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Published February 12, 2013

The fortnightly trial mech cycle hits once more, and we take to the green-hued stock robots that PGI chooses to bestow upon us for free. The good news is there's nothing as bad as the Dragon 5N from a while back. The bad news is they cycled out the really rather great Hunchback 4SP from last time. You can't win them all, I suppose. Let's dive in.

Jenner JR7-F

Mechromancer link: Jenner JR7-F

Theory

Well, it’s pretty nippy. It can do some jumpy fun thanks to the five jets in there (which are significantly more fun since the most recent patch, it must be said), and it can hit you for 20 points of damage per volley. However, it suffers the curse of the trial mech best exemplified by the Dragon shown here: 10 standard heat sinks take forever to cool you down. You can get two full volleys of lasers off in this thing before you're stuck waiting a long time to fire again. It's just like the Jenner K from this batch of trials, only without the benefit of an SRM4 and extra armor. If you were playing all trials versus all trials, this wouldn't be too bad at all; however, as you're not, the wait between shots is probably going to be your downfall. Hit and run is the order of the day here. Don't duel other lights and hit heavies/assaults in the back.

Practice

Like the Spider from the last batch, this is fast and fun. Unlike the Spider, it can take a bit of a kicking and not get horribly murdered instantly. The heat dissipation and capacity are a huge problem, though, when everyone you face in custom mechs is almost certainly sporting double heat sinks, and they will be able to dish out damage faster and more frequently than you. If you stick to areas where there's cover, so you can dart in and out of people's line of sight while you cool down, you can be pretty effective here.

Cicada CDA-2A

Mechromancer link: Cicada CDA-2A

Theory

Oh, God, what is this?! Worse armament and less armor than a Jenner, but it's five tons heavier? This is pretty hideous. All the weight here is going to the standard 320 engine, which drives it 16 km/h faster than the Jenner, but at a cost that I think only the truly deranged would willingly choose to bear. And unlike the Jenner, it doesn’t have jets. With customization, you could stick an XL 320 in there, as well as endo-steel, more or bigger lasers (it has six beam slots total, split evenly between the three torso sections) and some more heat sinks, but this thing is pretty atrocious stock. It doesn’t do anything the Jenner can’t do, and if you’re not in the eight-man queue, the matchmaker will pair you up with another medium—odds are, it’ll be something better than this.

Practice

This would be better named "The Gnat" or "The Irritant". You can get places pretty fast, so you can find the enemy for the rest of your team, but unless you get lucky and find a lone mech that is slower than you and utterly ignores you, you'll struggle to do much more than act as a spotter. The armament is as pitiful as it looks, and it shares the Jenner's problem in that it just takes an age to cool down (although I guess at least it takes longer hitting the heat cap due to having worse weapons). The lack of armor, particularly on those massive legs, is a huge hindrance to doing anything useful, especially when moving over rough terrain, and as bad for your health as getting shot. As soon as you lose a leg, you've lost the only real weapon you had, speed. There is honestly no reason to take the trial Cicada over the trial Jenner unless you're a masochist.  

Catapult CPLT-K2

Mechromancer link: Catapult CPLT-K2

Theory

If this had DHS, it would probably be the clear winner in this round of trials. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, but it does have more than just engine heat sinks at least. You have PPCs for long-range engagements, medium lasers for the middle distance and machine guns for making a cool noise and light show. Ideally, you want to either snipe at 500 meters or so with the PPCs or keep your target at the 200-250 meter mark so you can fire everything at full strength. Damage on the PPCs will drop off inside of 90 meters, so given you're using single heat sinks, you're better off just using the medium lasers at that point. The PPCs still do damage up until you're face hugging, but it's not worth burning the heat on while you have an alternative. By all means, use the machine guns at that point too—just don't expect much good to come of it. 

Practice

There's not a lot else to say, really. The K2 is OK. It runs a bit hot (but that's single heat sinks for you), throws out a reasonable amount of damage at range, can still hurt things up close despite the minimum range on the PPCs, and can use the machine guns to make itself look pretty sweet if you're playing on River City Night. It's not painful to use, but it doesn't stand out as being really good either.

Atlas AS7-D

Mechromancer link: Atlas AS7-D

Theory

LRMs aside, this Atlas is set up as a proper big punch brawler. Inside of 270 meters, you're a damage-dealing monster, with your weapons spitting out 55 points of damage to anyone unfortunate enough to be in front of you. You've got a shedload of armor as well, so don't be afraid to tank a little for your teammates. You're not invincible though—with a 300 standard engine, you're ponderously slow and your torso twist speed isn't what you might wish, so if a lighter mech gets behind you, you're in trouble. Basically, lead the advance, but make sure your team is with you. Without backup, a competent light or medium pilot will ruin you from behind. As you close, dump LRMs into people where possible. The lasers are going to be your bread and butter, but don't be afraid to use the AC. Most pilots are going to shoot that hip cannon off you as a priority and you'll lose it, so you may as well use it while you have it. As for the SRMs, watch your heat and use them when you aren't too near shutdown and/or if you think you'll have time to cool a bit before you get someone in your sights again. 

Practice

I miss my Atlas’s 350 engine more than anything else, more than double heat sinks even. Moving along at a 48 km/h plod and twisting like an arthritic pensioner is a terrible way to go about trying to be a brawler. If you can keep people in your forward arc, you can utterly smash them, as long as you watch the heat—I’d forgotten just how hot that AC/20 runs, and it’s easy to wind up shut down if you’re not paying attention. You get way more use out of the LRMs than I was expecting, to be honest, but I guess that’s a function of it taking you forever to bloody walk anywhere and having nothing else that reaches especially far. This is probably the best trial mech of the bunch, mostly because you can survive long enough to do some damage.

Conclusion

Aside from the baffling Cicada, there's nothing to get too excited about here. The two heavier mechs are ideally the ones to plump for, but the Jenner is fun enough. You'll suffer if you're driving these against anyone that's even remotely customized their mechs, but I guess that's pretty standard now. It'll be interesting to see if the ELO matchmaking makes it more likely you'll get paired up with other trial drivers when it arrives (as a result of it matching newer/"less skilled" players, rather than by deliberately pairing up trials). If it does, it'd make things an awful lot fairer.

Fil5000
I've been writing words on the internet for years at www.tatp.org, but until I came to themittani.com, no one bothered to read them. I like robots, space and the internet and am therefore perfect for the MWO desk.