Friday, October 5, 2012

Preview: MechWarrior Online Closed Beta Impressions

Some of you may have noticed that I've been away for a while and haven't spent much time writing about games.  Part of that was due to the Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed when I started trying a few games.  I've been in the closed beta for MechWarrior Online now for a little bit, and I've been holding back on gushing about it.  That is, until now.  The NDA has been lifted, so there's a lot to discuss on this little gem.  So, without further ado, let's get started!
Anyone who followed PC Gaming during the early 90's should have at least heard of the MechWarrior franchise at some point in time or another.  Giant robots, intense battles, and a steep learning curve.  What's not to love?  Throw in a joystick and throttle yoke, and players could be sitting in a cockpit at their computer!  Well, some developers got together, bought licensing rights, and started making an MMO based on this franchise.  It's found a strong following, and legions of fans already planning out guilds and factions.

When you start out in MWO, you have access to your choice of up to four trial mechs.  The Jenner JR7-F, the Hunchback HBK-4J, the Catapult CPLT-K2, and the Atlas AS7-RS.  Each one is pre-fitted with everything to get started.  All a new pilot needs to do is click the big glowing "launch" button and MWO will automatically pair them with 11 other pilots chomping at the bit for prize money, salvage rights, and glory.  Additional Mechs can be purchased with in-game currency, the "C-Bill," or with real world money, known in-game as "MC."  At present, Piranha Games is working on finding the right C-Bill payout balance, which was a source of numerous complaints from some beta testers last month.  That said, this is why Piranha Games is running the Beta Test.  It's giving them an opportunity to really fine tune the overall experience.

During my time in the closed beta, I didn't have enough cash to buy my own mech or even get close to that point.  That said, playing with the trial mechs provided a good insight into what's available.  I fell in love with the Atlas almost right away, though I've spent a bit of time in a Jenner going "Squirrelling."  This involves running around at top speed, shooting at enemies, and just being distracting in general while my teammates pummel them into submission.  It's fun, but I'm not sure if I like it as much as some of the other roles.

This brings me to my next point.  MWO places a lot of emphasis on teamwork.  Teams that fine-tune their roles will do great in MWO.  If a team doesn't act cohesively, it will get torn to shreds in a heart beat.  The battlefield is a cruel, unforgiving place.  Anyone who goes off lone wolf style will be fed to the hounds and his mech used for salvage.  In some respects, this could be a turn-off for some gamers.  I can see the need for being in a clan to really be able to do much once the game goes live.  Since there aren't clans now, it's easy to jump into a match, but once the clans go up, new players will find themselves outgunned in a hurry.  A little matchmaking tweak would help this dramatically.

As far as what they've got going so far, I can see this game shaping up to be great.  If you haven't signed up for the waiting list, you should do so as soon as you can.  Go to and register an account.  If you purchase founder's club access, you'll get into the closed beta pretty much right away.  I've been having a lot of fun with this game, and hopefully I'll see you on the battlefield.

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