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Overview

Set in FASA Corporation's BattleTech universe and developed by Activision, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat is a combat simulation game which recreates the experience of customizing and piloting a colossal BattleMech, or 'Mech for short. Set against the backdrop of the Refusal War, MechWarrior 2 contains two separate campaigns which represent clans on both sides of the conflict, Clan Jade Falcon of the Crusader clans, and Clan Wolf of the Wardens. Both campaigns are similar in gameplay terms, with players challenged to optimize the configuration of their 'Mechs for each particular mission while also skillfully piloting them during the missions themselves. Aside from the campaigns, MechWarrior 2 includes both single-player skirmish and multiplayer modes.
 
MechWarrior 2 was successful enough to warrant an expansion pack, MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy, as well as a stand-alone sequel, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, the latter of which added several new mechanics, such as the ability to salvage parts, choose between different missions, and buy and sell 'Mechs. While games in the MechWarrior series after Mercenaries would use different technology, the MechWarrior 2 engine would see continued life in later Activision games set in other universes, such as Interstate '76 and its expansion, the Nitro Pack, whose customization mechanics and damage modeling were noticeably similar to MechWarrior 2. Finally, Heavy Gear, which was made after Activision lost the rights to the BattleTech universe, uses an engine based on the modified MechWarrior 2 code used for Mercenaries.

Story

 The intro sets the stage for the brutal 'Mech combat to come.
The main narrative of MechWarrior 2 is a retelling of the Refusal War conflict between Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf, which was caused by an idealogical rift between the two. Clan Jade Falcon, belonging to the Crusader clans, believes that the Clans should wage war against the Inner Sphere with the eventual purpose of reforming its various factions into the Star League; Clan Wolf, however, representing the Warden clans, supports military action only if the Inner Sphere were to constitute a significant threat to the Clans. 
 
The game picks up in the wake of the Battle of Tukayyid, in which the Clans were forced into a 15-year truce with the Inner Sphere after a failed bid to reclaim Terra. Angered by their loss and suspicious that it had been engineered by the Wolves to serve their own purposes, the Jade Falcons accuse the leader of the invasion and Wolf clan member Ulric Kerensky of treason. Deeming it best to settle their dispute in combat, Ulric invokes the Trial of Refusal, which the Falcons accept. Clan Jade Falcon, should they win, plans to use their victory as grounds to ignore the truce with the Inner Sphere, whereas Clan Wolf fully intends to honor the original agreement. It is in the midst of this clan war that the events of MechWarrior 2 take place.
 

Gameplay

Before the campaign begins, players are required to side either with Clan Jade Falcon or Clan Wolf. Both clans have a unique campaign following their particular side of the conflict, though the demands of gameplay are identical between the two. Prior to most missions, pilots are required to choose their BattleMech as well as its load-out. This not only includes weapon selection, but also heat sink and armor allocation, allowing players to fine-tune a 'Mech for the tasks required in each particular mission. A mission that requires reconnaissance, for instance, might call for a lighter armor load in order to increase speed, while sacrificing speed for an optimal weapon configuration might be necessary when heavy resistance is expected.

Missions have recommended 'Mechs, but customization is often preferable.
While pre-mission customization requires a fair amount of forethought, the missions themselves are no less strategic. Since BattleMechs are colossal skyskraping war machines, they move at a very deliberate pace; this means successful 'Mech piloting requires constant awareness of one's facing in relation to an opponent, as it may not always be easy or quick to recover from poor positioning. One of the most crucial elements to master is torso control, as all 'Mechs are capable of moving their upper and lower halves independently. Players may also be called upon to command a squad of friendly 'Mech pilots in addition to their own. Furthermore, several of the 'Mech's systems require monitoring during missions. Weapon fire produces heat, which must be dissipated, and players must be aware of the status of enemy 'Mechs as well as their own through use of a detailed in-game HUD.

This last point is particularly important, as 'Mechs take damage based on where they are hit. Critical damage to a particular area will mean loss of any components that may be housed there, and certain areas of a 'Mech if damaged severely will leave a 'Mech compromised or even completely incapacitated. Leg damage is a good example of this, as loss of leg function means almost certain death for a 'Mech pilot. The cockpit is by far the most vulnerable area of any given 'Mech, and while difficult to hit, it usually only takes one solid blow to the cockpit to kill the pilot, thus take its Mech out of the fight.

Outside of its campaign mode, MechWarrior 2 allows players to engage in the Trials of Grievance, which is essentially a skirmish mode. Selecting a 'Mech and up to two squad mates, players can engage in multiple waves of combat against enemies of their own choosing.

Multiplayer

Many copies of the MechWarrior 2 and NetMech CDs came with an online gaming client known as Kali. Players using Kali had two major leagues/ladders to choose from: the Grand Council (GC) or the Killing Zone League (TKZ). Both offered scenario-based battles. Grand Council league combat focused on the Clan style of warfare with participants of a particular rank being limited to what tonnage was allowable for their 'Mech chassis choice. Combat was initialized when warriors from one clan challenged warriors from another. If the challenge was accepted, combat was started. Clan rankings were tracked by the overall winning percentage of the individual clans. TKZ offered more of a strategist's view of the overall concept by allowing units to consist of Inner Sphere, Clan and Mercenary forces. Using the star map included with the Battletech universe, battles were engaged for planets, which generated resources used in purchasing 'Mechs and increasing territory. The ultimate goal for TKZ was control over Terra. 
 

'Mechs

BattleMechs usually range in weight from 20 to 100 tons, and are divided into four general weight categories.

Light (20-35 tons)

'MechWeightCruising SpeedTop SpeedJump JetsDefault Weapons
Fire Moth
  • 20 tons
  • 108 kph
  • 162 kph
  • None
  • 2 ER Medium Lasers
  • 1 SRM-4
  • 1 SRM-6
Kit Fox
  • 30 tons
  • 64.8 kph
  • 97.2 kph
  • None
  • 1 Small Pulse Laser
  • 1 ER Large Laser
  • 1 Streak SRM-4
  • 1 LB 5-X Autocannon
Jenner IIC
  • 35 tons
  • 97.2 kph
  • 151.2 kph
  • None
  • 1 Streak SRM-4
  • 2 SRM-6s

Medium (40-55 tons)

'MechWeightCruising SpeedTop SpeedJump JetsDefault Weapons
Nova
  • 50 tons
  • 54 kph
  • 86.4 kph
  • Five
  • 12 ER Medium Lasers
Stormcrow
  • 55 tons
  • 64.8 kph
  • 97.2 kph
  • None
  • 3 ER Medium Lasers
  • 2 ER Large Lasers

Heavy (60-75 tons)

'MechWeightCruising SpeedTop SpeedJump JetsDefault Weapons
Mad Dog
  • 60 tons
  • 54 kph
  • 86.4 kph
  • None
  • 2 Medium Pulse Lasers
  • 2 Large Pulse Lasers
  • 2 LRM-20s
Hellbringer
  • 65 tons
  • 54 kph
  • 86.4 kph
  • None
  • 1 Machine Gun
  • 2 ER Small Lasers
  • 3 ER Medium Lasers
  • 2 ER PPCs
  • 1 Streak SRM-6
Rifleman IIC
  • 65 tons
  • 32.4 kph
  • 54 kph
  • Three
  • 4 Large Pulse Lasers
Summoner
  • 70 tons
  • 54 kph
  • 86.4 kph
  • Five
  • 1 ER PPC
  • 1 LRM-15
  • 1 LB 10-X Autocannon
Timber Wolf
  • 75 tons
  • 54 kph
  • 86.4 kph
  • None
  • 2 Machine Guns
  • 1 ER Small Laser
  • 2 ER Medium Lasers
  • 2 ER Large Lasers
  • 1 Medium Pulse Laser
  • 2 LRM-20s

Assault (80-100 tons)

'MechsWeightCruising SpeedTop SpeedJump JetsDefault Weapons
Gargoyle
  • 80 tons
  • 54 kph
  • 86.4 kph
  •  None
  • 1 ER Small Laser
  • 2 SRM-6s
  • 2 LB 5-X Autocannons
Warhammer IIC
  • 80 tons
  • 43.2 kph
  • 64.8 kph
  • None
  • 5 Medium Pulse Lasers
  • 2 ER PPCs
  • 1 SRM-6
Marauder IIC
  • 85 tons
  • 43.2 kph
  • 64.8 kph
  • None
  • 4 ER Small Lasers
  • 2 Medium Pulse Lasers
  • 3 ER PPCs
Warhawk
  • 85 tons
  • 43.2 kph
  • 64.8 kph
  • None
  • 4 ER PPCs
  • 1 LRM-10
Dire Wolf
  • 100 tons
  • 32.4 kph
  • 54 kph
  • None
  • 4 ER Large Lasers
  • 3 Medium Pulse Lasers
  • 1 LRM-10
  • 2 Ultra Autocannon 5s

Version Differences

Though it was released on other systems, the PC is considered the primary platform for MechWarrior 2. Its success led to quite a few different releases, and it was also a particularly popular pack-in game for various PC gaming products. Unlike a lot of games which have seen wide re-releases, many of the MechWarrior 2 releases are quite different from each other. As the versions became more numerous, releases would often contain more than one version of the game. The following, while certainly not a comprehensive list of releases for the game, gives a general idea of the breadth of changes made to the game over the years.

MS-DOS
The original version of the game, MechWarrior 2 for IBM CD-ROM (released both in 1.0 and 1.1 versions) is intended for use through MS-DOS only, with no native support for Windows. While it received extensive revisions down the road, the DOS version has remained one of the easiest to run on modern systems. It is also highly sought after for the DOS version of NetMech, which is the most popular means of playing multiplayer MechWarrior 2 at present.

Windows 95
While the original release could be run through a DOS box within Windows, the native Windows versions include new features like support for multi-threading and the ability to play in windowed mode. Since it was released later, this version was initially discounted for early adopters who had already bought and registered the DOS version. Windows versions of MechWarrior 2 could also be played over the internet via Kali, though this would prove to be a less popular alternative to NetMech.

Card-Specific 3D Versions
Due to its overall popularity, MechWarrior 2 was used as a showpiece for many 3D graphics cards at the time. Created for ATI 3D Rage and Matrox Mystique cards among others, these versions were usually meant as pack-ins for their respective GPUs. While more graphically impressive than the software rendered original releases, most of these tailored versions are nearly impossible to run without the cards they were designed for, which rendered them obsolete once these cards were inevitably surpassed.

Battlepack Edition
Coming as part of a compilation release for MechWarrior 2, the Battlepack is an 8-bit software rendered version that utilizes the MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries engine. This includes all the enhancements made in the latter game, such as better graphics and 'Mechs that fall down rather than standing in place after having a leg destroyed. Unfortunately, it also meant that it could not connect with previous versions for multiplayer purposes, as those versions used an earlier engine.

Titanium Edition
Part of a compilation release similar to Battlepack, the Titanium Edition of MechWarrior 2 also runs on the MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries engine, with all of the upgrades that entails. Its biggest claim to fame is that it supports Direct3D, and does not require a specific video card in order to run as previous hardware accelerated versions did. However, despite being one of the best-looking versions of the game, it was not widely embraced by fans for a number of reasons. For one, the wire-frame image enhancement mode is completely missing from this release, and the multiplayer component only allows players to connect with owners of the Battlepack or Titanium editions of the game.


Ghost Bear's Legacy

Main Article: MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy 

Released less than a year after MechWarrior 2, Ghost Bear's Legacy is an expansion that follows the titular Ghost Bear Clan in a story unrelated to the Refusal War of the main game. After the theft of the genetic material of their clan's founders, the Ghost Bears set out to find the culprits and bring them to justice. Initially believing the Draconis Combine to be responsible, Clan Ghost Bear soon finds matters are not as simple as they initially appear...

While it contains a new campaign and several new 'Mechs (fourteen in all), Ghost Bear's Legacy remains very faithful to the gameplay and atmosphere of its predecessor. New environments provide some visual variety to the new missions, and Jeehun Hwang, who was responsible for the majority of the original game's score, composed additional tracks for the expansion.

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