Well, I said the last patch was "underwhelming." This one is a bit of a monster. I mean a good monster, like Godzilla, not a crap one like a kobold. New hero mech, changes to the camo options, some balance changes for both mechs and guns... I'm feeling a bit dizzy, frankly. Let's take it one step at a time.
Spit and Polish
The addition of pre-round, death and post-round screens comes with a lot of useful information. Now you'll be in a position to know pregame what mechs the rest of your team is running, which faction they're in (not massively useful now, unless you're sufficiently deranged that you're going to fire on your team for being on the "wrong side"), the map's heat level and a couple of other bits and bobs. The death screen is nice as well, giving you a look at your robot's paperdoll at the moment of death, as well as the last few things that happened to you before you blew up. This should be interesting for established players but particularly useful for new ones. It's much easier to learn from your mistakes when you know exactly what that mistake was. Finally, the end of round screen is a welcome refinement of what was there before, with tabs for both the results by team and your individual performance. Perhaps the best change here is that chat has been enabled while you're viewing this screen, so if you didn't have time to say "GG CLOSE" before the round ended, you can do it here. There's also been a general improvement in framerates, and putting all of that together with the mech startup sequence last week makes the in-game experience feel rather slick now. With the upcoming changes to the mechlab, it really seems like the game is properly coming together and heading out of beta in good shape.
Advanced Space Robot Dressup Simulation
PGI have also come up with new ways to bleed your cbill and MC supply dry by upping the number of available paint colours to 100 and adding a new Tiger pattern camo scheme for purchase. This comes at the same time as a revamp of the camo system. Now, colour unlocks are permanent and available for all your robots whenever you want to use them. Camo skins come in both single use and permanent chassis unlock flavours. This is a big improvement over the previous scheme where if you changed camo style or paint colours you lost whatever you were painting over, so expect to see a lot more people branching out from the basic green and PC Gamer skin colours. There’s a 50% off sale on some of the colours and camos up until the 12th of February, so if you want to dress up your gundam, now is a good time to stock up on paint.
Paint Your Robot
A few balance changes also managed to sneak in to the patch. Large Pulse Lasers, ER Large Lasers, PPCs, and ER PPCs all got reductions to their heat generation. In the case of the LPL, PPC and ER PPC, it’s a big enough drop to make a reevaluation of their usefulness possible. The LPL is now only slightly hotter than the Large Laser, making it a viable alternative if you want close in punch. The PPC was already pretty good, and between the heat reduction and the upcoming ECCM effect, you can probably expect to see more of these. The ER PPC is now more viable than it was, but it’s still probably a bit too hot to become as popular as the PPC will be (unless the upcoming Alpine Peaks map pushes engagement ranges further out than we see currently). In the case of the ERLL, the reduction in heat is a measly half point, and in all honesty the heat is only half the problem with the ERLL anyway. If you’re trying to hit a moving target at extreme range, then the beam duration of the ERLL makes it hard to get all the damage on the target - honestly, the ERLL could use a reduction in beam duration in order to help it find a niche. Oh, and there were some tweaks to the maximum engine ratings, torso twist range and speed for all the Awesomes. It’s interesting to note that these have been applied to all the Awesome variants rather than looking to make each variant unique. I hope it’s not naive of me to hope that each individual variant will get its own tweaks somewhere down the line, so that those with less desirable hardpoints or layouts can find a niche for themselves.
Destroy All Babbys
We also saw the promised Hero Awesome arrive, the Pretty Baby. It's somewhat disappointing, to be honest. The weapon loadout is exactly as we hazarded in this article here - SRM4, LRM15, PPC, Large Laser and Medium Laser. Hardpoint wise, it doesn’t really offer much change from the Awesome 8V. Two of the 8V’s torso missile points are shunted to the four tube launcher in the arm (which is worse if you’re looking to either boat LRMs or SRM 6s because you’re both splitting the firing points and increasing the number of volleys needed from the four tube launcher), and it loses a beam point from the other torso. Aside from being able to mount a bigger engine, it’s objectively worse than the 8V. 6000 MC is pretty steep as well, but in line with the price-per-ton of other hero mechs. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these actually show up in games, as I really can’t see them being as popular as the other heros.
New Match Start Screen
Odds and Sods
Along with all these new features and content, we've been gifted a shedload of bug fixes, optimisations and general improvements. There’s widespread reports of better framerates across the board, and anecdotally, I’m certainly getting improved performance myself. There’s just one curious listed bug fix in the notes, a line that reads “Fixed assessment of multi-rank pilot efficiencies”. We assumed that meant that the “2X” that appears when you hit all your basic or elite efficiencies was now translating into the efficiencies having double the effect (as the client side XML files suggest). However, some testing after the patch dropped has shown that isn’t the case. Furthermore, the pilot skills that were broken before are still broken - most players don't seem to be aware that Fast Fire and Heat Containment have never functioned as advertised, or that Anchor Turn actually affects torso twisting speed rather than turning. In an update like this that added and improved so many things, this is something that stands out as a bit of an anomaly.
The paint shop is pretty great, there are some nice balance changes that are potentially setting up some bigger things, in-game presentation has been refined, performance improved, and bugs fixed. The Pretty Baby being a bit lackluster is the only thing that anyone could hold against this patch, and frankly if you don’t like it then you can just ignore it. Between this and the new map & mech due on the 19th of February, it’s a pretty good month for robot jocks.