MechWarrior Online has officially launched, they’ve even thrown there big launch party/tournament. So, I guess it’s time for me to officially review the game I’ve been playing since closed Beta, huh?
First off – I do not agree with every decision that Piranha Games has made with regards to the development of the title. However, this isn’t a Developer review, it’s a game review so don’t expect me to give the game a 0 out of 10, just because of that.
MWO hasn’t implemented DirectX11 capabilities yet, so the game is only running in DX9. Here’s a screenshot from a recent match, taken at ‘Very High’ settings:
The background has an ‘ok’ level of detail, as does the ‘Mech itself (though, I think the ‘Mechs could use a higher level of detail, especially this close up), The ‘resource point’ Oil rig looking thing actually has a much higher level of detail than the rest of the rendered objects. The colors, to me, don’t ever seem very vibrant and most maps feel like they have an overwhelming amount of browns. We know that CryEngine 3 is capable of much higher levels of detail, look at this screenshot of a clip from the Star Citizen ‘sizzle reel’ shown at the AMD event the other day:
Star Citizen Sizzle Reel – AMD Event
It’d be nice if MWO took better advantage of the graphics capabilities of CryEngine 3. Granted, as a F2P game, they don’t want to make the system requirements too severe, but, for people with systems that can handle a higher level of graphic fidelity, the game should offer it.
Weapon effects (PPC blasts, Laser bolts, flights of missiles) all look good (close up, you can see the cluster of missiles twist as they fly).
Overall, while there is definitely room for appearance in the graphics area, for a F2P game, trying to run on as many systems as possible, the graphics are at an acceptable level, I’ll give a 7/10 for graphics.
If you’re expecting an accurate translation from tabletop rules to a TPS (Third Person Shooter), this is not the game for you. TableTop BattleTech is based on 10 second turns, with randomness impacting where your weapons hit. In a shooter, if PGI had made every weapon fireable once every 10 seconds, the forums would have erupted like Mount Vesuvius the first time anyone played the game. PGI has done a pretty good job of coming up with a good system for converting the damage a weapon is supposed to do, and balancing it with a ‘recharge’ time. Where the TableTop conversion falls short, is with the pinpoint accuracy obtainable in a shooter. It’s very rare (due to the randomness of dice rolls) for every weapon to hit the same spot in BattleTech. In MWO, it’s pretty common. To try and combat this, PGI increased the amount of armor over the tabletop values. This helps, a little. A bigger issue is the lack of penalties to being able to hit your target, as your ‘Mech heats up.
To address the heat issue, PGI has implemented a ‘ghost heat’ system, that adds varying penalties to heat for firing similar weapons in groups. While this has reduced the number of ‘Mechs seen in matches carrying large numbers of the same weapon type, it doesn’t appear to have impacted the overall ‘super high, alpha strike, pinpoint damage’ issue much. This ‘ghost heat’ system, is also not explained to new players in the game anywhere, which makes it more confusing than helpful for people.
3rd person view was added to, partially, make it easier for new players to learn to pilot their ‘Mechs, by being able to see which direction their legs were facing, as well as their torso. Unfortunately, at least for the ‘Mechs I tried it on, it doesn’t do that. The camera angle doesn’t show both the torso, and legs for all the chassis. Without going into the controversy surrounding 3PV (as, that doesn’t impact gameplay). I will say that 3PV does provide for the ability to see, without being seen, in some circumstances. It does put a ‘probe’ (visible in the first screenshot above), above and behind your ‘Mech to let everyone know you’re using 3PV. The probe has no gameplay purpose.
There are two gameplay modes ‘conquest’, and ‘assault’. In conquest, there are multiple resource points to be captured/held. In assault, there is only one ‘base’ per side.
Victory conditions for both modes are:
- Capture the base (earn 750 resource points for conquest)
- Destroy all Enemy ‘Mechs.
You’ll drop into either one of these (if you leave the matchmaker set for ‘any’, or you can specify the game type you want), on one of eight maps (3 of the maps have a ‘variant’ mode, with either different lighting (night time), or different weather effects). This is the biggest weakness of MWO currently. The limited number of game modes, combined with a limited number of maps, plus no Community Warfare/Ranked game system, means there is no incentive to play MWO for extended periods of time. Due to the average match length (for me at least), being about 5-7 minutes, it’s good for a quick game when you want to blow some stuff up.
Overall, the lack of game modes/maps, and confusing hidden rules (ghost heat), counteract the fun of 12v12 ‘Mech stomping fun. Recent changes to the matchmaker to try and insure an even tonnage match (in addition to ELO), does help to prevent completely one sided matches from happening as frequently as they used to, and is a step in the right direction. Gameplay is a 6/10.
There are currently two types of currency in MWO:
C-Bills – earned via gameplay
MC (MechWarrior Credits) – the ‘real’ money currency
Most in-game items can be purchased with with C-Bills, which is good. However, the rate at which C-Bills are earned, has been reduced recently, thus making the ‘grind’ too much. In “Ask a Dev #47″ Bryan states that he thinks premium time is required:
“…I think this will be more effective in teaching players the value of Premium Time, which IMHO is a must have.”
So, since Bryan thinks Premium time is a must have, the C-Bill earning rate (which Premium time gives a boost to) has been nerfed. This is, sadly, a direct change to in game economics, not for balance reasons, but to strongly encourage premium time (and through there, force MC sales, since premium time can only be purchased with MC).
F2P games need to make money, there’s no arguing that, no money = no game. But, with Hero ‘Mechs, and additional ‘Mech Bays only being obtainable via MC.. there was already a hard paywall in place (not to mention the paints, and other cosmetic items). Intentionally reducing in-game earnings to put in another soft-paywall, was not needed. The lengthy grind to accumulate enough C-Bills to buy, and then customize, a new ‘Mech, will turn off players who don’t have hours on end to grind out, and who don’t want to spend money on MC.
MC is used for premium time, Hero ‘Mechs (‘Mechs that provide a boost to C-Bill, and XP Earning rates), cockpit decorations, some consumables, and paints to customize your ‘Mech.
MC is only obtainable via real money, and is the ‘premium’ currency for MWO. The price of the packages that PGI sells MC at, has been a hot topic at times since it’s introduction at open beta. While I’d like to see there be more MC per dollar. I think the packages are fair. Like any F2P game, the MC packages (and corresponding MC item prices) are priced to encourage you to buy a slightly larger MC package than you actually need. For example, an item may cost $5.50 worth of MC, but only have MC packages of $5 and $10. Again, this is ‘standard’ for the F2P space (at least in my experience) so is not a huge negative.
Due to the excessive grind recently added to the game by reducing the C-Bill earning rate, I have to give the economy a 6/10. Overall, things are reasonably priced, and most stuff was obtainable in game for a reasonable amount of grinding.
- It’s MechWarrior/BattleTech
- Wide variety of ‘Mechs available
- Good customization of ‘Mechs
- Most items available via in-game currency
- Matchmaker continues to be improved
- Decent Graphics
- Cadet Bonus helps reduce grind for new players
- Limited game modes
- Limited maps
- No ‘Meta-Game’ (Community warfare, ranked leagues, etc. to provide a reason for repeated matches)
- Poor New Player experience (Unexplained systems (ghost heat), incomplete tutorial)
- Excessive grind required for in-game currency
Overall Score: 6/10
It’s a fun game, hopefully the promised additions of more maps, game modes, and a meta game will come, and thus provide more incentive for players to come back to the game. Don’t let the drama with the developer’s interaction with the community turn you off from giving it a try. Yes, the game hasn’t changed much from closed beta to launch (as far as what’s included), but, it’s still fun to drop into a match, and get your daily dose of ‘Mech on ‘Mech action!