steel battalion study group

I had some friends by this weekend, and we did a fair bit of gaming. Since I’m the only person I know with Steel Battalion, I like showing it off when I can. I am shamed (honestly!) to admit that I’ve only played it a few times. While I really liked it, when I played it, it was so complex and my sofa was so lousy a seat that I didn’t feel driven to play more.

I hooked up the cockpit and ran through a mission to show the guys how it worked. After seeing the basics, phun started flipping through the manual while I played. To my delight, he then started calling out things like, “Hey. Press that button over there.” That button, when pushed, would change my display in useful ways.

Thus we started the Steel Battalion Study Group. We (casually) rotated playing, watching, and flipping through the manual. Pretty soon we had a grip on some of the controls that became really fundamental to good play. Things like changing the sub-monitor display to show a rear view or a lock-on display were crucial. Having a navigator to remind me which way to turn and when to check my six was awesome. It was also very useful to have two other people yelling, “Eject! Eject!” when I was getting carried away in a gunfight.

Now that I have a better handle on the basics of Steel Battalion, I like it even more. The depth of simulation is great for a console game. It would even be very good for a PC game, especially considering the simpler nature of most mech sims. (It’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars on flight sim peripherals; less so for mech sims.)

There are a few flaws that I think need to be addressed in the sequel. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will be.

The graphics are very good, but also very flawed. My biggest gripe with them is the draw distance and the lack of a graceful horizon. In one mission, I could see the individual girders of a bridge slide into view as they fell within the draw distance. They didn’t materialize out of a distant haze, they just drew themselves onto the screen. Keep in mind that this happens with targets and incoming weapons and you can understand how much of a shortcoming it is.

I don’t think there are enough missions. Now, I say that despite the fact that I’m on mission five or so. While there are probably enough missions (of enough difficulty) that I will not complete them all, it’s frustrating to work on one mission over and over, only to eventually fail to eject and run through the same /four/ missions over and over. I want the ability to play a branching game. I’d even settle for having to do so with several pilot profiles.

I /think/ there’s a random play option, but to be fair I might just be imagining that. I’m going to have to try to play Steel Battalion a few more times and see if I can determine that it’s replayable. The online sequel looks cool, but I’m not so big on playing games online against strangers who might be total jackasses. We had some good discussions, this weekend, about jerks on BattleNet and other games. It doesn’t fill me with cheer. Still, if I can get some friends to pick up SBAT2, it might be A-OK.

Written on June 15, 2003
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