Mechwarrior Online

May 29, 2016

“Hey guys, bear with me - still learning,” I typed out, as my mech booted up and I prepared for my first non-tutorial battle. For those unfamiliar, Mechwarrior Online is the massively-multiplayer descendant of a long-running series of the same name, centered around various factions doing battle using giant armored suits (“Mechs”). I’d played the Mechwarrior games almost a decade ago, and working through the tutorial gave me a good idea of how much skill had eroded - hence the preemptive apology. I steeled myself for the customary tirades traditionally loosed upon newer players in online multiplayer games.

“Welcome!”, one of my teammates responded.


Stranger still were the words I got from my remaining teammates:

“Learning’s good, young or old.”
“Cool, just try and stay close to the team.”

And with that, still reeling from the unusually warm reception, I nudged the throttle on my mech and piloted towards the center of the map.

Maximizing your mech's mobility is an essential part of MWO

We were deployed into an icy valley, and quickly fell into a caravan - the entire affair displayed a level of coordination I’d rarely seen in similar games. The lighter mechs were on reconnaissance duty, sprinting ahead and pinging for enemy mechs. Towards the back of the pack were heavier mechs, armed with long-range missiles and heavier laser weapons; the medium mechs fell in between, serving as both the backup for the recon crew, and the vanguard for the heavies.

After maybe a minute of travel, we made contact - laser cannons ignited the air around us, and my Mech let out a cautionary buzz, alerting me that a barrage of missiles were streaking towards my location. I jammed the throttle all the way up and shifted course, managing to mitigate most of the damage. I headed for nearby ravine, and glanced at my tactical map to check the pulse of the fight raging around me. Once I’d gotten my bearings, I launched once more into the fray.

Ultimately, I didn’t last long - I made the mistake of taking my relatively light Panther mech toe-to-toe with a considerably heavier Atlas. Without the skills to use my superior mobility, the enemy pilot quickly managed to transform my war machine into a crumpled heap of sizzling black metal. Disappointing, for sure, and doubly so when I realized that there was no respawning. More and more, though, I realized that the lack of respawn belied the greater spirit of the game, and the reason I’d received a warmer welcome than most online game communities could offer: Mechwarrior Online is less of a game, and more of a mech simulator. It’s harsh, unforgiving, and complicated, but undeniably fun.

The "MechLab" can be overwhelming, but allows you to customize almost any aspect of your mech

This simulation feel can serve as either a strength and a drawback, depending on your perspective - the level of customization offered can be overwhelming, and keeping track of your mech’s weight and heat output may be skirting the definition of “fun” for some, but the complications also serve as a kind of barrier-to-entry. The game is free to play, and yet MWO is easily the mildest competitive gaming climate I’ve taken part in, probably because those who lack patience wash out quickly. That’s not to say that the action is drowned out by the simulation aspects - the battles are epic as ever, true to the Mechwarrior style - but you’ll definitely get more out of the game if you’re willing to spend time on the details.

All in all, I can wholeheartedly recommend MWO, especially as a free-to-play title. Fans of the series will appreciate how familiar this iteration of the franchise is, and even newcomers to Mechwarrior will enjoy the game, provided they’ve got the time and patience for something a little more involved than your typical MOBA.


Great for fans of the franchise, or those who enjoy a side of detailed simulation with their epic battles.