So I came across this video today from an earnest, Japanese solo-project called Vulture – Unlimited Frontier. You can actually download and play this project, too. It’s pretty rough around the edges, but it’s got some fun in there for sure.
After marveling at the sound effects and dancing robot animations, I was quickly reminded of the absolutely travesty that is the lack of good, modern mech games.
The late 90s and early 2000s saw tons of titles and full franchises, especially for Playstation 2, from big developers like Kojima (Konami) and From Software (Dark Souls). Zone of the Enders and Armored Core series are lauded entries in gaming. I pumped a lot of hours into Armored Core: Nexus, and ZoE: The 2nd Runner, is lauded as one of the best games ever made. They even remastered it for 4k and VR to varying degrees of success.
So where the hell are the new mech games? Sure, there are some fun indie projects out there, and I’ve played… all of them, basically. But many of them lack content, or gameplay, or even just a little bit of modern fidelity. I know, I’m not usually one to complain about graphics, but this feels like the one genre being completely ignored, when giant robots seem like a thing that could take advantage of modern graphics engines.
I always hear the argument that “there is no market for mecha” especially in west, but I call B.S. Michael Bay’s awful Transformers movies still made a ton of money despite being awful. The first Pacific Rim film did, too, and it wasn’t great, either. So imagine if they made something with giant robots that was actually good! Instead, we get Piranha Games clinging on to the Mechwarrior IP so it can prey on those desperate for the glory days of when that series was good. I have a couple of articles from the past about why they’re worst.
It’s not to say there isn’t a small indie market, though. But many of them seem either under budget and under produced, like War Tech Fighters, or lack depth of gameplay like DAEMON X MACHINA. The best indie title right now is probably M.A.S.S. Builder. It has great mech customization options, but it too lacks depth of gameplay.
The closest thing we ever got to modern mech action was the Titanfall series, but it was criminally undersold, and instead Respawn was pushed to devolve the universe into Apex Legends, which is effectively Titanfall without the Titans.
Mecha seems trapped in its era of 20-25 years ago, and for some reason we can’t do better. But I honestly believe From Software could save us if they pulled themselves away from Souls-likes for a while. Furthermore, if Kojima can sell millions of copies of the masturbatory clusterfuck that was DEATH STRANDING (it was a great game, though, to be fair), then he can sell a new mecha action game.
I elect that the west would eat up a modern game with giant robots if given the opportunity. This is my open challenge to the industry to give us the goods!