Mechcommander, in my opinion was one of the more under-rated RTS available on the PC. The game placed the player as the commander over a squad of Mechwarriors piloting humongous machines of war (often bigger than a house), armed to the teeth with high-tech weaponry and/or electronic countermeasures.
The start of each level tested the mettle of the player in choosing and equipping his weapons of mass destruction. Not only that, the player had to take to studying the topology of the map, noting the elevations and probably locations of enemy bases.
The use of higher ground was vital in the game, not only in combat, but also in uncovering larger areas shrouded under the fog-of war.
While the mechs themselves were highly customizable, they were nothing without their pilots. Pilots gained experience in combat, and carried forward their experience to subsequent levels in the form of promotions and stats increases. Losing a veteran or an elite pilot in battle would have been a really careless and stupid thing to do.
Mechcommander wasn’t known for being forgiving. The game was HARD. Players would find themselves restarting levels and trying different things (mech configurations, tactics, etc) in order to past the particular level.Imagine pitting 2 25 tonne mechs against a hardcase like the MadCat.
Salvaging enemy mechs was one way of giving your 0wn motley crew a leg-up on the tech scale (since you are playing as the Inner Sphere vs a technologically superior Clan Smoke Jaguar), provided you only disabled a mech enough for its pilot to eject, and not totally destroy it.
In any case, I just finished the expansion pack to the original game, titled Desperate Measures. The ending was a bit anti-climatic but still has plenty of new mechs to tinker with. Consisting about 9 missions, it didn’t take more then a day to play through, but it was still fun.
The game itself is pretty hard to come by these days, in its original form or even as Mechcommander Gold (where the original game is bundled with Desperate Measures). But thanks to the kind souls at Mechcommander.org released Mechcommander, Mechcommander Gold and even the sequel, Mechcommander 2 for free back in 2008!
So download the games and check them out, though I would recommend Mechcommander Gold over its predecessor, since Gold comes with the ability to change the difficulty level.