of a mercenary company or the owner. If you are just a member of a bigger company all your costs are taken care off, such as ammunition and repair costs. Also it seems that for some missions at least the DOS version selects the missions you will be fighting in. If you are the owner of the company you must manage repairing, salvaging and re-equiping mechs, pilots and aerotech support as needed. It is much more complicated but you have a choice of missions (also called contracts).

Going Commando!

Going Commando!

Which ever way you go you start off in a small 25 ton mech called a commando which is quite ironic considering how underpowered it is. It is adequate for early missions however and a skilled mechwarrior can tweak it and use it to the best effect. You’ll quickly get other light mechs that are better and faster, and eventually move up to the assault class behemoths.

On a Training Mission

On a Training Mission

The graphics in game are 3d and based on polygons, they can be texture mapped or accelerated by a graphics card depending on what you have. There are a nice variety of environments and mechs are easy to identify. New features include coloured lighting and denser particles. There are texture mapping options for pretty much everything, where many objects didn’t have this option in MW2. The extra features tend to chew up processing power so you need to either have a good system or pick and choose what you want. I usually try to mimic the look of MW2 because whilst some graphical features are a nice addition, I actually prefer the style of graphics from the original MW2 game.

Mission Briefing

Mission Briefing

The quality of the sound in game is the same as before with another epic set of music that is played during missions. The weapon effects have been reworked and again I think I prefer the originals. This is really just personal taste as there is nothing bad about the new sounds. There are plenty of nice audio cues to let you know what is happening in the simulation. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard “Critical Hit!” and “Enemy power up detected!”.

Fighting at Night

Fighting at Night

Game play is very similar to the original game as far as the simulator is concerned, although you have to fight in inner sphere mechs instead of clan ones. The controls are much the same with the addition of some extra weapons groups which is great. The biggest difference is when the economy is added when you own your mercenary company. Bringing back a badly damaged mech can be as bad as failing a mission after you’ve paid for repairs and ammunition. Salvage is also a new concern as you now want to acquire new mechs via combat as this is usually worth many more credits than what most contracts are worth.

The Mechlab

The Mechlab

The mechlab is very similar to the original game, but is different in the aspect of economy. You can only use parts which you have in stock (or are available if you are an employee of a larger company). So this means buying and maintaining a stockpile of weapons for use on mechs. Because of the games time line many weapons do not become available until technical information is released by comstar and the weapon manufacturers finish their research. All of this is meant to fit the Battletech universe and timeline. Whilst I like the MW2 style mechlab I think the one in Mechwarrior 4 (and it’s expansions) is more in the spirit of the universe and board games.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal Imaging

Now here is where there is a difference between the DOS and win95 versions. I’m not sure why, but the win95 version seems to be bugged when considering weapons with splash damage and PPCs in particular. The PPC weapons seem to regularly misfire either exploding in your face for no reason or in mid flight. Splash damage from missiles and sometimes even laser shots don’t seem to make contact with your front armour, instead damaging the rear armour. These are critical problems with the win95 version that I haven’t figured out the cause of. Fortunately the DOS version suffers none of these flaws so I suggest using that instead. Set up correctly there are no audio or graphical differences.

Instant Action

Instant Action

To run this game under DOSbox requires a CUE/BIN image which was a story of its own to create. The short version is I couldn’t get any machine apart from the old Sparcstation 20 to create the image for me. Gentoo didn’t work and FreeBSD didn’t either with cdrdao, but NetBSD worked a treat. Once you have the image you need to mount it in dosbox and make sure your cycle count is high, I recommend 100,000 or higher.

I very much like this game. It is great for many reasons, but somehow I still seem to like the original just that little bit more. It’s partly because I like the original graphics and sound better. Mercenaries has some great and exciting features that make the Battletech universe seem more alive. There are news feeds, battle summaries, and situation reports to read, and a feeling of involvement in the events unfolding as you get more entwined in the events of the day. Many of these things are also in MW2, it is mainly the story and experience of running your own mercenary company that make Mercenaries unique. Is it any wonder that they are both some of my favourite games?

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