MechWarrior has been part of the gaming consciousness for nearly thirty years. Hundreds of thousands of fans have played the tabletop games as well as checked out the various video game titles. Now we move into 2012 and Piranha Games online iteration of the series, MechWarrior Online. Since its announcement, the game has been followed by ardent fans and new fans have taken a shine to the amazing graphic look of the game.
During PAX Prime, we had the opportunity for a bit of hands on time with MechWarrior Online with our own Bill Murphy at the controls. We logged into the Volcano Top map, a tree lined mountaintop reminiscent of Mount St. Helens in Oregon. The landscape was littered with fallen trees and rocks as well as new growth that gave smaller, more mobile mechs a place to hide out. It didn’t take long for our n00b at the controls to be taken down which was actually an OK thing since we learned that players dying on a map can either spectate the match until it’s complete or they can hit escape to quit the game and move on to the next match.
Matches are fifteen minutes in duration and continue until one of three scenarios arrive: 1) All players on one team die; or 2) One team’s base is captured; or 3) Time runs out. After dying, we opted to head out of the game to find out more about the MechLab.
The MechLab is where all players can perform repairs or upgrades to their mechs. New players are given four machines on entry into the game: Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault mechs. It’s a way to introduce new players to the available types. More mechs and further customizations can be purchased through the use of C-Bills, the game’s currency. Interestingly, C-Bills can be earned through game play or can be purchased with real-world dollars.
Mechs can be customized in nearly any configuration you can imagine. You can add lasers or flame throwers or powerful launchers of nearly any type. One consideration, however, is that all mechs create heat. Overheating a mech will result in its shutting down until it is cool enough to recover and restart. Adding customizations that help mitigate heat generation is a must. Heat generation also requires players to think before wanton use of heavy firepower.
Rather than the player leveling, each mech levels on its own. Players can assign different skills and abilities through the use of “tier efficiencies” or levels. Think of skill trees here. Basic, Elite and Master tiers are available for players to use when assigning skills. As expected, the more points in a particular tier, the closer players get to being able to unlock further skills in the next tier.
Players, or pilots as they’re known in MWO, also level separately from the mechs. Players can then use earned currency to purchase buffs for mechs. A nice touch that Piranha has added is that buffs purchased by players are account wide and can be used on any mech.
The play in MechWarrior Online is strictly first person though we were told that a third person view is being designed, though has yet to be implemented. The team does not completely agree with the option yet, at the same time, they want to make the game accessible and attractive to as wide a range of players as possible.
A simple press of the CTRL key gives players the option to look around inside the cockpit of their mech. What’s really cool is that the monitors, screens, etc. all are working and functional. The animated hand of your pilot has the ability to manipulate objects in the cockpit, for instance toggling a switch. The team is actively working on the hand’s animations to make it as realistic as possible.
One of the thoughts of the team is to also sell custom items with which to decorate the cockpit. I was particularly pleased to hear that fuzzy dice are being considered. These types of customization items will be sold via the in-game shop.
As players wander through the map, it becomes important to consider what type of mech to take into battle. Light mechs are fast and maneuverable but cannot handle much damage. Assault mechs bring heavy firepower into the match but they are slow. Teams working together will want to carefully consider the balance of the mechs to ensure that all types are represented.
Mechs upper and lower body parts move independent of one another. For instance, a mech can be walking forward but be shooting a laser off to its right as it is working its way to the enemy base.
Damage is also shown in several key areas rather than as total damage to the unit. Head, torso, legs, arms, all can take damage and a color scale on the UI shows what parts are damaged and how badly.
All in all MechWarrior Online looks like a solid entry into the ever-growing and expanding MMO space. While not a true MMO, it has enough components to warrant its inclusion in our list and for our readers to be interested in. Piranha Games is currently offering Founders’ Packages that give some terrific bonuses and in-game swag including premium access for a period of time, a special in-game icon, in-game currency and more.
What about you? Interested in MechWarrior Online? Tell us more in the comments.