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Review

MechWarrior Online Review

  • Coming Dec 31, 2099
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

MechWarrior Online gets the feel of mech combat right, but its lack of variety taints the experience.

At this point, MechWarrior Online has been in open beta for so long that you could be forgiven for thinking it came out months ago. To be sure, there was little in the way of new content when the official launch date dropped last week; instead, the well-worn "beta" tag at last slipped away and presented new players with essentially the same game others have been playing for months. What we have here is a combat experience that's exciting and intense for many sessions, but winds down once the tedium of the free-to-play model and repetitive objectives takes over.

To an outsider, MechWarrior Online may appear to be about little more than hopping into bipedal tanks that resemble RoboCop's ED-209 and blasting the hell out of each other. Sure enough, there's that (and developer Piranha Games usually manages to deliver it), but the MechWarrior franchise also has some deep lore that stretches back to its tabletop origins through BattleTech in 1984. Alas, you see only snippets of it here, chiefly revealed through cosmetic skins and baubles you can buy for your ship's dashboard. It's a nice if ultimately meaningless touch, since currently little else matters besides crushing the mech across the field.

Conquest mode provides some of the game's tensest moments.

Good thing, then, that Piranha got the actual feel of piloting a mech right. Stomping around in a two-legged tank is every bit as unwieldy as it sounds (and that's kind of a good thing), in part because you have to master the act of turning your cab and steering your rig's legs separately. It feels believable, though, as do other elements, such as the staggeringly complex upgrade system that associates a weight and space requirement with even the smallest pieces of equipment. MechWarrior Online thus demands careful consideration of which role you want to play, because outfitting your mech with nothing but heavy cannons leaves you plodding across the field with all the speed of a massive tectonic plate.

It's best to experiment with multiple roles in the testing grounds, such as jumping into lighter mechs with cloaking abilities that can paint targets for other players, but mastering each still comes down to trial and error thanks to MechWarrior Online's laughably inadequate tutorials that cover basic movement and little else. Want to learn how to toggle the various sight modes? You’ll have to dig into the official forums or search for YouTube videos. Piranha recently included a third-person view for mechs to ease newcomers into the experience, but cries of possible cheating (by allowing mechs to "peek" around corners with the perspective shift) led to a smart decision to disable the view entirely in 12-versus-12 premade maps. In this way, newcomers can still use the third-person viewing mode to learn the ropes, while focused competitors can still have the purer mech experience they long for.

Not only does the missing lore lead to a lack of investment in the world, but the two simple combat modes leads to tackling the same tired objectives ad infinitum.

The climate of each of the eight maps has a pleasantly immersive way of affecting your gameplay. If you're battling through the frigid wastes of Frozen City, for instance, you can blast away with near impunity. Attempt the same trigger-happiness in the molten expanses of Terra Therma, and your mech will overheat, leaving you helpless against the enemies prowling about. These little touches, along with night modes that bump the tension of combat even higher, do a good job of making the maps feel distinct from each other.

That combat is usually good enough to make up for many of MechWarrior Online’s stumbles. Mechs lumber along with heavy clangs and the whirring of gears, and the constant threat of running across an entire team encourages sneaking around corners and sniping unwitting opponents. One-on-one fights benefit from unrelenting tension as well, and a player who knows all the quirks of piloting a mech will have a clear advantage over the one who doesn’t, no matter how big the size of his or her guns. It helps that the mechs themselves are beautiful in their cold brutality, even if the surrounding landscape doesn't always achieve the same visual intensity. Even so, the sound design does much to make up for it, especially with the satisfying thumps and pulses from the laser cannons. You might occasionally long for some bombastic music to bring drama to battle, but MechWarrior Online doesn't feature a musical soundtrack. This absence, however, does much to capture the gritty, no-hogwash combat vibe Piranha so obviously wants to deliver.

Overheat, and you're a sitting duck.

It's a shame that all this attention to detail isn't enough to keep MechWarrior Online from suffering from tedium. Not only does the missing lore lead to a lack of investment in the world, but the two simple combat modes leads to tackling the same tired objectives ad infinitum. Assault amounts to little more than team deathmatch with the admittedly welcome option to also win by storming your opponent's base. In Conquest, on the other hand, you earn victory either by by capturing the resources from five points or by slaughtering all the enemy mechs. Despite the repetition, the model does have its appeal, particularly when you find yourself winning a conquest match alone because the other team was too busy killing mechs instead of capturing points. Alas, that doesn't happen often, due to an imperfect matchmaking system that frequently pits groups of random players against organized teams.

The lack of extra game modes is all the more surprising once you consider MechWarrior Online's free-to-play model. You're encouraged to buy many specialized items with real cash through the ads splattered over the home UI (including some pricey premium mechs), but you can still build a strong mech with so-called C-bills earned from matches if you have a lot of patience. Again, a lot. Long grinds for earning the same items available for cash are the norm with the free-to-play model, but the time commitment is particularly harsh here. And with only two modes to choose from, the grind soon becomes more tedious than fun, possibly leading you to wonder why you're even playing in the first place.

The answer for most players is likely that this is the best iteration of a long-neglected franchise that we've seen in years, and there's always the possibility it could improve. Piranha constantly drops hints regarding features to come, such as "community warfare" that captures some of the faction rivalry of previous games, yet in its current launch existence, MechWarrior Online is hardly more than a solid arena shooter populated with mechs. If the game had made better use of its assets and given us a reason to care about more than the fleeting pleasures of customization and combat, it might be worth enduring the currency grind. As it is, like its strongest mechs, it runs out of power far too fast.

The Good
Numerous options make customizing mechs fun
Immersion through climate effects on mechs
Satisfying combat sounds
Piloting a mech feels right
The Bad
Lack of modes leads to monotony
Acquiring in-game currency takes an unnecessarily long time
Poor tutorials
Wonky matchmaking
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Leif Johnson likes big robots and massive online games.

Discussion

8 comments
mp00
mp00

Hello I am a rabid fan of MechWarrior and have been playing MWO since closed beta. There is lot great with the game and community and a lot wrong. It is taking forever for PGI/IGP to fulfill there promises and schedules. But regardless if you persevere and keep at it (took me a week of playing before I could even kill a enemy: about 30 matches) it is tremendously fun. It is not for everyone and is improving albeit slowly.

cooloutac
cooloutac

This is cooloutac,  I hated the game at first because of the excessive grind,   but if you stick with it, its very rewarding,   and acceptable because the game is truly free and not pay to win like I originally thought.

Contrary to what the reviewer says too,  the match making is incredible.  The best I've ever seen, better then LoL.    It even matches up people by factions as well,  its really impressive.   Theres not a whole lot of people playing the game right now,  but its still new.  and well there isn't any pc game with a lot of players besides LoL to begin with.

The movement mechanics are unlike any other game and is really like driving a tank in BF3,  but less arcade like.   Fantasy shooters seem to be a dying breed,  and this is nice change of pace from your typical "assault rifle" style game.  

  I don't need alot of game modes,  conquest mode and TDM are good enough for me.

Most of the stock mechs are terrible,  but there is a lot of fun in supping up your mech,   and the free mechs can be loaded up the same as paid ones.  It only takes a couple games to get your mech a viable weapon and armor loadout.   And there are so many mechs to choose from its never ending  and has a generally very good balanced and fair gameplay.

Im really loving the game now.  The community may not be hardcore gamers,  but they are very friendly and mature.   There is quite the learning curve with this game.    Contrary to the review there is also tons of tutorial videos on the main website.   And if you ask questions or post in the forums,  Like BoB said,  the community is very helpful.

This is one of the best games I've played in a long time. AND ITS FREE!!!

bobcoffee
bobcoffee

wow you cooloutac are one very misinformed person.

first off console games are extremely easy to hack, COD has been one that is always promoting that they are great at anti cheating and hacking.

yet it is one of the most hacked games I have ever played on CONSOLE.

Your views on the  console are priceless, you mean all the tech heads, hardcore gamers will be sticking to PC while "racist homosexual computer nerds, housewives,  and out of touch redneck" people will be playing the console. Even the xbox 360 and playstation 3's show how crazy that market is. GTA5 is a perfect example of this. THEY MADE A FORTUNE OFF REALLY OLD HARDWARE. (8 years'ish)

With MWO, why did you not join in on the FREE services the player base were doing to help out new pilots? If you don't know how to play its fine just ask. Unlike in consoles all you will be getting is 8 year olds trolling you...

Yes online games are always be set around the ones who fork out 800 dollars a year, these people have been ruining games for a long time with out really knowing about it. Balance in most of the online games, MWO, PS2, Star conflict suck because there base around farming new guys.

"They keep stats and loadouts of other players secret" my dear god why did you just not ask people on the forums for help. The community player base will help you out for FREE. There is a lovely player created forums and little website to help you build mechs or even plan for future builds.

ONCE AGAIN WHY DID YOU NOT ASK?

Of course you will never respond, consoles are the MAJOR reason why games today suck, why developers are more outdated then they should be. I suppose your getting the "spy on me" failbox which when released would be considered out of date by tech people.

But no go ahead and spend your money on trash/media center.

cooloutac
cooloutac

Ya this game is just another reason to buy a console. 

Only racist homosexual computer nerds, housewives,  and out of touch redneck vets think grinding should be in any versus  multiplayer.    The game is totally imbalanced.  Feels like a failed after though of a singleplayer or coop that doesn't even exist.....  Nothing e-sport valid about it.     Its a game for wannabe slave masters and hackers.

They keep stats and loadouts of other players secret so people just don't end up using all the same meta builds and throwing the rest of the game out the window, unless your part of the in crowd,  which is what happens in games like these.

They let anybody choose commander and reorganize teams of premades at will,  which makes people rage.  Not only that, but premades come in and destroy most pugs....

Trolls teamkill people  with no repercussions.    I mean its like most developers,  these nerds don't even understand human nature.  no warning for teamkills,  nothing....

They should of took their queue from WoW's tourney mode in 2008,  or LoL's popularity.  Not only for game balance and the fact people really dont' like to grind in a multiplayer,   but also for community regulations and IN GAME moderating, not just on forums,   which is what keeps those games popular most of all.

You see the same dozens of people playing it from around the world, meaning noone plays the dam game except the same elite snobby cliques,  and  they are probably all computer nerds and hackers.

The pc gaming industry has been dead for years,  and I think its time i bought a console now after 20 years of pc gaming and not owning one since super nintendo.  I feel have no choice,  I saw the writing on the wall years ago when ea sports stopped making pc games, because of all the pirating and online cheating.   Which confirmed for me at the time nothing but unsportlike nerds were left online.

Now the internet and pc industry in general is dying, not just pc games, but many long time forums and online communties......time to buy a smartphone and console everyone.   This game proves that.

AlmostUndead
AlmostUndead

So you say that in-game currency takes too long in this game and list it as a con yet you review League of Legends and don't list game currency in that as a con?

Thats a pile of I've ever heard it. Grinding in LoL is just as freakin' bad as this game. 

666NightsInHell
666NightsInHell

This game sux badly, unplayable controls is first thing, no matter how game can be good but with unplayable controls only sick fans will play , game looks crap and is optimazed very bad, gameplay is bad, there is nothing just stupid pvp. Also its a pure PAY TO WIN! You can survive alone against many mechs with payd mech and with default fre emechs you are dead after one or few hits, only masochists will going to play this crap for free.

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

Game release in the article reads "December 31, 2099".
I think that's a valid estimate for this to become any interesting.

They should put the CryEngine and all the 3D models they have to good use and release an awesome, offline playable singleplayer MechWarrior campaign in which you can also exit the cockpit to fight on foot and board other mechs and such and also add vehicles, tanks, drones, gunships, etc.
The multiplayer was boring and a constant grind in always the same handful of maps to unlock other mechs and new equipment so I just stopped somewhere halfway through the beta because of lack of interest and anything meaningful to do.

Too bad they shushed the MechWarrior Living Legends mod team away because they were miles ahead of them with way more interesting concepts. (and vehicle, plane and foot combat)

But hey, it's free, you just have to resist the urge to speed up your tedious grind process with real world money, because even if you do, it's just more of the same.

MechWarrior Online More Info

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  • Coming Dec 31, 2099
    • PC
    MechWarrior Online is the first offiicially licensed free-to-play title in the MechWarrior franchise.
    5.9
    Average User RatingOut of 59 User Ratings
    MechWarrior Online has not been released yet!
    Developed by:
    Piranha Games
    Published by:
    Infinite Game Publishing
    Genres:
    3D, Shooter, Action, Team-Based, First-Person