Mecha Knights: Nightmare Review – At the Pacific Mountains of Rimness
Developed and published by Damian Kubiak
Available on PC
I love giant stompy robots. I love eldritch horrors. What if someone combined these two things I love into a single game? Well, the end result is Mecha Knights: Nightmare, which seeks to combine the mech building of the Armored Core series, the massive waves of enemies and shooting style from Earth Defence Force, and some Lovecraftian monsters. Also, it’s a one-man project, something that is always impressive. Can all of that make for something great?
The game’s story starts off as pretty typical war drama stuff. It’s the year 2049 and there’s a second cold war between N.A.T.O and the Russia-China alliance. To fight in this war N.A.T.O has developed mechs, and you play as Ethan, a mech pilot who loves America and wants to fight the Russians. However, something seems to go wrong when there’s a nuclear explosion behind Russia’s lines and all of their forces try to flee into N.A.T.O territory. Soon you learn why: giant monstrous creatures attack, and it’s up to you to defeat them. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye, but this setup does enough to get you into the game world and shooting things as quickly as possible.
Honestly, the story isn’t really the main draw for Mecha Knights: Nightmare, but I paid some attention to it just because of how hilariously bad the voice acting is. Ethan may be the strangest paradox in voice acting I have seen in quite a while. Easily one of the worst-acted characters in gaming, yet in some strange contradiction, this actually made me pay more attention to his lines. Maybe I was looking for the next bizarre nonsense thing that would slip from his mouth for me to joke about, but at least I was following along. Outside of this, however, there isn’t much to say.
Really, I’m here to build a mech and then do battle with monsters. Indeed, mech building is in the cards. Between levels, you’ll visit your mech bay where you store all sorts of pieces for the mech. Each piece has different stats that will affect how much health you have, how fast you go, how much you can carry, and more. The real interesting bit, however, is the weapons. You can hold four weapons: one in each hand and one on each shoulder, and they don’t have to match in any way. My loadout included a vertical rocket launcher, a rapid-fire cannon, a twin-barreled gatling gun, and an automatic shotgun. It was hilariously fun.
Once you have a mech you’re happy with, you go into battle. Mecha Knights is composed of 20 missions, which are about 15 to 30 minutes each. The vast majority of these missions can be summed up as follows. You will hang out with your squad, someone will shout “oh no here come monsters,” and you’ll proceed to fight somewhere between 5 and 10 giant waves of enemies. Occasionally you’ll be asked to kill a specific enemy or move to a specific point on the map, but for the most part, it’s 20 levels of gunning down monsters while some AI help by vaguely shooting in the same direction as you.
How much you enjoy Mecha Knights is going to entirely depend on how much you enjoy watching a ton of bullets fly in the direction of giant swarms of monsters. If the answer is anything less than “quite a bit” then you’ll probably be bored of Mecha Knights before it’s over. However, it’s hard to really explain just how zen this feeling can be if you’re into it. In the same way that Earth Defense Force or Dynasty Warriors is simply fun, so is this game. You don’t have to think very hard, you don’t need to pay attention to the story, you don’t have to worry about a million different mechanics. You need to hold down the shoot button and shoot things, sometimes pressing a different button to launch rockets.
You may wonder where the horror in all this is, and the answer is in the monster design. This particular part of the game is top-notch. Creatures feel like they stepped right out of the works of Junji Ito. One of the first monsters, in particular, is an extremely tall and lanky humanoid creature that doesn’t seem particularly stable on its feet and is always moaning and wailing in pain. They look like they successfully found and went through their hole in Junji Ito’s famous manga The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Should you get surrounded you can survive easily, but it’s not a pleasant sight. Occasionally one would get behind me and I’d catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye and it’d make me jump more effectively than several big horror games can manage to do.
By the time I was done with Mecha Knights I kind of just wished there was a little more to do. Besides the 20 missions, there are also raids you can participate in, but all raids really are is taking some of the maps from the main game and having you fight swarms of enemies until something kills you. You can pick up some extra money and items from this, but that’s about it. It’s just a survival mode with a different name.
Honestly, I was super impressed with Mecha Knights: Nightmare. Even if there is little more to it than shooting giant waves of monsters, it’s a shockingly rad project, especially knowing only a single person worked on it. While it’s not going to be for everyone, like I said before you really shouldn’t apply if you want anything beyond “pew pew red mist,” it’s a surprisingly relaxing experience with more scares than I would have expected. Giant robot fans, this one is for you.