One of the biggest things I hoped the MechWarrior Online launch day patch would finally resolve is a lack of information being given to players about anything within the game past movement. Sadly, this didn’t happen so the title is still extremely unfriendly to new players. The MechLab (or as I like to call it, “The Garage”) is an integral piece of the MWO puzzle and one you need to be intimately familiar with. To help set you on the path of mech customization glory, I’ve jotted down some notes and will explain the systems to you.
After your initial login, you’ll be met with a screen that looks more like a glaring page of bad magazine ads rather than a mech combat launch platform. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a number of tabs, starting with one that says, “HOME”. The one beside it says “MECHLAB” and that’s the one you’ll need in order to customize.
While there is a touch of vanity in wanting to customize your mech, the real purpose of this area is to allow you to change the weapon loadout, configuration, armor settings, and more. All mechs come with a default loadout, but I can’t think of any that are anything I would call optimal. It’s for this reason that as you earn in-game cash (C-Bills), you come back here to customize your mech not only to improve its raw potential, but to make it fit your preferred style of play.
When you first bring up the MechLab, you’ll see a quick overview of the mech you currently have selected. The page shows a quick rundown of the mech’s class, armament, equipment, hardpoints (weapon mounting spots), and any modules you may have installed. The MechLab is split into four sections, and each of those has multiple sections within it.
The first of these sections is the LOADOUT screen and is arguably the most important. I’ll explain more about how this area works in just a bit, but for the moment, it’s important to note this section contains the following tabs:
– All available weapon systems
Ammo – All available ammunition types
Equipment – All available equipment
Armor Distribution – Allows distribution of all armor points
Upgrades – All available upgrades to armor, structure, heat sinks, and Artemis systems
With the exception of the Armor Distribution tab, all other LOADOUT sections work the same way. By clicking on the different points of the mech selected (or by using the Component Selection model in the lower left-hand window), you’ll see that particular section of your mech and what it holds. Items in a burnt orange color indicate they cannot be removed (such as life support, upper leg actuators, etc.) because they are required for the mech to operate.
On the Armor Distribution page, you’ll see that each mech has X number of armor points it can spend. These points are split up into various limits depending on location. It’s always a good idea to learn the default weak spots in a mech so you can exploit that weakness in your enemies. At the same time, shoring up some of your own weak spots by increasing the armor of your mech is highly advisable.
On the Weapon Systems page, you find there are a million different ways to customize and alter the weapon/equipment loadout of your mech. In an attempt to keep this guide from becoming 400 pages, I’m going to walk you through just one example with some additional notes. This should be sufficient to get you through any other equipment alterations you want to make. Note also that this is only an example. I’m not suggesting you remove the AC/20 from the Atlas AS7-D founder mech and replace it with a NARC targeting assist system. I’m just showing you how it would be done if you chose to do so.
Think of each item on your mech as being a slot. To remove the AC/20, you can either select it and then click the SELL button, or you can drag it off your mech and into the equipment list. If you sell it, it’s gone until you rebuy one. If you drag it to the equipment list, you still have it and can later put it back on this mech or another (as long as it’s a compatible part). One thing to be aware of when keeping equipment – there’s no screen you can click on to see what equipment you have in storage or if there is, I still have yet to locate it. You’ll need to either remember on your own or select the item in question from the equipment list and see if a “SELL” button appears in the stats/description section to determine if you already own it.
Once the AC/20 has been removed, you’ll see a number of options go from red to green in the Weapon Systems tab. To put a new weapon on your mech, you must have available slots, correct weapon-type hardpoint, tonnage, and either the piece of equipment itself or the cash to purchase it. If you fail to meet any of these restrictions, the item you want to use will be red instead of green. By selecting that item, you can then see which requirement is keeping you from utilizing it.
Modules (the next MechLab tab) are split into five different categories: vision, targeting, support, sensor, and consumable. With the exception of consumables, all modules (minus consumables) have conditional requirements that the weapon systems did plus one more - you need to have the corresponding skill unlocked in the Pilot Lab. For example, to use the Advanced Zoom module, you need to have unlocked the Advanced Zoom skill under the Pilot Tree of the Pilot Lab. Some of the available modules are extremely cool, but before you get yourself too excited, realize that they can take an enormous amount of experience to unlock and there are plenty of other skill unlocks you should worry about first. When the time comes however, this is the place you’ll go to purchase those lovely module upgrades you’ve been wanting.
The last two MechLab tabs are purely vanity. An argument can be made that the Camo Spec tab is not for vanity, but I’ll leave that discussion for another day. The Camo Spec tab has three mode sections – pattern, color, and decal. The pattern mode allows you to alter the pattern of your mechs camouflage unless you are in a Founder’s mech or a Hero mech (as much as this seems ridiculous, I’m not kidding). The color mode allows you to alter the primary and secondary colors of your chosen pattern scheme. The final section, decal mode, does not contain anything at this time.
The final MechLab tab contains cockpit vanity items. These range from hula girls, to dog tags, to spinning holographic House (faction) symbols. Unlike nearly everything else in the game, you can only get any of these items by spending real-world money and purchasing MechWarrior Online’s currency, called MC (MechWarrior Credits). Be aware that once purchased, these items cannot be sold. They are also only for the mech you purchased them for and cannot be moved between mechs.