AirMech Desura Review

AirMech is a wonderful blend of a futuristic cybernetic real time strategy and an overhead dual stick shooter. For me I like dual stick shooters and real time strategies, so this game felt like a joy to play. Then you throw in, single player, cooperative play and player vs player, there’s a lot here for everyone to enjoy. It controls like a dual stick shooter, left stick to move, right stick to shoot. There are mouse controls for those without a 360 controller. Since you are an air mech, you can transform from a jet or helicopter by pressing the left trigger to a giant towering robot. On the ground you’re much slower, but you can fight the ground troops with ease. Then if you need to get across the map or fight enemy aircraft, simply transform and fly there. You can buy upgrades during a match, but you’ll need to pick them up from one of your bases. Different mechs have different weapons and abilities like a sword or bombs, but without powering up abilities they feel pretty useless compared to guns.

The object of each game is to take the opposing player’s (or bot’s) home base. Its just that simple. Like a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). Your home base generates computer controlled fodder troops. These troops will automatically seek out other bases and take them over. So if there is an abandon base on a map, they’re sure to find it, but if there’s a tank guarding the base, they’re sure to die trying to take it.

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Each base requires four troops to capture it. These four troops then guard it from turrets on the top. If the enemy’s fodder troops come, they’ll just be mowed down. They just walk into their doom. Everything gives your mech experience to level up during the match.

When you get low on health or low on fuel, just fly back to one of your bases. Each base is somewhat different and has a different amount of healers and refueling devices. The more devices, the faster you’ll be healed and refueled. If you run out of fuel, you’ll fly slower. Using your shield and extra abilities will drain fuel, but I can’t say that I used it that often. You can even pick up a unit, hover over a base and refill the unit’s health. If you can’t make it back to a base, change to your robot form to slowly refuel. Its a nice system. If you die, you’re out of the game for X amount of seconds before you respawn at your home base. You can speed up the time by one second for 2,000 or so credits. Credits are your in match currency.

Now comes the twist. Since this is a real time strategy, you’ll also be building and leading units to victory. You can pick them up, move them around, select them to command where they go. These units along with your upgrades require time to build them. Once they’ve been built, you pick them up at a local base, and put them on the ground, one at a time. It doesn’t matter what base you pick up your units, just that its one of your bases. The units don’t heal themselves like you can. Instead you’ll have to rely on specific healing units that will recharge health of nearby allies. Each unit requires credits to manufacture them and their upkeep. So if you don’t have enough credits to support a large army, you will need to drop a unit into a base to recycle it before you’ll be allowed to make a new unit.

Before you begin, you can chose from your inventory of units to assign them into a nine unit menu. So if you’ve got two-hundred units to chose from, you can only use nine types per match. These units are soldiers, vehicles, mechs, turret guns, cash generators, mines and so on. Everything that you’d expect from a real time strategy. You can also select your pilot, air mech and equipment for your mech.

The different pilots each have different pros and cons. The default pilot Hawk has 10% credits, 5% credits earned, 5% unit build speed at the cost of 3% unit damage resistance and 7% air mech attack power. Each pilot has beautiful art work and there’s something that fits your play style. You’ll even find Youtubers as pilots done in the same beautiful artwork. I guess its a way to thank them for their publicity.

The game does a great job of introducing you to the game without punching you in the face that there are micro transactions in the way of diamonds. It lets you get completely through the fifteen challenge tutorial. Each challenge is a quick tutorial you’ll blow through in no time. There are even star rankings, so you can return for better ratings, but its so simple there’s no need to other than experience and gold called kudos.

Like everything with experience, you’ll level up. Leveling up unlocks new parts, pilots, mechs and units that you still need to buy with gold (kudos). Its an easy system like every other gold (kudos) and experience system. To keep things interesting the achievements (quests) in game will also give you a bonus of gold for accomplishing them. Things like destroying ten tanks in a single match. You can even spend diamonds to get gold and experience boosters for those that don’t like the grind, but really the grind is the game of chess that AirMech is. Every match feels enjoyable, not just that but every match feels fast paced, unlike other MOBAs that can last usually an hour. I’m no fan of MOBAs, I often get bored long before the match ends. They feel like true grinds, while AirMech is enjoyable because its not truly a MOBA.

There are different air mechs to buy, either with default gold or if you want something unique you can purchase premium versions.  It doesn’t look like there is any difference in statistics between the gold bought air mechs and their premium diamond counter-parts. The only difference is visual. You will look cool when flying your neon gothic helix helicopter or your BlackOps helix helicopter instead of your standard gold bought helix helicopter. Cosmetics are good way of doing micro transactions. However, I can still diamond buy an premium osprey helicopter without being a level 8 to unlock the default osprey helicopter.

Also in the shop, you can gold buy enhancements for your air mech and equip them in the hanger before you go into battle. Each piece of equipment that you put on takes up part points. To keep things balanced each mech only has so many part points. So do you want a fantastic shield or do you want several good upgrades instead? The choice is yours and you can have fun buying and tweaking your mech to your hearts desire.

Its not just you and your opponent on the field. Every skirmish map has neutral enemies that attack everyone. They’re nice gatekeepers and add a bit of strategy. Keep them alive so your enemies have to deal with them.

There are several play options, solo where you play by yourself in either skirmishes of 1 vs 1, 1 vs 2, 1 vs 3, 2 vs 2, 2 vs 3, 3 vs 3 or a survival facing waves of enemies defending your home base. Survival turns into a tower defense game. The three survival maps are built in spirals allowing for multiple access points into the map. You’ll need to cover them all if you’re going to survive all the way through. You can also redo the challenges and tutorial in solo play.

Next up is the cooperative mode where you and another player online have a skirmish against the computer or take part in a 2 or 4 player survival. What I like about the cooperative play is that you don’t share resources. You can spawn units and pick them up. Once they’re on the ground, then your teammates can move them around. Other than survival, it feels almost pointless to play against computer opponents. They’re just far too easy. The maps aren’t that large and there doesn’t seem to be much of a way to make them longer other than playing against other humans. You need to play solo before you can easily unlock cooperative, and you need to win three cooperative matches before you unlock the core of the game which is player vs player.

In player vs player you and an ally compete in 2 vs 2 matches and this is where it becomes a grind. It is a drastic departure from the fun and joy of playing against even a difficult computer opponent. Humans know what wins a match and how to keep from losing. This results in some matches that took me around two hours, before someone gave up. I’m ready to throw in the towel at twenty minutes during each match. I’m not willing to go back and play again, due to how dull and monotonous it is. Its not a knock against this game, so much as its a knock against all MOBAs. I just can’t invest the time in one sitting for something that begins to feel like work.

There definitely seems to be some sort of bomber and warthog combination going. I’ve never seen anything else. I assume its because the bomber can happily destroy ground units from above.and the warthog can attack both air and ground units. You end up competing against the other player’s levels and units they’ve unlocked and purchased. Have you unlocked bigger tanks than they have to use? Missiles seem to be overused and rightfully so. They will follow your mech and chase you around the map. If they are a problem, you can always buy a flack gun that has a chance to destroy them. You can outrun them, but humans are smart enough to cluster dozens of missile launchers together, so if you advance too far, they’ll destroy you pretty quick. Then just take the back missile launchers and move them to the front. Over and over.

Since this is a competitive game, there’s an area where you can just watch players play live. Its got an elegant filter that you can quickly find the type of match you’re looking for. It lets you learn tactics without having to look up guides or watch videos, not to mention scout future opponents. Its a nice touch that keeps everything in game.I watched several matches to see things play out to understand what works and what doesn’t.

As a competitive online game, you’ll need to make an account, get registered, verify your email and everything. Some people don’t like that, so if that’s a deal breaker for you, its there. In return, they’ll keep track of your stats and let you play their game.

Probably the only criticism that I have for the game is the menus. These menus tend to overlap one another where my controller doesn’t know which menu its on. Since they’re transparent, I can see that my controller thinks its on the menu under the top menu. Then even mouse control can’t help. The mouse thinks its on the under menu as well. Its required me to Ctrl + Alt + Delete my way out of the game to close it. Its an issue that’s always there at least for now.

AirMech also has a subscription service that will instantly give you several things that you’d normally just buy with gold. I ended up having a lot of fun without spending anything. There is a lot of fun here and you can stick to single player or cooperative play without spending a dime. It feels like there’s a lot of game here even for free.

One thought on “AirMech Desura Review

  1. Nice review. I can’t say I agree with the part where you said that solo matches are too easy, though. Once one reaches level 10, the game makes “Advanced” AI available. I usually play against two of those and it keeps me well on my toes.
    What’s your ‘Mech of choice, if I may ask?

    Like

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