MechWarrior Online – Review (PC)

MechWarrior Online is an FPS/TPS ‘Mech Combat Simulation Game developed by Piranha Games Inc. and published by Infinite Game Publishing.

As MechWarrior Online is considered an MMO, it can be difficult to determine exactly what constitutes as “released” — for example two big updates called “UI 2.0” and “Community Warfare” have yet to be released. But since PGI has announced the game as released, that’s the metric we’ll go by.

Remember that UI 2.0 thing I mentioned? Thanks to that being unreleased, the MWO client/launcher that first meets your eyes is almost completely indecipherable. When first confronted with it, you’ll be challenged with knowing almost nothing about the game and what you can do. From the client, you are able to customise, buy and quick-slot ‘Mechs. You can also manage ‘Mech and pilot skills along with any modules you wish to outfit your ‘Mech with. Finally, you can also talk to and group up with friends, launch the game, go to the training grounds or do the tutorial. Obviously, as a new player, the tutorial is the most important thing for you to see first. Too bad it’s hidden behind a button you’ll never know the function of without clicking it.

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Controlling the ‘Mech (or BattleMech) is complex and takes time to get used to. Your mouse controls the body and arms. Moving it will move both together – or if you hold shift, it’ll pull a separate reticule off which denotes the arm position. Why this is important will become apparent when you look to the bottom-left of the screen in-game and see your weapon groups. Notice in the top-left there’s a little reticule? This tells you which weapon is located where – arms or body. There are also numbers 1-6 for each weapon. Whichever of these is lit blue shows which weapons will fire when you press each button. They can also be changed by using the arrow keys to navigate to a number and right-control to turn it on/off. Movement if the legs is simple, just WASD. X will bring you to a complete stop, F will make your legs turn to where you’re facing, C will turn your torso to where you’re walking. You can also enter night vision or heat vision by pressing N or H, respectively. This is a lot to take in, but that’s really only the basics, but it’s as much as I’m going to cover. You’re able to do more advanced things like opening missile bays, chain fire, override overheats and power down your ‘Mech.

When you first start, there will be four trial ‘Mechs in your quick-slots for use. You get one of each class of ‘Mech; Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault. Each has its own strength and weakness in battle and the trial ‘Mechs will help you figure that out. The most important thing to remember is that you’re in a ‘Mech – but so is everyone else, so don’t be running out of cover like you’re John Rambo. That’ll only bring about your own death and some light scraping on the enemy team’s armour.

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Essentially, the goal is to protect your centre torso, engine, legs (x2) and cockpit. If any of these are destroyed, you’ll die. There’s also the special case of installing an XL – extra-light – engine. This type of engine weighs less but takes more space, spreading into your left and right torso. This means if you lost a shoulder, you die. On the up-side, all of this also applies to enemy ‘Mechs. You’ll be doing this while taking place in two game modes; Assault and Conquest. Assault is a team death match in which you can win by defeating all if the enemies or capturing their base. Conquest is a king of the hill type mode in which there are five nodes which must be captured to win. You can also win by defeating the enemy team. The game modes are generally fun, but can be somewhat annoying when a team in Assault goes for an instant capture or goes for kills in Conquest.

Upon seeing a cash shop selling non-cosmetic items, one would instantly assume pay-to-win, but MWO really isn’t. You’ll see more complaints about how bad or average paid ‘Mechs are. The biggest benefit to paid ‘Mechs isn’t their strength, but the bonus XP or C-Bills that comes with using them. There are also an array of cosmetic upgrades such as cockpit items, camouflages and colours. There is one cash-shop item that I feel is required. ‘Mech Bays. You start the game with four ‘Mech Nays and can expand into more using real money. Because mastering the skills on a ‘Mech requires you to use three different variants of the same ‘Mech. This could be done by buying a ‘Mech, using it, then selling it, but that’s obviously a very round-about way to do it. It also means at any one time you can only have four different ‘Mechs.

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In MechWarrior Online, each completed match will earn you C-Bills and XP which can be used for buying ‘Mechs/parts and skills respectively. ‘Mechs each come with specific hardpoints which dictate the type and amount of weapons it can use. The weapon types are; Energy, Missile, Ballistic and Utility. Energy weapons run hot, but are generally easier to fire. Missile weapons less heat buy usually need to lock on. Ballistic weapons range from little to no heat, but projectiles have travel time, meaning shooting them is a bit harder. Utility aren’t necessarily weapons, they’re just useful things that need a slot to be used. There are Anti-Missile System, Electronic Counter Measure and Jump Jets. AMS will shoot down incoming missiles. ECM will either stop enemy ‘Mechs being able to lock on within its radius or counter the nearest enemy ECM. Jump Jets allow your ‘Mech to jump and hover for a short period of time. These things will matter more in organised play because you’ll not only be considering what you put on your ‘Mech, you’ll be thinking about your team’s build as a whole.

For the most part, problems with the actual game are minor and can be ignored – such as walking through trees instead of knocking then down – but there are some problems with terrain hit-boxes on some maps which can lead to frustratingly wasted shots because the rock in front of you had a hit-box bigger than its visual presence.

Despite many problems and the almost plodding development, MechWarrior Online is an incredibly fun experience which can only get better. PGI frequently update it and it’s steadily, slowly moving forward. I’ve invested a lot of time into the game since late open beta and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes world of tanks looking for something similar but new.