Mechwarrior Online: Tourmaline Desert and Double XP

Mechwarrior Online introduces the Tourmaline Desert map, consumables, missile issues, and grants a double-XP weekend, where the Local Ditch decides to check out Spiders and Ravens.

Every time a patch rolls around, I feel a bit like I’m playing “Let’s Make a Deal.” You might win big or you may get zonked. Which will it be? No one knows. And of course, there are usually some other zany things to happen along the way.

Update #13 saw the introduction of a new map: Tourmaline Desert. I’m pretty happy with it. It’s a big map, littered with jaggering scenery that provides ample areas to both hide and ascend. The map is bright; there’s a lot of light bouncing around in it, which gives the mechs a nice sheen.

The size does create some problems with capping, though. It’s disheartening to stomp your way to the middle of the map, only to see the “Base is Under Attack” warnings pop up and know that, even though your Jenner does 152 kph, there’s no way you’ll make it back in time for any defense. I’ve seen a broad gentlemen’s agreement form in some games, where the deal seems to be, “We won’t cap unless you do it first.”

A Catapult and Awesome avoid LRM fire on Forest Colony.

A Catapult and Awesome avoid LRM fire on Forest Colony.

That update also brought a pretty hefty increase to the damage in missiles, so for a few days after the patch, LRMs were everywhere. It made TAG pretty useful. I had a lot of fun running a stock Raven and just tagging things. Since everyone had missiles, it really helped make tagging worthwhile. I had to join in with the missile party, too, and throw some LRMs on my Jenner.

Naturally, reaction is always mixed when things like that happen. I realize there is a lot of balancing to be done to the game still yet and that some patches will break that balance. It happens. It’s happened a lot already. It’ll happen a lot more. I just try to have fun with it. If missiles are the way to play for a week, then that’s what I’ll do and try them out. Why not? A game is defined by its rules, and if the rules change for a few days, play to them.

PGI has since temporarily removed splash damage from missiles, which seems to have put them at a similar, or maybe perhaps lower, damage class than they were before. It does seem that before that, SRMs were very popular. The splat Cat seemed to have been replaced by the splat Stalker. I haven’t seen nearly as many since then.

Consumables have also made their arrival in these last two patches. The pre-talk on the forums seemed to imply that this would be a game changer, but honestly, I haven’t noticed much, if any effect. Cool shot provides a once-per-match method of flushing heat, but at a cost of C-bills or MC, while the strikes allow pilots to call in support from either aerospace or artillery. Their effectivity can be increased with additional pilot skills. I saw the artillery/air strikes a few times as people tried them out after the patch, but not much since then. I’ve spotted a few coolshots secondhand, viewing other players after my unfortunate early demises in matches, but I can’t say that I feel like it’s been the game-changer that some of the forumers had predicted.

Mechwarrior Online:: Atlas and Cataphract fight

An Atlas and Cataphract exchange blows on Tourmaline Desert.

The Highlander and Heavy Metal hero Battlemechs have made their arrival, too. The craziest part? The Heavy Metal plays music when you score a kill. PGI had been talking about adding music… just didn’t think it’d be like that.

The night vision and thermal modes have been re-worked. Night vision is uglier, but a whole lot more useful. Thermal is not a mandatory, near-necessity for fighting at distances now, as it cuts off around 700m or so. It’s also ghost white, which is supposedly closer to modern-day thermal optics. I find it way less useful. There’s been a pretty interesting solution to the thermal vision problem in MWo on the official forums. I quite like the idea and would love to see it tested.

On the downside, bugs have been popping up galore. I’ve had major HUD issues since these patches, usually missing a mini-map, the HUD entirely, IFF indicators, targeting info, paper dolls… You name it. If it’s been on the HUD, I’ve run a game without it.

Also, the netcode/connection stability has seemed to drop dramatically. While aiming has generally improved over the last month or two, rubberbanding and teleporting are gradually working their way back into the game. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the code, or problem of overloaded servers. With the wonderful weekend bonuses as of late, it’s given a lot of people more of a reason to play, myself included.

Mechwarrior Online: Cataphract

A Cataphract fires its medium lasers on Tourmaline Desert.

Last week, it was a double-XP weekend. Seeing as general XP is pretty hard to come by, I played the shit out this game. I used it as an opportunity to work up Spiders and Ravens. A bit on my style: I like my mechs fast and ferocious. My main two rides are a Founder’s Jenner and a Cicada 2A. So, sticking with the lights seemed pretty natural.

The beast – and the bane of my Jenner’s existence, my mech-matchup kryptonite – is the Raven 3L. ECM, Streak SRMs, speed, and a couple of lasers. It’s hard to hit at speed, the ECM gives too much stealth, and those goddamn streaks just don’t miss. I thought I’d love piloting the thing. Instead, I couldn’t help but miss the Jenner. Even though I spent the time to Elite out all of the Ravens (had to get the Speed Boost efficiency), they just didn’t quite fit me. I liked the ECM on the 3L, but I was never able to put on the pressure with the streaks that others have done to me. That, and I think everyone hates these bastard mechs so much that they’ll single them out first.

The 2X was more fun. I loaded it with four pulse lasers, and it had enough of a punch that I could do some damage and sting my opponents. In the 4X, I just couldn’t get much going with it, and ran it pretty close to stock, rocking the dual MGs.

Mechwarrior Online: Raven at Tourmaline

Look again or you may miss it: A Raven captures a base in Conquest mode at Tourmaline Desert.

I like machine guns, in theory: They look cool in the game. They’re now supposedly to be crit-seekers. They can unload rounds and rounds of shells. But… they don’t do shit damage-wise. Really, there’s not reason to even fire them unless all the armor has been stripped off a section of the mech. And if all of the armor is gone, it’s still pretty rough to score a crit. Sure, you might knock out a weapon. But you would’ve just finished that entire section with any other weapons. On rare moments, my opponents have unfortunately been gutted with an ammo explosion from my MG fire. It’s great when it happens, but so rare that it’s not worth packing them. I think the other issue is that right now, MWO doesn’t count critical engine hits. In Battletech, three crits to an engine put it out of commision. If that were the case here, I think the MGs would be way more useful, especially against the assault mechs that can take a while to finish, even after all of their external armor has been removed from the center torso.

After get my Ravens up-to-snuff, I decided to focus on the Spider. Now, I already had a couple of them, mostly due to my irrational love/hate relationship with machineguns and small mechs. I so badly want the Spider 5K to be useful. I really do. When PGI first made the MGs crit-seekers, I rocked quad-machine guns on the 5K. It was fun, but it really didn’t do much. After apparently pissing enough people off with that build, I started to play around. I dabbled with a dual AC/2 config, which seemed like I sacrificed too much armor and speed to get going. I settled, eventually putting on an AC/2, medium laser… and tri-MGs. It’s really hard to get offense with these.

Speed is my salvation in the Spider. That and being a tiny target. But, as much as I love to run around in lights, I want to fight. I feel like the Spider, particularly the 5K, just can’t get enough 1-shot punch to be a large contributor to the battle. The name of the game is still Mechwarrior. Even in Conquest mode, I want to see battle. Some may be content to run from base to base the entire time, but I need some combat action.

The other Spiders, with their multiple laser hardpoints, can yield quite a bit more damage. They’re just as dainty, but at least they’ll make their opponents worry a bit if they get hit.

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