STAFF REVIEW of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries (Xbox One)


Thursday, July 1, 2021.
by Brent Roberts

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Box art I've always been fascinated by mech games. From my childhood days of Voltron (yes, I'm that old), I've always enjoyed being able to control massive robots from within and unleash an absolute torrent of weaponry against adversaries to save the day. Now though, when someone says to me, "Hey there's a new mech game coming out", my initial response is one of reservation due to the history of mech games and what they've been able to accomplish. Recently, Piranha Games has released Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries onto the Xbox Series X and it must be said up front that this game is basically a port of a 2019 PC release. Let's dive right into the good, the bad, and the 'W-T-F' of the port of Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries.

In today's world we are interconnected to multiple devices, platforms and people, so when you port a PC game over to console, one would venture to say that you would also adapt your game to fit the platform it's releasing on, but not here. When you hit the main page of the game itself, you'll notice in the top left-hand corner that there is your gamertag with a long number underneath it. This is what I'm calling your pilot ID. That ID is what your friends will have to type in to add you to their friends list so they can invite you to a co-op game. I know you already have a friends list on Xbox, but this is more complicated and serves for multiplayer support. You can't invite friends to play through your Xbox friends list, so it's either utilize your pilot ID code and play or stick to single player. This is a feature that I felt could have used some refinement and adopted the use of the existing friends list.


Sticking with the co-op, should you go through the numerous steps to find someone who wants to play this game on your friends list, add their code to your friends list in the game, you can then have some control of content, but it basically boils down to if you want someone to be able to help you or not. Should you opt to be the dictator of your party, you have say over every setting, every repair, every upgrade, every purchase, you get the idea. This also means that all the responsibility is on your shoulders, however, if you don't have proper management of your resources (cue big upcoming foreshadowing moment here) then you have no one to blame but yourself. Should however your Grinch heart grow three sizes that day, you can give access to your teammate who can repair, upgrade, purchase, etc. This actually makes them engage in the game rather than just sitting there as you do all this behind the scenes stuff. It's not all frustration and dictatorship though with co-op, as you can take your single player progress into your co-op experience with you and build off of that with your team and then jump back to single player and vice versa. This is a clever feature that actually makes playing the game worthwhile in single player mode, especially when you take into account how poor the AI actually are in this game.

You have the ability to hire up to three other pilots, but it should be noted that you need to take into account not only their weapon proficiency but also their ability to grow and learn and improve those skills. While having a pilot that is 4/4 for energy is good, it's not as good as a pilot that is 0/7 because the growth isn't there. As you go throughout the systems, you'll encounter various areas where you can hire pilots, so keeping an eye out for potential quality help should always be on your radar. Having a quality AI pilot though doesn't always translate into having a reliable teammate though. Using the game's ability to issue commands to either all the AI pilots or an individual one, I find myself trying to ask them to form on me, and when some mechs that are used go really slow you can easily find your squad separated and not very helpful when surrounded by 4 enemy mechs and light assault craft.

Going into single player mode you will be choosing a faction which offers various types of mechs from light, medium, heavy, and assault. Each of these mechs not only are tailored individually and look independent but also provide varying types of firepower on board and maneuverability options. The overall map when you first see it is colossal in scope and at first can seem very overwhelming, especially when you dive into the details of the various sectors within the system. There will be conflict zones where you can do missions and earn resources (cue 2nd foreshadowing moment here) and you will find friendly outlets within your system of choice that will offer you deals on mechs for sale, certain weaponry and much more. There is a major difference between these two areas (conflict/other regions vs. friendly/home region) and that is with your repair work.


Let's be honest with each other here, you're going to get bombarded CONSTANTLY by incoming fire from various light attack craft to other enemy mechs and there were times when I would watch as one of my arms got severed off by a laser blast, or worse, both arms. Depending on your mech that would normally spell disaster but thankfully I had one rocket pod and some mediocre AI to help see me through the mission. When I was finished, I had to not only repair the missing limbs (which cost money) but also the weaponry attached to said limbs which also costs money. Now earlier I mentioned about managing resources being a foreshadowing moment and here is why that is. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is primarily about managing resources. When you do a mission, you have your choice between cash or salvage or a mixture of both for payment. You also have the ability to buy damage insurance which will pay you for damage occurred on the battlefield or call in a bombing run from above.

Here's a scenario. Let's say you have a friendship with another faction and they like you, so when you do a mission for them you will have, for example, 7 negotiation points. These points can be spread out or focused depending on what rewards you want. So, when you are in the mission screen you will be able to increase the value of each of the factors (cash payout, salvage shares, insurance, or bombing run). Let's say cash payout has 0/4, salvage is 0/4, insurance is 0/3, and bombing support is 0/1. With 7 points you can do things like a max payout and full insurance or do 2/4 for both payout and salvage shares and full insurance, or any combination of how you want to play.

You may be thinking why salvage shares? Well, when your weaponry gets destroyed, where do you think you find replacement weapons? From the battlefield and market. However, some weapons can run in excess of 400,000 credits so when you're only getting a payout of maybe 1.2 million, to sink 400k of that into replacing one weapon can be a tremendous setback for your resources. This is why salvage shares will allow you to pick weapons from the battlefield to stockpile for when you need them. Not only can you get weapons from the battlefield but you can also get enemy mechs as well. Mechs, you destroy on the battlefield can be reclaimed as salvage. This is especially valuable when you take into consideration that purchasing some mechs can cost well over 4 million credits and a lot higher. To get them for free from salvage allows you the option to either sell the mech outright and get what you can from it (think of this like a bonus payout), or you can repair the mech completely and replace all the weapons on it and then either sell it or use it.


You do have a limited amount of space that you can store your mechs, but should you need extra room you have the option to put a mech into cold storage which will strip it of its armor and weapons and put it in a holding section. It won't be counted as your inventory but will be available if you wish to use it. The reason I just went through the incredibly long description is because should you be in a conflict/enemy zone rather than your own, the repair work will cost more and take longer to complete. Normally you can expect anywhere between 10-40% increase depending on where you are and the faction's respect for you.

All of this deals directly with the single player campaign where you can dive through the story missions and explore vast areas of space. I should point out here that the further you travel in your jumps, the more money it costs you as well. It's not uncommon to sink over 900k into a long flight, so make sure that you have enough cash in reserves. One point I need to touch on is the cantina. As you level up, you'll gain access to the cantina and its missions. Here you will have the ability to complete various side objectives to earn upgrades for your mech and reputation increases. You can unlock things like an increase to your energy weapon damage, heat reduction, weapon range extension and much more. These cantina missions can vary as well from collecting so many of a particular type of weapon, to killing a certain number of "X" type of mechs, etc. and are critical for improving your mechs for the latter missions in the game.

As you may have noticed though, in the beginning, I mentioned this is a port of a PC game that came out two years ago. There are still issues with it such as notifications when you have human teammates that they can hit "Tab" and other computer key combinations. This is minor in scale but is a lazy oversight and shouldn't even exist to begin with. Other issues as well would be that the lands and map layouts feel recycled with slight alterations to map layouts and level design. One of the biggest learning curves though, by a mile, would be movement. Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries utilizes a two-stage movement where one stick controls your legs and the other controls your torso. While those familiar with mech games will take a fair amount of time to acclimate themselves to the controls, for someone just starting out though, the experience will be a bit frustrating.

Learning how to manipulate both parts of the mech is going to either determine your victory or send you to the scrap heap, so to help me I spent a lot of time in the opening areas trying to do weaker missions but allow me to practice maneuvering in low combat threat conditions while managing a party. The game itself does do a good job bringing to life the scale of these massive machines, but the overall graphic detail of the game is something you would have marveled over seven years ago. While the graphics may not be all that impressive, the audio is clearly lacking as well. Poor voice acting and a soundtrack that isn't dynamic or memorable leaves you focused on the combat in order to maintain interest and that is few and far between when you take into account how much managing you will be doing in this game.

Despite all of this, Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is a game that I love to fire up, sink some hours into and call it a day. Yes, the graphics aren't up to par, the AI is bad, the port at times tells you to input PC commands and there's so little combat that the game turns into a managing resources simulator. Regardless of all this, Piranha Games delivers an enjoyable single player mech experience that will keep you playing for many months to come. If you're a fan of mech games, then this should definitely be on your radar.

**MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10

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