When someone says to you “Free to Play?” what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you normally think shovelware games like Clash of Clans, or Mobile Strike; or one of the countless MOBAs available like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or DOTA2. What doesn’t come to mind, however, is well paced, tactical, team-based combat all bundled into a mech shooter. But that’s exactly what I received when playing MechWarrior Online by Piranha Games Inc.
MechWarrior Online is a very interesting game. MWO takes mech-based combat in a completely different direction compared to most games of the same style. Instead of the lighting fast, duel based combat of the ARMA series, or the COD like FPS combat of Titan Fall, this game takes a slower approach. Think, World of Tanks, or even Ghost Recon in mech form. In fact, I would classify this game as a bizarre hybrid of the tactical shooter, tank combat, and strategy game genres.
The gameplay is extremely deep and layered. There is a large number of buttons, panels, diagrams, bars, and functions that all run together to create your control scheme and HUD. And this game utilizes about 75% of your keyboard for the controls; no, that’s not an exaggeration and yes most of the buttons matter.
Each Mech moves and controls the same, with the only noticeable variation in weapon functionality. The majority of the controls and the countless readouts on your HUD are used to gain tactical information of the map, or enemy mechs.
The combat is what makes or breaks the game for most players. It’s slow and deliberate; putting a focus on placement and team communication above all else. In MWO, stepping out of cover can mean death. As well, a clever flanking maneuver can win a game.
Now not all mechs are slow, ambling monstrosities; each mech is classified by its general size: Light, medium, heavy and assault. The bigger the mech, the more armor it has and the bigger weapons it carries. This allows for a great deal of variation in online play; do you want to carry a massive array of missiles and plasma cannons, or do you want to carry some machine guns or blasters, and be able to move more than three miles an hour?
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. But, this game like many of its kin uses the term “Free to Play” very loosely. The free mechas made available from the start are overall, much weaker than any purchasable mech. On top of that, the parts which you can customize on a mech make a massive difference in combat. You can unlock all of these mechs and parts eventually, but the game makes you grind like mad for them.
Fun, well balanced, and deep, MechWarrior Online is great for those who enjoy tactical team based games. Yes, it’s your average pay or grind, but many of the cheaper, purchasable mechs only take a day or two of in-game play to obtain. It’s free, and at the very least worth looking into.