Making a video game about giant robots fighting each other (or indeed, fighting anything at all) should be a guaranteed hit. Yet the modest list of Switch mech-related game releases has proven over time that this isn't as easy as it sounds. We do know that this will very likely change mid-September, but can Drakkar Dev's War Tech Fighters serve as more than a mere amuse-bouche of metal-on-metal carnage until then? All systems go!
Despite being a mech game, the lack of ground-based missions means that this has more in common with EVERSPACE Stellar Edition than your regular third-person/cockpit view mech game of choice. If you're a fan of Mobile Suit Gundam, imagine this one as taking part only in outer space: warfare between agile mobile suits and space fleets. The titular War Techs resemble hybrids of Pacific Rim's Jaegers and Michael Bay's Transformers, giving the overall aesthetics a vibe of a Western-made Gundam. We're unsure if the developers were purposely aiming for this, but it certainly succeeded in grabbing our attention.
You will likely be fighting both enemies and the controls for the first few missions (despite the great tutorial prologue mission explaining all the core gameplay) but it soon falls into place. Navigating and shooting become second nature as you start to gradually feel more comfortable with your fully-customizable War Tech. You can pick from three flavours of variable strength and agility, and while we certainly favoured the latter, if you prefer to have a bulkier, slower War Tech to soak in the damage, then go for it.
While a few missions break from the norm with stealth and hacking sections, most of the thirty-plus campaign missions will have ships of every size and space stations firing in your general direction. They feel truly inadequate compared to your hulking bipedal monstrosity, something the game proudly makes you aware of with the introduction of varied 'execution' cutscenes which feel a lot like the Fatalities from Mortal Kombat, minus the fiddly button inputs.
Take an enemy down to about 25 percent of their health (their threat display turns to red) with your regular payload (guns, missiles and everything in between) and pressing 'X' will unleash a finishing move that varies according to the enemy you're engaging. Small ships can be punched, kicked, shield-bashed or turned into a metal Shish kebab impaled in your sword, while bigger capital ships get the 'up close and personal' treatment as you slice and rip away parts of their hull. These are extremely satisfying moments and while they're entirely optional, they certainly help the game stand out in the crowd.
Eventually, the Zatros Empire (the cliché bad guys) do wise up to your ridiculous overpowering of their fleet and dispatch War Techs of their own. Unlike the immediate executions of other types of enemies, the game throws you another unique feature instead: one-on-one War Tech duels. In these, you can dodge to either side, use your shield to block and strike with fast or strong attacks. These are usually resolved quickly and if concluding favourably, the enemy War Tech will end up sliced in half before gloriously exploding. In fact, everything explodes gloriously, helped by some excellent graphical choices, ranging from gorgeous space vistas, decent enemy design and your own War Tech customization options.
Where the game falls short is when you're not bashing metal in outer space. You will be forced to spend half your play time in your carrier, navigating not-so-friendly menus and submenus for the research and customization of your War Tech. We feel this part of the game distracts far too much from the meat of the experience and could have probably have been handled in a cleaner, more concise fashion.
Loading times are the other big issue; there's just over a minute of loading between your carrier micro-management bits and all-out space warfare. Missions often recycle objectives too, and some of the best tech is locked behind an experience wall, forcing you to eventually resort to grinding on the simulator for XP and building materials.
The overall stable performance of the game and over-the top action does mitigate the negative aspects somewhat, but its a shame this was not better streamlined for the Switch. In terms of music, we hope you are a fan of heavy metal because the game will constantly barrage your ears with loud drums and shredding guitars. Since the whole 'there is no sound' reality of space doesn't really make for good game design, once you add explosions and weapon fire sounds of every kind, you end up with an audio spectacle that more than matches the visual one.
War Tech Fighters does exhibit a few rough spots here and there, but it is undeniable that it ticks all the right boxes for any self-respecting mecha fan. As of right now, it's a toss-up between this and Project Nimbus Complete Edition for the title of top mecha game on Switch, but if you're after a fast and exciting robot-based space shooter and don't mind long loading times and the odd awkward menu system, then this is worth a look.