I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it

Here at KiaSA, we’re big fans of giant stompy robots. In games, that is; real, actual, the-future-as-per-Terminator style killing machines hunting down and exterminating the last traces of humanity wouldn’t be on our Christmas card list even if they did exist. In-game giant stompy robots, though, two mechanical thumbs up.

I’m not particularly familiar with the Front Mission series of games due to their Japanese console origin, but the latest, Front Mission Evolved, is out on the PC, and I was somewhat tempted by the prospect of giant robot action until I read the Rock, Paper, Shotgun review, which says stuff like:

“You never feel like the wanzer is huge, just that everything else is small. You are a robot on a day out at the model village, with lots of pyrotechnics to make things exciting.”

On the plus side it’s given me an idea for a brilliant trip to Babbacombe Model Village if I can get hold of a Transformers fancy dress outfit and some fireworks. On the minus side it doesn’t sound like a particularly great game, though I might still keep half an eye out in case it’s in a bargain Steam sale or something. That paragraph also hints at perhaps a more fundamental flaw with the series.

The word “wanzer”.

Giant stompy robots have received various names in games; Battletech’s ‘Mechs may be the best known western example, there are the Hounds in Chromehounds, Earthsiege gets the “most tortured acronym” award for its “Humaniform-Emulation Roboticized Combat Unit with Leg-Articulated Navigation”, or HERCs. Apparently wanzer is a term for mecha derived from the German “Wanderpanzer”, or “walking tank”, and it’s just rubbish. Maybe it’s just a British thing, in the same way that solemn lines like “I could tell at once that you were a bender” cause outbreaks of giggling over here, but to me “wanzer” sounds like a combination of “wanker” and “wazzock”, not really the image you want for your giant armoured machine of death. I’m not sure how they managed to stuff up a faux-German derivation so badly, with German being a language eminently suited for intimidating militaristic terminology; Fliegerabwehrkanone (aircraft defence cannon), Sturzkampfflugzeug (diving fighting aircraft) and of course Panzerkampfwagen (armoured fighting carriage), for example, abbreviate to the equally dangerous sounding Flak, Stuka and Panzer. I’m not sure “Wanderpanzer” is even technically accurate, though my German stalled around GCSE level when asking whether someone would like a Bratwurst with or without mustard, before the syllabus got to to the correct designations for military robots. I suspect something like “Panzerkampfwandernfahrzeug” might be closer to the mark, but would invite any readers with a more detailed knowledge of either (i) German or (ii) giant stompy robots (ideally both) to leave a comment…

9 thoughts on “I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it

  1. Pardoz

    Personally I rather liked the panzerklein (“small armoured”) from the greatly under-appreciated Silent Storm, which was a slightly-larger-than-human-sized stompy armoured suit, complete with whirrCHONK sound effects.

  2. Melmoth

    Schreitroboter or Laufroboter would seem to be a good start, with a prefix of Kampf for combat designation, perhaps?

    Although Kampfschreitroboter could give you a nickname of Kampbot… “Oooo watch out deary, ‘ere come those Kampbots.”

    Personally, I’d be tempted to go with Größer Klanka-Klanka-Baumm Gerschtompen.

  3. Dril

    If I may weigh in as a native speaker of German: “Wanderpanzer”, while a bit weird (applied to giant robots, it has me picturing them doing their stomping equipped with a rucksack and a walking stick) is okay, but “wanzer”… The first thing this makes me think of would be “Wanze”, or in English… bug. Which, given the context, might not be a happy association.

  4. Zoso Post author

    I must hunt down Silent Storm sometime, a World War II era XCom-y game with armoured suits sounds right up my street…

    See, now if they used “Größer Klanka-Klanka-Baumm Gerschtompen” instead of “wanzer”, and called the game “Achtung! Gerschtompen” instead of the random-fridge-magnet-word-selection “Front Mission Evolved”, I bet it would score *at least* 7% better on Metacritic.

    Heh, sounds like “Wanderpanzer” would be more akin to “hiking tank” than “walking tank”, then; like you say a slightly different image of a robot in a bobble hat banging on about the “right to roam”

  5. Gazruney

    If there were Kampfschreitroboter and the hand held anti tank weapon the Panzerfaust available for it’s destruction..well you can see where i’m going with this. Suffice to say we would have a game that Julian Clary might show some interest in.

  6. Dok

    Never mind the daftly named robots, it’s the fact that my inner-12-year-old won’t let me read the title as anything other than “Front Bottom Evolved” that’s causing me consternation!

  7. Jonathan B

    You get extra points, sir, for referencing Earthsiege. I have Earthsiege 1, 2, and Starsiege sitting next to me in fact, on my CD rack. Of course, the downside is you’ve reminded me that I finished everything *except* the final battle in Starsiege. I never did find a Herc combination I could beat Prometheus in.

  8. Zoso Post author

    So we’re agreed the next title in the series should be Front Bottom Evolved Again: Armoured Fist(ing) – Finbarr Saunders edition?

    I think Earthsiege 2 was the last I played of the series, never got around to Starsiege for some reason. Sounds like one to hunt down on Good Old Games or similar…

  9. Tesh

    Mmm… giant stompy robots. I’m a fan of Front Mission, but that’s just from the FM3 and FM4 days, when it was a tactical RPG IP. It sounds like FME is just another wannabe Armored Core-ish 3rd person MechWarrior clone.

    …I still want a good steampunk MechWarrior.

    Anyway, I’m indulging my stompy robot interest these days by investigating Perpetuum and waiting for the MechWarrior reboot. No German there, though I’m expecting some odd Hungarian in Perpetuum.

    Oh, and I love the German penchant for run-on words. It’s just such an unabashedly cumbersome language sometimes that I can’t help but respect it.

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