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It's not the most unique mech ever, with easy comparisons to the Cicada, Ice Ferret, and Phoenix Hawk, but there are also a few weird things about it that I want to talk about.

Let’s start with the positive weird things. It's a unique-looking mech. I love unique-looking mechs. There is absolutely some stuff in common with the Crab and a couple other mechs too, but there are more than enough distinguishing features that make it easy to tell what you're looking at. And I don't mind its aesthetics either - it's not the badass that we see in the Cyclops or Huntsman, but it's a funny lookin' mech and that's cool with me. Seriously, you take the actuators off this thing and it looks absolutely ridiculous. I love it.

And I like how many hardpoints it has. Not nearly enough tonnage to use them, sure, but there are some really wacky builds that you can do: 11 ER Smalls (or flamers if you're touched) can be a fun option, and I like options. And having a lot of hardpoints means that you have more options on how to use them – I can do 6 energy on either side without a problem. Beautiful.

But not all of the weird stuff is stuff that I like. Most of it, I have mixed feelings about. And the biggest "mixed feelings" thing I get is putting weapon quirks on the set-of-8 omnipod bonuses. Because I think I see what they were getting at, I can see a few reasons why this absolutely makes sense. First off, it takes a big tool away from min-maxing tryhards like me, forcing us to make a substantive decision between abusing the omnipod system for optimal hardpoints or for optimal quirks. Second, it appeases people that want stock mechs to be...if not good, at least realistic. Not a position I agree with, but some people have it, and PGI has supported it with quirks in the past, so whatever.

And...this might be a bit specific to my experience with this stuff, but have you ever gone to Smurfy to look at clan omnipod quirks and tried to figure out exactly the right combinations for optimal quirks? Have you then repeated the process 3 times that week because you didn't trust that you did it perfectly the first time, and then done the whole process again a month later when the quirks changed for a dozen clan mechs? And it's not like I'm complaining; the end result does feel good, like the feeling of a freshly dusted computer, but getting to that point means lots of tedium, discomfort, and sneezing. And if PGI wants to simplify that process, I can't complain.

Except I'm an internet commenter, so I'm going to complain anyways! Alright, remember how I said the set-of-8 weapon quirks would "force us to make a substantive decision"? Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work out that way. It ends up being a simple question of "can I run a good build on this variant without swapping out omnipods?" If it's a yes, and the set-of-8 quirks are good, you're set. Just run that, you'll have a good time. If it's a no...then you're just back to abusing the omnipod system for 11 energy hardpoints on a mech with 8.5 tons of pod space because the only time you don't feel cold inside is when you're overheating in game. Except now, you're doing this with gimped quirks, on a mech that started out gimped, so it doesn’t feel quite as good. It is worth noting, however, that the VPR-D actually has set-of-2 bonuses rather than set-of-8, so you can slap those legs on and get those sweet energy cooldown and XP quirks. This is getting patched out. Thanks jojoxy for the heads up.

I also don't like the idea of taking a tool away from tryhards like me, because I am a tryhard like me. I want my mech to be better than your mech, and I want that to be because I know more about building mechs.

And I think that another issue that really held it back is the complete lack of structure quirks, and the anemic nature of its agility and weapon quirks. If these set-of-8 bonuses were in addition to equivalent bonuses from just the CT and then like a 25% or 50% structure boost, it wouldn’t be a huge deal at all. Or maybe it would, but it would be more of a discussion than just a thing that I’m sad about.

That being said, I will never be disappointed about a mech being bad at release. Underquirked, undergunned, whatever, I don’t care. If a mech isn’t an outlier on the upper end of the spectrum, that means it does not threaten the game’s balance, which means that I (as a balance fetishist) am a happy camper. It is much healthier for these paywalled mechs to be weak on release and buffed later than it is for them to be strong on release and nerfed later. Obviously we all want them to be perfectly balanced always, but, come on. That’s not gonna happen.

But while we’re on the topic of pay-to-win-style-shenanigans, I’ve got to talk about the Medusa hero mech. The first Clan hero mech. The one that will set the tone for all other Clan hero mechs. And while the Viper chassis in general is not strong enough for any of its variants to be pay-to-win, this is one of the most egregious examples of pay-to-optimize that we’ve had, made worse by the fact that it is going to be a permanent paywall. And this is the precedent it sets – not only does it have the absolute best arm omnipods for the Viper in general, it has by far the best set-of-8 quirks. So it’s double pay-to-optimize, and we have these warning signs that the other Clan heroes will have similar pay-to-optimize issues. So what we have is Russ at a townhall saying “we were super hesitant about clan heroes because of the risk it poses to balance and pay-to-win issues” and then we get 4 clan heroes in a row, which all have potentially important unique omnipods.

And it seems like a really weird phenomenon to me. Like, is there another game where you can take a character which is weak…spend money…and it gets a bit better? But still not better than other characters? It’s just bizarre to me, but I don’t like it. I can’t quite articulate why, but it feels bad. Maybe part of it is because I know that there is going to be a mech to do this that isn’t the Viper, that’s actually good without those extra sweet omnipods. And I know it’s going to be a problem then. Like can you imagine if you could spend 15 bucks and upgrade one of the KDK-3’s side torsos to have 3 ballistics instead of 2? That would be insane.

I think that the set-of-8 quirks also is in part to try to check those issues, so you can't slap Hero omnipods on and get great quirks on omnipods without making sacrifices...but for some reason it still has the best set-of-8 quirks.

I think I’ve rambled long enough though, so let’s talk about those builds, baby!

Builds

Build 1: Laser Vomit



This is my favorite build for a few reasons. First of all, it's gotten me the best results. Just straight-up, I've felt more useful in this build than in any of the others.

It also is the best fit for the Viper, in my opinion. Ideally, I'd want the crazy small laser or small pulse builds to be the "best fits", but this thing's just too squishy to play those reliably. Sure you can do good in them, but you can also die really, really fast. But this has the range and firepower to do what it needs to do without dying.

And, perhaps my favorite reason, all you need to run this is the base pack. And that makes me very happy.

You can also do this Medium Pulse version, but I felt the range was still a bit too short to be good.

Build 2: Small Pulse



It feels gross to have 0.36 extra tons, but damnit, this is the best way to run the build. The 10% range and 5% heat gen are just too valuable, and it gets all these other great quirks on top of that. I don't like how arm-mounted it is, but...sometimes you just gotta make your peace with these things. Or do something weird like this, if you want.

Build 3: ER Smalls



This is absolutely my top pick for the silly factor. It's kind of like a laser version of the 6x6 JR7-IIC, but way less devastating. Still, it's an entertaining concept, even if it's not that great in practice.

Build 4: SRMs



I'm not a fan of this - there's a reason we boat energy weapons on mechs with minimal pod space - but I'm not mad at it either. Could be a nice change of pace.

Miscellaneous Musings

The jumpjets are crazy. Like, I would be happy if I could remove jumpjets without even getting the tonnage back (though that would be silly). For one thing, they will just completely prevent you from dissipating heat while being used, which I hate. But also, I've experienced many more of those glitchy things where you get thrown way up in the air if your feet just catch a ledge, and they can be particularly deadly in this mech. Maybe it's just going to take some getting used to, but the mech feels super floaty in a lack-of-control sort of way.

It also feels huge. Usually, lights and other mechs that go at similar speeds are very resistant to LRMs, and drag many of them into the ground, or the spread is so wide that many miss. This thing gets absolutely obliterated by them. Though it gets obliterated by pretty much everything, so maybe that's not entirely fair to specify.

Scores

Off: 4
Def: 2
Mob: 9
Fun: 6
OVR: 5.25

For what it's worth, I know these scores are silly, subjective, and just about irrelevant. Just kinda feels good to put abstract concepts into numerical form. Tickles part of my brain.



GMan129 is an officer of the Steel Jaguar competitive team, he is the owner of and writer for MetaMechs, and he does some writing for NGNG as well. He has been playing MechWarrior Online since the early days of closed beta, and has spent far too much time and money on this crap. If you're interested in supporting his self-destruction, consider checking out his Patreon!

The Linebacker

It's cool that PGI is trying alternative methods of stirring up hype, but man, I wish they'd saved it for something like the Mad Cat MK II - as far as I know, the Linebacker isn't particularly special in lore, TT, or previous MW games. That being said, I do love the way it looks - it looks to have a unique profile and I think that pixel skin looks sweet as hell.

I think a lot of people are concerned over how it's not gonna be a great mech, but that's not something that anyone should be disappointed in a pre-order mech for. We want these things to be close to average (AKA "balanced"), and we don't want another Kodiak (though I am a bit fearful of the Night Gyr). But it is true that it probably won't be great - it runs at the same speed as the Stormcrow with 2 less free tons despite being 10 tons heavier. You can strip both arms and drop the legs by 8 points of armor each to even up the free tonnage between the two, but there are very few builds that can be optimized for that.

But what's more important, and what I (and many others) remain disappointed in is the way the hardpoints/omnipods are distributed across the variants. Once again, in order to run the best builds possible on the mech, you will need to pick up both the reinforcement and hero add-on packs, which is just annoying. It's happened a few times in the past and I've always said "I hope this doesn't become a pattern", but I think it has. It's not like PGI plans it that way (I can easily see how it would develop organically), but there are ways to avoid this issue, which I implore PGI to look into.

The simplest thing to do is just to make it so that buying the base pack gives you the basic variant of the chassis (with or without the special status depending on if you spent $20 or $40), and then it allows you to choose two of the four remaining C-Bill variants. I know that this would require extra work, maybe a significant amount, but...it would be an improvement in the package system that you're so dedicated to. It doesn't solve the issue of Hero omnipods, but I feel like that's a whole other issue.

But enough of that, let's get on to the fun stuff!

Builds

Laser Vomit

  • Armor: 28 in one arm, 2 in the other, 56 per leg, max elsewhere
  • cLPL in either side torso
  • 5x cERML across the side torsos
  • 20 DHS, TC1
This is the most basic build I'm looking at for this mech, with some variations that use 2 cLPLs and a few cERMLs, or even smalls. It's not a very exciting build, and other heavies do this sort of thing way better, but it'll certainly be serviceable.

Unfortunately, in order to run it optimally, you need the Hero and Reinforcement add-ons. But you can run it almost as well with just one or the other, and it can still be done with the base pack, but with larger sacrifices (at least a heat sink).

Wubs

  • Armor: 24 in one arm, 2 in the other, 58 per leg, max elsewhere
  • 6x cMPL split across side torsos
  • 19 DHS, TC1
This is much more exciting, and a bit more appropriate for a mech whose redeeming trait is speed. I love this build for the Stormcrow, and while you actually lose a heatsink in the jump up to 65 tons (lol), I'm sure it'll still be good. You can also do 9 Small Pulses or ER Meds...I'll definitely be trying those.

As with the Laser Vomit build, it does require both add-ons to be run optimally, but can be done almost as well with just one or the other, and can be done with significant sacrifices on just the base 3 variants.

Brawler

  • Armor: 0 in RA, 16 in head, 52 per leg, max elsewhere
  • 4x SRM6 w/ Artemis (2 in LA, 1 per side torso), 5 tons ammo
  • 2x SPL (RT)
  • 15 DHS
Probably the most appropriate build I've come up with for the Linebacker, this one just slaps a brawler med build into it. I'm hoping that the extra hitpoints are enough to make this good, but it'll probably be pretty average for a brawler.

This build does require the Reinforcements add-on, but not the Hero, so that's nice. But you can't mount a facsimile with just the base 3 variants

Full Splat

  • Armor: 51 per leg, 17 in head, max elsewhere
  • 6x SRM4 w/ Artemis (across both arms and side torsos), 5 tons ammo
  • 14 DHS
It's...a bit light on ammo, but you probably won't live that long anyways. I'm not super-optimistic about this build because of all the other heavies that do similar things at a higher power level, but it is at least 15 KPH faster than all of those. And for once, it's a build that the Stormcrow can't already do!

This build also requires the Reinforcements add-on, but not the Hero. Definitely can't be done on the base pack, though.

Gauss Vomit

  • Armor: 0 in each arm, 52 per leg, max elsewhere
  • Gauss Rifle (RT), 3 tons ammo
  • 4x cERML (across side torsos)
  • 14 DHS
This build is so passé, but it's still decent enough. And it's pretty much the only way you're going to comfortably fit a Gauss Rifle on this thing. The more I think about it, the more I think it actually might be pretty decent on this chassis.

This also can be done with only the Reinforcements add-on, but not on the base 3.

Large Pulse

  • Armor: 0 in each arm, 52 per leg, max elsewhere
  • 3x cLPL (2 in RT, 1 in LT)
  • 15 DHS
Sure, it'll be decent enough, but the main reason I'm including this build is because it is the best build I can fit on just the three base variants, without any add-ons.

Value Assessment

If you want to be able to run all of the builds well (even if some of them aren't perfect), your highest-value pack selection will be the base $20 pack with the Reinforcements add-on. Some of the laser builds will require you to use 5 in the torsos and one in an arm instead of all 6 in the torsos, but it can run pretty much everything else without making significant sacrifices.

If you do want to run everything perfectly, though, you will want to go for the Hero add-on as well. Just getting the base pack with the Hero doesn't open up any important options versus just the base pack with the reinforcements, but if you have your own reasons for wanting it, by all means.

The trouble with only getting the base pack is that it really only enables the 3x cLPL build, and worse versions of the laser boat builds. But it is the cheapest option, so if you're a fan of the chassis or like the look or w/e, it's a solid choice.

Predictions

After things settle down from its release, we'll probably see this mech about as much as the Stormcrow. So, it'll be considered decent enough, but really nothing special. There are definitely some things about it that could be fun, but I imagine that (without significant quirkage) it will struggle to get over Tier 3. Which is juuust fine.

Also, the real reason PGI is hyping it up so much is because it signifies the return of true collision mechanics and tackling to MWO, a project they've been working on in secret for years. DON'T CRUSH MY DREAMS!




GMan129 is an officer of the Steel Jaguar competitive team, he is the owner of and writer for MetaMechs, and he does some writing for NGNG as well. He has been playing MechWarrior Online since the early days of closed beta, and has spent far too much time and money on this crap. If you're interested in supporting his self-destruction, consider checking out his Patreon!

<a href="http://youtu.be/Xe-GL_SPt90" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://youtu.be/Xe-GL_SPt90</a>

As it would figure, there actually are two things I really want to talk about.

The first is an issue that has always existed in MWO, and has always really bothered me. There is no real distinction between the classes of mechs. The big, solid differences that tend to crop up are firepower and speed - as you go up in class, the mechs get slower and they do more damage. Except, there's no big jump from 35 to 40, or 55 to 60, and definitely not from 75 to 80. Everything scales linearly, except for the weight of engines themselves (which, when combined with the engine caps, is the only reason bigger mechs don't go as fast as smaller ones). Classes become simple categories, rather than distinct types of mech.

I have decent familiarity with the lore but almost no familiarity with tabletop, so I'm not sure whether there are actual differences between the classes, or if it's all just an easy way to label mechs. That being said, I know I'm not the only one that doesn't like how few differences there actually are between the classes themselves. I'm pretty sure even the devs don't like it, due to their attempts to make infowars a thing and give light mechs more of a role.

I can get why you would want to rescale mechs so that their size is completely in-line with their tonnage; there is sort of a mathematical order behind that which really appeals to me, it feels nice and neat and good. But I think that sticking to this formula misses an opportunity to add something to make it obvious that the Cicada is a medium, or that the Quickdraw is a heavy.

I would still want mechs to get larger as they get heavier of course, but the scale difference between the lightest mech in a class and heaviest should be about the same as the difference between the heaviest mech in a class and the lightest mech of the next class.

This proposal is, of course, not without flaws. It further reduces the incentive to take a mech on the light side of its class (why take a Quickdraw over a Grasshopper, or Locust over a Jenner?) And it's pointless if you don't agree with me that differentiating classes is a good thing. But if you don't want classes to be distinct - both in terms of gameplay and visuals - why bother having them?


My second issue I have with the re-scale is the formulaic approach, and the formula itself. These are more commonly-discussed issues, but I hope to give you my perspective on the subject.

Let's start off by talking about the formula: I'm sure there is a reason why it's based on volume (if I had to guess, cubic meters are relatively easy to calculate and understand), but that reason has little relevance to gameplay. When you shoot a mech, you're not aiming at its water displacement, you're aiming the 2D profile that is currently visible on your screen. Obviously, any algorithm for mech scale should be based on the size of the target that you actually see. Focusing on volume will tend to improve the situation, but it doesn't target the right issue, and you end up with serious problems.

/u/arcangleous made some charts to demonstrate something similar to this. But I don't believe that they quite grasp the heart of the matter.

It is a good stepping-off point, but...there are mechs like the Centurion, whose left arm is a literal shield which is supposed to be particularly large in order to protect the body. There's the Atlas, which is meant to look down on other mechs; intimidating enemies with its appearance and its weapons. And there are other mechs with unique reasons to be larger or smaller, and other factors that must be considered - like the relative importance of a hitboxes width and height, and the hitboxes themselves, and more that I just haven't thought of.

Basically, I'm saying that each mech would need some TLC; you can't just stop tweaking the size when the algorithm says it's right.

I just hope it's not too late. I mainly write these articles to get my thoughts down on "paper", but I always want them to be purposeful, even if that purpose is just to spur conversation or give people ideas. In this case, my goal is more ambitious, and I'm afraid that adjusting the re-scale is too big a thing, that it just won't happen because it would be too large a time investment. And I'm regretting not writing all this stuff out months ago, when I first heard that it would be a linear volumetric approach applied to all mechs.

What does give me hope, though, is that originally they said rescaling all mechs was simply not an option. And somebody figured out a way to do it, which means that maybe, just maybe, adjusting it in a future patch isn't completely out of the question. And all of this stuff is certainly part of the MWO conversation, so there is hope. It's hard to describe this hope as more than a flicker, but it's there.



GMan129 is an officer of the Steel Jaguar competitive team, he is the owner of and writer for MetaMechs, and he does some writing for NGNG as well. He has been playing MechWarrior Online since the early days of closed beta, and has spent far too much time and money on this crap. If you're interested in supporting his self-destruction, consider checking out his Patreon!

Nobody had high expectations for this mech, but...I was really hopeful. I figured that it would get good quirks! I was expecting at least 50% extra structure with better offensive quirks than the Blackjack. But in terms of straight-up combat effectiveness, the barely-quirked Phoenix Hawk is a let-down.

That being said, this mech is not without its points. It's not a good mech, but it does have...

  • Two ECM variants
  • Two or three variants with good hardpoint layouts
  • Huge engine cap
  • Lots of agility quirks
  • Jumpjets on most variants
  • MASC on one variant, making it the fastest mech in the game
  • Not-bad weapon locations
  • It's pretty. And actually, its aesthetic kinda goes well with the mech's focus on agility
It ends up being a mech that feels kinda good without being terribly impressive in an actual fight. I find it more than likely that the Phoenix Hawk will get buffed with some extra arm armor (maybe like, 14 points?) since those fall off incredibly easily, and perhaps some heat gen and ballistic quirks to boot.

Anyways, time to talk about the variants!

PXH-1

This is one of my least favorite variants, with incredibly unspecial hardpoints and overly-specific quirks. But it's not exactly worse than half of the other variants!



It's a pretty lame build, but I've gotten more enjoyment out of its (relatively) high DPS than the range on the Large Laser build or even the triple Large Pulse option.

PXH-1B

And this is my favorite variant! Even though it has relatively few weapon hardpoints, it's one of the few with torso mounts, and it has ECM and extra structure on top of all that.



I'm opting for this build because most of the others need you to get too close for comfort, and it has more DPS than the poptart. That being said, it is kinda wimpy...regardless, it remains one of the best variants.

PXH-1K

This variant doesn't get the equipment advantages of the others (no jumpjets, ECM, or MASC), but it does have a whopping 8 energy hardpoints.



This is a pretty sweet build as far as offense goes, but you generally will want to stagger fire to avoid ghost heat. This does end up compromising the build a bit, but I still found it to be more useful than any of the versions of Laser Vomit. This is also one of the best variants.

PXH-2

This gets ECM, jumpjets, and 6 energy hardpoints! It even has (relatively) a useful weapon quirk.



Easily my favorite build for the variant, though it can run many other options without a problem. I'm not huge on the range for such a squishy mech, but I do think that the MPLs are worth it for their extra damage and low duration.

PXH-3S

This mech is pretty unremarkable in almost every way. But when you activate MASC, it becomes the fastest mech in the game...so I guess it's got that going for it, which is nice.



It's a terrible build. Absolutely horrid. But all the "good" builds are just clones of builds that go better on other variants, so I wanted to highlight something unique.

Kuroi Kiri

I get that this is based on a lore mech, but honestly, its existence kind of offends me. It offers pretty much nothing unique, and I just don't understand why it has to even exist. Super-similar variants really bother me, but usually it's excusable just to achieve the 3 needed to be able to elite a mech (another thing that drives me crazy), and this isn't even the only hero mech, and brings the total variant count up to 7. Oof.



It's got heat gen, so it's the best variant for 4 larges, sort of. There's a bunch of other builds you can do too, but...nothing exciting.

Roc

Also known as "St. Ives' Blues". The high engine cap is legit, and honestly it does have relatively good quirks. Better than friggin 5% duration on just regular lasers...



It's pretty fast and the DPS isn't horrible, but it's squishy and it's really weak for a brawler. I suppose there are worse mechs, though. Just, not many. I do at least appreciate that it's different from the other variants.

Verdict

The Phoenix Hawk is a very weak mech, and it makes me sad. It's not the worst mech in the game in my opinion, but most of the variants are certainly down there.

It's gotta be said, it feels pretty good. It's super agile, there aren't any big quality-of-life issues (just damage and durability issues), and the high engine cap gives you a fair bit of build flexibility.

The main thing I keep coming back to is how the mech is just a straight-up worse Blackjack! It has lower mounts, worse defensive quirks, worse offensive quirks, and way way worse hitboxes. ECM, MASC, and agility quirks absolutely don't bridge that gap.

If you're interested in more builds, search for the Phoenix Hawk in the Build Database

Scores

Off: 4/10
Def: 3/10
Mob: 9/10
Fun: 6/10
OVR: 5.5

For what it's worth, I know these scores are silly, subjective, and just about irrelevant. Just kinda feels good to put abstract concepts into numerical form. Tickles part of my brain.



GMan129 is an officer of the Steel Jaguar competitive team, he is the owner of and writer for MetaMechs, and he does some writing for NGNG as well. He has been playing MechWarrior Online since the early days of closed beta, and has spent far too much time and money on this crap. If you're interested in supporting his self-destruction, consider checking out his Patreon!

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