BattleTech, the grandfather of mech combat games, turns 34-years old next year. Since 1984, rights to that universe have traded hands several times, from the original creators at FASA Corporation to the current home with three different developers: Piranha Games, Catalyst Game Labs and Harebrained Schemes.

Next year, all three studios will launch new entries of the iconic franchise. For our latest cover story, Polygon talked with each of them, spending nearly a year piecing together four features about the BattleTech universe.

In part one, we traveled to an abandoned mall in Vancouver, British Columbia to lay hands on the first playable demo of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. It’s the first single-player, first-person action game to be published in the BattleTech universe in 15 years. You’ll hear from the team about their design goals, and watch the first 10 minutes of gameplay footage released to the public. Check it out below.

In part two, you’ll hear the latest on BattleTech, the third-person tactical strategy game from Harebrained Schemes. After a $2.8 million Kickstarter and a publishing deal with Paradox Interactive, the team of designers opened up about what they’ve learned from the community and how they plan to evoke the kind of ensemble storytelling that made Firefly a cult classic.

In part three, we talked to the BattleTech loremasters and cobbled together the definitive guide to the early history of that universe. It includes more than a millennium’s worth of alternate human history, filled with brilliant innovations and bloody civil wars. And it’s all been helpfully annotated with brand new art from illustrator Daniel Warren Johnson, as well as images culled from the archives at Catalyst Game Labs.

Finally, in part four, we tracked down and interviewed some of the principle creatives involved in the birth of the BattleTech universe. Our feature includes interviews with co-creators Jordan Weisman and L. Ross Babcock, as well as the tabletop game’s current lead designer, Randall Bills.

2018 is shaping up to be the year of BattleTech, so here’s what every MechWarrior needs to know before they drop in.

The year of BattleTech