Before we dive into the latest trial mech offerings in detail, a word or two on them as a whole. This is arguably the best bunch yet, with three out of the four being fun and viable, and the fourth being a hilarious deathtrap. What I found while playing with them, though, is that it’s a lot more fun when you’re up against other trial mechs. The pace of the game changes, not only because your mechs are slower but also because they’re less heavily armed and sinked than a custom build would be, so killing things takes longer. There’s an excellent case to be made for a stock only queue - and I think I’d actually play it. Hopefully the upcoming matchmaker changes will make it more likely that trial mech robot drivers will be pitted against each other, since it would appear that the current trial system is here to stay.
On to the latest Gundams then - this time around I’ve used the rather smashing Mechromancer tool made by Hubis that can be found here to show the full build of each trial mech. This will let you see exactly where every component is located, as well as give you some lovely data on damage at different ranges, time you can deliver maximum firepower and all that sort of thing. There are a few of these tools around, this one just happens to be my favorite.
Engine: Standard 240
Speed: 129.6 kph
2 Medium Laser (Centre Torso)
10 Single Heat sinks
3.5 Tons Armor
8 Jump Jets
1.36 heat efficiency
Looking at this build, the Spider only appears to be suited as a scout/harasser role. You can move faster than a lot of other mechs, you’ve got enough jump jets to propel you 83 meters into the air (which can get you anywhere you can possibly think of) You’re also only slightly bigger than a Commando so you’re difficult to hit as well. You are, however, sporting even less armor than the stock Commando we had a couple of months back and your armament is positively anaemic. Plan of attack here then should be to go fast, spot enemy mechs, report back to the rest of your team with their locations and stay the hell away from anything that even remotely looks like a weapon. Seriously, you don't even have full head armor. Expect a lot of fun from running around at full speed, but you'll die horribly if you don’t stay out of range or behind cover. Oh, and if you see a Raven 3L coming at you, put one of your teammates between you and it.
This thing is fun. Seriously, it borders on the obscene. Being able to run at a million miles per hour and jump up onto the skyscrapers on River City is great. Sure, it’s got barely any guns, and it suffers from only having 10 single sinks (good luck cooling down once you approach the heat cap), and if you ever move in a predictable manner you’re going to get nailed, but it’s FUN. Unlike the Jenner and Raven, you absolutely cannot punch anyone above your weight unless you’re a superb pilot or if you are facing terrible opponents - I found that sticking out of sight, providing sensor info, doing the odd cheeky point capture and shooting isolated assaults in the back was the best bet. You can learn a lot about using speed and making tactical withdrawals in this thing, both of which are useful skills for light pilots.
Engine: Standard 200
Speed: 64.8 kph
4 Medium Laser (2 Left Arm, 2 Right Arm)
1 Small Laser (Head)
2 SRM 6 (Left Torso, Right Torso), 2 Tons Ammo (Centre Torso (!!!))
19 Single Heat sinks
10 Tons Armor
1.07 heat efficiency
I like the 4SP an awful lot. It’s great when you are able to modify it - if you’re comparing stock with stock it’s probably one of the best mechs in the game. It’s well armored, it’s got a really impressive punch under 270m, and unlike all the other Hunchbacks it isn’t completely neutered as soon as you blow the huge right torso off (because it doesn’t have one and because its weapons are spread out evenly across torso and arms). On the downside, all that firepower comes with a fair bit of heat, and the 19 heat sinks struggle to manage it. If you’re wanting to constantly fire at everything, you’re going to overheat quite a bit, so save the SRMs until you’re close enough to be sure of a hit. You’re not too fast either, so stick with your team’s assaults, use them and the environment for cover and try to flank enemies that are picking on your big buddies. Oh, and beware of enemy mechs behind you - your armor is heavily skewed to the front, and anything hitting your back will strip you bare in no time. Watch your centre torso too - for some reason your SRM ammo is sitting there and if it blows up you’ll go up in flames.
Yep, it’s hot as balls, but dear Lord does it do its job when you catch people with four medium lasers and a pair of SRM6s. The one thing I’d forgotten about the stock 4SP is how slow it is compared to one running a 260 engine, so it’s not as easy as you might like to shoot people in the back which is where this mech would REALLY shine, but even so, most mechs try to avoid taking a 53 point alpha strike to the chops if they can. The weapon groups are pretty nicely set up as well, with the lasers for each arm being in groups one and two and the missiles in group three. Aside from it lacking double heat sinks and being a bit slower than I prefer, what I don't like about the 4SP is that head-mounted small laser. It doesn’t feel like it deserves an extra weapon group but it doesn’t easily lend itself to any of the others. That being said, this is a great mech for learning heat management and maneuvering. I’d honestly be happy if this stayed a trial mech forever, as it’s one of the rare examples of a mech translating over from tabletop pretty well.
Engine: XL 280
Speed: 64.8 kph
4 Medium Laser (Left Arm, Right Arm, Left Torso, Right Torso)
LB-10X (Right Torso), 2 tons ammo (Left Torso)
UAC/5 (Right Arm), 1 Ton Ammo (Right Torso)
16 Single Heat sinks
11 Tons Armour
4 Jump Jets
1.06 heat efficiency
You know what I just said about the 4SP? Well this is the opposite. The 3D represents one of the best arguments for not directly transposing tabletop builds into MWO. In tabletop, the loadout would give decent punch at the cost of a few flaws that an opponent could only really take advantage of if they got lucky rolls. In MWO, where your opponent’s ability to aim is all that stands between them and your torso, the design choices here just look ridiculous. Firstly, the arms are more heavily armored than the side torsos. Making sure the right arm is well protected is understandable as it’s got the UAC/5 in there, but the left arm just has a medium laser, so I’m not sure why you’d want to prioritise protecting it over upping the side and centre torso sections. Actually, no, just the side torso sections because the 3D not only runs an XL engine, but it also keeps all it's ammo in the side torsos. Yes folks, if you can manage to aim for the left torso on the 3D and can do more than 32 damage (or more than 18 damage if you’re hitting it in the back), you’ve got a really good chance of triggering an ammo explosion that will blow the thing to bits. And it wastes a ton on case for the side torsos, even though the ammo going up will blow the engine without damage needing to transfer. In tabletop this would reduce the risk of pilot death and keep salvage costs down.
In terms using it, I’d suggest staying at range because of your fragile torso, but the only thing you have with a longish range is the UAC, and you’ve only got 25 rounds. I guess your best bet is to fire the UAC as you close in (to empty the ammo bin as much as possible), try and keep targets at about 270m, and save the LB-10X for when an enemy mech closes in on you (because if you’re more than a hundred meters or so out, you’re just going to pepper your target instead of doing 10 damage to any given component). The jump jets can help get you to places where it’s harder to be hit. Remember that the side torso energy mounts are roughly level with your cockpit. That makes them ideal for shooting at things when peeping over a ridge where your arm-mounted weapons would just smack into intervening terrain. Just like with the 4SP, I’d suggest sticking with the pack and letting the big guys take the opening salvos because if you’re on the receiving end of a gaussapult you could be dead in two volleys.
The jets are less useful than I was expecting (I only found them useful for dropping down to the irritating northernmost capture point undamaged on Frozen Colony in Conquest mode), and the LB-10X really doesn’t fit with the “aaaah keep away from my side torsos aaaaah” approach I adopted for this Gundam. If you’re close enough to get the most out of it, your target is close enough to easily pop your left torso and send you on your merrily exploding way out. And you know what? Despite all of the complaints I’ve been summing up, it’s still roughly eight billion times better than the trial Dragon we had last time around, so it's got that going for it. Of all the trials though, I think this is probably the worst this time around.
Engine: Standard 240
Speed: 48.6 kph
Small Laser (Head)
Large Laser (Left Torso)
PPC (Right Arm)
LRM15 (Right Torso), 2 Tons Ammo (Centre Torso (?!?!))
28 Single Heat sinks
11 Tons Armour
1.39 heat efficiency
While it’s heavily slanted to engaging at long range, the weaponry on offer here is a bit all over the place. I’d understand LRMs backed up with a couple of large lasers OR PPCs, but one of each is just weird. The small laser in the head is pointless, as you’ll either be too far away for it to be useful or you’ll be close enough to use it but you’ll be dead. Also, while ECM usage is on the downswing right now, you’ll still get some matches where your LRMs are rendered useless. Your armor has a bit of a weird split too - roughly 60/40 front and back, which means you’re relatively safe from things sneaking behind you, but you’re not nearly armored enough up front to stand and take a beating like you’d expect an assault to. Your CT is also a big target and is once again packed with delicious explosives. You have more than enough heat sinks to fire everything as often as you want, so just concentrate on shooting at things that are far away.
Ok, that center torso is even easier to hit than I thought. Unless you stay miles and miles and MILES away from your opponents, you’re going to get cored and you’re going to explode. This is a rare trial mech in that it turns out it’s under-gunned and over-sinked - you’ll only really overheat if you’re on caustic and you’re firing everything constantly. For a stock mech, this mech is pretty well configured as a fire support robot, and you can learn the basics of LRMing and a bit of sniping by using it. Overall, I quite enjoyed driving it, if only because it’s a break from my usual “run at things screaming and fire lasers”-playstyle.
Once again, a Hunchback takes the best trial spot, an Awesome does well, the light is fun and the heavy is a deathtrap. If you’re in a position to get 16 people together, a few matches of 8v8 trials can be a good laugh, but as ever, in normal games (whether pickup, four man or eight man) you’re going to find yourself at a major disadvantage versus custom robots.
And finally, as is now traditional, sit back and enjoy me Doctor Who Kerensky and fifty of his closest friends as they return to the Inner Sphere. This week's music is provided by the Word of Lowtax's very own Dubwrecktor Two Beans, who's Soundcloud page can be found here.