MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Review

It’s been a while since I’ve played something that takes so much time to get going. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has a lot to learn, and it takes its time teaching us. I was initially put off somewhat by this – I just wanted to jump in and blow shit up with some big ass mechs – however, the more I played, the more I grew to appreciate the detail that Piranha Games have put in, even if it could have been more clearly laid out to the player.

It’s hard to know where to start as my brain is still spinning somewhat from it all. As I say, there’s a lot to learn and consider when starting any mission; from mech choice, to weapon loadout, ammo reserves, heat sinks, armour balance… lots to do. I struggled to get my head round a lot of the fine details early on (even now I’m not sure I’ve quite figured out the best approach), but if you’re into fine tuning some nitty gritty details then you’ll love what MW5M has to offer. There are tutorials but these are lacking somewhat in fine detail, leaving us to figure out a lot of the information being presented to us.

This goes across the board too. When trying to navigate the huge map in order to find contracts, bounties, missions and industrial hubs, there is a lot of information that really could have used a key of some sort. As it is, I had to click into each zone to find out whether it was worth looking at and even then I ended up wasting time and money going somewhere only to find the missions on offer were way too high level for me at that time. The menus as well I find are densely packed with information, yet at the same time it can be confusing to navigate, while figuring out what contracts to accept or if I’m equipped enough to handle them was a mixed bag of guess work and sticking with what worked so far.

In game is a bit better though, and it’s here that I really did enjoy most of my time with MW5M. Stomping around in a giant mech is cool, and the firepower on offer kick out some cool explosions and effects. I especially liked using the dual lasers to burn down buildings and trees, while pummelling enemy craft with homing rockets and cannons. There are a good variety of mech to use, with slow, plodding behemoths that can take a pounding mixing it up with nimble, jet-pack equipped ones that are fast, but weak. Levels are quite large in scope, though often I found myself walking for too long uninterrupted before hitting a small area that had all the action.

When we reach the action, the amount of destructibility is quite impressive if a little ‘last gen’. Buildings crumble, tree topple and burn, storage cannisters explode and gantry’s tumble to the ground, but only to a point – large buildings will only have the facias fall off, their solid frames remaining in place. Fighting enemies can be quite fun, though also pretty basic in terms of tactics. AI Mech’s will give us a good fight (if only by virtue of them taking so much damage to defeat) but the rest of the cast are pretty much cannon fodder, and can be easily ignored for the most part. Watching a squad of mech’s blasting away at each other is quite cool though.

Mission types offer a few different objectives, each with their own risks and rewards. Demolition ones were my favourite simply because it let me, well, smash shit up to win. Assassination, Defence, Multi-Mission and more are also available to play, though these I found to be much harder. There are level requirement suggestions, but I’m not clear on what this is based, nor how it compared to the mechs and pilots I had available.

There are several factions in game to win over. Depending on our standing with each, missions will be more or less beneficial for us thanks to being able to negotiate certain rewards. We begin with three points to use, but this can go up and down based on our relationship status. These points can be used to increase the pay out, cover damages, allow air support, or let us take more of a pick of the salvage after each mission.

It’s also wise not to go alone into battle. It took me too long to realise that the launch area had three extra bays for AI companions – I initially thought this was for the 4-player co-op mode only, which itself is only unlocked after a few hours play solo. I was unable to try this out, but players joining your game will only be able to pick from your pilots and mechs, not bring their own in to help out. Cross play is supported, and the game is on Game Pass, so there’s a good a chance as any that you’ll find some friends to play with but there is no matchmaking to fall back on. That falls to the AI to fill in.

They do a passable job of supporting us, but it’s up to us to arrange their mech load out, repairs etc. As I’ve mentioned, players looking for something to really get stuck into will find plenty of that here, but it can be a tad overwhelming at times. New pilots and mechs can be purchased at stores in industrial areas of the galaxy, where repairing mechs will also be quicker and cheaper. Doing so in combat areas increases both cost and time significantly, so we need to be mindful of whether it’s worth waiting to repair or take the extra hit with the aim of being able to complete more local missions sooner. Once more though, the menu for these repairs and upgrades is a slab of information and can appear quite confusing. For example, damaged weapons and equipment can be repaired, but broken ones need to be manually removed and replaced before setting repairs going. A prompt to do so before hitting repair would go a long way, as I’ve spent far too long moving around the galaxy only to then have to do more movement in order to change a broken part afterwards.  It’s also a little unclear as to what mech can use what equipment/weapons without going into the customisation screen. Store purchases are therefore blind until we get to grips with what is what.

I ended up sticking with a tried and tested load out for the most part, which probably didn’t serve me well in some cases but it would just about get the job done. Until a part got destroyed of course, in which case I’d have to try and salvage or buy the same parts again to replace them with. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is a tough game, and even with a full squad of AI I found myself getting beat down often, losing any understood set-ups in the process. We at least don’t lose the entire mech – it can be repaired even after a full explosion – but the process of kitting it back up can get expensive and time consuming.

Conclusion

Despite how overwhelming and confusing it can be, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries certainly has something to offer players who want to get stuck into the fine details of setting up their own interstellar mercenary outfit. The combat can be fun, if deliberately slow, and once set up right having a powerful mech wrecking shop is entertaining. It’s just the bits in between that can drag, with confusing menus and systems that aren’t fully explained.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Lots to sink your teeth into
  • Combat is slow but fun, with lots of impact
Bad
  • A lack of tutorials make learning even the basics harder than it needs to be
  • Menus are dry and hard to read
6.8
Okay
Gameplay - 7
Graphics - 7
Audio - 5
Longevity - 8
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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