Why give a spaceship legs if its only ever in space?
War Tech Fighters seeks to combine the Japanese mech fandom with western space games. At best, it is a competent game with inventive mechanics. Though more often it is a somewhat clunky space shooter whose mech implementation bounces between delightfully absurd and annoyingly clunky.
Mechs aside, the core of War Tech Fighters is not far off from other 3D space games. You’re dropped into a large open swath of space and asked to complete a set of objectives. To do this, you’ll engage enemy fighters (both other ships and mechs), overtake enemy installations, gather resources, defend your fleet, and more. The left stick controls movement along both the z-axis and the x-axis, while vertical movement along the y-axis is handled with the Y and A buttons. Meanwhile, your pitch and yaw are handled by the right stick. Too many space games fail to offer controls over vertical movement, making your vehicle feel more like an airplane than a spaceship, so I’m always glad to see it included. Your War Tech is also equipped with light and heavy cannons, missiles, a sword, and a shield. For the most part, you’ll rely on your ranged weapons, with your melee options only becoming available when engaging an enemy mech. This is where War Tech Fighters strives to differentiate itself but also where it struggles the most.
When fighting an enemy mech, you can at any moment choose to switch to close-range combat. This can also be triggered by the enemy. When this happens the camera will shift to an angled view from off to the side of your mech. You can use the stick to dodge left and right while also performing quick and strong attacks and blocking with your shield. Blocking at the perfect time stuns the enemy mech allowing you to get in several hits. Similarly, dodging at the right moment can be strung into a powerful attack. Unfortunately, the response time for inputs while in melee combat is so slow that I was better off guessing than actually reading my opponent's movements. I found that I needed to block prior to the enemy’s attack animation in order to get the correct timing. The mechanics are there, but your mech is just too unresponsive to make proper use of them. It is a shame because this is the primary function that makes your mech feel like a mech and not just a spaceship. The only other unique use of the mech is for quicktime executions. When an enemy is low on health, targeting them and pressing X will trigger a random cinematic execution that will refill some of your mech’s energy, which is used up when attacking or boosting. The executions are oftentimes ridiculous. While coming off as somewhat tongue in cheek, they also demonstrate a love of the absurdity of the genre. There is nothing like seeing your mech perform a flying side kick through space to destroy an enemy spaceship.
There is one other element of War Tech Fighters that is likely to appeal to mech fans far more than any of the actual gameplay. Right from the start, War Tech Fighters puts a huge amount of emphasis on customizing your mech. After finishing the opening mission, you can pick from three starting mechs of different classes, though you can freely swap parts from each of them. Head, chest, arms, legs, and weapons can all be purchased and upgraded as you progress. These not only affect the stats of your mech, but also its appearance. In addition, your mech’s paint job, colors, and texture can all be freely customized.
War Tech Fighters wears its influences on its sleeves, with series like Macross, or rather Robotech in the case of the title, likely serving as a major source of inspiration. Franchises like Gundam and Transformers almost certainly played a part as well. For mech fans, there is certainly something to be said for the customization that War Tech Fighters brings to the table. Beyond that, there is a solid space game that unfortunately doesn’t make the best use of the mechs themselves. If you’re a fan of one or the other, you may lose interest, but as an avid fan of both, I found plenty to enjoy.