Mechwarrior Online Review: Grinding Gears
Unfortunately, there’s effectively no difference between these modes most of the time, as both require a significant time investment to capture a base or win through points, and each player has only one life. Without respawns or some additional incentive to run out the clock, almost every match devolves into a pure team deathmatch, with victory being handed to whichever team managed to stick together best. Even the heaviest of assault ‘Mechs can be brought down in just a couple seconds of focused fire, assuming enough guns are leveled at it, and every kill swings the odds further in favor of the team with the most guns.
Simply put, Mechwarrior Online doesn’t feel like it’s fleshed out enough to shed the “beta” tag that it has worn for so long. The core gameplay engine is strong, but the business model and lack of content hurts the game badly. While they’ve rolled out a fair number of new ‘Mech models in the past few months, there have been few notable improvements to balance, and there are still far too few maps to play on. The recent addition of a third-person mode courted controversy: it feels a little underdeveloped, and it allows you to peek over hills that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to, but it’s also very difficult to shoot straight from this elevated perspective.
Another indicator that the game isn’t quite ready for prime-time is the fact that the only servers are currently located in North America. The lumbering nature of the combat mitigates the issue slightly, but it’s still far from ideal. There’s every chance that Mechwarrior Online will improve, grow and fill in the blanks over the coming months and years. The developers have already outlined plans for new playmodes, a refined interface, balance tweaks and more, but until those surface it’s a hard sell even at the base price of “free.
Just a cursory glance at the official forums (and even recent stories Game Front) reveals that the player base is less than happy. Meanwhile, questionable business decisions continue to pile up. Even the controversy over purchasable weapon-cooling consumables refuses to die down; a single blast of coolant costs almost half a match’s worth of winnings, and there are some harsh allegations from the more competitive players that Piranha are ignoring complaints about high-level balance. At the moment, it’s still quick and easy to find a match, but if things don’t change soon, the well might start drying up.
There is the atomic heart of a great ‘Mech game beating away within Mechwarrior Online, but the chassis surrounding it is ramshackle, full of holes and plastered with garish advertisements. While MWO may be the only free-to-play title out there to offer the authentic “walking tank” experience the Mechwarrior fanbase has come to expect, there are some very solid competitors out there with more meat on their bones, including the recently overhauled and improved Hawken and historical counterparts such as War Thunder or World Of Tanks. When firing on all cylinders, MWO is an enjoyable sim-shooter, but for all the overheating energy weapons in the world, the current product still feels a little half-baked.
- Gorgeous graphics, including some amazing explosions
- Reimagined mech designs look far sleeker their tabletop counterparts
- Solid ‘Mech combat, giving every weight class a real role
- All the fundamentals of classic Mechwarrior gameplay updated
- Customizing your ride is very satisfying, once you know how
- Vertical learning curve, with almost no tutorial content in-game
- Only two playmodes, both of which often devolve into deathmatches
- Nowhere near enough maps to support repeated 12v12 matches
- No framework to tie gameplay together, outside of tiny XP perks
- A huge grind required to get off the ground and into your own mech
- Hero mechs and consumables are vastly overpriced for what they offer
Final Score: 60/100
Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.