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Battletech - the Crescent Hawk’s Inception (CHI) is the first of many computer games set in the Battletech universe. Based on the Battletech pen-and-paper tabletop game by FASA, CHI lets the player take command over a number of Battlemechs fighting other Battlemechs or infantry. If you would like to find out more about the pen-and-paper version, check this site out. Battlemechs are gigantic war-machines up to ten meters tall that supposedly cannot be destroyed by anything other than another Battlemech.
In the game you play Jason Youngblood, son of Jeremiah Youngblood, chief of the security forces on Pacifica. Jason has recently started his training to become a Battlemech pilot himself and this is where the game starts.
CHI has two different modes of play. One plays like a role-playing game in real time and the other is a turn-based combat system. This is the same system seen in Fallout, another tabletop pen-and-paper game ported to computer. The main portion of CHI plays in real time; you use the arrow keys to move around the world and enter buildings. As Jason your immediate concern is to finish your pilot training. For this you will need to take courses, manage your income by investing in stocks, buy a personal weapon and of course follow Battlemech lessons. One point of critique about the game is that having to wait before you can buy the best weapons and take part in the more advanced courses means you frequently have to walk around the map doing absolutely nothing. This is only the beginning of the game, though. Once you have finished your lessons, Pacifica is invaded, and the real game starts. You are one of the few survivors of the invasion, and the task of liberating Pacifica falls to you. To accomplish this task several subplots need to be resolved, usually by fighting but also by exploring and some puzzle-solving.
Technically, CHI is anything but a marvel, even by 1988 standards. Sounds are all but absent but since only PC-speakers are supported, this is not a bad thing. Graphically, only the weapon-firing sequences are pretty; unfortunately these are repeated ad nauseam. The menu controls are awkward (I had to struggle even to find a way to exit the game in the change settings menu). CHI has a high degree of backwards compatibility but that is useless today.
The game runs in DOSBox, but the sounds, which are already sparse, are then inaudible.
Now for the verdict: Battletech - the Crescent Hawk’s Inception is a game which tries to incorporate the Battletech combat game with the storytelling of a role-playing game. Although not a complete failure, this game tries to be a Jack-of-all-trades; fans of the Battletech game fail to see the relevance of exploring the world and solving puzzles and people new to the Battletech universe are frustrated by having to fight yet another battle when they really don’t want to. All in all, CHI remains a game worth playing, especially for fans of the Battletech universe, but a game that can become a little boring towards the end.