MechWarrior Online, by Piranha Games Inc., continues the saga of its closed beta with the first patch in almost three weeks. Many closed beta testers have been anxiously awaiting this patch ever since the Oct. 16th open beta was cancelled in favor of more needed gameplay fixes. For a full change list, click here.
Not the changes we wanted: the changes we needed
The Cicada medium 'mech reboot vaguely resembles the Jenner, but with 5 extra tons of armor, guns, and engine. Focusing on lasers and projectile weapons, this medium 'mech is reminiscent of the Dragon, a Heavy 'mech that is 'barely heavy,' has a very high top speed and less weapon slots when compared to other 'mechs in its weight class.
Speaking of medium 'mechs, the first 'hero 'mech' is now in game. The Yen-Lo-Wang, a modified Centurion, has a unique red and white color scheme and grants a 30% C-bill bonus, at the cost of only having 2 ballistic and 2 laser slots. This is the first 'mech that can only be purchased with MC, or 'MechWarrior Credits,' PGI's paid currency.
Extra customizability comes to the 'Mechlab with an improved UI along with more Raven, Jenner, and Awesome variants. Additionally, traditional Endo-steel internals, Ferro-fibrous armor, and double heat sink options have been added. These options tend to reward players who spread out multiple mid-sized weapons as opposed to stacking two huge weapons, so even more customization has been incentivized. Whether it's enough to topple the Dual Gauss Catapult remains to be seen.
Rounding out the reasonably large number of additions to the 'Mechlab is a new pilot module. Picture-in-picture zoom, an old MechWarrior staple, is now available as an optional upgrade to your 'mech.
Changes that were not announced prepatch
A few changes that weren't listed in the "upcoming changes" posts on the beta forums came in as well, most notably being "running into another 'Mech will no longer knock it down." Additionally, Pilot modules went from an affordable 100k C-bills each to anywhere from two to six million each.
Further economy tweaks are in, as C-bill prices for the 'mech chassis are down across the board. MC prices for 'mechs have also declined. Meanwhile, weapon prices have increased by nearly 50% in some cases. On top of that, once logged into the game, the testers soon discovered that all their 'mechs had been deleted, and their C-bills returned.
Why these changes?
The patch, scheduled to be released on the 23rd, was delayed for unconfirmed reasons. Developers postponed the patch twice, first to the 24th, then again to the 25th so they could "test the patch thoroughly." Isn't "thorough testing" what the closed beta testers are there for?
Many testers have asked why their 'mechs had been deleted. This was a rather clumsy 'fix' for the notorious 'zero armor' bug that made all armor values 0, a bug that upset many testers. It did make for some hilarious Atlas builds, though.
Speaking of upset testers, let us look at this note from the changelog: "Running into another 'Mech will no longer knock it down." That's right, rather than iterate and improve the rather artificial knockdown system, PGI chose to pull the plug on the entire mechanic. Whether the ramming mechanic will be coming back into the game is unknown at this point in time. Many Jenner pilots that enjoyed tackling dual gauss catapults are affected by this change.
Pay2Win, or pay2lookgood?
Cries of 'pay2win' were quite common when the 'Hero 'Mech' system was first announced. Seeing as the Centurion is one of the least popular 'mechs in the game, the Yen-Lo-Wang was probably a good choice by PGI. Worth noting is that the Yen-Lo-Wang gives a larger C-bill bonus than the founder's 'mechs, at the cost of 3750 in paid cash points. This large cash bonus does come with a penalty: the Yen-Lo-Wang has the lowest number of weapon hardpoints in the game with 2 ballistic slots in the arm and 2 laser slots in the center torso.
All in all, while the "hero 'mech" system sets a disturbing precedent of unique 'mech chassis bought with cash only, the Yen-Lo-Wang itself is defeinitely not game breaking.
Make it happen, Blizzard
Several key components have been left out of this patch. Additional game modes are one of the highest requested gameplay features, yet we are still playing assault, the only game mode that has been available since the closed beta began. Two game modes have been announced, but have yet to actually see play.
These alternative game modes are "dropship" mode, where each player will choose 4 'mechs, and after losing the first 'mech, will 'redrop' in the next one on his list. This mode might include a tonnage limit, but this has not been confirmed by the developers. The other announced game mode is "conquest," a MWLL-like ticket system where there are capturable bases on the map that have built-in defenses that will assist defenders. Conquest will be released in two more patches, but neither of these modes have been seen by closed beta testers.
Matchmaking, another controversial issue, has not yet entered the first "balancing phase" described in a recent PGI new release. Once the first matchmaking pass hits, MWO players will only be able to form pre-made groups of four instead of full eight man groups. The second phase of the matchmaking changes will allow eight man groups to queue together, but they will only be able to play other eight man premades. How long it will take to get to the final form is unconfirmed by the developers, but more details on the system in development can be found here.
One small step for 'mechs
The decision to delay this patch and cancel their announced open beta is doubtless a sign that the game is behind schedule. By the time the game moves into open beta, the developers seem to be aiming for multiple game modes, at least twelve 'mech chassis, and working to increase the game's all around stability.
Testers are uncertain if PGI will be able to make all the needed changes on a reasonable schedule. Even if they do polish the game as they describe, will that be enough for MWO to capture the attention of the gaming world?