Review: Hawken Ascension, or How One Game Became a Totally New Game

Before the questions come in, yes, Hawken again. As of this writing, the previous review of Hawken should be considered null and void. The game recently did a sort of relaunch type thing, and in the process, almost every bit of the game has changed.

Because this now is essentially a brand new game, the prior review is not really valid as that version of Hawken no longer exists except for in memories.

So, how does this new one stack up as a mech game?

Plot wise, it is still the same two groups facing off against each other and fighting in various maps for some reason that is never explained in the game. If you want to find out, you have to go buy the comics and read those. It’s hard to gauge the quality of the story and if it’s a mere excuse plot to give you a reason to have mechs fighting against each other, or if it is a grand plot full of great details that will eventually spawn a massive franchise.

In either case, the lack of any story in game is akin to going to a movie with nothing but explosions and people getting shot, and they hand you a glossary you have to read before or during to understand why person x got shot or car z got blown up. It’s not so much bad storytelling, since they didn’t fail at weaving exposition and narrative into the gameplay, it’s only lazy storytelling, since they didn’t even try.

As far as the gameplay goes, it is still fast paced mech combat. The main change is four game modes that use a quick join type of server selection primarily, with the actual server browser being a secondary type way to join. Quick join is nice for just jumping in, but server browsers are handy, and the tutorial for the menus only really showed the quick join method.

As far as style, progression, and customization, that has all been completely revamped. Now, you can earn credits by playing to unlock new mechs, or by earning enough experience points with one mech you will unlock the next one, which is a really clever way to do things. Each starter mech in each category they have is a bit easier to learn, and by playing that, by the time you unlock the next one in the progression you’re more prepared for the mech and what it can do instead of jumping in two feet first.

The customization menus take a bit of getting used to, and some oddities were spotted. At one point, it said I had ‘tuning points’ that I could spend and would apply to all my mechs, but it gave each mech a point that I had to apply individually. Really, all that needs to be done there is say the mechs had a point I could apply to them individually, as the phrasing indicated it was a point for a single, central type of enhancement.

The original type of progression menu is gone, instead, it uses something more akin to Mass Effect where there are horizontal skill bars and you put points into them, instead of the tall menus where having three points in radar then let you unlock the next row of skills. In this example, the slimming down of the upgrade menu actually worked ingeniously well and is a good change.

The biggest complaint is that it seems you can’t dodge while moving forward. You have to take your finger off the forward key and then hit dodge, it will not override it. This means that you’re limited to rather ordinary dodge maneuvers, instead of some of the crazy walljumps and other movements at crazy angles fast paced twitch shooters like Unreal Tournament supported. Honestly, since Hawken is very much a fast paced twitch shooter, just with mechs, and very very agile mechs at that, it is a shame they lack that bit of maneuverability.

The best thing I have seen in Hawken, however, is the repair drone. Hawken is the only mech game I can think of that gives you the ability to repair, which when you think about it, really makes sense. A mech would cost an insane amount of money, why wouldn’t you put a small robot on it that can repair it? It would cost a lot less than having to make a new mech, having the one get damaged or destroyed, loss of the pilot, or any other bad scenario. These are sci fi games with giant walking robots, i think for the hundreds of millions each would cost, they would stick a repair unit on it.

Score: 4/5 good

Pros: Good gameplay, mechs handle well, low system resource requirements yet still looks very good, clever gameplay elements, fun game modes, good leveling and progression system

Cons: Story is sold extra

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