MiGMan’s Flight Sim Museum

MiGMan’s Flight Sim Museum

Mech Commander 2

MiGMan’s Combat Diary | 2000

I was really looking forward to trying Mech Commander 2. It promised all the elements of Mech Commander transformed into the 3-D type of game engine which is de rigeur for strategy games nowadays.
Also I had just taken possession of a Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500 graphics accelerator card so I was ready for some spectacular graphical effects!

The Mechs are nicely modelled

Battle scene

Fixed defenses

Mission 16 - the Art of Ambush

In this mission I escorted a Liao noble, Jason Cho, to a meeting which turned into a trap for me and my band of Mechs.
My aide came on line and suggested we occupy an abandoned fort nearby. This sounded like a good suggestion so off we went.
3 failed missions later it started to dawn on me that occupying that fort was maybe - NOT - the best idea! The advantage of a fort is that you get use of the base defenses. The disadvantage is that you have to defend those defenses - if that makes sense - or the turret controls can be recaptured and turned against you. And that's what happened to me over and over.

SunTzu Liao

Mission 16 map

Longshot - my Long Range Missile specialist
Eventually lateral thinking kicked in and I looked for another way to survive the waves of attackers. Taking a leaf from The Art of War and inspired by Dale Brown's "Fatal Terrain" - I looked for a more defensible position - one in which the enemy had to meet me on MY terms.
To the North of the fort was a narrow isthmus accessible only by crossing a narrow ford. This was the place!
Here's the ambush in action. By the wrecked mechs strewn about you can see it worked! The basic idea is to set up a "V" shaped field of fire and lure the enemy into it. The 2 Jager Mechs and one Shaio-Lu are the essential elements. Any 3 Mechs with good close range firepower will do. By the Green triangles over them you can see they have been instructed to hold position.
At the top of the screen is a Catapult - only equipped with with long range missles - which I allow to move about and fire.
At left is a Raven and escort - in this case an Uller. I used the Raven to detect and then lure the enemies into the trap. As a bonus, once the enemy is in the trap I sent the quick Raven around to target the weaker rear armour.


The game has an "auto-config" program which detects your hardware while displaying what look like broken texture maps - mmm... this could have been done with more polish - I thought the computer had crashed at first - and then selects graphics settings for the card. Now to back track a bit - when I first brought the game home I was still running a Geforce 2 MX and the game would not run at all in 3D accelerated mode. Most disappointing. So a warning is in order - make sure you can return the game if it doesn't run on your hardware.
Betelgeuse on the Newsgroups had the explanation as to why my Geforce 2 MX card wasn't recognised:
I had a similar problem with my Radeon 8500. It is related to a text file that stores all the graphic card IDs. If your card is not listed or the ID there doesn't correspond to the card then the game will run in software-only mode. To correct this you'll need to add the appropriate line to the file (I can't remember the file name, but it's in the root game directory). Unfortunately, I don't know what the proper ID is for your card."
Anyway with the Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500installed the auto-config did it's mysterious work and the game launched. I say mysterious because the config prog had decided that I should run Mech Commander 2 at 600 x 400 resolution with most of the graphical enhancements turned off!
You're kidding!
My test system is not the top end - but is certainly above average - the Celeron 466 Mk II- and the Hercules 3D Prophet III Titanium 500card means it is able to run everything I throw at it to max effect - everything except MechCommander 2.
I mean, really.. this card has 64 MEG of DDR RAM, 59 million transistors. 600 x 400! Anyway I ran the first couple of missions with the suggested settings then rebelled - I payed my money and I wanted to see the effects - the transparent water, ripple effects - smoke - detailed landscape textures. So back I went to the options screen and maxed everything out - well to 1024 x 768 and 32 bit colour anyway.
The difference?
Looks improved as expected.
Frame rate? The same as it was using the low settings. That is to say - pretty smooth until you entered battle and then a slide show. I'm talking about 2 frames per second. Combined with a lag in response to keyboard strokes up up to 3 seconds. Not good.

The ripple effect I had wanted to see.

Laser battle

Nice explosions
This is exactly the same problem that manifested in Mech Commander on the more complex battle segments. But - in those days I was running a Pentium 233MMX with NO graphics accelerators and I blamed the hardware - or lack thereof. Now it seems the problem is actually in the AI - the calculation of battle interactions - damage - hits and misses etc. All the calculations that Mech Warrior fans used to calculate with 10 sided dice and hefty rule books. Well the 10 sided dice are a bit lopsided in this engine.
So this was a problem - a dilemma of classic proportions. Here I had a game which looked great and ran well except in the most critical phase - the battle! I gritted my teeth through 16 missions before the frustrations outweighed the rewards.
There is one way to play MechCommander 2 and retain your sanity. Pretend it is a combination of real time strategy and a turn based game.
Play in real-time during the scouting and "preparing for battle" stages. Then accept that you will have no control at all during the battle segments - just sit back and watch.
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