I love mechs; there’s something about stomping around in a giant robot that I just can’t get enough of. I’ve been enjoying the BattleTech universe since back when the first boxed game came out, and was actually called BattleDroids. How serious am I about ‘mechs? I have 40 figures from the MechWarriror tabletop game adorning my home office, and I still play MechCommander 2 on my PC. As I said, I just can’t get enough.
Getting a chance to enjoy the MechWarrior PC games again – in the form of the MechWarrior Online beta – was an opportunity to sample pure PC gaming joy again. And MechWarrior Online doesn’t disappoint. Taking the serious mech management of the original PC games, it adds some paid upgrade elements, wraps it in a wonderful new engine, and makes for one hell of a good time for fans.
However, it isn’t a game for lone wolves, nor for fans of fast-paced ‘unload your clip as fast as you can’ action. No, here you’ll require teamwork and, if you try to play it any other way, you’ll be fiercely punished by other players doing things right. Just try going up against a team of player-controlled mechs alone.
Gameplay takes on a deliberate lumbering pace, requiring you to manage throttle control while taking into account the range of your weapons, sensors and defensive systems. Manage is probably the most appropriate word for how you’ll be playing MWO as you keep track of stats and numbers – almost as if this was some sort of business simulation. But, keeping het down, weapons stocked, lasers ready and throttle set is the key to your survival. Saying that, you’ll still find yourself dead on the battlefield in your first few matches due to overexerting yourself, thus leading to an overheated mech being pounded by enemies who know how to play. That is unless you’re some sort of MechWarrior prodigy.
If you stick with it, there’s also an awful lot to get out of MechWarriror Online. For one, destroying another mech is at least 1,000 times more rewarding than a kill in any other game. This is because you can only succeed through clever teamwork, therefore when a foe falls you can’t help but cheer. It’s made all the better thanks to the lack of health packs, stim kits, and ‘super-perks’ to make things easier. It’s just classic, unadulterated online experience of mech on mech action.
When you’re not on the battlefield there’s still an awful lot to do. You could customize your mech using in-game currency, spend hours tweaking your loadouts so they compliment your play style perfectly, or you could buy new mechs to use – a feature that will come into its own outside of the beta. Currently there are only a few mechs available, but ‘Hero Mechs’ are being released slowly. By using the in-game currency you’ve earned through fighting – or snapping up with with own money – you can mix and match weapon types, ammo types, defensive systems, armour and so much more.
In its current guise, MechWarrior Online isn’t a game for everyone, but it doesn’t pretend to be either. It’s a serious long-term commitment to learning the ropes and getting the most out of whatever mech you decide to play as. Going at it on your own will result in a wholly unsatisfying experience; but for the team player MechWarrior Online is shaping up to be a great addition to the PC gaming pantheon.