Posted on Saturday, August 17th, 2013 at 12:33 PM by Ed Prosser
MechWarrior Online is one of a new breed of first-person shooters which have popped up over the last 18 months or so. It’s a mech shooter, and it’s been developed by Piranha Games and published by Infinite Games Publishing.
MechWarrior Online (MWO) straddles a difficult fence. It’s set in the universe of the BattleTech series of tabletop games from the 90′s and has quite a following. As such it occupies the awkward space of having to appease fans eager for as much detail and accuracy from their favourite universe as possible, but also having to remain accessible to players unfamiliar with the BattleTech series.
It’s a balancing act which MechWarrior Online doesn’t pull off quite perfectly. The lack of tutorial or in-game encyclopedia hurts the ability of players unfamiliar with BattleTech to understand how the game works, and the bewildering level of customisation and detail can quickly confuse newer players.
As with a lot of free-to-play games, MWO is entirely multiplayer and features two currencies, one which you earn in battles, and another purchased with real money.
One of the biggest challenges for a free-to-play game is avoiding the dreaded pay-to-win scenario, where players who pay more money into the game are greatly advantaged compared to others who don’t.
It’s unclear exactly where MWO will fall on this line, there are a substantial number of mechs which can only be bought with real money, but it remains to be seen whether they confer a substantial enough advantage to cry foul over.
One of the areas in which MWO really shines however is in the customisation. There are 20 different mech ‘chassis’ to choose from, ranging from light mechs weighing in at (only) 25 tons, through medium and heavy mechs, all the way up to 100 ton assault class mechs.
Within each chassis are a number of variants, with each mech having at least three variants to choose from, and most have four or more. Each variant is a customised, and fully customisable version of a mech chassis, with different weapons, amounts of armour and different top speeds.
The amount of customisation on offer is bewildering, so much so that it can be difficult to know whether your changes are improving your mech or not. In real terms, the only way to find out is dive in and play a lot of games, which is by no means a chore.
The core gameplay of MWO is some distance removed from most other first-person shooters, at least, most modern ones. Where the combat of most modern games is fast paced and intense, a trend with roots in Halo 1 and Counter-Strike 1.6, MechWarrior combat is much like the mechs themselves, weighty, unrelenting and cerebral.
Each team of 12 players is divided into three ‘Lances’ of four mechs apiece, each of which can work together to take battlefield objectives, focus fire on enemy assault mechs, or spot for longer range mechs. With combat being more drawn out than a lot of other games in the genre, players are forced to play more tactically, attempting to gain advantage through positioning before quickly exploiting any opening.
Mechs can take a substantial amount of damage before they fall, losing limbs and other components from enemy fire. If weapons are mounted on section which is destroyed, players lose the weapon as well.
Other than the enemy, the biggest threat to a player in the midst of combat is heat. Mechs generate heat through firing weapons, and some weapons generate more heat than others. Lasers, for example, generate a lot of heat on your mech, but they also generate heat on any mech they hit as well as dealing damage.
Managing heat is an important skill for any mech pilot, as overheating will cause your mech to shut down temporarily.
Players see through the eyes of the mech pilot in battle, rather than positioning the camera on the nose of the mech. This gives a great sense of immersion, and along with the shaking of your cockpit and booming of your mech’s steps.
The road to release for MWO hasn’t been a smooth one. Development began in 2009 and was delayed by claims of copyright infringement on the design of certain mechs. The title is currently in open beta status, with a full Free-to-Play release planned for September 17th 2013.
I've never played Hawken, seriously do you work for PGI? There's no tutorial planned before release, there's not much of anything planned before October, when we get, wait for it, 4 new Champion mechs, that again you have to pay real money for...
And if they didn't nerf the economy recently why are there so many threads moaning on the official forums about it?
Many many exciting new features yet to come, man I've heard that a lot over the past year, I'd like to see one of them. They promised community warfare would be fully live by now, now it's at least 9 months away (so 12 months +) just for the capture stuff they promised.
I had 256 friends on my friends list, I had to constantly trim the inactives out to keep within the limit, now it's a miracle if I see 2 online at once, just who is trolling who here?
Mechwarrior Online has it's own terrible following of trolls like the comment below.
The game is great. reviewer is dead on about difficulties with tutorial/new player experience, but this is coming in the course of the next while to release.
income and much else is just fine, I can play for 1 week 2 hours a day without premium time and buy a new mech completely for free.
My advice : ignore the Hawken/competition trolls that MWO has many of due to it's quality and huge upcoming content and try the game yourself. It is hard to learn & master, but is probably the most innovative shooter of the 21st century with many many exciting and cool features yet to come.
Mechwarrior Online was developed with the backing of their "founders" program which encouraged players to pay up front for unique founders mechs and promised game features.
Over a year later a lot of these promises still have to be kept (not to mention the ones broken), essential gameplay features are still missing, the unique mechs have been out stripped by new Champion mechs ($), gameplay is still just a team deathmatch.
The little economic system there is was recently nerfed so it can take weeks of play to earn a new mech without paying real cash.
This game showed so much early promise that over 5000 long term players still felt strongly enough to band together and tried to make suggestions for improvements, but sadly received little to no response from the development company involved.
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