First thing’s first - Mechs & Mercs isn’t an easy game: I failed the tutorial mission. I had to restart it once, then literally failed and wasn’t allowed to replay it. It perfectly tells you how to move your troops - but that’s all. There’s no mention that you need to keep your engineers safe to take control of things, no way of knowing how to summon reinforcements and the difficulty level is far too high for the very first mission. If I wasn’t actually supposed to be able to complete it (there are games that do this, after all), then the following mission (once I figured out how to start it) would have continued the tutorial. It didn’t, it simply threw me into another situation with little explanation.
I’m not against difficult games, though I readily admit I would rather an easy, great story rather than a hard, terrible one. However, I played the game on Novice difficulty - the easy setting meant for “people who have never played an RTS before.” My enjoyment was instantly hampered by the AI expertly murdering my troops without a care for their own safety, while I angrily awaited a dropship.
So anyway, you command the Black Talons - the titular mercs with mechs - who have been tasked with saving the world (empire?) of the Noctae Republic, who have been invaded by the Tzanar Union. You would have stopped them, but you were late - and now you’re stuck in the system. It’s not going to win a Hugo Award, but it’ll do as justification for why you’re a mercenary group who didn’t just book it as soon as you arrived.
From your main base, the big battlecruiser in orbit, your units are sent onto planets to do missions. Capture this, escort that, defeat a billion units with a single engineer there… It’s the usual click-to-move-or-shoot affair that we’ve known for decades that works so well, but with the ability to move the screen using the keyboard as well as the mouse. Everything on the battlecruiser is done using the mouse, although it’s not always clear what you can do on the battlecruiser, as nothing is highlighted until you click it.
You can hire new troops, upgrade troops and change their equipment loadout. You also choose which mission to do on whichever planet they are available on, before choosing the units you want to take with you. It’s hardly expansive, but it does what you need it to. However, another thing that adds to the difficulty is the fact that troops are a finite resource. You can hire more, but taking a page out of Cannon Fodder’s book, if you don’t pass missions you don’t get new troops. And if you don’t keep your troops alive, they won’t level up and be able to take command of mechs - as only certain levels of troop can do so.
Rounding out this little summary of the game, there is currently no autosave nor mid-mission checkpoints of any description and the graphics are a little bland. Selecting troop units (never individual troops, unless the rest have already died) is sometimes unclear with the highlight box underneath the scenery.
Of course, the main complaint is the difficulty. Perhaps if developers Camel 101 can make a proper tutorial for it, or just lower the difficulty of Novice about six notches, this would be worth a look on release. If not, then this will just be a game for the RTS elite.