Mechwarrior Online Review: Grinding Gears

 

The Battletech universe is one of the more unusually enduring properties in gaming. In the grim future of the Space 1980s, blocky and angular walking tanks circle around each other, trading blows with enormous laser cannons until one finally explodes. Battletech was America’s answer to Japanese dominance over all things involving giant bipedal superweapons, and against all odds, it caught on. It has existed in many forms, from tabletop strategy games to full pen-and-paper RPGs, PC and console iterations — usually under the Mechwarrior banner — and even an awkwardly written Saturday morning cartoon.

The enduring (and ageing) fanbase is a similarly divided lot. Almost every member has a favorite interpretation of the source material, a favored ruleset, and a firm opinion about which videogame adaptation was the strongest. It’s a tough crowd, but Piranha Games’ free-to-play multiplayer ‘Mech shooter aims to please fans of big stompy war-bots worldwide. It definitely looks the part, but does Mechwarrior Online have what it takes to succeed in an increasingly crowded F2P market?

Mechwarrior Online
Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Piranha Games
Publisher: Infinite Game Publishing
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
MSRP: Free-To-Play

For those unfamiliar with the long history of the franchise, Mechwarrior Online could best be described as World Of Tanks set in a far-off dystopian future. Though it only features the titular ‘Mechs (no spacecraft, tanks or planes here), it’s as much an armored warfare simulator as a traditional first/third-person shooter. Two teams of big stompy robots maneuver around complex networks of valleys, hills, streets and other cover, seeking to out-flank each other and — ideally — score a killing blow against an opponent’s weaker rear armor. The tanks may have legs, and the weapons of choice might be lasers and particle cannons, but the tactics date back to World War II.

Despite the humanoid appearance of many of the ‘Mechs, they definitely handle more like tracked vehicles, boasting better hill-climbing ability than an anime mecha. None of the melee or precision-piloting skill rules from the tabletop incarnations have been carried over, so this is purely a game of maneuver and gunnery, and a gorgeous one at that. The choice to use Cryengine 3 was a wise one; Crytek’s engine is well-known for its ability to render large open spaces and gorgeous particle-heavy explosion effects. The glowing trails of super-heated metal left after a direct laser hit are always nice to see.

‘Mechs are split into four broad categories: Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault. As a new free player you’re given a roster of four pre-assembled trial ‘Mechs (one of each type) in order to learn the ropes and hopefully scrape together enough cash to buy your own. The lighter ‘Mechs tend to be vanguards and spotter units, detecting where the enemy team is moving, providing radar data for missile-artillery strikes, and running interference once a proper brawl breaks out. The lighter ‘Mechs often pack jump-jets as well, letting them boost over obstacles and clear gaps that others would stumble into.

While there are specialized loadouts, the medium ‘Mechs do tend to fit the “multi-role” definition better than others, able to move into position, trade some shots, and pull back when needed. The larger ‘Mechs – especially Assault classes — tend to behave more like real-world tanks than anything else. Slow to move, their ideal position is on the front lines, but best placed with a clear line of sight to their immediate target as well as enough cover to shield them from any other sources of incoming fire. You may have the biggest, heaviest Mech on the battlefield, but the other team likely has several equally well-armed and well–armored units, and you don’t want to take on several of those at once.

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8 Comments on Mechwarrior Online Review: Grinding Gears

ArchAngelWC

On September 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm

As a former Starlance Admin for MW3, MW4, MC, and MC2…Let me say if PGI had done to this game what Microsoft did to MC2…It would be a much more merciful fate…PGI has exploited the loyalty of the community and desire for certain mechs to monetize the Intellectual Property…While completely ignoring the story, the history, and the fundamental focuses of Battletech..the planetary campaign which they had a wicked huge resource pile to cherry pick from and completely ignored…They have turned it into World of Tanks/Call of Dumbass…..every few months PGI will do some lame “ohh we are going to add that soon..but we soo busy working on new content…by the way we have new mech for 25$…and it has 4 new special camos you can buy for 5 dollars a piece..and you can buy some decorations for your pit for 2.50 each…and then you buy some heatsink things (which they initially promised founders would never be added..and then they added 3rd person view which they also said they would never add) and make a completely exploitative build as PGI didn’t think to learn CBBR rules from every other BT game…

In conclusion…I love Battletech..I have loved it since I first played Mechcommander when i was 13…and I live in Vancouver where PGI is located…and I honestly want this incarnation to crash and burn worse than MS’ Mechcommander 2…Which was so bad that people who had waited 5 years for a new game would not buy it…Just so when the IP’s value might drop low enough for someone who actually values it and the LOYAL community that comes with it..instead of thinking giving them a reach-around with mechs they should have anyways compensates for milking the community for eveyr dime they can think of a way to get..

JDW

On October 1, 2013 at 7:31 am

I admit I am a bit of a MechWarrior fan-boy; but 60 is a pretty harsh score. If a game reviewer give a game a 60 it is usually not just bad, but completely unplayable.

MechWarrior online have its issues, but it is not that bad. Let’s look at the cons…

>Vertical learning curve, with almost no tutorial content in-gameOnly two play modes, both of which often devolve into death matchesNowhere near enough maps to support repeated 12v12 matchesNo framework to tie gameplay together, outside of tiny XP perksA huge grind required to get off the ground and into your own mechHero mechs and consumables are vastly overpriced for what they offer<
True. And Free to Play.

JDW

On October 1, 2013 at 7:35 am

I admit I am a bit of a MechWarrior fan-boy; but 60 is a pretty harsh score. If a game reviewer give a game a 60 it is usually not just bad, but completely unplayable.

MechWarrior online have its issues, but it is not that bad. Let’s look at the cons…

–Vertical learning curve, with almost no tutorial content in-game–
If you have not already played one of the ten MechWarrior games that came before this you are probably not playing this one either. If you have, there is a very small curve as most things are right where you would expect them to be.

–Only two play modes, both of which often devolve into death matches–
Yes, instead of games like World of Tanks that only had one mode of play.

–Nowhere near enough maps to support repeated 12v12 matches–
More maps would be nice, but meh.

–No framework to tie gameplay together, outside of tiny XP perks–
I would love to see this, but what made you think they would be able to pull it off? No other free to play game has.

–A huge grind required to get off the ground and into your own mech–
Free to play. Again, not as bad as World of Tanks. At least there are no tiers.

–Hero mechs and consumables are vastly overpriced for what they offer–
True. And Free to Play.

Sorry about the double post. I screwed up the first one with unintended formatting.

Dominic Tarason

On October 1, 2013 at 7:40 am

60 sounds about right on our review scores. Here’s what a 60 typically means:

“Pretty good games, but also sloppy and perhaps inconsistent. They may fit nicely within a genre and have a couple good gameplay elements, but those positives are threatened by several problems”

Sounds like it fits the bill. Good graphics, a solid combat engine are the key advantages, offset by a very problematic business model, balance issues, a shortage of content and no tutorial stuff.

psycros

On October 1, 2013 at 8:59 am

So basically its EVE Online with giant robots.

Garrett

On February 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Please downgrade the score to a 50 due to U.I. 2.0

Paul

On November 13, 2014 at 7:31 am

Choosing “Piranha” as their name really tells everybody Piranha Games company philosophy. They will chew the fan base up, spit out the bones and then swim away fat.

After playing the game for 3 weeks and 400 games, I must agree with the petition to yank the rights. I posted a topic on their forums with 15 different changes the community wanted and asked the community to prioritize what changes they want first.

Guess what, the topic was locked inside 10 minutes and the moderator told me that when Piranha Games wanted to know what the community wanted, they would ask.

I haven’t logged on since then and will never do so again. I had reached the point in the grind where you had to spend real money on mech bays and was unsure if I wanted to spend the money on a game that I fell so far behind my expectations after having been a top 100 player on Mechwarrior 4. I won’t be spending any money.

strikearrow

On November 27, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Choosing “Piranha” as their name really tells everybody Piranha Games’ company philosophy. (the company that owns MWO). They will chew the fan base up, spit out the bones and then they will swim away fat.

After playing the game for 3 weeks and 400 games, I must agree with the petition to yank the rights. I posted a topic on their forums with 15 different changes the community wanted and asked the community to prioritize what changes they want first.

Guess what, the topic was locked inside 10 minutes and the moderator told me that when Piranha Games wanted to know what the community wanted, they would ask.

I haven’t logged on since then and will never do so again. I had reached the point in the grind where you had to spend real money on mech bays and was unsure if I wanted to spend the money on a game that fell so far behind my expectations after having been a top 100 player on Mechwarrior 4. I won’t be spending any money.