MechWarrior Online Adds Depth to the Series «

MechWarrior has always been a fairly shallow series at heart. Despite featuring endless customization options for mechs, almost all of the previous MW titles suffered from major exploits that rendered gameplay one-dimensional. Every MW 2 mission could be easily completed using nothing but long-range-missiles, while MechWarrior 3’s gameplay boiled down to shooting off the enemies legs as fast as possible. The general rule throughout the series’ history has been that a heavier mech is almost always a better choice than a lighter one — armor always trumps speed.

MechWarrior Online aims to add depth to the series when it launches this summer by offering players a reason to choose a variety of mechs, “Ending the arms race,” as the game’s developers referred to it in a hands-off demo at GDC. The CryEngine-powered, free-to-play game’s 12v12 online matches require specialization and teamwork; each side will need light mechs to scout and report enemy locations to the rest of the team, as well as heavy assault mechs to lead and soak up damage alongside medium mechs equipped with specialty weapons and heavy ordinance.

Click the image above to check out all MechWarrior Online screens.

The short demo began inside a ‘Hunchback,’ a light-to-medium mech equipped with a massive autocannon. The player views the world from inside a fully functional cockpit, each of the seemingly dozens of gauges, dials, and displays conveying valuable information to the player. Thankfully players not inclined towards such a Steel Battalion-style experience can opt to layer a much more user-friendly HUD on top of their view. Even with the simpler display, MechWarrior online seems intimidating to control. The player controls torso, arm, and head movement independently and the ability to equip weapons anywhere on the vehicle adds a second crosshair to the game — one for arm-mounted guns and one for those on the torso. Though designed for a mouse and keyboard, the game will feature support for a variety of joysticks for those feeling nostalgic for the previous games in the series.

As the vehicle stomped through a scenic ravine filled with brush scrub and small streams, an enemy scouting mech came running from behind a small hill. The ultra-light and speedy ‘Jenner’ wasn’t looking for a fight; having scanned the Hunchback and reported its location to its allies, it ran back to their protection as fast as possible. MWO offers players experience for more than simple kills; scouting and relaying information to the team will help earn “efficiencies” which can than later be cashed in for a “pilot point” that will pay for upgrades on the player character — ending the “arms race” to the heaviest mech that previous MW games suffered from, as the game now offers an incentive to do something other than rely on thick armor to soak up damage. The large maps offer plenty of places to stage an ambush if a team knows an enemy’s location.

Click the image above to check out all MechWarrior Online screens.

The Jenner eventually dies after an autocannon blast explodes next to it, sending it crashing into the adjacent hillside. But it’s too late for the Hunchback; the allies signaled by the scouting mech before its destruction open fire. An enemy Atlas (the largest mech in the game) makes short work of the Hunchback — whose massive firepower comes at the expense of lighter armor — ending the demo. The interaction between mechs of different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses was always present in the table BattleTech games that inspired the series, but MWO is the first game to translate that depth into a simulation like MechWarrior.

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