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Mechwarrior Online - the frustration

I've played Mechwarrior on the PC since pretty much it's inception - Battletech back in the 90's, through the Mechwarrior series from MW2 onwards. There's something about strutting around in giant robots smacking the crap out of other equally giant robots that's very gratifying. Mechwarrior has always been a bit of an alternativbe take on the conventional first-person shooter. It's focus was more on tactics, with less of a reliance on speed of reaction and "who can run around and shoot people the quickest"... I liked it because I do better at it.

 

So I plumped for Mechwarrior Online - what's not to like? Big robots. Multiplayer 12 versus 12. And a free-to-play model. I stumbled across it relatively late, 12 months after inception and towards the end of it's beta cycle, but it certainly looked the part. I've got into it pretty quickly and it's surprisingly faithful to the old games, which was a pleasure to see.

 

 

But fuck me it's infuriating in places. Or, more accurately, what's infuriating is it's creators, Infinite Game Publishing (IGP). They seem to be focused purely on rattling out additional chargeable content at a furious rate, and to hell with playability enhancements other than minor bug fixes and the occassional weapon "nerf" or "buff".

 

Here's my opinion. Firstly, on the nerfs and buffs... I have no issue. I'm all for balanced gameplay and it's across the board for everyone, so no biggie. But the role-playing aspect has suffered greatly for it. All the very risky mech builds, where you strap nothing but long-range guns or missiles onto your mech (thereby compromising it in close-quarters combat) are gone... because it's just not worth it anymore. The use of those builds has been penalised so much that it's no fun. It didn't need to be this way, of course. The whole point of these very compromised builds was that they could work when in the hands of the right person (and against an opposition who didn't know how to counter them - for example, get up close and personal). But it would seem IGP pander to the masses, and when everyone whinges that they're getting beaten up by missile boats from a distance then the answer is to nerf that tactic into extinction.

 

So, ok, no extreme builds any more. I can live with that. I might not love it, but there's enough love for the game to push onward. But other role-play suffers too. I have a light mech buildout on a Raven that makes me a fast spotter - but it rarely gets kills, only spot and kill assists - and the rewards for running it (in terms of XP and Cbills) is pitiful. It's no wonder no-one bothers with the role-playing aspects when the game rewards general brawling more. If I wanted that, I'd go play Call of Duty.

 

The game setup model is just wrong. First I pick my mech and configure it with the weapons I choose, with no knowledge or control of the type of map I'm going to be playing. I then start the match entry and effectively roll the dice to find out what map I'll be playing. So if I've built up a sniper-style, long-range mech build and get lumped into close-quarters street-style map, tough shit. I build up a mech that's really conservative on heat generation, only to find I'm dropped into an ice world where I can pump out as much heat as I like... tough shit.

 

It's seriously crap and it could be resolved quite easily. I'd like to see the ability to pre-configure various setups on a given mech chassis, and save them as "favourite" configs. So to start a match you can choose a mech, that's fine - so the player is contrained to that particular chassis, but not any variants of it. Then, once the map is assigned, the player has a short period of time to choose one of his pre-configured variants; his "favourites". Is that difficult? No, of course not. Will IGP prioritise the development of that over a mech pack to be sold at $500 per mech (yes, seriously)? Will they bollocks.

 

What is it with grouping ballistic weapons too? There's a simple concept in MWO - you can group weapons and have them fire all at once, or you can have them round-robin through the group with each push of the fire button.

 

So, if I have 4 ac/2 cannons, I can put them in group fire and KABOOM, all 4 of them shoot off a round at once. If all 4 rounds connect with the target, that's a world of hurt, but the tradeoff is massive heat generation and also a delay while I wait for all 4 weapons to reload.

 

So if I put them in sequential fire, you'd think I could fire them off at pretty much any rate I wanted, limited only by the fact that each weapon still has to reload before it will fire - right? I mean, that's logical - that's what the real world scenario would be, right? No.

 

Instead, I click the fire button and shoot off one round. I've made a build decision that I can regulate my fire rate and therefore heat generation manually, by using my ability to press a button faster or slower as my situation dictates - right? No, because I've got some totally fucking illogical time limit (about half a second) imposed on me before any additional gun in my weapon group will fire... WTF IGP?! There are ways around it (faffing around with weapon groups and using multiple fire buttons, or quite simply using a macro like ADHD). But there should be no need for it. I choose the buildout so I can regulate my heat generation and ammo loss, at the loss of a mini alpha-strike (where ALL weapons fire at once). I might not hit the target with as many rounds, assuming he's not standing still, so what's the problem?

 

It goes on and on. A main menu system that's incredibly clunky. The notion of building variations of your mechs would be nice, so I can 'save' configurations and reload them without having to manually re-jiggle all the weapons and modules fitted onto my mech manually. But no, you have to do it manually. Or buy multiple mechs, slot them into additional mech bays, and choose them as you fancy - but all at the cost of real-world money of course.

 

And the pricing model, jeez... in the upcoming clan patch in 2014, we're talking $500 mechs... in this real-world economy am I really going to spend $500 on a virtual robot in a computer game? There are people out there who do this? Even if I want to change the colour of my mech, I have to pay real-world moolah for the priviledge - about 3000 mech credits, or $15. Which is just plain ridonculous in all worlds other than the alternative reality that IGP (and, seemingly, many of their players) live in.

 

What else... ah yes, the "ready" model at the start of a game.... why? The pre-cursor to something bigger maybe, but when will it actually arrive? And the whole social aspect, linking up with accounts of your friends, could do with some polishing - it's not very slick.

 

The lance and team commander options are also vastly underused and not very poweful. One player can choose to take the lead for a lance (group of 4 mechs) or the entire team (all 12) and can then dish out orders via the map screen... but the need to switch into a map view and plan it out effectively puts you out of combat for the duration of your tactical work... so I just don't use it. The other alternative is for the commander to park up his mech somewhere hidden, power down and issues commands from his relatively safe haven... but then leaving the team 1 player down. So, again, it doesn't seem to get used all that much.

 

How about a 13v13 player mode, where one player is completely isolated into the command mode (team command only; not applicable to lance commanders, which can continue to work as they do today)? I think this would get player buy-in a lot more than the current model.

 

There's not much there that's not addressable though, is there? I mean, they're all fairly minor whinges. The biggest problem is the way the game doesn't encourage role-based play any more, or maybe stifles it a little. The mech config, and lack of 'saved' configurations, is the other major gripe. The rest is pretty minor. I'll carry on with it for now, in the hope they'll address the issues, but when my credits run out I suspect it will be vying for my favour with Elite Dangerous (I'm a backer)... and when E:D makes release I suspect somehow my time spent on MWO will drop considerably :).

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