Among the different types of rising genres in the gaming industry, the Real Time Strategy one is a little stagnant. Long-time leader of the section Command and Conquer did not have that much of a competitor, and thus their failed attempt to enter the free to play market did not have a sizeable impact because of the absence of real threats to the franchise. Upcoming title Mechs and Mercs is aiming to shake the landscape for all.
Developed by Camel101 Games, Mechs and Mercs: Black Talons is an RTS game. it is set in a fictional faraway location, where the Noctae Republic hires you, the Black Talons (thus the name) to aid them in their battle against the Tzanar Union. This Tzanar Union is a powerhouse and thus initially this will be an uphill battle, but building units along with progress will definitely decrease the odds. Being mercenaries, these Black Talons would have just packed their bags but the Union has made it impossible to leave the Republic, and having to fight for their lives, this becomes a battle for more than just mercenary fee.
In terms of gameplay, Mechs and Mercs features regular, Command and Conquer gameplay without power stations, refineries or other structures. Instead you only control battle units, and have a set mission objective to stick to. This may vary from escort soldiers to safety or even timed missions in which the strategic choices of deployed units will matter a lot, since you need a hell of a lot of firepower, and that firepower must be blasted off quickly. One such structure having a large destruction potential are the Mechs, which are not in the title just to sound cool. These metallic beasts can be bought to unleash their might on the battlefield, but being considerably slow, ranged attacks will have their toll on the hulking beasts. Repairing them will take a lot of resources away and thus may subtract enough to reduce the deployment of further squads. Talking of deployment, the squads in Mechs and Mercs are limited, due to a sort of XCOM-like permadeath for units, which means that the units lost in battle will not be regenerated once the mission is over. That means that the game will function a lot like a machine in the sense that it will require a lot of maintenance and revision, and will also demand occasional expenditure which for the machine would translate as running costs. This spending is mostly on new squads to replace fallen ones, or also purchasing better squads to handle the battlefield better. Better units may be obtained also without spending, since through experience and the more a squad is used, the more the captain of said squad earns experience, which may earn him level advances which in turn yield bonuses. These bonuses will aid your units in battle and thus gaining more fighting power without actually spending.
On the field, apart from spamming the left mouse button to select units and the right mouse button to move units wherever on the map, there are also small mechanics which make the game revolve around them. Bridges for example constrict infantry units to reduce their cover and thus are more vulnerable under fire, meaning that these must be approached with care. Likewise, finding structures to provide cover for your units is vital because of the multitude of enemy troops which may spawn coming your way. There are also Command Points, which are situated on different points on the battlefield and which, when taken, will provide the ability to land a dropship after a set time, which can enable the calling of further troops among other functions. Enemy landing points may also be conquered, generally a big step towards victory due to you shutting down one of their reinforcements hub.
When not in battle, you find yourself in the base, where one may manage everything related to the squads, starting with the accepting of contracts and ending with the selection of the troops to be sent for combat. This huge hub consists of a lot of tinkering, including the ability to buy more troops from the black market and viewing the galactic system you are in to view any offers for work. This makes the player even more integrated with the mercenary group, almost being a part of every single operation carried out in the Talons’ quest for freedom.
As what regards visual and audio quality, the graphics are somewhat familiar to classic RTS games, with a small but tidy HUD and a minimap which uncovers itself through exploration. The interface is very compact and unlike other strategy games does not cram the screen with information but provides the bare necessity, while having further data available upon mouse hover. On the other hand, Mechs and Mercs features a quite obvious war soundtrack, one which gives the game a feeling of the events unfolding in the game while not being overly dramatic or serious.
Being still in preview phase although set to release sometime soon, Mechs and Mercs is quite the title for an indie RTS. It may not be structured to challenge a titan such as Command and Conquer, but with time, and feedback from the community, the game may one day rise and with it, the glory days for strategy games may come back.