War Tech Fighters
Developed By: Drakkar Dev
Published By: Blowfish Studios
Category: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 06.27.19
My love of mechs and all games and media related to mechs is no secret to anyone who knows me. This is a love that has existed since I first booted up Mechwarrior II many, many years ago, and has hit higher and higher peaks with the advancement of gaming technology. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure to give two mech combat games a try here at The Switch Effect. Project Nimbus had pretty good combat, but no real customization options, which… well, if you can’t customize your mech what’s the point, really? Strike Suit Zero had much the same problem, but with the added let-down that you weren’t really piloting a full mech, just a space fighter that could briefly transform into a robot – it was very pretty, however. Which brings us to today’s game, War Tech Fighters for the Nintendo Switch. It features some very crisp combat, plenty of customization options, and you’re piloting a mech the whole time; none of that limited transformation bull crap. Let’s get on with it.
You’d Think Space Empires Would Realize that Having “Empire” In Their Name Always Leads to Space Rebellions
In terms of its storyline, War Tech Fighters doesn’t really offer anything that Project Nimbus or Strike Suit Zero don’t in terms of originality – which is to say, it’s fairly generic. The Zatros Empire has expanded throughout the galaxy, crushing many planets and colonies beneath its heel. Surprising literally no one, the colonies don’t really care for this state of affairs and they stage a rebellion. Players adopt the role of Nathan Romanis, ace War Tech (War Techs are the giant robots, FYI) pilot for the Hebos colony, in his bid to fight for the freedom of all colonists under Zatros’s oppressive rule.
It’s a… fine story. There’s nothing especially exciting about it, and the writing is pretty uneven at times. The game’s text is littered with typos and small grammatical errors; someone needed to do another proofreading run, I think. It’s not like the story is what I’m here for anyway, but I would have preferred something either a little less generic or a little bit deeper; there isn’t a lot of character work going on, either. What characters do get introduced receive little to no development beyond the game saying “Here’s another pilot. He’s… also… here? I guess.” I’m mostly here for the mech combat, but a solid, deep story never hurt anyone, and certainly could have helped this game elevate itself from “pretty fun” to “excellent.”
War Tech Fighting
Overall, the action is smooth and controls are responsive; shooting is intuitive and satisfyingly accurate without being overly technical or complicated. You have a variety of ranged attacks to choose from, like light attacks with rapid machinegun fire, heavy attacks from cannons, and missiles that lock on, but missile lock is easy to break and missiles have been largely useless to me. You can move your mech with the left thumbstick and move the camera with the right, and you can dash by pressing the left thumbstick. Dashing feels less responsive than the rest of the controls; I would have preferred if it were controlled by a trigger. You also possess a shield to block projectiles; it blocks every attack coming from the front, but you can still be hit from behind with your shield deployed. You can’t have your shield up and attack at the same time, which kind of sucks. GMs in Gundam have their shields up while they fire all the time, not that it does them any good. I could have made it work here, though.
So a lot of your enemies are in the form of fighter jets and capital ships, and shooting is fine for taking them down – in fact it’s the only way to take them out. But you can enter melee mode when fighting other War Techs; the game goes to a close up view where you can use a light or heavy attack, block with the shield, or dodge to the side. Blocking at the last second stuns your enemy for a short time, allowing you to get some free shots in. I could never get the timing right for a perfect block; I can’t tell if that’s a problem with the game’s input detection or my own crappy reflexes. Probably the latter, though. I ain’t got no rhythm.
Right about now you may be saying to yourself, “Well, smooth action controls are all well and good, but does that really mean anything if you can’t do a flying karate kick into an enemy ship and send it spiraling into oblivion?” So I guess that means it’s time to talk about executions, which are a way to do exactly that, sometimes. When you’ve depleted an enemy’s health bar enough and are in melee range, a red targeting reticle appears around an enemy. If you hit the execute button when this reticle comes up, you do a special finishing move that gives you two bonuses. First of all, you get an awesome finishing animation like the aforementioned flying karate kick or slashing a gunship clean in half with your sword. Secondly, you get an experience bonus at the end of the mission for every execution you… uh, execute.
Inconsistently Mobile Suits
Movement controls are fine for combat and exploration, but smaller tasks that require a bit more precision are less, well, precise. At certain times during a mission you may have to hack a terminal or use your scanners on a particular object. They both work the same way; highlight the object you’re targeting with your reticle and hit the interact button. However, interacting with terminals or scanning objects is kind of finicky, and getting in the precise right location to do so can take a few tries. It doesn’t really put you in any danger, because most of the time you can clear out all the enemies on the screen before you have to perform any interactions, but the lack of fluidity was noticeable compared to the rest of the game.
Custom Tech Fighters
Mechs need to be customizable. This is not debatable. War Tech Fighters may have small, nagging problems elsewhere, but it has a robust customization and upgrade system for its War Techs. Your pilot gains levels, which adds a bonus to your mech’s health and energy. You can also switch out different torsos, heads, arms, and legs, which offer bonuses to different areas. Heads generally increase your accuracy, arms your damage, legs do mobility, and the torso is your main source of health and energy. You can also choose from some pretty dang awesome-looking swords and shields. Additionally, there is a system of upgrades you can purchase to add a bonus to your War Tech regardless of the model of your components. Of course you need money for all of this, which can be gained from completing missions and challenges, and in order to conduct research you must first find its research data in the field.
Between missions, you can access a simulator to either replay missions or complete challenges. Replaying missions rewards you with experience, but no other resources. Luckily, if you missed grabbing any research data in the field during the mission, the simulator allows you to obtain it that way. Of course, if the simulator knows how to simulate that data, I’m not sure why it can’t just share that info with the research crews, but I don’t think I was supposed to consider things that deeply. Completing challenges doesn’t reward you with experience, but you do get rewarded with resources. There are three different survival mode scenarios as well, and completing waves in survival will reward you with both experience and resources. I didn’t find the simulator good for much except grabbing missing research data; the difficulty curve is steady enough that I was able to keep up with the game just through the resources I obtained from doing the regular missions, for the most part.
The graphics aren’t exactly top-of-the-line, but that’s not really an issue for me. The 3D graphics are smooth enough, if a little last-gen compared to other games released on the Switch. The most important thing is that the robots are cool as hell. War Tech Fighters’ mech design sense is in line with the Pacific Rim school of aesthetics, although several design elements of some mechs reminded me a little bit of Space Runaway Ideon. But that may just be because I painted my War Tech red and white. The soundtrack is comprised of dramatic, intrepid, and intense rock tracks, replete with wailing guitar riffs and thundering drum sequences. The sense of urgency and intensity the soundtrack added to the gameplay is astonishing, making the music my second-favorite aspect of the game – executions are still way cooler. Cutting an enemy War Tech in half in slow-motion will never not be awesome.
War Tech Fighters doesn’t use any touch or motion controls, which is for the best in an action game. I did greatly prefer playing the game docked, however; the game looks crowded and small on the Switch’s handheld mode screen. The text is fairly small on a TV, but it is downright miniscule on the undocked screen; it hurt my eyes to try and read a lot of it. Throw in the fact that action games are just more comfortable to play on a Pro controller, and I don’t see any reason to try this one undocked. If you absolutely have to you can play it on the go, but you’re definitely getting the inferior experience.
TL;DR: Good action, cool mechs, and a bangin’ soundtrack make up for a lackluster story and poor handheld performance.