The March 19th patch brought Mechwarrior Online a new battlefield in the form of the alien landscape of Tourmaline Desert. This sun-scorched planet in a binary star system is dominated by “tourmaline crystals” that dwarf the mechs that have been stomping around them for roughly a week. It's questioned whether Tourmaline will be added to the pantheon of beloved maps such as Forest Colony and possibly Frozen City Night. The last thing players wanted was another Alpine Peaks and thankfully Tourmaline Desert seems to be falling onto the better side of the scale.
The map is large, but not for the sake of being large. The size of the map actually allows for multiple lanes of movement as well as a decently planned out central point when playing in Conquest game mode. The control points fit logical points of contention, even though in Assault one of the two points is frequently bugged to be impossible to cap. Bugs such as this, as well as mechs getting stuck in the geometry, are to be expected from any new map. It's likely these issues will be hammered out in the next few patches.
One of Tourmaline’s strongest elements is the clear sky. Unlike most of the other Mechwarrior Online maps, Tourmaline’s view distance is impeccable, allowing for proper use of long range weaponry and scouting. Frequently over the past few days I’ve seen players commenting that they finally get to see paint jobs on mechs, which is actually a huge deal considering PGI expects to continue generating revenue from paint and camo schemes. Alpine Peaks also shares this feature, but unlike Alpine Peaks, Tourmaline offers mechs plenty of opportunity to find cover from long range fire, avoiding the situation where mechwarriors who launch with brawler mech loadouts feel like they have a guaranteed loss.
Tourmaline Desert runs as hot as Caustic Valley so the same consideration for heat needs to be given. It provides ballistics users an advantage, but just as with previous temperature sensitive maps, a careful eye and practice with loadouts will prevent you from shutting down in front of the enemy firing line. Unless of course you’re going up against me, in which case I encourage you to push the limit and take one shot too many.
Overall the consensus is that Tourmaline is a solid map across the board for a variety of play styles and loadouts. Until players can work within a system that allows the choice as to loadouts or what map to play, maps that can offer something to everyone will be necessary. It’s frustrating to see players drop on some maps and just give up, knowing that no matter what direction they go, they will most likely die without taking a meaningful shot. Thankfully Tourmaline mostly avoids that problem and has something to offer for every mechwarrior in the field.