MechWarrior Online – 12 vs. 12? Bring it!

MWO's recent update brings mech on mech carnage to a whole new level.

MechWarrior Online is still going strong in its open beta phase. As more patches continue to come forth, it’s obvious the development team at Piranha Games is putting their noses to the grindstone in anticipation of the game’s official launch this September. There are a number of things I think the game is still missing (mainly a robust faction system but there is a tab for it, so I have hope). One of my biggest issues with the game was addressed last week by making matches 12 vs. 12 instead of 8 vs. 8.
On the surface, it really doesn’t sound like such a big deal, does it? It’s just another 4 mechs being added to each side. Believe it or not though, it really does make a huge difference and let me explain why. When each side has only 8 mechs, there’s less room for effective PUGs (pick up groups) to utilize their mechs of choice effectively with little communication (another piece of the game that needs more work as well). In an 8 on 8 match, light mechs are rarely used as they should be, let alone to their full potential.
In any battle, no matter what game we’re talking about as far as I’m concerned, there need to be multiple scouts and harassers. With each side now bringing in 12 mechs to a battle, this means any team should very, very rarely find themselves without a good spread of available mech types to work with. An average team now looks like this:
  • 2 to 4 Light Mechs
  •  2 to 3 Medium Mechs
  • 3 to 5 Heavy Mechs (Support and DPS varieties)
  • 2 to 4 Assault Mechs

That's going to leave a mark.

Before the change, there were times I found myself on teams that always seemed to be missing any light mechs at all or at best only had one or two. Since the team size change has come, I’ve been playing a lot of matches lately and personally, I’m pretty happy with the spread of teammates I get now. This doesn’t mean my side wins any more than we did, but it’s not because the team starts off gimped to begin with.
Let’s face facts – any PUG is going to be at a disadvantage against a group of players that are on the same Ventrilo server and keeping in constant communication. This is one thing in MechWarrior Online that was an issue before and though it is *definitely* still a problem, it’s not quite as bad as it was before the recent team size increase. At least now, I don’t feel like my team has next to zero chance of winning any given match the moment we’re tossed into a map together.
When a match started “back in the day”, your team was split into two groups (called lances) of 4 mechs each. In true PUG mentality, compounded by inferior communication tools immediately available, there was always a natural tendency for everyone to group together like a herd and go charging down the middle. There were times that support mechs would hang behind or light mechs would go out scouting to start highlighting targets, but this was very rare. Support mechs only hung around in case a base would be attacked and light mechs had zero fire support while they were out scouting. All in all, it was a recipe for disaster on a regular basis.
Now that there are 12 mechs on each team (split into three lances consisting of four mechs each), there is another PUG pattern emerging, albeit a bit slowly – a triangle formation. When you only have two lances going against each other (PUG lances always stay together as a group), there are limited options that those lances will feel are effective. When you suddenly throw a third lance into the mix though, there is a natural desire to start trying to outflank your opponent.



Over the course of the week, I’ve seen this begin to happen more and more. Personally, I think it’s a beautiful thing. The matches still turn into a cluster of a free for all more often than not, but there’s finally a bit of movement in the overall match. Far more than I regularly witnessed before to be certain.
So it’s obvious that I’m a fan of the change, but there are plenty of players that aren’t. Some complain that now there’s just a bigger single group of mechs converging in the middle of the map and that there are even less tactics being used than before. I respectfully choose to disagree with this assessment. I will freely admit (as I believe I already have) that there is still a serious lack of communication among both team and lance mates, but at least now I can see some semblance of a pretend strategy.
I regularly see multiple long-range support mechs set up on a mountainside and start lobbing missiles early since there’s more than a single light mech out front scouting targets. At the same time, I see medium mechs hanging near the edges of the fray coming in and out to distract heavier targets from annihilating those long-range support mechs. All the while, the assault mechs are coming in like a bull in a china shop and blasting the holy living hell out of anything they can find.
Is it perfect? Not even close. Is it getting better? I think the answer to that is a solid yes. Do I think the game is a lot of fun and will continue to appeal to old BattleTech and MechWarrior players? You bet your ass I do.


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