After a period of exclusivity on the Epic store, Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries has now landed on Steam as well as on the Xbox One. With a host of post-launch improvements, new DLC and cross-platform play, it felt like a great time for another look at the game.
Having not played the game since the original review we did at the tail end of 2019, it was immediately clear how much the game was overhauled since them. The visuals don’t suddenly have a “next gen” feel to them, but the UI looks more streamlined this time around, and I believe some of the maps received subtle redesigns to allow for more tactical maneuvering and felt less like open arenas this time around.
The game also received AI updates, with way fewer “unfair” scenarios now rearing their head – most specifically in terms of enemy unit placements and spawning locations. What’s also exciting is how planetary conditions now have a far larger impact on the performance of your mechs, especially in terms of visibility. It adds another layer to the game that’s reminiscent of Battletech, the beloved 2018 take on the mech universe from Harebrained Schemes. The same is of course true for some of the new tech you have available to you, which can offer risk vs reward mechanics where every little advantage can potentially come at a price.
Squad management has also been improved, although the majority of changes comes from the new Heroes of the Innersphere DLC. Rather than taking over an existing team to manage, you can now start from nothing at all, which feels like a more satisfying take on a career mode than the base game did. Along with new quest and mission types and new content, the DLC pads out MechWarrior 5 nicely without drastically changing it. It’s a natural evolution, and with changes for the better.
Heroes of the Innersphere has a rather steep price tag for content that’s mostly seamlessly integrated into the core experience, but it’s offset by a price drop for the base game which means that you now get a bunch more content for roughly the same price that Epic users saw at launch, assuming you’re grabbing the DLC.
One of the biggest draws, however, will be cross-platform play, letting players team up with friends (or strangers) against CPU-controlled enemies for epic PvE multiplayer battles. After beating the campaign, this is where the heart of the experience will lie, and so far we’ve been able to connect players on Steam, Epic and Xbox all for a joint session. This should drastically increase the player base for the game and will hopefully grow the community. MechWarrior 5 just got a whole lot more interesting and hopefully this new multiplatform release isn’t the end of a long road but rather the start of a new phase.