Chromehounds Reader Review
It's an ONLINE game, mainly..
The online game is pressing a lot of the right buttons for me. Its a deliberately measured team battle that requires good team communication above all else. Admittedly if your team members have a flair for building decent mechs then that helps, but even your average Joe who throws together something reasonable can shine in battle, if the Commander plays the strategy right, and the team forsake personal glory for the win. I’m fond of mechs, especially big stomping ones. Ones that just exude a massive heavy presence. You can really feel the weight of them. The slow pace of their movement only adds to the charm of the game, plus it gives you a strategic breathing space in the online game. You can think about how to react. You have that time. That’s not to say the action isn’t intense, it certainly is, once you’re in the thick of battle, but theres the build up, the pursuit, the capturing of the vital COMBAS towers (COMmunication BASes - I think) that allow you to communicate with your teammates and your commander to spot enemy movement on the map.
Hybridisation is key
I like being part of a team. I like supporting play. I like sacrifice for others or a higher goal. I like stomping mechs with big guns. All of these are catered for in Chromehounds online. There are several ‘classes’ that you can play, but the mech engineering system allows for you to build hybrids, in fact it positively encourages it. So you can play as a Soldier with frontline guns such as machine guns and short to medium range cannons, you’re the main combatants up close and personal, or you can play a Heavy Gunner, a slow moving set of long range artillery on legs. It’s all about trajectory fire and bombardment with a Heavy Gunner. You can play a Scout, a speedy tracked, wheeled or hover car style vehicle, ideal for capturing COMBAS towers, or sneaking to the enemy base, outside the radar range and attacking it. You can play a Defender, a heavily armoured and much slower version of the Soldier, taking the hits and holding out, rather than damage dealing. Defending the base being top priority. You can also play as a Commander, a vehicle that is usually fast, and that can survey the whole of the map using the radar system from its spinning satellite dish to the other captured COMBAS towers. Out of all the classes you can play, the Commander is probably one of the most important ones, but can be a bit dry without much combat. A Squad battling without a Commander, has lost its long range senses. You are then reliant on the visual range of your team, and any AI controlled support such as gun turrets and arms bearing walkers that come as part of the bonus of capturing an associated COMBAS tower. Commander-less squads are at the mercy of fast paced scouts and their ability to weave undetected through the terrain to land devastating blows on your Base. A Commander orchestrates the battle. The Hounds in his team are his tools, so having a good mix of long and short range hitters is advantageous. Capturing COMBAS’s gives the Commander much wider vision, the ability to detect enemy well before they’re in visual range, allows him to command his Heavy Gunners to bombard specific sectors on the map, to try and soften them up as they converge for the main battle. The Commander can also spot the “run and gun” scouts making a beeline for his base. With a squad full of mech tweaking players, and the ability to create hybrid mechs, you can see there is much room for improvement to cover your squads needs in battle.
The Global War
Chromehounds online isn’t a game you can really solo well in. You can form a clan of one mech. And you can arrange battles between other stubbornly minded folks. But mech on mech death matches on maps that were designed around a squad of 5 or 6 with a much wider cover of abilities, is just missing the point. You need to join a clan, that will organise into squads signing up to the battles available. The persistent War involves squad vs squad battles in key areas of the map, securing these areas and opening other areas in the web of connections to the enemies cities and captured areas. It is quite like Planetsides global map depicting the war, however Chromehounds battles are not massive zones, they’re map based instances where squads will clatter it out and shift the momentum of power. Each of the three superpowers, Tarakia (story wise funded by the Americans, and subsequently adopted by American players), Morskoj (similar to the Russians, and unofficially adopted by European players), and Sal Kar (story wise funded by the Chinese, and unofficially adopted by Asian players) will promote certain key offensive or defensive battles with more merit so that players who take part in these skirmishes will see better returns on their wins and subsequently they will level up in rank, allowing them to take on more hardened players from the enemy states. The higher the rank of the skirmish, the higher the rewards for the victor. High ranking players cannot take part in low rank skirmishes, to prevent ‘ganking’ as such. The War is quite fluid, and it ultimately results in a win for a single nation who eliminates the other two. So far, since the servers have been online, Morskoj has won a single round. I’m not certain what advantages that gives the Morskoj on a global level, perhaps more special equipment is available via the lottery, I don’t know, but once the war is won, the map resets and it begins again. Taking last night for example, Morskoj were down to about 22% occupation of the map early evening, and there were worries about being wiped, but this morning after lots of key battles, they had turned the tide and secured about 70% occupation once again. So there are dramatic swings in power to follow. If a superpower is eradicated altogether I believe they can still take part in skirmishes in the hope of liberating their capital city once again. Since I’ve not been on the receiving end of an eradication, I’m not entirely sure whats open to you.
Prepare to Fight
The battles themselves are quite involved. You assemble your squad in your clan lobby, a place where you can watch the war progress and chat with teammates, or do some shopping and then tinker with your mech, and your Commander will either join or host a skirmish and the squad mates will then select a squad rendezvous in the Neroimus War, and everyone will join the mission lobby, where you can look over the map, put the final touches to your mech, chat about tactics and select a base (you normally have 2 or 3 locations where you can set up your headquarters, so the enemy never quite know where your base is, even on these maps with known terrain). Once your squad is ready for battle, everyone flags themselves up as ‘ready’ and then the enemy squad is notified of this. There is a 15 minute time limit on mission lobby duties, which allows for enough time to assemble and brief your squad, but if both squads are ready, the battle begins immediately. If one of the squads pulls out, you then have the option of playing the mission against AI opponents, but the rewards for victory are considerably less. Once in the battle, you’re free to roam, capture towers, defend bases, snipe from hillsides, whatever your Commander wants. Certain tactics seem to have become popular for quick wins. One of which is annoying as hell, if you are not prepared for it. It involves fast scouts mounted with only melee weapons. Big pneumatic spikes that can do considerable damage to a mech, or more importantly a base. So you’ve got your well balanced squad, you’re all capturing towers and providing cover, whilst keeping your eyes peeled for the enemy. Four fast enemy scouts zip round the periphery of the map, land at your base, and before your Heavy Gunner can turn his turret, they’ve all stuck their arrays of six pneumatic spikes into your base and ‘bingo’, its Game Over. The number of battles where this has happened is on the increase. It seems players will always gravitate towards cheap wins like this. Still, after a couple of spike beastings you start to evolve your defensive line, with mines, and defenders.
Last night I was on as my Heavy Gunner with a pair of kick ass Morskoj Howitzers mounted for bombardment, and my front loaded double Cannon, and we had a team playing ’spikers’, Commander shouts out fast moving enemy inbound, luckily across my path, so I turn and ready my cannon, in he comes, fast as you like, so fast I have trouble keeping my turret turn on him, he was speeding to the base… however, he clocked me, a slow Heavy Gunner, usually easy meat for speedy spikers, they outspin you and stab you hard in the back. So, he altered course, thought he could rack up a kill on the way. What he didn’t anticipate was my 'turret turning' system board installed in my cockpit, nor did he suspect that I’d get my howitzers pointed low at him as he made a close charge. Boom! Spiker covered in flames, I’d also taken some splash damage from all the incendiary flying about, he was stunned, he attempted another run, keeping close in on my very slow frame, I was back peddling, and laying down Howitzer damage like it was going out of fashion. He was surprisingly well armoured for a scout. Still, time to jam my twin cannons up his chrome exhaust and Wallop! As I backed away I noticed my Cannon cam was out, in fact my Cannons were but a twisted wreck, but the spiker had stalled, and his cockpit was flaming, and it was only a matter of time before ‘bingo!’ he went up in a cloud of satisfyingly black smoke and flames. My legs were damaged quite badly so speed was even more hindered, my main twin cannons were out, but I was still around, and he wasn’t taking the base anytime soon. After that glowing incident, I managed to struggle my way up to the top of a snow capped mountain, following my Commander very carefully through a bed of mines. He was chain gunning the floor to try and clear the majority of them. To support him in a full frontal attack on a very heavily armoured defender. Broken but not down yet, I unloaded the remaining Howitzer rounds into this defender at point blank range almost, 6 or 7 blasts later and he was almost down. Unfortunately he’d peppered me with rockets too many times and I was down and out. Kicked out of your mech and doomed to run around the map as a very small, very slow, very fragile infantryman. Still, you can keep an eye out for the action and even still participate in some recon as such, its just you’re very vulnerable to being stomped on, or taking splash damage. It’s good stuff though. We won that battle, and I’d manage to quash a scout spiker. A proud moment for me.
Pimping your Hound
There are a lot of bits and bobs you can put on your mech to enhance it, but its always a balancing act with power, load (weight), and physical mounting slots. There are night vision for night missions, although take part in one without night vision and you see some spectacular lighting shows when the combat starts. There are heat sensors, mine detectors, mine layers, bomb scatterers, more Armour plating, cooling radiators, even fan based propulsion systems to allow your mech to ‘jump’ slightly. Plenty of variety, plenty of scope for tweaking. Most players in my squad have several mech designs set up for the different classes. I’m still at the early stages of perfecting my Soldier and my Heavy Gunner. But you can tweak and then take it out on a trial sortie, and just see how it performs in basic combat. Inside a squad, you have the support of the other mechs, so you can afford to fiddle a bit and try stuff out, as long as you perform reasonably well.
Overall I am in love with the game. The single player game gives you enough to get a grip on the basics. Its often gritty and too dependant on scripted AI allies, but it does give you a place to train your mech piloting skills. The Scout and Commander missions are particularly stand out for me, I enjoyed them immensely. They reveal how different the classes play. Especially the Commander, you spend most of your time on the map screen, ordering other units about the map to capture COMBAS’s and attack or defend areas. The Commanders role in this game reminds me very much of the Commander role in the online game Savage: Battle for Newerth, big responsibility, but ultimately satisfying if you can gel with your team and evolve to combat situations that arise. The Online game is where its at, and while the interface can be very quirky in places, sometimes downright not nice, you struggle with it to open the door into these tough fought war zones, where true teamplay has an area to shine through. As I said in the starting paragraph, it presses all the right buttons, most team based games just don’t cut it, people don’t gel into a team well, they run off and solo the tank or the helicopter, theres no overall Commander holding the thing together. In Chromehounds, to win, there usually has to be a Commander, and because its squad based, it almost requires you to join up with people and work together. Not really for soloists.
A stand out moment, that will typify my love for the game, is when we marched our mechs up to the river separating the two warring forces, the enemy trying to lower the bridges and make a crossing. We shot out the bridges. We piled our mechs into the water. And we water walked them across the river bed to the other side, emerging like an army of mechanised sea devils, no sooner had the water dripped off chrome pistons, than we rained hellfire onto the enemy. It was a night mission. We all had our cockpit lights on to ensure we wouldn’t commit friendly fire. Amazing sight. Not bad for an online game.
8 / 10