It’s patch week, so let's dive in and have a look at what PGI has served up for us this time.
New Mech Variants: Champion Dragon and 4 New Highlanders
This patch is adding a few new Mechs, and the first on the list is the first "Champion Mech". This is PGI giving people the opportunity to purchase the winner of the "Build a Trial Mech" contest, and they’re calling it the DRG-5N (C), but to me it’ll always be Phorashi’s Dragon. They’re asking 2550 MC for it (compared to 2040 for the standard 5N), and what that gets you is a Dragon 5N, only with a half decent loadout to start with instead of the horrible one the 5N comes with stock. The hardpoints are identical to the 5N, and you also get a 10% XP bonus - which is a bit odd really, as while the C-Bill bonus you get from Hero Mechs is useful forever, the XP bonus here is only going to be useful until you master it, unless you start buying MC to convert to GXP.
Then we’ve got four new Highlander variants to go along with the Heavy Metal variant we got with the last patch. They’re an interesting bunch, and I suspect the ones you’re going to see the most of are the 733P and the 733C. The former because you can jam four PPCs and jump jets on it and jump snipe, and the latter because it’s a jump-capable Mech that can mount an AC/20 and three SRMs. The other two variants (732 and 733) look OK as well, but not necessarily as interesting as the C and the P. It’s worth noting that unless you put jump jets on it, you probably are better off with an Atlas or a Stalker, but the jets do give the Highlander a niche. Once we get collisions back in, the Highlander will be able to do what it’s most famous for in Battletech canon - jumping on people’s heads and crushing them flat. Seriously, if brawling comes back in fashion, the 733C is going to be hilarious fun. I cannot imagine that AC/20ing someone from midair and then goomba stomping their head will ever get boring.
Shoot Straight, Look Pretty, Get Ranked
However, the chances of a brawling resurgence are somewhat dampened by the improvement to hit detection on projectile weapons - gauss rifles, autocannons and PPCs now see a significant improvement in their chances of hitting, in line with the improvements lasers had a while back. While it’s great that we’re getting these improvements and I’m really looking forward to the missile weapons getting the same treatment, it DOES mean that the current “hide behind cover from a long way off and dump long range weapons into the opposition” metagame isn’t going to go away anytime soon. It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, PGI will do to shift it. There’s an easy solution in increasing armour or internal hitpoints so it’s easier for a brawler to close to point blank range for its big guns, but that would doubtless create a whole new set of problems (not least the enraged screams of those who believe Total Warfare to be a holy text). Something certainly needs to happen though; I’m not saying it’s impossible to counter a poptarting team, but it’s a lot harder to beat than any other style of play. And that’s a real shame, as brawling can be a lot of fun.
There’s new cosmetic stuff too, of course. A new camo pattern in the form of “Fractal” which looks a bit like the “Digital” camo, and a new trio of Mech statues for your cockpit - the Stalker, Commando and Raven. The in-game loading screens have changed as well, with some basic tips while you wait. Oh, and arm lock and throttle decay have been set to off by default now as well, which is nice.