Title: MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
Available on: Windows PC
Developer: Piranha Studios
Publisher: Piranha Studios
Genre: Action Simulation
Version Tested: Windows PC
Official Site: https://mw5mercs.com/
Release Date: December 10th, 2019
Where to Buy: Epic Store
Reactor online, sensors online, weapons online. All systems nominal.
It’s good to be home. I have been waiting since 2002 for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. That’s not when it was announced, of course. But instead, this was when I was playing MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries and was at peak BattleTech excitement. I was looking ahead to the future and imagining what sort of games would follow. Of course, going forward from there, things would get very bumpy for the franchise. With the original developer, FASA studios closing. We received various spinoff games, such as MechWarrior Online, MechAssault, and BattleTech. But a real singleplayer MechWarrior game started to seem like something that would never happen again.
A bumpy road
But then Pirahna Studios announced MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. And that brings us to today. Despite a few bumps in development, such as a delay and backlash to Epic Store exclusivity, I am finally playing a new singleplayer, MechWarrior game. And I love every second of it! It successfully ticks every checkbox I had for a MechWarrior game. From the second I throttled up my Centurion during the tutorial, I knew I was going to have a blast.
I don’t feel the need to explain what kind of game MechWarrior 5 is. Because I think I can safely assume that if you are reading this, then you already know. And at its core, MechWarrior 5 doesn’t deviate from the military vehicle simulation gameplay of its forebearers. The game is very much an evolution of the MechWarrior 4 and MechWarrior Online. It has just been refined and expanded upon here.
The narrative (which was one of the weaker parts of the game for me.) starts as your pretty standard revenge story. Some bad guys showed up and killed your father during the tutorial, and you are on a quest for vengeance. The character development is pretty non-existent. And it mostly only serves as a backdrop and excuse for the gameplay. You take on the role of “Commander Mason.” A two-dimensional mercenary commander who might as well be named Captain Mechy McMechWarrior for all his depth. This is pretty standard for the Mercenary games in the franchise. But still, it would have been nice to care about the protagonist the way I did Ian Dresari from MechWarrior 4.
Immersive BattleMech action
But as I stated above, the story isn’t front and center in MechWarrior 5. What you’ll come for and stay for is the gameplay. It starts pretty simply. You have one light mech and a couple of introduction missions to tackle. From there, you’ll gain your first lance mate and access to medium tier mechs. You’ll also be able to traverse the Inner Sphere at your leisure. This game starts in 3015, and the campaign can last until 3049. So while you’ll be able to explore the holdings of the various Great Houses, you’ll find no Clans here. Which also means no OmniMechs, bummer.
You can take on contracts on different worlds in areas called conflict zones. You begin the game in the territory of the Federated Suns. And as you move out from there, you’ll find the difficulty increases sharply. House Davion is my personal favorite, so this worked out great for me. But if you’d prefer to take on contracts from one of the other factions you’ll have to do a lot more work to get where you want to be.
As far as what kind of missions you’ll be getting, there is a tasty variety: raids, Assassinations, defense missions, and demolitions, to name some of them. Oh, and speaking of demolitions. The environments in MechWarrior 5 are very destructible. All the buildings, trees, and even many rocks can be destroyed by your weapons or your mechs footfalls. It can be incredibly satisfying to swing a large laser across a building and watch it crumble into pieces. The same is true of the BattleMechs themselves. You’ll watch paint peel away, and armor melt into a liquid as your shots find their marks.
The sound design is also top-notch. The music is bombastic and does a great job of blending with the heaviness of combat. The soundtrack isn’t MechWarrior 2 good. But that’s the highpoint in the series, and a strict standard to meet. I mean, Götterdämmerung is over 20 years old at this point and is still on my daily playlist. The sound effects are also consistently good. When you sling your AC/20 up and release a round into an enemy, you feel and hear the power of the weapon.
I realize the flow of this review is kind of all over the place. But let’s talk a bit more about the gameplay. So as I mentioned, you can travel from system to system taking on various contracts. Completing a contact gets you financial rewards, salvage in the form of weapons or mech chassis, and reputation points. Reaching new levels of reputation opens up more jobs and advances the games main storyline. But it’s easy to ignore the story and engage in endless random contracts. This cycle may get repetitive at some point, but 30 hours in, and I am still enjoying myself.
Of course, I am biased. Since I am a colossal BattleTech nerd. I have played most of the games, including the SNES ones. And even messed around with the tabletop stuff. I also got to experience the Battletech Cockpit Simulator pods earlier this year. So I am definitely in the easy to please part of the audience for this franchise.
One thing that I enjoyed but could turn away newcomers is MechWarrior 5‘s difficulty. It’s a steep curve. Even missions that appear simple need to be handled with care. You’re BattleMechs maybe skyscraper-sized death machines. But they are expensive to repair. There were lots of times that a lucky shot from an enemy would slice the arm of my mech, and destroy my autocannon or gauss rifle. And I would be pretty upset. Not only does this make the rest of the mission that much more difficult, but if a mission goes wrong and you lose multiple mechs, it can bankrupt your mercenary company. And that can be very frustrating.
Verdict: MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is a great game. Fans of the franchise will feel right at home the moment they power up their Javelin, all the way until they are stomping through buildings in their BattleMaster. The narrative is shallow and disregardable. And the steep difficulty can, at times, be frustrating. But the gameplay more than makes up for its flaws. MechWarrior 5 is the game you have been waiting for.
- Amazing presentation makes you feel immersed in the mech action
- Great soundtrack
- Addictive and engaging gameplay
- Shallow and forgettable narrative
- Steep difficulty curve can be frustrating