You know, there’s been a real lack of giant armored bipedal tank combat simulators for a while now. Oh, sure, you’ve got those shooters with no substance, like Hawken, but giant stompy ‘mech sims are rare, oh so very rare. Fortunately we do have MechWarrior Online. While it’s not as much of a simulator as its ancient predecessors, and lacks a single-player portion, I still consider it a good game. But is it Fun2Play?
If you’ve played MechWarrior Online back in the Infinite Game Publishing days, which were quite recent, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “No, this is just a waste of time filled with broken promises and lies”. And I wouldn’t fault you for that. When I first reviewed the game it was about as stagnant as it could get, and the promised Community Warfare was a few years overdue. But it has grown a bit in the past year. Quite a bit. Community Warfare was implemented, clan ‘mechs are in and a lot of changes have been made to the game, overall. The item shop is still one where you can buy just about everything. You can get premium time that gives you experience and money boosts, you can outright buy C-Bills, you can convert experience from ‘mech to general experience(which otherwise takes a lot of time to gain), you can even buy exclusive hero ‘mechs, and most of the new ones are only available through the item shop for a month or two. As I’ve said, you can buy anything here.
So, does that make it Pay2Win?
No, for the very simple reason that this is a ‘mech sim, and not Call of Duty with stompy robots. Yes, I know they’re not robots, but you get the idea. And what does that mean? It means just about the same thing rich people who buy a lot of ISK in EVE Online, and then buy the biggest ship they can, very soon find out. Money doesn’t mean a damned thing if you’re not actually a good pilot. Yes, even though you’ve just spent 50 bucks (which I believe was the price on release) on a brand new Mad Cat, little old me, with my itty-bitty Spider, armed with only three lasers, will outright murder you in front of your entire team, because I know my shit, your turn rate, and your tendency to not put a lot of armour in the back. How is that XL engine going for you, by the way, still exploding if a pulse laser crits on your side torso?
Knowing how to play the game is what matters most. Actually, scratch that, knowing how to play as a team is what matters most. As in, playing in a full 12 pilot group, with everyone communicating constantly. Guilds tend to do that most often, guilds that generally play in the Clan faction, because hey, why not. So when you get stomped to death in Community Warfare by an army with 12 members of the same guild, it’s not because they were piloting Clan ‘mechs, even though that Hellbringer is annoying as hell. It’s because they were in constant communication. I’ve tested this repeatedly. Non-guild Clan armies crumble to dust in Community Warfare when faced with a mildly competent Inner Sphere force. Outside CW, when affiliation is no issue, battles go always to those who play well together.
With that covered. Is it Fun2Play?
What part of giant stompy ‘mech sim wasn’t clear? Of course it’s fun to play! Oh, sure, getting general experience to upgrade a ‘mech is slow, especially when you’re still learning, but dagnabbit if blowing off a Jenner’s head, just as it’s running over a hill, with an AC/20, isn’t just plain fun. While without the use of the item shop, progression will be slow-ish, it has sped up quite a bit since the game was released. You get a lot more money now from matches, you get a ton of money from your first victories, and you have a very wide selection of trial ‘mechs. Back in the old days, you only had four. Now you’ve got a dozen of them, even the ones you can’t buy for C-Bills are available to you. The only downside to them is you can’t customize the armaments or the paint. But experience is carried over. I wound up having tens of thousands of ‘mech experience points with a newly purchased variant, simply because I had used that variant several months before, as a trial ‘mech. It’s quite fair. The gameplay is actually engaging and fun. It may require some skill, and the learning curve is not so much a curve, as it is a jagged cliff, but by golly, does it reward perseverance. Also, every other week they’ve got some event going on that rewards you with stuff you usually have to pay for. Got a lot of spiffy paint jobs that way. Also two ‘mech types fully mastered.
So strap in, crash and burn.