DISCLAIMER: Consider this as a birds-eye view.
So, with the increasing popularity of mobile mech games on Google Play, it is inevitable that the debate between “western mech” and “eastern mecha” is about to come to play. Hey, War Robots has decided to implement a “global tradition” inside the game, introducing all sorts of robots from different disciplines…
What’s the fuss about Western and Eastern traditions of mech? Why does it matter?
To make it simple for the readers out there, a mech is a suit or device commonly piloted by a human being. Unlike a robot or an automaton that can go on its own, a mech suit needs control and input from the pilot.
Western mechs (people tend to avoid the term “mecha” in order to distinguish between the two archetypes) are considered to be bulky, heavily-armored and well-armed.
The first-ever story that involved a “mech” is in 1868 by Edward S. Ellis’s “The Steam Man of the Prairies,” in which a man pilots a mechanical steam-powered contraption.
Games such as Warhammer 40,000, Mechwarrior and Battletech involve robots that revolve around this style.
In the battlefield, they serve as the biggest and baddest-looking frontline units. They soak up fire, serve as the center of attention and bring out a massive amount of firepower to the battlefield, thus changing the entire equation of a war.
They are just as expensive to make and maintain as their Eastern counterparts and while they are slow, they are by no means pushovers.
In fact, a presence of one or two of these mechs (think Titan class from the Warhammer series) is more than enough to end battles by themselves. They have ample defenses and can engage multiple targets at once.
The reason why the word “rite” is used to describe the Western way is due to the fact that these mechs are only given to the most experienced and best-trained people. In addition, they undergo certain rites (literally, as in the case of “hazing”, “hard military academy”, “premeditated hard examinations” or “becoming one with the mech”) in order to get the right to pilot these things in the battlefield.
In terms of the mobile mech scene, Mech Wars, Mech Battle, Robokrieg, Battle of Titans, Robot Warfare and War Robots have mostly followed this tradition.
The mech in the Eastern tradition usually looks more human than robot and involves extensive modifications that would allow humans to interact directly and seamlessly with the “mecha”.
The Eastern-style mech focuses on agility, speed and versatility. This is best exemplified by Gundam Seed, where fast robots are able to take on different configurations that would best deal with the mission at hand.
As a result, Eastern-style mechas serve as a hotbed of talent (best shown by the “prodigy teen” that becomes the protagonist in their stories) and focus on interdiction, quick actions and force multiplication in the battlefield. This is not to mention that they can become absurdly powerful (in order to move the story forward).
In the East, the 1940 short manga Electric Octopus is the one that pretty much kickstarted the genre. Since then, everyone knows what else happened; from Evangelion to Gundam, the mecha has defined the lives of many people who follow their stories.
Translating into the Mobile Mech Scene
Unless it is just me, I am yet to see a hit mobile mech game that is done in the Eastern mecha tradition.
The only game that has introduced both traditions so far inside the game is War Robots and their Japanese/Chinese/Korean lines aren’t even that well-structured in terms of making that distinction. Instead, they are given abilities that allow them to run their theme (i.e. dragons that can fly for the Chinese, technologically advanced ion engines for the Korean Dash and special feet that can go up for the Japanese ones).
I really hope to see mobile mech grow in the future!
Having a variety of mobile mech games would be better in terms of creating diversity in the genre. This will allow players to be able to experience both worlds and see for themselves the stuff that fits for them!