Well Ifinally got around to playing another game that isn’t Guild wars 2 and it really is nice to have a change often enough to keep a familiar environment and combat fresh. Today’s little morsel was the new Mechwarrior Online mmo that has just gone into open beta and I have to say go have a try… seriously right now.. alt f4 that shit your in and give it a whirl. If this was some sort of review site i would give it a score of something reasonable good.. you know like they do but thankfully Iam free from the burden so I’ll attempt to inform through the power of language and maybe a little telepathy.
I haven’t played it very extensively yet and i am still rather terrible at it, much to the dismay of my team mates but it is still rather compelling in an odd sense. In essence Mechwarrior online is a very simple lobby matchmaking system, there are no superb bells and whistles here just a single simple package of mech on mech combat but it is a very well presented package. The client seems very basic as all you really need to do to play is click a giant button and that’s it, there is very little user direction in the matchups and i think it just randomly cobbles people together and then at the end it spits you out. But don’t let that fool you as at first and many things will go unnoticed but there are a lot of extras just waiting under the hood.
The main shining star behind Mechwarrior is that combat feels exactly like it should, it is very much a reflection of those old Mechwarrior games I loved but it goes much further than that and feels more natural.. well as natural as piloting that much metal anyway. The combat has that weight behind it implying the massive size of what your piloting, every action feels powerful in a sense through turning or firing… i wouldn’t exactly call it sluggish but more like a deep molasses wherein actions have a ripple effect. Of the many mechs I tried they all felt remarkably different to pilot regardless of weight class as there where little nuances to their style such as slower starting and stopping, turning speed and just how much you feel the various weapons smacking into you. And weapons punching against your hull are very jarring… in a good way, having a large volley of long range missiles smashing into your hull is both exhilarating and terrifying. I would have to recommend having the sound up with headphones on as you really get a better sense of the combat and it is far more immersive, the whir of lasers, the whoosh of missiles flying around, and the hisssing of cooling vents doing their work after a particular large laser burst.
I really enjoy each of the different weight class mechs because of this as the feel of piloting, the sounds and impact all add up to a remarkable different experience, it is all encompassing. The good thing too is that each mech type seems to have it’s place on the battlefield and being just as important as each other, the varying strategies inherent in play, even with pugs utilise the various mech types. The light class are your perfect scouts and a very fast and mobile, although primarily used to view and mark targets for the long range gunners they can come into their own in large scale combat as well. Their speed and turning agility mean they can just about endless zip around the larger mechs without taking a scratch, in one awesome display of piloting i was watching after a death a small raven type mech took out a large atlas all by himself… it was marvelous to see how well he was zipping in and out of the atlas’s field of view and focusing on key points to get the most of his damage, i even think the atlas pilot would have had a wtf just happened moment after being taken down.
It would take an inordinate amount of experience to even come close to the skill of play that person employed as there is sooo much going on in combat and micromanagement. Your watching and managing your speed throughout combat, the trajectory of your mech to allow you to easily aim and shoot, there is your heat levels, and damaged areas you may want to avoid facing towards an enemy. Targeting and firing at others employs a large amount of tactical play as your constantly looking for weak spots to maximise damage potential, some weapons are also better to employ at varying times.. lasers or flamers to heat up metal then maybe a large Gauss rifle to smack right through. And getting a combo right or a great critical hit is so satisfying as you see metal bits explode off the mech to expose the metal and wiring underneath.
It also seems each weapon has their own place on the battlefield and there is usually a good mix between long, middle and short range assaulters on the battlefield, although on some maps having long range capabilities can be superior.. so long as you have a few light mechs scouting and marking targets for you.
Most of the maps have some nice detail as well and further support the usefulness of the various mech and weapon types, with the various little paths and such it can be relatively easy to slip in and around to maximise your damage or to hold back and fire volleys from afar. The little structures throughout some of the maps provide some much needed cover but at times are very hard to use appropriately. The city areas have to be some of my favourite maps as it really requires far more timing and precise aiming to get to get particular parts on a mech as your romping through the urban jungle. Those environment make it feel far more like awesome mech combat as the comparison to the environment provides you with that perfect scale to see just how massive these machines are, and to see these massive structures peeking our from corners or jetpacking onto the tops is a sight to see.
The Cash Shop
Yup mechwarrior has apparently moved with the electronic times and features a cash shop, and to get the most out of your play your going to have to use some real world dollars.. oooh no but just wait a sec and don’t run for the hills quite yet. What you get upon logging in as a newbie pilot is enough to give you a decent try of the game, there are going to be a few mechs each week for you to try for free and there are a decent selection of each weight class available but if you are going to play for a bit longer or try the game to it’s fullest then whip out that credit card.
The cash shop is rather limited though and all you really require straight away is a mech bay and maybe a single mech to get your game on, while the mech is maybe a non essential the bay is definitely needed. Both of these are relatively cheap and I think I put in 15% to get the essentials with still a few credits left over, the reason i say these are essentials is that if your using a trial mech you will not be earning any experience for which to spend on your mech piloting ability and some of these have a rather nice effect. The other bit that’s nice is if you own a mech then you have access to the amazing range of customisation and it is very extensive with enough options to literally spend hours going over. You could just keep using the trial mechs to gather up the large amount of resources needed to purchase a mech and it would probably only take a day of play to achieve but I just preferred to jump straight in… in my mind 15$ was a pretty cheap basic cost to play immediately.
The good bit is that Mechwarrior Online is far from being anything resembling pay to win, all that is purchasable are the varying mech types but each of these is also purchasable with a secondary currency that is earnable through regular combat. In fact this secondary currency is what you pretty much use for everything including repairing and stocking up ammo, purchasing other mechs annnnnd purchasing and outfitting your personal mech from the wide range of wepons and utilities. In fact the most important part of Mechwarrior is that none of these upgrades and outfitting are purchasable with outside cash and all of them have to be earned. Even the mechs which are only purchasable really don’t make much of a difference as the various types are more about personal preference it is this outfitting which makes a huge difference in combat and mech effectiveness.
It is a rather well designed cash shop as i never really felt compelled to purchase more encouraged and it is a huge way of from being anything even resembling pay to win. All that the cash shop offers right now is options based on personal preference and i’m guessing in the future what they will add is exclusive customisation options and maybe exclusive mech types which is something I am very comfortable with.. if you play alot you can even trade in your hard earned experience points for these credits but it would take a lot. Play time is all that really matters in combat as with unlocking and purchasing the various weapons and such is the part that will give you a decent advantage over anyone new to the game.
There is only really one game type of kill everyone or capture the base but right now i think that is all that is needed just to give people time to get acquainted with the combat, customisation and map layouts. The good thing though is that there are multiple maps to play on that seem very well designed to allow for multiple paths, hiding spots, sniper ridges, and barriers. Each map kind of plays out in it’s own way with various strategies to employ and counters to various loadouts, it is rather diverse and while each play on the same map plays out rather similar the combat still feels unique as your allies and enemies mechs and loadouts change the pace of combat dramatically
Right now though due to the unwashed pug masses like myself it is a bit of a free for all… add in the fact that there is no real matchmaking system, ranking or team combat system and it means that you can often get some very one sided battles. The lobby system also doesn’t have many options which in this day and age are pretty much standard, you can easily play with friends or like minded pilots through the social tab but it would be nice to be able to choose which map/group your jumping into and maybe have the group carry over to the next map rather than jumping you back to the client. That’s were the biggest disconnect of play is, not only would it be nice to play longer with people to get to know them and maybe make friends in play but it is because the combat kind of revolves around the mech loadouts of your allies and enemies. I think you would get a far more dynamic and strategic play if in between matches you were able to customise your mech and maybe even talk with your allies to work better as a team and actively attempt to counter the enemy mechs.
Regardless it is a great simple lobby system that has bottled the essence of what it would be like to pilot a mech, it plays so well to that sense of nostalgia you may have had from the previous Mechwarrior games but with a modernised edge and brought it into the bright new world of multiplayer. The basic package is enough for hours of fun and maybe even a long term game to drop into when bored but it could have been so much more. While growing up and playing the games I always imagined what it would be like to have others assaulting those bases with me and maybe enemy pilots trying to stop and that is where I hope it evolves to in the future.. Some sort of large warzone with platoons of mechs charging across the landscape, building and upgrading bases and just massive mech on mech warfare. But I am happy regardless and am thankful in its large and troubled production cycle that we got another reasonable quality multiplayer game and the first decent mech game in what?.. a decade now… Enjoy!