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Posted on Apr 20th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Mechs, BattleTech, Pirates Moon, FASA, MechWarrior 3 Gold Edition, No GunMech WHATTHEHECKGUYS

The mission seems simple, use the might of our Inner Sphere mechs to finally put a permanent stop to the advance of the Clans. With the eventual restoration of the Star League, our glorious leader, Archon-Prince Victor Steiner-Davion, will lead us to victory against the last of the clans, Clan Smoke Jaguar.  For our part, we will perform a quick strike against Jaguar facilities on planet Traquil, where no doubt we will have to face the most vicious, genetically modified warriors the clan can throw at us.  Here comes the mission briefing over the com.  Oh, this is bad news.  The second dropship in the assault, the Black Hammer, has been...  Wait a second.  I know that voice from somewhere.  It sounds like -
Uncle Phil?

Just last week I made a discovery: James Avery, best known for playing Uncle Phil in the American television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air during the 90's, has nothing to do with this game.  The credits list this voice credit to Michael Mancusco, who also did some work in Star Trek TNG: A Final Unity, another game published by MicroProse (the publisher of MechWarrior 3) for PC back in 1995.  Why do I mention this?  Ever since I first played this game in 1999, I was always under the impression that James Avery voiced the Intelligence Officer.  So convinced of this was I, that when James Avery passed in 2013, I mourned him as a great actor of stage and film, and voice of the Intelligence Officer.  *sigh*  Time to move on, I guess.

Released in 1999, MechWarrior 3 is considered the high point of the series by many fans.  It features better graphics than MechWarrior 2, better sound, a more easily accessible story, an overall tighter design, and is often considered the best representation of a mech simulator, period.  And I don't like it.  Well, maybe that is too harsh.  In fact, once upon a time, this was my favorite game in the series, easily surpassing the second and fourth game.  Sure, part of that was my "Uncle Phil" faux pas, but it looks so much better than the second game.  But...  I guess I should probably explain myself better.

The story is very good and light-years beyond that of the previous MechWarrior games.  You are a Lance Leader in Operation Damocles, which is tasked to perform a quick and precise strike against Clan Smoke Jaguar forces on planet Traquil.  Unfortunately, one of the two dropships was shot down during planetary entry, with the other forced to land off from the targeted areas.  With only half the remaining forces and the element of surprise gone, you have to complete the mission pretty much on your own.  This is told to you through spoken mission briefings, as well as radio chatter (both via Intelligence and enemy intercepted communications).  I have to admit, I really like the story.  It really fleshes things out and makes me want to care about what is going on, so much in fact that I even went online and read a bit about the period of time the game is set in (though most in the BattleTech community don't recognize the game as canon).  MechWarrior 2 made it too easy to just click past the briefings and get to the next mission (aka, blowing up more mechs).  Try that in part 3 and you will likely miss vital intel, if you are even able to skip it at all.

Within a few minutes of starting MechWarrior 3, it is clear the game is far more of a sim than the second game.  The mechs feel larger and heavier, weapons have more recoil and are better animated.  This time around you have a full cockpit, which are different for each mech.  Controls are also different (though maybe not better).  You can still move the torso of the tank on the z-axis, but now you can also "look" around with the reticle, which allows for more fine-tuned aiming without moving the torso. It also allows you to get a better look around the cockpit.  It isn't super difficult, just something else to get used to. 

But the button...  You really need to either use a flight stick in conjunction with a mouse, or just learn to deal with the buttons being spread out on the keyboard.  On a regular basis, you will need to (z)oom your aiming reticle, (f)lush your coolant (during times of extreme heat overload in combat...be careful that stuff runs out!), (s)tart up your mech in case it shuts down automatically (if you didn't (f)lush your coolant fast enough, for example), targ(e)t your enemy (sometimes it doesn't do it automatically), and (g)et up when a get knocked on your butt during combat.  It happens, far more than I would like, but you are piloting a massive bipedal robot.  I think what I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of buttons to learn, far more than what I wrote above.  Know that Steel Battalion controller that the peoples get silly over?  MechWarrior 3 would need a larger one.  Basically, if you don't have the foldout Quick Reference Guide out and open (or downloaded) and the manual read over fully, you will have a very difficult time with this game.

Now massive button spreads are fairly easy to deal with (at least if you are a lover of DOS-era gaming), but that doesn't compare with the massive gameplay-related learning curve that MechWarrior 3 throws at you, right from the beginning and quite frankly, I think most of it has to do with the more restrictive mech design that is in place.  Granted, this jives perfectly well with the story (a lance leader trying to complete a near-failed mission with limited resources), but it certainly doesn't cater to the newcomer.  In the beginning, you are stuck with a mech that has the potential for massive overheating problems, and if you don't learn to conservatively fire your weapons by the second mission, you likely won't get any farther.  You also have to learn to fight at short, medium, and long range (another new tactic) by the third mission, and that means (at least for me), no MachinegunMech, at least not with the massive open environments this game has.  You will eventually come across salvage that updates your arsenal with better weapons and mechs, but this only happens as you play.  Really want an ER PPC for the Thor you captured?  You may have to get by with inferior weapons until later missions.  I think this does lend a more "RPG-style progression" feel to it, but coming from MechWarrior 2 it feels like a step back, and maybe even a bit stifling.

Finally, I think we need to talk about actually getting this game running.  Compared to MechWarrior 2, getting MechWarrior 3 running on your modern Windows computer has the potential to be very easy.  Simply install to the default directory, then change the compatibility of the executable to "Windows 9x" and run.  Now, getting the game playable is another story...  See, MechWarrior 3 doesn't so much mind your modern rig, just your multi-core processor.  It dislikes your AMD graphics card, and your Intel one as well.  But what it really hates, more than anything, is Windows XP.  Oddly enough I've heard (anecdotally) reports of people having great results with Windows 10, so that is maybe something to shoot for.  Personally, I couldn't get it to run properly on any of my Windows 7-8.1 (32-bit or 64-bit) computers, which I admit was a bit humbling.  I resorted to my old Dell C610 running Windows 98SE on which it ran like a dream, although I couldn't get any good screenshots, so I have to apologize for that.  Small price to pay for not having tanks and mechs bouncing and floating through the air, though, so it worked out for me in the end.  As always, mileage will vary.

I had been standing in a lake

Regarding price, MechWarrior 3 isn't well represented on eBay, and because of that prices are a little wild.  I didn't see any boxes, though there should be representatives of both big (for the original release) and small box (for the Gold Edition re-release), as well as a jewel case release (or two, who knows).  You should be able to get a disc for less than $10 USD shipped, though "perceived value" is hard at work here, with some yahoos selling loose CDs for thirty dollars or more, which is preposterous in my opinion.  The most egregious are the sellers who are clearly shrink wrapping jewel cases with with no UPC symbols to be seen.  Oh well.  I did see the awesome foil big box for around $40 Canadian, so that is something to shoot for, I think.  If you can find the Gold Edition get it, as it contains the Pirate's Moon expansion, which includes twenty new missions with new hardware and almost qualifies as a new game.  I didn't play it, as I didn't really have time (plus I couldn't finish the main game), but if you like the main game, then the expansion seems to be more of the same.
After the first title, MechWarrior 3 is my least favorite game in the franchise.  The game feels too clunky; far more like a real sim than any other game in the series, and for once I have to admit I don't think it is a good idea.  This may not turn off most people, but after the fluid combat of MechWarrior 2 it just can't compete.  But it does have someone who sounds a lot like James Avery (sorry, I just can't let it go!), and in my book that counts for a lot.

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Thanks for the article! I haven't played the third game and I hear the fourth game is the best in the series. I'll keep an eye out for this game at the local thrifts as it looks like it could provide some enjoyment if the price is cheap enough. Will we be seeing Mechwarrior 4 and Mechcommander in future blog posts?
Thanks for commenting!  The short answer is, yes, I will.  I already have a MechWarrior 4 collection and keeping an eye out for MechCommander, oddly enough, the same way you are.  At all my local stores they sell loose PC games for the same price as music CDs, so it works out pretty well.
@bombatomba: I think I have MechCommander. I recently found a box in the garage during Spring Cleaning that has some gaming and gaming related items in it. I'll post pictures of what I find in there. Good luck on the hunt!
Love seeing more PC gaming love here.

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