Sunday, 30 June 2013

Mechwarrior Online Project Phoenix breakdown

So with the reveal of all 4 project Phoenix battlemechs the community has begun to discuss builds and the best way to maximise their effectiveness, or to put it another way "add as many PPC's as possible."  Yeah the meta for the game is currently all about boating PPC's and Gauss Rifles or a combination of both, but really that is PGI's fault for allowing people to stack that many weapons at the same time.  Still I want to discuss a little about the new 'mechs themselves, not just tactically but also visually.


The second 20 ton mech to revealed is the diminutive Locust.  This classic battlemech was the first thing players back in the 80's saw when they flipped to the light battlemechs section of the 3025 technical readout book.  There is no denying that the original look and feel of the unseen Locust is cool and rather fitting of the name.  It's spindly legs and pronounced weapons certainly made it unique and you could imagine lances of these swarming across a battlefield in formation, dodging fire and streaking through enemy lines to cause havoc in the enemies rearguard while the rest of the attack force moved in.

The original art was from the anime Crusher Joe owned by Asahi Sonorama for the magazine and Studio Nue for the animation.  It is only seen for a moment but the rights to use the design much like the other unseen 'mechs where never renewed and so they fell into this category.  Project Phoenix did try to resurrect the old designs with some new artwork but they barely resembled the original art and so became infamous.  PGI's attempts here at least keep to the original silhouette of the 'mechs without being too different, a tough balancing act.

Since the Locust is 20 ton it will struggle against anything over 30 tons.  It may have some level ground against the likes of the Commando and Spider, but Ravens and Jenners will probably eat it alive.  The standard model mounts a single medium laser and 2 machine guns.  Not a great amount of damage, even it's range is poor for a game that benefits ranged engagement.  It's greatest strength will be speed and never stopping.  I can see this 'mech being legged very easily if it stops for even a second so movement will likely be the key survival strategy.  The chassis will probably fare better in conquest simply because it can move between points rapidly and avoid the main brawl.

With structure upgrades and a decent XL engine the 'mech could mount 4 machine guns and plenty of ammo.  Possibly carry a single large laser to give it some actual damage, but really it will rely on your preferred style of play.  The Locust will pretty much define the scout role within Mechwarrior Online and really appeal to those who value teamwork and coordination over Kill to death ratios and boating multiple energy weapons.


The medium offering comes in the form of the Shadow Hawk with it's square head cockpit and distinct shoulder cannon.  Although not the first 'mech to feature this setup in game, with the Hunchback being the first it does at least bring something more visually different to the table.  What it does bring to the table is another jumpjet capable medium which up until now only had the Trebuchet to run with.  Again this 'mech doesn't exactly resemble it's unseen counterpart but it does have the key elements of it's design, namely the square cockpit and shoulder mounted autocannon, both being unique for Mechwarrior Online.

The Shadow Hawk will be quite flexible as it can mount all weapon types in some form or another through the standard 2H variant, giving it tremendous battlefield flexibility.  It will also be interesting to see how players utilise the ballistic slot, either going for that high alpha punch mounting a gauss or AC/20 or maybe going for rapid fire support with AC/2 fire.  I personally prefer the AC/5 and AC/10 as these weapons are sorely underutilised in MWO.  The 2H is also noticeable for it's 3 ballistic slots meaning it could potentially mount 3 AC/2's so it will be fun to see what kind of builds emerge from this already impressive chassis.

It's standard speed isn't anything to sniff at and with upgrades and possibly a XL engine the 'mech could be very fast and damaging on maps such as frozen colony or River City, using the buildings for cover or the terrain.  81 kph before speed tweak means this 'mech is already fairly quick to begin with and may become a useful light hunter with the right build.


The heavy 'mech of the set is the awesome looking Thunderbolt.  The immediate change here is the fact that the head and shoulder weapon are swapped around probably to prevent any legal action.  Still it keeps the original design appearance with that massive LRM rack and distinct head shape.  The basic variant has a varied mix of weapons and ranges which won't work well in the current meta, so expect this 'mech to either mount multiple energy or multiple missile weapons. 

It definitely looks like it will become a workhorse frontline 'mech for matches simply because it can fill numerous battlefield roles with it's flexible hardpoints.  It may suffer from the same issues as the Hunchback with the obvious missile rack being an easy target for snipers and close combatants to reduce your damage output.

XL engines are bad ideas in heavy 'mechs and this isn't any different as the current speed of 64.8 kph is more than adequate for a heavy and that is before speed tweak.  Also due to it's head position and relatively large torso its left and right torso's will be priority targets anyway.  The head position does raise an interesting question about the potential lifespan of the 'mech due to it's odd position.  Will destroying the left torso mean the pilot is killed also?  Or will this be ignored for game balance?


Our second 85 ton assault 'mech comes in the form of the venerable Battlemaster, a real brute of a design and one of the all time most popular battlemechs of the original technical readout.  Suffice to say it does not even closely resemble it's original design save the cockpit being slightly similar but reduced in size and shape on the phoenix version.  It's handheld PPC has been removed and even switched to the opposite arm, now attached to the wrist instead.

Still this shouldn't change the fact that the Battlemaster is a powerful chassis with some great weapon choices.  Like the Thunderbolt and Shadow Hawk before it this 'mech can mount all three weapon types and bring a varied arsenal to the field.  The 1G has a major emphasis though on energy weapons and you can expect to see plenty of PPC or large laser builds coming out of the community with this chassis.  Still the large head of the Battlemaster will be it's biggest weakness so it may make it a little easier for snipers to pin down this assault 'mech on maps like Canyon Network or Caustic Valley.

Do not put XL engines in assault 'mechs even if you do get some extra tonnage it just isn't worth being eliminated quickly from the battle.  Double heatsinks will probably be key for a chassis that uses so many energy slots, so when fighting a Battlemaster try to hit areas where the opponent is most like to have stored his heatsinks.  If he can't shoot as often he can't kill you


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