Confessions of a Giant Robot Chew Toy

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Oh. Oh crap.
I've had some more time to mess with MechWarrior Online and I think I've reached a verdict. I'm terrible. I have yet to contribute significantly to a single match. Sure, I'm in a tiny mech with pretty meager weapons, I'm not exactly a damage powerhouse, but I've yet to really score any solid damage before I'm blown to bits. If the players in this game were represented as a food chain, I'd be the plankton of the group. While much less plentiful than the real life animal, I am helpless and eaten by many other predators, large and small.

At first I blamed it on controls. Using the mouse and keyboard can be difficult when trying to move, turn, aim and fire. I plugged in my joystick, remembering what a boon it was when playing MechWarrior 3 and MechWarrior: Vengeance. Even though it felt easier to control the mech with the joystick, I still under-performed in my matches. I could move a little more freely, but my aim was still terrible, and I regularly ran into buildings and other obstacles. 

I did switch some of the default joystick controls around. I inverted the throttle, so pushing it forward moves me forward, pulling it back moves me back; just  little more intuitive. Second, I remapped my firegroup buttons. Finally, I changed around some of the movement defaults. The default to turn the mech's torso (independent of the legs) is the x axis of the joystick, instead of the rotational axis. Instead, the rotational axis controls the legs. I put an end to that as soon as possible.

These changes did improve my experience, but the unintuitive default control scheme is really discouraging. Having to spend over an hour, remapping movement and weapon keys is nearly enough to keep me from playing the game again.

The Timberwolf, an old favorite. Not yet in the game, but on the way.
The leveling system carries it's own difficulties. No mech is off limits for players. If you have enough money, it can be yours no matter the size or complexity. For players unable to invest real money dollars into buying new equipment and mechs, finding a leg to stand on in the average match is really difficult. When you're new and limited to the trial mechs and your first, often light mech, scraping enough funds together to get competitive equipment can take dozens of matches and many hours of play. 

This could be the whole game for me. I'd be happy.

With enough time and effort, I'm sure there is a lot to enjoy. I've spent some time customizing my loadouts. There are a lot more variables to consider here than in HAWKEN. Every hardpoint on the mech has armor ratings which can be individually tweaked. I can add or remove weapons, equipment, systems and even ammo to various parts of the mech. Finding the ideal loadout is the real key to success. Unfortunately this is another place MWO's pay scheme invades an otherwise fascinating system. Prices for some equipment can be pretty steep, costing more than a new mech. Of course, there are always real world monies you could drop for premium in game currency.

MWO is a very complex game. I've been out of the game so long, I've got one hell of an uphill battle ahead of me. Making the climb without spending any real money will be even more difficult, but I think we all know it was designed to be that way.