Metaltech: Battledrome – Robotic Combat Network
for PC (DOS)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Dynamix / Sierra On-Line
Year: 1995
Genre: Simulation
Theme: Multiplayer / Science Fiction / War
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 1198
Review by Mr Creosote (2022-03-19)

Oops, what happened there? EarthSiege had been quite well received, and there it was already, the second Metaltech game. Battledrome is the Wing Commander Academy of the series. It does away with all the cinematics, the plot, the missions and all the other fluff – even the background graphics – and simply pits giant robots in a duel against each other.

Players can agree on arena size, HERC weight and eligible weapons, customize their own and then shoot each other to pieces. One fight cannot possibly last longer than two or three minutes. With no terrain and few obstacles, there are pretty much no tactical considerations to be had. Aim well and hope that the opponent doesn't. Hope that your long-ranged missiles will take the enemy out before he even comes close. Or gamble on the opportunity to actually do get close and deliver a deadly shot.

Who turned off the lights?

There is a certain feeling of career mode, the winner being awarded prize money which can be re-invested into HERC upgrades. Nevertheless, the motivational curve soon takes a steep dive when playing alone.

Unlike the aforementioned Academy, Battledrome does feature a two-player mode via modem or local network. While it is clearly much more satisfying to explode a robot controlled by your friend, the lack of actual relevant skill necessity pointed out earlier likely puts an end to such human duels, too, not too soon in, as both will just have to realize the determination of the winner is mostly based on luck. These days, chances to find a willing human opponent for this game are close to zero anyway.

It all simply feels rushed. Like they tried to include this network code into the first proper game, but either they didn't get it done in time (after all, Activision's release of MechWarrior 2 was imminent, so EarthSiege had to ship) or marketing demanded to spin the feature out into a second game. If Battledrome had been a low-priced standalone game or an add-on, there would have been no big cause for complaint. Though it went for full price. Worst, each player needed her own copy.

Origin finally got it right with Wing Commander Armada, a game also exclusively built from assets already created for earlier titles. That one not only had multiplayer and at least some rudimentary gameplay framing, giving some feeling of sense to the rather samey space battles. Battledrome just has samey robot battles in black arenas. Nothing else.

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