Did you like this game? Some people thinks it is sucks. I think that is because this game requires traits that many humans do not have – namely intelligence, patience, and skill. A mechwarrior has these and will succeed. Once you are at that point the game is really enjoyable, and even the matches you lose are fun.If you are one of guys who have this skills and like a game, read more about in text below.
“It’s the 31st century, the battlefields of the future are dominated by huge robotic machines known as Battlemechs…”.
Battletech (Mechwarrior, Mech Commander, Mech Assault) is an old, well established franchise since the ’80s: tabletop games, novels, miniatures and video games have constantly flowed for decades. Four years ago, Piranha Games and Infinite Game Publishing joined together to dish out a new game for PC about Mechwarrior.
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From Single Player Only to “More”
Supposed to be a single player only at start, the game concept shifted to become an “Online Multiplayer Only Free-to-Play”.
As many others of his genre, Mechwarrior Online is instance based. This means two teams of twelve players each will fight on different maps until a specific goal is reached. You can choose between 2 game modes: Assault (team deathmatch) and Conquer (capture the flag).
Despite the game went gold after one year of open beta in September 2013, other planned game modes as well as the Faction Wars (a game mode where Corps fight each other for planets control in a huge stellar map) are still on paper. To be honest even to create Corporations, or a simple lobby to organize custom matches is still on paper. Despite this, the Battletech fan base is incredibly active, and Corporations already exist in forums, personal sites, and Teamspeak channels, even if the game in actual state offers just the chance to make a 12 player company and fight with other pre-made teams chosen by random matchmaking.
I would like to thank the “Black Sun Mercenary Unit” to host me as a guest in their ranks and let me try the “12 vs. 12 premade battles” so that I could find out how strategically and tactically active all the Corps around are.
Customization Is Real Fun
Like previous Mechwarrior games the core of the fun is customizing your Mech for the battle. Unlike many other titles out there, MWO spares you from those awful tech trees to start from the bottom and grind to “unlock” better stuff. All the Mech’s chassis of the four classes available (Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault) are all at your disposal from the beginning, as well as all the weapons you can mount on them.
The “rock paper scissors” system works like a charm in the Mechwarrior universe, both for weapons and chassis. Every player can choose his/her path as well as the way he/she wants to progress; the overall feeling of freedom is great. While customizing, you have to deal with challenging choices: a big engine means more speed, more armor grants survivability (don’t forget any major section of your Mech have independent armor values, like arms, left/right/center torso, legs, and so on), ballistic weapons as well as missile launchers require ammunitions, while lasers heat up your mech way faster than other weapons requiring heat sinks to avoid the temporary shutdown of your mech by overheating.
Weight: The Supreme Rule
All of these choices are bound by one supreme rule: weight. Every mech has a limit, and overloading a mech is not possible. A wide choice of modules for targeting, sensors, ECM, antimissile, coolant (just to name some) as well as some Mech perks you get from your experience point complete the options at your disposal. This is without doubts the best aspect of this game: almost every player will end with a unique loadout that fits best, without a “must have” build or mech to stick on.
The Dark, Sad Side
Sadly, here comes the dark side: devs made some weird choices to make the game last long (to unlock every Mech perk you need to buy at least 3 different versions of the same chassis), forcing the player to grind for credits. Every single component of your mech has a cost, and that is not cheap.
A premium subscription is mandatory if you don’t want to get drawn in a series of infinite boring battles just to raise some cash. You’d think a game so deep and tactical rewards wise players managing ammo or sparing his mech from excessive beating. Wrong. The choices made by the devs about repair/rearm costs were so messed up they simply had to get rid of it. How much credits you’ll get is just a matter of win or lose, kills and kills-assist. End of story. That explains well why the game is literally engulfed with premium Mechs: the boost of premium mech plus premium account makes the grind far easier.
If you want to have fun without pain and frustration it’s better to check your credit card funds.
Graphic and Environment
What about graphic/environment? Mechs modeling is very good, with some of them amazingly designed (yes, the Catapult), the overall feeling you get back make justice to the Battletech fans. Graphic effects are ok, and to see a Mech losing one or both arms due to heavy damage is great. Apart from that, the game uses the excellent CryEngine 3 (the one for the last Crysis installment), but devs are struggling hard to try make it work: annoying textures update even at close distances, some bad texture and polygons flickering here and there, dx11 still on paper.
What doesn’t feel right at all is the interaction with the environment. You drive a 100 ton mech, you are equipped with the most powerful and fearsome weapons ever created, yet you feel like you are driving a toy in a plastic model map; the sense of scale is missing most of the time: gigantic building, gigantic trees, even bushes are huge. And everything is indestructible: walk over a car: nothing happens; shoot a building: nothing happens…lightposts, traffic signals, statues…even trees keep standing still like ghosts if you pass over (I must say through) them!
Even more, the number of maps available (most of them very well made) is quite poor and below average for a game of his genre. Maybe this is the reason devs made a “funny” choice: claiming the same exact map, with ambient lightning shifted from day to night can be called and introduced ingame as a “new” one! This sounds like a joke in times where many games have dynamic day/night cycle (look at Planetside 2!). If they lack good map designers, we could expect to see “dusk” and “dawn” version of the same bunch of maps in the future.
Same for audio compartment: in this case everything is inspired and amazingly done: stomping, weapons reloading, cracking some autocannon rounds at your enemy, lasers frigging on your armor…all is perfectly executed creating an immersive and satisfying experience. As usual, there is a downside again: sometimes a boring noisy static comes into your speaker without reason, sometimes weapons hitting you makes no sound, sometimes your mech stomps sound disappear and the voip does not seem to work at all. In this case what was done right is badly implemented.
Think about games that were built from scratch, like Mass Effect or Borderlands: creating the background, the characters, the rules, how weapons work and its balancing, the storytelling…you can stumble on anything because it’s a walk in the dark.
Guys at Piranha/IGP chose an existing brand, a well established one, stripped it away of almost everything too difficult to implement (don’t expect to find tanks, planes, infantry, bases, turrets and everything else representing the backbone of every other Mechwarrior game, nor any kind of IA like in War Thunder) and unable to do most of what’s left in a polished manner.
A Long Way to Go
We all have to thank IGP/Piranha Bytes to bring the Battletech universe back to life on our pc, but there’s a long, long way to go. The market outside is very competitive, and actually the game is just…average, probably not enough to be really competitive in the near future. Let’s hope anyway, because the gameplay is solid and tactically deep enough to offer something original and intriguing, and if devs get some decent reinforcements (more in terms of human resources than money), Mechwarrior Online can finally see the light it deserves.