MechWarrior Online's latest patch, released Nov. 6th, contains a few modest additions and a host of gameplay changes, as well as a nearly game-breaking bug. PGI continues to tease us with reports of a new game mode and another 'mech chassis in the game before Dec. 1st. Let's go over some of the changes, both good and problematic.
The premier addition this patch is the first map variant, Forest Colony Snow, which is a winter version of the familiar forest colony. The map layout for both variants has been tweaked with a beached ship reminiscent of Bad Company 2, and the snow on the ground and cooler temperatures add some variety. The full set of map variants, one for each of the four maps, will be coming in at a rate of about one alternate per month according to PGI.
Additionally, the Centurion-D variant is now in the game which allows Centurion players to achieve elite status for their favorite 'mech without having to buy the Yen-Lo-Wang. The stock D features the odd combination of an LB-10x and an LRM-10, boosted by the new Artemis system, along with an XL engine and endo steel internal framework. The Artemis missile guidance system increases LRM and SRM grouping and lowers lock-on times for LRMs. The cost is one extra ton of weight and crit slot per launcher.
Overall, the Centurion-D is a great upgrade to all Centurion pilots, with a blazing fast 97kph top speed. The price tag of over eight million C-bills is a bit steep, however. The Centurion-D can be further upgraded with a size 390 engine, giving it a top speed of 127kph that competes with the Cicada and Jenner, while being very tough. This means that you might be seeing quite a few Centurions on the field.
Finally, a cockpit damage graphic is now in place. The visual impact of your cockpit being shattered and consoles exploding is a visceral 'immersion' effect that indicates the beginning of the fulfillment of PGI's early promise that "the environment will affect your 'mech."
One Step Forward, Two Back
A large portion of tweaks this patch are band-aids for issues raised by previous patches. Most notable is the forest colony shader bug which was known to cause a near-total screen black out as seen on this Reddit post. The Nov. 6th patch fixed this problem.
Another issue addressed today is the white-hot glowing 'mech graphic that caused heavily damaged 'mechs to glow incredibly bright. The graphic has been toned down considerably, and damage effects are now on-par with original closed beta levels. Speaking of Closed Beta conditions, one slightly cryptic change from the patch notes mentions a "rollback of some netcode changes," but also included in the patch notes was the statement "A very big improvement in Mech hit-box detection was also included in this patch." Hit detection seems a bit better but still not 100%.
In what is becoming a PGI tradition, this patch also broke experience from missile damage, spending valuable development time to fix via hotfix. Missile damage was being recorded as '0' on the scoreboard, resulting in XP loss for missile boats. By the time you read this, this issue has already been fixed, but many players who rushed in-game to try out the new Artemis Fire Control system were unhappily surprised.
LRMs, LRMs Everywhere
Speaking of missiles, LRMs, SRMs, and Streak SRMs now cause considerably less cockpit shake, and Streak SRMs have received the dreaded 'accuracy nerf.' This undocumented change makes Streak SRMs fired at very close range have a high chance to miss or hit another component besides the center torso. Reports are coming in that staying at around the 200m range will increase your accuracy, so maybe the streakcat isn't totally out of the game yet. The exact level of accuracy loss has not been confirmed by PGI because they neglected to mention the changes in the patch notes. For shame!
On the subject of missiles, MWO has been taken over by LRM boats with Artemis upgrades. Atlas-Ks with two anti-missile systems are being cockpit-killed by Ravens with a single LRM 5. Brawlers are dying in droves to concentrated LRM fire that comes from directly above. In some cases the missiles have been known to overshoot 'mechs and hit them in the rear armor. The official forums are unsurprisingly rabid , and developers have replied that this extreme LRM power is a confirmed bug that will be hotfixed. In the meantime, pug matches with six catapults and two scouts per team are rampant - LRMs are just that strong.
Gameplay Iteration and Stealth Changes
Several gameplay tweaks have also entered MWO with this patch, the most desired of which is the end of the 'Pugstomp Premade' reign. For the next two weeks, premade teams of four will be the maximum number of players allowed to team up before matches begin. This change is highly controversial, but it is clear that the new solo player's gameplay experience has improved drastically. The next change to matchmaking will be made on Nov. 20th, when 8-man premade groups will face only other 8-man premades.
Speaking of new solo players, the trial 'mech system received a change as well, with a new array of trial mechs. The trial Awesome has been replaced with an Atlas-K, the first trial 'mech with jumpjets is a Catapult-C1, and new players looking to try out the fast scout playstyle will be happy to see two options, the Cicada 40-ton medium 'mech, and the Commando 25-ton light mech. The trial 'mech system was further changed by the effect of locking the 'mech for the duration of the game it was in, in a way similar to how 'normal' 'mechs are handled. This change has at least reduced the amount of trial suicide charges.
An interesting solution has been provided to answer player complaints on the missile-bay doors built into some 'mechs like the Catapult and the Centurion. The unique mechanic featured flaps built onto the missile launchers that would pop open before the missiles could be fired. This meant that there would be a delay while the doors swung open before they fired, making SRMs in particular difficult to aim. The solution provided by the developers is a hotkey, /, that allows the player to open the doors on command, so they can open the flaps prior to firing their missiles. Keep in mind, missile boaters, that when the flaps are open, you receive 10% less armor on those areas of your 'mech!
Finally, the threshold for taking fall damage seems to have been adjusted, causing leg damage on considerably shorter falls. Fast-moving scout 'mechs have been reporting considerable leg damage just from running around Caustic at high speeds. You might want to consider switching out for a slightly smaller engine. You'll need the space anyways because of the following change (which was documented in the patch notes, for once)...
140% Heat Sinks, Laser "Fixes"
Four commonly used laser types received a "fix" in this patch. Small lasers and all three pulse laser variants have gone up in heat per shot by at least 30%. Small pulse lasers were hit the hardest with a 50% heat per shot increase. If you've been relying on SPL's for your close up damage, you're going to want to consider Medium Lasers, which are probably now going to be one of the most common weapons in the game besides LRMs.
Switching to "dual" heat sinks has helped some laser boats, but make sure to check your math as double heat sinks now absorb only 40% more heat each. Engine heat sinks 'do' now provide the extra 40% strength, so mechs that only had a few heat sinks in addition to the engine heat sinks will run even better when upgraded to DHS. Heavily boated DHS users will see a drop in heat efficiency this patch.
The developers continue to boldy announce when they are planning on launching new features, in a level of developer/player communication almost unheard of in the gaming industry. One of the longest-awaited additions to the game is the memorable "All Systems Nominal" voice-over, heard in the official Open Beta Trailer.
The Cataphract, a 70-ton Liao 'mech that longtime 'Mechwarrior fans might recognize, is slated to make an entry into the game on Nov. 20th. Featuring both a heavily laserboated variant and a setup capable of mounting two gauss rifles, this 'mech seems quite nasty. Whether the Cataphract will be able to compete with the heavily played Catapult remains to be seen.
Also to enter sometime in November is the new game mode, Conquest. This MWLL-esque variant will have capture points in a similar mechanic to Battlefield 3, except when captured, these areas have automated defenses that will aid defenders. With reduced bonuses for kills and increased benefits for players capturing enemy points, this new game mode is highly anticipated.
The developers have also confirmed that we will be getting more details on the Community War system "before Christmas." More details on CW, which is theorized to resemble the World of Tank clan war system, can be found here.
Step up your game, PGI
The last 45 days have seen a string of broken patches, crippling bugs, and delays. While still technically an open beta, people are buying content with MC, playing the game, and telling their friends about it. The efforts of the developers over the next three months will reveal the direction MWO will be taking.