I have waited nearly 17 years for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries (MW5). And last month, it was finally launched.
I was 13 when I played the first MechWarrior. The 1989 video game was based on the universe of the physical board game BattleTech, in which humanity has colonised outer space in a distant 31st-century future.
Outer space is called the Inner Sphere, which is split into systems controlled by different houses and clans. Their ultimate weapon in combat is the BattleMech - a giant robot-like war machine. And the personnel who pilot it are called MechWarriors.
The original MechWarrior game was the first BattleTech simulator that placed the player in an actual BattleMech cockpit via the first-person perspective.
While the graphics were really simple, piloting a BattleMech then was just out of this world. It was so cool to pilot a big robot shooting lasers and missiles. The experience started me on a lifelong love affair with the MechWarrior games.
I have played every game released, with the 1995/1996 MechWarrior 2 series being my favourite. But the last "proper" MechWarrior game was back in 2002, with the last expansion pack of the MechWarrior 4 series.
So imagine my glee when MW5 was finally released. It has a storyline and gameplay very much similar to the original MechWarrior.
Set in a period before the clan wars in MechWarrior 2, the single-player campaign puts you in the shoes of Commander Mason, who has to take over his father's mercenary unit after the latter was killed in a surprise attack by an unknown foe. Thus, you have to rebuild the mercenary unit while trying to avenge your character's father.
To do so, you need to traverse the Inner Sphere to get missions, recruit MechWarriors to your unit and pilot the BattleMechs alongside your lance mates (teammates in MechWarrior-speak) in combat to complete missions.
Completing missions earns you C-Bills (the BattleTech currency) and reputation. When your reputation rises, you get better missions and are able to negotiate for better terms as well as advance the story with main story missions.
Usually, these missions involve defending a base, destroying facilities or assassinating someone. After every mission, your lance mates will get injured and will require time to heal. Thankfully, it also takes time for your ship to travel from system to system, so you need to plan accordingly.
• True-to-original combat mechanics
• Engaging gameplay
• Superb graphics
• Pulsating soundtrack
• Epic Games Store exclusive for a year
• Fan favourite BattleMech Mad Cat is not included
PRICE: From $45 (PC only)
GENRE: Mech combat simulation
Besides C-Bills, you can also negotiate for BattleMech salvaged parts to be part of the payment for missions. The salvages can sometimes be a BattleMech, which can be more valuable than any C-Bill payout.
You can also sell the salvages. The cost of some BattleMech and their parts are different in different systems, so knowing where to sell them helps you to gain more profits.
You are also likely to spend a lot of time in the Mech Bay trying to configure different weapons to your favourite BattleMech. It is one of my favourite parts of the game.
Of course, the mainstay of MW5 is still combat. And piloting the BattleMechs is not easy, especially if you are a first-timer used to first-person shooter controls. For example, it might take a while to adjust to using the W and S keys to control speed rather than for moving forward and backward.
But the controls are almost exactly how they were in the first MechWarrior. The only difference is you use the mouse to change your view while the directional keys were used in the past.
Old-timers will be glad that the old tactic of circle-strafing an enemy still works. But the enemy BattleMech's artificial intelligence (AI) has been improved.
The AI will use the same circle-strafing tactic on you, so you need to know how to use the terrain to your advantage, such as using long-range missiles the moment you spot the enemy.
Also vastly improved, as you might expect, are the graphics. From the cockpit to the environment, the graphics are just gorgeous. Each BattleMech is faithfully reproduced in the game. The pulsating soundtrack further adds to the excitement.
It is the combination of combat with the role-playing aspect of contract negotiation, customising BattleMechs and buying and selling salvaged parts that makes MW5 so engaging and addictive. If you are a hardcore MechWarrior fan like me, the MW5 is a must-have.
On the downside, the game is an Epic Games Store exclusive for one year, which means it is available only on PC. Thus, console gamers are being left out.
In addition, due to MW5's timeline, it does not feature everyone's favourite BattleMech Mad Cat. It is a clan-exclusive BattleMech that first appeared in the MechWarrior 2 game.