Saturday, August 13, 2016

Shattered Steel

Wow... chalk up another shitty little copycat. I mean, I complain a lot about WoW-clones and other game copycatting now, but let's not forget we bought a lot of redundant crap back in the '90s too.

So. It's 1996. FASA and Activision are making big waves with the Mechwarrior games. Players love calling themselves "Clan Wolf" and stomping around in hundred-ton bipedal war machines. Mechwarrior 2 arguably did the most to cement the initial designation for online assemblages of computer gamers as "clans" before RPGs caught up and guilds became more common. The sounds of rockets and rending metal escape many a teenager's darkened room.

As Chris Griffin might say "that's imitatable!"

So just as Activision's gracing the market with what would become the first computer game I played on my family's very own first store-bought, non garage assembled genew-ine Pentium PC, Bioware and Interplay quickly crank out Shattered Steel for a slice of that action. I have no idea how it was received. I was too busy tweaking the loadouts on my beloved Atlas mech in the Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries campaign. I merely tried Shattered Steel once because some guy had clandestinely installed it on a computer at my father's workplace, then went back to the real deal.

I didn't really have much of a concept of fair business dealings, copyright or objectively worthwhile (or not) products at thirteen. It's just that aside from being able to blow little potholes in the terrain, nothing about Shattered Steel really jazzed me. Decades later, I must say I had good tastes and I regret the three bucks or however much I wasted on this trash during a GoG sale.

Granted, some of my frustration stems from the hit/collision detection issues which are apparently due to GoG's flawed port and not the game itself, but overall, Shattered Steel comes across as the kiddie version of mecha mayhem. Lots of chicken-walker mechs (to recycle animation, I'm guessing) and a severe lack of customizable gear compared to MW2M's nickel-and-dime armor point sacrifices are just the start. The combat itself boils down to simplistic pew-pew. No heat management, little momentum to deal with, and in place of separate body segments an all-powerful force field. It's not just that Shattered Steel offers so little. The little it might be said to offer, like defense / speed / offense power distribution, was done much better by more complex competitors either extant or already in development like Uprising. I can't see how this thing ever sold, except perhaps by the efforts of ass-kissing game reviewers promoting it and because a lot of us at ten or thirteen would simply pick up whatever box on the shelf had the niftiest, glossiest, most explodiest cover image.

I'll grant I haven't played enough to get into its storyline. Other "action" versions of more complex genres, like Diablo, compensated for being dumbed down by also providing an immersive atmosphere. Still, I can't see how Shattered Steel's poor attempt at a mecha Starship Troopers routine could ever have been considered immersive. Neither does its music match Mercenaries' engrossing techno tracks.

The funniest thing here though is who developed what. FASA and Activision, now either defunct or as good as by conglomeration and deserving of oblivion, cranked out a quick series of Mechwarrior games which have remained reference points in the simulation realm two decades later. They even rounded the achievement off with a worthy foray into squad RTS games, Mech Commander.
The cheap-ass parasite Shattered Steel, on the other hand, was squeezed out the sphincters of Interplay and Bioware, names otherwise having well earned their lasting fame and continued success in other endeavors.

No comments:

Post a Comment