Now I’ll fully admit from the outset that I wanted AirMech to be good. Nothing earth-shatteringly amazing, after all, it’s a free-to-play indie title, but good would do. I am a huge Transformers geek (Generation 1 purist right here) and AirMech, from initially spotting it pop up on the Steam store, looks to be based on airborne Transformers, in all but name. So, large, flying, transforming robots. That’s a pretty awesome starting point in my book, but let’s look a little deeper at what AirMech is attempting to offer.
AirMech is an Action-RTS hybrid, currently under development by Carbon Games. Although strictly still in Beta, the title has had a strong following built during its Alpha-testing phase and it has grown from it’s origins as a Chrome browser-based title. As such, it has a seemingly solid community forming already.
The game takes a whopping chunk of inspiration from one of the godfathers of the RTS genre, the little remembered Herzog Zwei. This hybrid-genre title sees you take control of one of the titular AirMechs, essentially an aircraft from a selection of Fighter Jets, Stealth Bombers, Gunship Helicopters and even more, including Flying Saucers. Each of these vehicle types is basically a class system, with all classes having the same core features and abilities but the difference between them being subtle, but potent, secondary abilities, such as the Saucer’s ability to turn enemy units over to your side.
So with each player taking control of an AirMech and a main base, players are tasked with different objectives depending on the game mode, the most common of which, PVP, sees players looking to totally destroy the opponent’s home base. AirMechs can attack each other in the air, or transform into a hulking, walking robot mode where they can battle out against each other from ground level and take on opponents units.
The RTS elements of AirMech involve you transporting various units which you can buy and build at any bases you have captured. These units include a variety of tanks, turrets, buggies and infantry – the frantic pace of the gameplay requires you to think fast to select the right units for your immediate situation. These units are picked up by your aircraft and dropped right where you want them to be. This subtle change to the RTS formula means each strategic placement can directly affect your battle and indeed the survival of your AirMech. Destruction of your robotic avatar can lead to a painful wait to be reconstructed before you head back into battle, all the while your enemies can take a lot of ground or indeed react evasively and stem your progression.
AirMech, as mentioned previously is intended to be a free-to-play title supported by micro-transactions which will unlock extra AirMechs, units and cosmetic elements. These are almost all achievable through the in-game experience points currency as well as cash purchases of ‘Diamonds’, the premium in-game currency. To access AirMech through Steam, currently the only way is to purchase the ‘Beta Bundle’ which is discounted at the time of writing. This bundle unlocks a large majority of the content, all of the AirMechs, many cosmetic variations and all army units. To participate in the entirely free-to-play AirMech Beta, outside of Steam, you should check out www.carbongames.com.
AirMech is shaping up to be a real underdog hit, even at this early stage, it shows great promise in how to handle a successful free-to-play system in the vein of Tribes: Ascend or League of Legends. The gameplay is adrenaline-filled and tight and the engine looks amazing and runs very well – surprisingly the client weighs-in at well under 100Mb!
This is definitely one to get in early on. In my opinion, the Beta Bundle on Steam is fair value and offers access to subtly different playstyles via the extra AirMechs, but even if you are slightly curious, give the fully free version a try. Early experiences have proven AirMech’s core mechanics to be an excellent base for a game which is constantly fast, frantic and exciting, but cruicially, one where you feel you have full control of your gameplay.