Back in the 80s and 90s, mecha anime was all the rage. Shows like Gundam, Macross, VOTOMs, and countless others battled it out for viewers’ attention. For a lot of fans, these things were the future. Who cares about flying cars when you could have giant robots instead?
Of course, as these things’ popularity grew, all sorts of merchandise related to them began to spring up. It was only a matter of time before mecha video games would become a thing. During the late 90s and early 2000s, there were two series that captured people’s imaginations for a time. The first was SEGA’s Virtual On. The second was From Software’s Armored Core.
While they both had players doing battle in giant robots, the series took decidedly different approaches to them. Virtual On went for a pure arcade experience. As a result, combat was very fast as players whizzed around arenas blasting at their opponents before hitting their thrusters and going in for a melee attack. Each robot was like a character in a fighting game. The mechanized killing machine was pre-made with a very distinct identity to it.
Meanwhile, Armored Core felt a bit more like it was trying to be a simulation. There was a lot more variety in how mechs handled. Some were pretty nimble, but there were a lot of other ones that had a slower, lumbering feel to them. This is largely a result of the extreme levels of customization that players had at their fingertips when choosing a mech here. They could swap out torsos, arms, heads, legs, even do away with legs in favor of tank treads. There were internal systems that could be swapped out as well. This doesn’t even take into account weapon load outs. Really there was a ton of options in terms of how players could go into battle when it came to the Armored Core series.
So, there were two very good mecha games that each approached the genre in their own way, each garnering their own audience of dedicated fans in the process. They were both good games, but that’s all in the past now. Studios haven’t made games like that in a very long time. It’s kind of sad, really. But perhaps fans of giant robots shouldn’t give up hope just yet.
Indigo Entertainment has been working on a mecha game of their own for the last while: Garrison: Archangel. What makes it particularly interesting is that they are trying to combine a lot of what made Virtual On and Armored Core great, and put it all into one game.
It takes the fast-paced arena combat of Virtual On while giving players the customization of Armored Core. As such, players are given a lot of options for how they want their giant robots to perform with regards to stats, appearance, load outs and the like, while being greeted with very frenetic gameplay when competing in matches.
So far, customization provides a lot of options, with millions of possible combinations as to how one’s robot will look and perform. This mode will give players a lot of avenues as to how they want to approach combat. There is a worrying lack of tank tread or quadruped options in the leg department, but here’s to hoping that maybe these get added at some point.
Meanwhile, the matches’ tempo are very quick, making them very reminiscent of Virtual On. Mechas have thrusters equipped the that allow for quick side dashes, blasting forward to close space, as well as taking flight. All the while, players will blast away at their opponent and / or slice them up with a melee weapon. It all happens very fast, keeping fights very exciting.
At the moment, many of the arenas are very sparse. In versus matches, they tend to be large, open rings. While these give a lot of room to maneuver, having terrain to work with would add a lot to the experience.
So far, the game’s horde mode appears to be the only place players will find this. Here, players find themselves in a seemingly virtual environment with wire frame buildings. These give one places to take cover from incoming fire, as well as opportunities to take advantage of high ground. This adds a lot to combat and it would be nice to see this in other modes as well, or at least make it available as an option.
Thus far, the game’s graphics are looking pretty decent with some nice mechas to choose from. Meanwhile, the soundtrack has a feel to it that is very similar to arcade games of the 1990s. One can quickly tell that the game’s developers have spent a lot of time with classic mecha games and are pouring their enthusiasm for these into the game’s aesthetics (and everything else too, obviously).
There will plenty of game modes for players to sink their teeth into in Garrison: Archangel. The game will include both a single player and online versus mode. Versus combat will actually support up to four players, so things can get pretty hectic. There will be a survival mode where players face off against one robot after the next. Also, there will be the horde mode alluded to earlier, which does exactly what players will expect. Between all of these and heading off to the garage to make custom robots, things are shaping up to give players plenty to do.
As it stands, there is a lot to like in Garrison: Archangel. The game has quite a bit of potential. At this point, it largely needs more meat on its bones. It’s still in early access, though, so there will be plenty of opportunity for that. Versus-styled mecha games sort of fell off the face of the earth. This game could help to bring them back. It’ll be exciting to see where the developers take things from here.
The game is currently available on Steam Early Access.