MechWarrior Online: Open Beta PreviewThu 13th Dec 2012 - 8:30pm Category: Article
Piranha Games pulled back the curtain on the upcoming MechWarrior Online when it went into open beta a few weeks back and it's taken intense powers of self-discipline to draw me away from the addictive gameplay just to write this article. Staged for a full release this coming spring, MWO heralds the return of the grandfather of all mech games into the public square.
Eschewing any kind of single-player game the new MWO focuses on team-versus-team fights to the death with ambitions for more versus modes. Already the game is playing smoothly with the occasional glitch that you'd expect from a game a few months from release; larger mechs feel slow, heavy, bristling with firepower, covered in heavy armor while the light mechs are fast, responsive, though lighter armed and armored.
As of the writing of this article, there are 11 mechs in the game, with 7 more announced, ranging from the 25 ton Commando up to the 100 ton Atlas, with 3 to 5 variants of each. These mechs fall into 4 different categories based on their maximum tonnage: light, medium, heavy, and assault. Tonnage combined with a mech variants hardpoints are what guide the customization of each individual mech variant. The Catapult for instance comes in 4 variants: A1, C1, C4, and K2. Visually they look same but each of them have space to equip only certain types of weapons and only a certain number of each. The A1 is able to equip 6 missile racks but nothing else, C1 has only 2 missiles but 4 energy hardpoints, the C4 has 4 missiles but only two energy, and the K2 is able to equip 4 energy weapons and 2 ballistic forgoing missiles completely. With the variety of weapons that can go in each of those different hardpoints even individual variants can range from faster firing close range brawlers to long range support mechs, allowing a player to tailor any mech to their particular favored playstyle or the necessities of a team. This is the inherent design that drives a deep and complex game of rock, paper, scissors and the core of its team-based gameplay.
In a more twitch-reaction based FPS carrying the biggest weapon almost guarantees a win, but with MWO's emphasis on realism (even for 19 meter towering machines of death) a light mech stands a chance as long as they keep moving and stick to darting around cover and firing on a larger mech's less armored rear. Larger heavier mechs not only move at slower speeds but their torsos turn slower, making it harder to draw a bead on faster moving light mechs. It's no minor speed difference either with the assault-class Atlas clocking in at 48.6 KPH and the light-class Jenner moving at 113.4 KPH before modifications to further slow down or speed up either mech. In order to help maintain a balance between mechs on the battlefield, MWO automatically balances out each side of a match to have equivalent tonnage mechs so one team is not weighed down with more heavy assault or not enough firepower with a plethora of light mechs. This restriction is removed, however, in the 8 vs. 8 premade matches. While all fights are designed to be 8 on 8 (with 12 vs 12 coming soon), these premades are the equivalent of most premade team matches, requiring you to group all 8 players in a team before you can enter the specific queue for those fights.
Hopefully this little preview has whet your appetite for MechWarrior Online. We'll have some more coverage in the days to come with video and some more in-depth looks at the specific gameplay mechanics, mechs, and the weapons. If you're interested in playing in the Open Beta, head over to MWO Mercs and sign up. Feel free to add me as a friend, username Lonrem. Finally, I send you off with a video of one of the matches I recorded with my clan, it's far from the best gameplay you'll see, but it is an unedited view of the game. Until next time, see you on the battlefield.