However, Mech balance has undoubtedly improved since release. Piranha has taken a unique approach here, adding and/or altering Mech "quirks" to improve or diminish its specifications. For example, a certain Mech may receive a +10% Large Laser Range quirk, enabling it to increase its effective and optimal ranges when using Large Lasers. Additionally, some Mechs have received additional armor or weapon heat quirks to help it maintain an even playing field with newer Mechs. These quirks are listed in the information tooltip present when selecting Mechs in the game. This system not only allows Piranha to focus balance on the specific shortcomings of any given Mech, but also provides the player a clear picture as to what type of build works best with their Mech.
Weapons, including cannons, lasers, and missile launchers, provide a lot of tactical options when considering damage, range, cooldown, and heat generation. Multiply that by the very large amount of Mechs available (each with multiple "variants" geared towards certain weaponry/tactics) and Piranha has given folks a myriad of ways to play MWO. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a Mech he or she didn't genuinely enjoy piloting out on the field of battle. And while Mechs still suffer from the ebb and flow of the almighty Meta found in any MOBA, one can almost always find a niche to fill on a team with any build and Mech they wish to utilize (provided you aren't working completely against the Mech's quirks). Those who enjoy experimentation in builds will find a large playground in MWO's Mechlab (once they attain the C-bills to do so). In particular, it reminds me fondly of days spent customizing my mechs in the Armored Core series.
In addition to these balance improvements, Piranha has added new maps to the game. A few were created specifically for Community Warfare, while the most recent addition to the Quick Play queue is a larger map entitled Polar Highlands. Here, it’s easy to see Piranha has learned much from its time working with the game and has honed its map-crafting skills to heavily compliment the tactical features of MWO. The map is large and cover sparse, with trenches criss-crossing the snow-covered landscape being one of the few ways to move around undetected. The general consensus seems to be that the map harkens back to the glory days of Mechwarrior 4, and that's a good thing. Battles rarely play out the same way twice here (an issue plaguing a few of the older maps in the game), and tactical flanking and scouting become paramount to success. It shows Piranha gets what makes this a Battletech title and provides ample optimism for future map releases.
For all the disappointment surrounding the sluggish development of the Community Warfare metagame promised by Piranha, MWO stands as an excellently unique MOBA. Piranha has mastered the Quick Play queue, reducing the time spent waiting for a match to less than a minute on average. Additionally, matches rarely last longer than 10-12 minutes, meaning you won't be stuck stomping around in a losing match very long before you can get a fresh start with a new Mech and team. As fast-paced as its matching system is, matches themselves still maintain a very tactical, deliberate feel (specifically when piloting the larger, slower Mechs) that will satisfy those who find twitch shooters to be too brainless. Line of sight, target locking, focus firing, tanking; all of these things come into play in determining the victor of any given match. And despite all this tactical gameplay, you can still get in, play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the enemy team, and get out in 20 minutes or less. What's more, Piranha has recently released a sneak peek detailing the continued work on Community Warfare, planned map improvements (almost all of the original maps are slated for a pass at improvements), leaderboards, and more. I won't attempt to explain it all here, as Piranha does a great job of doing so in their sneak peek video:
All in all, it's an exciting time to jump into Piranha's Mechwarrior Online, whether for the first time or to revisit a title once written off to mediocrity. Piranha has shown it understands its game's boons and banes, is finally focusing its efforts on creating the Metagame it was missing at release, and expanding upon the tactical gameplay that is the hallmark of a good MOBA. Best of all, there's zero barriers to entry into this F2P title; jump into the first trial Mech that scratches your "Looks badass!" itch and give it a go!