So, I don’t normally do video game reviews. It’s an overly saturated market, and people usually do a far better job then I would do, so I don’t bother. However, MechWarrior 5:Mercenaries is a special case.
While I have yet to reveal on this blog my love of Battletech the franchise(which, I will remedy in short order, more on that later!) I do have an almost year long fascination with the universe. I have played a little bit of ‘Classic’ Battletech at the Clubhouse and at home, and the Harebrained Studios Battletech game drew me right into the deep, 37 year’s worth of lore and backstory, which unlike 40k has had few, if any retcons or revisions. Suffice to say, it is a lovely universe in which to play in.
MechWarrior on the other hand, I missed the boat somewhat. I hadn’t played the previous, quite well regard, previous games. And yet, everyone I had met who had raved about them. Immersive, mech warfare that let you customize to your hearts content, take part in epic parts of the Battletech storyline, which the MechWarrior games are a part of, if only in broad strokes. All in either first or third person.
The previous titles took place during some of the craziest lore developments, like the Clan Invasion of 3049-52 and the Fedcom Civil War of 3062-67, among other things. Both of these periods had a lot of stuff happen, and put you right in the middle of both events.
MechWarrior 5, by contrast, takes place starting in 3015, during the Third and Fourth Succession Wars. While a plenty interesting setting to be sure, it wasted that potential.
Now, some real life knowledge about the game that explains what I mean. MechWarrior 5 originally was supposed to release on Steam and other platforms, and even accepted payment for pre-orders on Steam to that end. However, it was a casualty of the whole Epic Game Store debacle. The Steam orders were cancelled, and the game was to remain on Epic as an exclusive for at least a year. This, despite the justified backlash, turned out to be a good thing.
I played MechWarrior 5 on Xbox Game Pass about 8 months ago, and that version was much the same as the Epic release…and it was awful. The graphics weren’t great, but that didn’t bother me too much.
The gameplay when controlling the actual mechs was pretty great and gave you a good idea of how it feels to pilot these steel behemoths. But the game thought that difficulty meant throwing enemies at you near constantly, and often from behind, places you had already cleared. These enemies spawning right behind you weren’t just annoying, they added artificial difficulty, as they now had great shots into your rear armour to boot! This combined with ‘friendly’ AI shooting you by accident, or them walking into your shots, made it a miserable experience unless you had friends to play co-op with.
Many of the games first mods were simply to get rid of some the worst spawn behaviors. Enemy mechs wouldn’t use their jumpjets either, which made taking on enemies reliant on that tech to make their mech ‘good’, rather easy to pick off. The tutorial missions were also kind of redundant, asking you to learn things that never came up in the full campaign. It was a mess, and adding on the tacked on revenge plot, a badly done one that makes you feel nothing for the people you are supposed to avenge, and this was an experience I could live with not completing.
The Devs did notice all the complaints leveled against them, and seemed to look at what mods were most popular to add to the game. And when the game was set to release on steam, it looked like they may have taken the chance to address almost everything I just criticized. And not all of it would be locked behind a paywalled DLC.
I played this new Steam release without the Heroes of the Inner Sphere expansion, so I cannot say how good the content is from that one. But the changes were immediate.
The tutorial mission, which still voiced by people who sound like their in a community play, at least has some pathos and is far, FAR more visually interesting. Without giving too much away, at least dear old Dad gives a good fight before dying in this one. Graphics appear, while not more modern, at least a bit more appealing.
The rest of the tutorial missions now at least serve a purpose; while unchanged the mechanics learned are actually in the rest of the game now. While the early game hell is annoying, once Co-Op unlocks, the magic begins to happen.
Co-Op is frankly, really freaking awesome! Sure, I wish I could bring my mechs over from my campaign, but other then that I can use my friends stable of Mechs, and help him during his campaign. Which, given that friendly AI is among some of the stuff not fixed, is a good thing. We did use a mod to turn off friendly fire, as it was really annoying!
But being able to pilot my Mech while watching my friend do the same is a certain amount of fun, and I spent a good 5 and a half hours doing that. We started on my friend, Chris’s campaign, where he had already grinded for some great mechs. I spend about 3 hours playing with him, and were then joined by my other friend, Kyle, who rocked a Warhammer like a God of War. I myself piloted a Marauder, and despite cooking myself a few(a lot) times, it was a great day.
We didn’t have any enemy lances ‘just’ spawn behind us, if they did it was telegraphed long in advance with a dropship. But even that only happened once. The missions, being mostly generated on the fly, were fun time-wasters, and the campaign management of minding our funds, buying new Mechs and weapons, and traveling around the Inner Sphere, taking in the news as we went, was a really immersive experience. In short, I had a blast!
Now, I was having so much fun I forgot to take a lot of pictures, so I quickly booted up a game of instant action and got some ‘action’ shots. While staged, they do look nice!
All in all, the Mech combat is fun and engaging, if simple. The campaign management is fun, but could be better if Salvage was more prevalent. The story is still pretty dire, and the voice-acting kinda sucks.
But as an engine for Co-Op fun across the Inner Sphere? It is way better then MechWarrior Online( I hate playing against people. I’d rather work with them!). A fun romp around space, perhaps a good bi-weekly game. And since Co-op is drop in drop out, it doesn’t even need to be the same stable of pilots! A great game for 2-4 people to play with big, stompy, robots.
It’s kind of a bad game, and it needs a lot of polish still. But, what can I say? I enjoy my time with it. And I hope you do as well!
That is all I have for this article, but I do have some intriguing mail potentially today that may mean another Battletech article really, really soon! Happy War-gaming and Video gaming wherever you are, and keep your Heat levels low!