BattleTech Advanced 3062 is a game about how people break, slowly. It has little interest in swift violence or sudden ends. The quickest death a pilot can hope for is a clean shot to the cockpit, which never comes. Instead, the shot swings wide and blows off an arm, or grazes the head of their mech, and the pilot slams forward. Something in them breaks.
If they do not tend their wounds in the next 35 seconds, they will pass out from the blood loss. They drive their mech’s fist into the center torso of an armor-stripped light mech. It crumples like paper. A salvo hits the back of their mech and something lights up red on the dash. The pilot’s lance-mate fires an artillery shell over their shoulder and another mech is transmuted from a body, to a piece of metal in the shape of a body. The pilot fumbles for the medkit underneath their seat, staunches the bleeding, and hits the eject button. High above, a doctor prepares the medbay.
This slow violence has always defined BattleTech, from the hours-long engagements of the mini-focused wargame, to the seconds-long percussive beat of an LRM (Long Range Missile) suite pounding a Heavy mech’s hull in the 2018 tactics game. This element of the series is only expounded upon by BattleTech Advanced 3062, the massive overhaul mod which has been in development since 2018. The mod moves the game’s timeline forward about 40 years to 3062, when the long forgotten clans return to the Inner Sphere of the Milky Way Galaxy, and brings with it dozens of new mechs, the ability to field vehicles and infantry scale Battle Armors, and totally overhauls of the game’s combat mechanics and mech customization. It is BattleTech (2018) if the developers had never, sensibly, told themselves no. It is massive and beautiful and deeply cruel.
In 3062, like the base game, you play as the commander of a small mercenary company in the Inner Sphere, taking contracts for the political superpowers who dominate it. Whether it be for the Tauran Concordant, the Capellan Confederation, House Marik, or one of the many, many minor factions which make up BattleTech’s universe, you will kill people for money. Those people will be in BattleMechs, 20-100 ton war machines that are built to look like people, or they will be in tanks, or they will be in smaller, heavily armed exoskeletons known as Battle Armors—no matter what, they will be in a machine that you break.
And 3062 does not allow you to forget things. Things like ammunition and upkeep costs, pilot salaries and morale, and your precious reputation. These are things that the base game lets you forget as your company grows. The jobs are easier there, and the costs are fewer and lower. In my 60 hours with the base game, I only had to withdraw in bad faith (which means I didn’t complete my primary objective) once or twice. In 3062, I failed mission after mission, withdrew time and time again. Racking up ammunition costs, reputation penalties, and broken pilots every time.
After a particularly bad mission, which ended in a 6v7v5 brawl, the company was on its last legs. Noble, the company’s commander and CEO, was forced to take bad jobs. Jobs she didn’t want to think about. The assassination of a dissident political activist. A duel against an enemy commander, one who sent a pathetic rookie in his place because he was a coward. Training exercises and support details for pirate recruits. These jobs hurt people, she knew this. She hired, desperately, to build a large enough crew to take on a real job, while her lancemates spit blood in the medbay.
The game didn’t let me forget this. In a small narrative sequence, Noble was forced to settle a dispute between Freakshow, one of her star pilots, and the ship’s doctor who was tired of Freakshow trying to work while injured. Luckily, I had installed training pods in the Argo, which Freakshow would accept in the meantime, and which the doctor said wouldn’t impact his recovery. Noble’s leg was still in a cast at the time, which Freakshow remarked upon. Noble’s legs have spent a lot of time in casts.
Eventually, though, after a month of terrible, easy jobs, enough of her company’s mechs were working, and she was able to take on a real job, one that could pay well enough to maintain the salaries of her new crewmembers and pay the medical bills of the old. A messy job in a small city. She would have to defend six buildings from three lances of enemy mechs, for about 15 minutes. It was a death sentence with a good paycheck, three quarters of a million C-Bills, one that she was willing to take.
It started bad. 3062, for all the many ways that it is excellent, is a mess. On this particular mission, my long range sniper tank was spawned on top of a building, one it couldn’t get down from. I could make a narrative justification for this, sure, I can make a narrative justification for most bugs, but that doesn’t change the fact that they make the game significantly harder to play. For many, 3062’s bugs would ruin their experience. I loved this one, though. With my tank stranded on top of a building, they were forced to act as a sniper turret, one who had to desperately hope the structure upon which they sat wouldn’t collapse under the battery of a four mech lance.
The star of the show was Poet, a reluctant but exceptional pilot. Despite her ambivalence towards piloting, she grew up in a mercenary company and was a natural. She had a particular talent for crack shots, and piloting extremely mobile mechs through waves of enemy fire, before forcing a melee where she could overwhelm opponents well above her weight class. This is exactly what she attempted to do five turns into the mission, when an enemy lance dropped on the undefended north western corner of the base we were paid to protect. The trek from the south east corner, where most of my lance was engaged, to that new squad couldn’t have been further. The only pilot close enough to engage the four member lance was Poet. And so she ran.
In 3062, winning is all about moving faster and having more information than your opponent. Shots are harder the faster a mech is moving, and the only way to make them easier to hit is by complex sensor systems, destabilizing kicks, and a well-waged information war. This distinguishes it from the base game, in which evasion can be reduced just by firing at an enemy. This means that, over the course of your enemy’s turn, they could strip all the evasion off of your smaller mechs, and obliterate them in a single salvo. This forced light and medium mechs to disappear altogether from the late game.
In 3062, your light and medium mechs can stay in the fight with capable pilots, acting as specialized units like sensor boats or high damage, high speed assassins who fire extremely powerful weapons into the backs of enemies who cannot move quick enough to hit them. That is, until an assault class mech turns around and drives their foot through the center torso of that highly capable assassin, killing them in a single blow. 3062 makes light and medium mechs useful, not invincible. Poet was not invincible.
After dashing in under a wave of enemy fire, Poet drove her foot into the knee of a Strider and lasers across its chest, leaving black glass rivers in their wake. My stranded tank had a sightline on the lance, and provided suppressive fire. With the four member lance split between two unthreatening, but irritating, opponents, they were forced to make bad decisions. They prioritized the sniper tank, which was at the edge of a skyscraper. However, the height differential blocked most of the missile fire, which ended up colliding with the lip of the building—just barely protecting the tank. Laser weapons, however, penetrated through the floors and caught the tank on its underside. It lasted four turns before going up in a fireball.
Poet focused on harassing and distracting the enemy’s two medium skirmishers, who she managed to throw off balance with a flurry of kicks while remaining too fast to hit consistently. That was, until they started fighting back in her melees. Their mechs were bigger and stronger, and Poet’s Centurion lost balance quickly, slamming its back into the asphalt and knocking Poet’s head against the wall of her cockpit. She was bleeding (badly), but she had done her job.
3062 expands pilot injuries. In the base game, pilots could suffer a handful of vague injuries resulting from hits to their cockpit or their mech falling over. In 3062 those injuries become much more specific, and much more important. A concussion will reduce your pilot’s ability to land a shot. The pain of a broken rib will reduce their ability to move. The gaping, shredded wound of a compound fracture will cause a pilot to begin bleeding out, requiring them to begin first aid in three turns or risk dying of blood loss. The pilot cannot be forgotten, because their body breaks with the same specificity of their mechs.
Poet ejected, but she bought enough time for Noble to arrive. In the final turns of the mission, Noble swung into position with her Vindicator and started firing shots between two buildings, directly into the back of the enemy Shadowhawk. In two turns, they were dead. In three, so were their allies.
The mission ended. With bonuses from my employer, it ended up paying out a million C-Bills. 250,000 went to maintenance costs. The other three quarters of a million went into my bank account, totaling to 1.5m C-Bills. Enough for three months’ pay. I checked the shop for something to replace my lost tank. It only offered three things. An APC, a squad of battle armor, and an artillery tank, which cost 750,000 C-Bills. That tank cost a month and a half of my company’s continued existence, in exchange for consistent, long-range firepower and the ability to coat my enemies in armor-melting acid. So, I bet my company on a tank, and took the highest paying job I could.
This obsession with efficiency and economic value is not just mechanical or narrative, its aesthetic, too—present in the act of self portraiture via warmachine. The majority of BattleMechs are designed to look like people. This serves a few aesthetic functions. First, it makes the violence they suffer readable to an audience. I, a human woman with blood and bones, do not know what it feels like for an axle to break, but I do know how it feels when a shoulder is torn from its socket. The slow violence of vehicle combat becomes intelligible through a mostly human body.
Second, it does not allow you to forget who is doing the violence—that a human hand is pulling a trigger.
Finally, the fantasy of efficiency present throughout every aspect of BattleTech comes home to roost in a human body. BattleTech attempts to imagine human bodies specially tuned to do the maximum amount of violence, which, in the war-torn Inner Sphere, directly translates to profit. Through this fantasy, human beings become maximally efficient bodies designed for labor, bodies which can be maintained and, inevitably, replaced.
The pilot, through their assortment of stats, skills, and injuries, becomes just another component in the body of the mech—to be modified, exchanged, and repaired like any other. Regardless of how many cute side stories they star in, how many miraculous victories they experience, or how many scars they acquire, they are just another part of their mech and can be replaced like any other. In a body designed for maximum efficiency, the human component is necessary but interchangeable. It is a cruel fantasy, and while BattleTech seems to know this, 3062 can’t stop talking about it.
Its maximalist design approach doesn’t end up muddling the base game’s strengths, it highlights them. 3062 takes every smooth surface of the base game, and turns them into a rough, biting thing. In doing so, BattleTech’s implicit critique of an economic model that treats human beings as vectors for optimal efficiency and profit generation comes to the fore.