Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries
May 26, 2021
Piranha Games Inc.
Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is one of the best mech combat simulators despite its flaws. Just like some of its predecessors, Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries lacks the flair and simplicity needed to entice a new crowd of mech pilots aka mechwarriors. A full year of baking in the Epic Store oven has allowed MW5 to overcome some of the issues it had on PC so that the console version could be a passable platform.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room. The Battletech universe as well as the Mechwarrior franchise as a whole has a personality problem. While it is easy for players to jump in and find a mech that suits them, campaign storylines usually fall flat. Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries unfortunately is no exception.
Generic Revenge Storyline
Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries puts you in the shoes of generic sounding merc leader #1 whose father was killed in front of him. Your sole purpose is to get revenge against the merc company who is responsible. Along the way you take missions for various Battletech factions, and build up a reputation for each of them. Political intrigue between them all plays out in text heavy mission briefings or quips from your mission commander. This leads to a roguelike style mission generator with crafted missions sprinkled in. The result is an experience that is just as fun without ‘campaign’ or ‘story’ missions.
Very little plays out in the story that allows you to learn much about the Battletech lore. The pilots you’re on missions only sound off occasionally in missions so you don’t really ‘bond’ with them. The factions you’re doing missions for are little more than a paycheck. In a way, that has been the challenge that the Battletech universe has always had. The mechs you pilot and encounter are the pinnacle of the ‘personality’ that this game provides, and that is not good.
The controls are fine considering the action is slow paced when compared to most mech games. There is an aim assist for console players that helps with targeting small and fast targets that helps a bit as well. Veteran Mechwarriors will recognize the importance of ‘weapon groups’ and heat management. New players will probably get annoyed when laser laiden mechs overheat repeated in the middle of frantic battles. While this is a game balancing mechanic that Battletech games are known for, newcomers will probably be annoyed by this mechanic.
Quality Mech Combat
MW5’s strength is in the combat and strategy of the game. Mechs are typically big and slow weapons platforms. With very little agility, the skill displayed in combat usually boils down to concentrating fire on a single enemy location. Since you enter missions with a squad or lance of 3 other pilots, your success is also dependent on the AI as well. Otherwise, if players find missions too hard, they’ll need to convince their friends to partake in the online coop to assist.
Those new to Mechwarrior or Battletech will probably compare the experience to Titanfall or Hawken. The mechs in those gamers are are smaller and more agile. Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries requires more strategy and tactics than those titles. Success is more than just whether you achieve the mission goal. Your success is also determined by how little damage you take since you must pay to repair anything damaged or destroyed. As a result, the experience will probably not be that inviting for newcomers to the franchise.
Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries offers the core of what Battletech fans want and love from a new title however. The combat and mission variety is nice and varied. The roster of mechs and mech variants is plentiful. The amount of weapon systems and allowable mech customization is impressive. Lastly, the quality of the enemy and friendly AI has had just enough time since PC release to be passable. Initially, players would just utilize the online coop feature to have friends join their squad to blast thru hard missions. Vets will appreciate the addition of vehicles and turrets that pepper the battlefield. Small buildings and other structures can be destroyed by walking thru them. Larger buildings can be damaged as well. Toss in the dropship mechanic to allow foes to reinforce their ranks (or yours on some missions) and you have a lot of ways a mission can go well or really wrong!
While the dated graphics make MW5 feel like it was released 5-10 years ago, the experience doesn’t suffer too much. Seeing the blue flash of a pilot ejecting along with the various explosions when a mech goes critical is still satisfying. Still, looking at the stiff animations for people in the hangar really hampers the immersion. Walking around your dropship is suppose to impress you with the scale and look of the mechs that you have. Unfortunately, all it does is make you wonder why you are required to walk around in between missions at all.
Also worthy of note is the inclusion mech ramming damage and the necessary inclusion of location damage. Few things are more satisfying than encountering a heavier mech and landing a few choice headshots to take it down quickly. Blasting the legs off of fast and annoying light mechs is also enjoyable as well. Veteran mechwarriors are going to love jumping in and hunting down their favorite mechs.
Poor Menu UI
Where MW5 also seems to struggle a bit is with its UI. Clearly designed for PCs, maneuvering around mech customization screens, the home menu, and other non-combat screens is not a fun experience on console. Attempting to change armor allocation or even weapon loadouts is a struggle when using a gamepad. While repeated use will allow players to ‘get used to it’, the annoyance of how things are set up remains.
The UI is important because the in between mission tasks are critical. Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is not structured in difficulty for anyone not willing to at least dabble in customizing mech loadouts. Players are expected to manage the merc company’s finances which includes pilot salaries, mech repairs, mech purchases, and contract negotiations. The result is a constant balance of taking missions to hopefully salvage that prized mech or purchase it. This management adds a layer of strategy to the gameplay that is expected for Battletech vets. Newcomers to the franchise may see it as an annoyance.
Developer Piranha Games has the framework of a great title but are missing a few things. With no online PvP, they have really missed a huge opportunity. While they are probably trying to avoid stealing players from their free to play title called Mechwarrior Online. While that is understandable, that title has been out for quite some time and looks even older than Mechwarrior 5. MW5 has the building blocks for a Chromehounds or For Honor style persistent online war. While that would be extremely difficult to pull off, even a modest attempt might provide the appeal that the title is missing with Battletech noobs.
In the end, Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is built for the mech jockey that has an attention to detail. Learning how to properly outfit your squad (also called a lance) for different missions is just as important (if not moreso) as having the biggest mech. Until developer Piranha Games can overcome the lack of personality problem in the storyline and structure of the gameplay, Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries will remain a niche title.
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- decent variety of mechs and customizations
- controls well on console and PC
- Dated graphics are not impressive
- Predictable story