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The Cyclops is here! This is the first time in a while that they haven't teased the mech in advance at a townhall, and it's nice. Not as nice as just releasing a new mech for C-Bills like any other game might but...still. Feels good to just see what a mech can do right off the bat, it's way more exciting. For example, if you'd just told me that the Cyclops was coming without telling me the specific variants & hardpoints, I wouldn't be particularly enthusiastic. I'd think "sure, it's a nice mech, but doesn't add anything that new!" And I'd be wrong.
The Cyclops is the most usefully diverse mech we've seen in a while, and the best way to see this is by comparing it to other recently introduced mechs.
- Viper: Omnimech, pretty much only going to be used as an energy boat
- Phoenix Hawk: A few variants can do different sorts of energy boat builds, but it's all energy boating (and a few useless variants)
- Kodiak: One variant's a full-on brawler, one is dakka, but the rest are varying degrees of Laser Boating with maybe a couple Gauss thrown in
- Archer: Missile boat
- Rifleman: Ballistic & energy boat
- Warhammer: Ballistic & energy boat
- Marauder: Ballistic & energy boat
- Mauler: Ballistic boat
- Black Knight, Crab, Wolfhound: ...sigh
We're looking at a Mauler-style dakka variant, an Archer-style missile variant, an Atlas-style ballistic/missile brawler, a Banshee-style dakka/laser variant, an ECM variant, and a laser boat/Boar's Head-style energy variant. In other words, PGI has managed to create a unique role for each mech without resorting to quirks, and none of these roles suck.
A point could certainly be made that each of these variants has an existing counterpart outside of the chassis, and to some extent that's true. But that's also nothing new - it's been a long time since a new mech added a new build to the game. A really long time. The biggest "new" things have been along the lines of a mech having more of this type of hardpoint than any mech has had before, or an Assault mech being allowed to use two AC/20s, and even those weren't that exciting after the initial charm wore off. So yeah, that's not a huge deal, and it's not even all that true anyways - each of the variants has something about the hardpoints or tonnages or slots to make it distinct from other mechs with similar hardpoint layouts.
But even if each one was a carbon copy of an existing mech, there's a new super-quirk thing that PGI is putting in! It is the "Tacticon B-2000 Battle Computer" (yes, that's canon). It's not a module or equipment or anything that needs to be equipped, but it increases the sensor range of all Cyclopes (yes, that's the plural of Cyclops). Oh yeah, and it increases the sensor range of friendly mechs within a certain radius of the Cyclops. And...that's pretty cool.
Each variant is unique from the others, each variant has the potential to be good, and the chassis itself is different enough from other mechs. It is the most varied mech that PGI has announced since Clans, and the best part? Those of us that looked at it in Sarna, in TRO, in the Record Sheets...we saw that the hardpoints look boring. And in MWO, they're exciting! Seriously, whoever designed the Cyclops deserves a cookie.
Oh and, speaking of people that deserve a cookie, check out that goddamn Special Variant camo! Lots of people have made lots of comparisons, but to me it seems beautifully Lovecraftian. I don't expect PGI to do this (probably would require a good deal of extra time in the modeling process), but I think it would be really cool if all those eyes had little recessed domes associated with them, to add texture to the most badass skin I've seen.
Now then. Let's talk builds!
This is the base variant, and comes with 3 ballistics in the RT, 3 energy split between the arms, and 3 missiles between the CT and LT. Right off the bat, I am reminded of the BNC-3E and the MAD-3R, and those builds are obviously going to be go-to's (3xAC/5 and various amounts of Large Lasers and Large Pulse). But I find a different build to be a bit more...tantalizing.
- Endo, Standard Armor (arms at 0, legs at 57, max elsewhere), STD310 (60 KPH)
- 3x AC/5, 7 tons ammo
- 3x SRM4 with Artemis, 2.5 tons ammo
- 13 DHS
This is the Archer-style super-missile-boat variant, with a total of 7 missile hardpoints spread symmetrically between the side torsos and CT. Unfortunately, one of those hardpoints being in the CT means that you can't run all SRM6s with Artemis, but you can run...
- Endo, Standard Armor (one arm at 0, other at 22, legs at 62, max elsewhere), STD335 (64.8 KPH)
- 6x SRM6 with Artemis and 1x SRM4 with Artemis, 8.5 tons ammo
- 14 DHS
This variant is basically the mini-Boar's Head. It could end up being a straight-up laser vomit variant, but that'd be a damn shame because of the other option(s) it has at its disposal.
- Endo, Standard Armor (legs at 69, max elsewhere), STD350 (67.7 KPH)
- 1x AC/20, 4 tons ammo
- 6x Medium Laser
- 18 DHS
Just like the 10-Z was the mini-Boar's Head, this is the mini-Atlas AS7-S. Except it has an extra ballistic. And a missile hardpoint in the CT. So it's really not a mini-AS7-S, it's just sort of similar. And sure, you could use an AC/20 or 2 UAC/5s and a bunch of SRMs...but you could also do this:
- Endo, Standard Armor (arms at 0, legs at 65, max elsewhere), STD310 (60 KPH)
- 4x SRM4 with Artemis, 4 tons ammo
- 2x LB 10-X AC, 4 tons ammo
- 13 DHS
This is the ECM variant. That is pretty much its entire identity, honestly, and that's why this is by far my least anticipated variant. But there are still some decent builds available.
- Endo, Standard Armor (legs at 53, max elsewhere), STD300 (58 KPH), ECM
- 2x UAC/5, 6 tons ammo
- 3x Large Laser
- 14 DHS
Back to a high note! The Hero is easily my most anticipated variant, in part because it's basically a Mauler. And it has the potential to be even better than a Mauler. I mean, it also has the potential to be worse, but it's got a head laser and it seems that it might have better hitboxes and mount locations.
- Endo, Standard Armor (arms at 0, legs at 57, max elsewhere), STD305 (59 KPH)
- 4x UAC/5, 9.5 tons ammo
- 1x Medium Laser
- 10 DHS
As always, not gonna say whether or not you should buy it, it's your money, your time, your priorities, etc. But if you are planning on buying it...I'd recommend the base $20 pack plus the hero.
The Hero is very likely to be the best variant, I wouldn't be surprised if it's also the most fun variant, and you get that C-Bill boost on top of that and a pretty nifty camo. In comparison, the $15 add-on pack has the kind-of-boring ECM variant, and the pretty exciting Atlas-style brawling variant. But I don't think that those two mechs, even put together, will be on par with the magnificence of the Hero.
But honestly...if you don't want the Hero, or maybe you want to spend the extra 15 bucks on the add-on variants, or the extra 20 bucks on the special variant and premium time and all the other goodies PGI is offering...knock yourself out. There are absolutely legitimate reasons to do any of those things. Just...maybe wait until we're closer to the close of Early Adopter Rewards on May 20 just in case we hear something new that may influence your decision.
I think that the Cyclops is a well-designed (well-adapted?) mech. I think it'll be fun, and I think it'll be pretty good. But keep in mind that my unbridled enthusiasm way back at the top stems from my expectation of it being fun. It's not because I think it'll be an incredible, top-tier mech that will revolutionize the meta - that's the Kodiak. I mean, it might be all those things, but I kinda doubt it.
Also can I just say...I don't think pre-order decisions in this game should be based on whether or not you think a mech will be strong - not only is that a huge risk due to the importance of stuff like quirks, hitboxes, and other unknowns, but...it sends the wrong message. It says that you want to pay PGI for an in-game advantage over those who don't. On the other hand, pre-ordering a mech pack because you think it will be fun or interesting or innovative tells PGI that you will reward them for adding quality to their game.
But it's your money, do what you want.
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 contributing to his PayPal or Patreon!
In a surprise twist, PGI announced that they will be foregoing mech packs for an indeterminate period of time in favor of the mech-a-month system, setting forth the Viper as the next mech to be dropped on us. Back when the second Clan Wave Pack was being put together, many people in the comp scene (including myself) were really hoping that the Viper would be included over the Ice Ferret due to similar pod space and jumpjets. Since then, the arrival of mechs such as the Jenner IIC and Shadow Cat have served to decrease the size of the potential niche of a fast jumping mech. That being said, I still believe that it is the best Clan Medium Mech that PGI could have introduced, and it comes in as the second 40-tonner in the game, and the first one for Clans.
It's also worth noting that this is the first Omnimech which has been introduced in the one-off mech pricing system, and it costs $20. So, while the merits of the one-off packs in general is certainly open for debate, at least PGI isn't using omnimech status as an excuse to jack up the prices. Welcome news indeed.
The Viper also represents the first Clan Hero mech in the game, which is a Big Deal. Historically, PGI has avoided this because the concept of swappable Hero omnipods really opens up a potential P2W debacle. But, bear with me now, they might have done a decent job of it. On first glance, it looks absolutely broken because it increases the maximum energy hardpoint number to a whopping 11, from 9 without the Hero omnipods. But if you fill all of those up with the smallest useful weapon, you're going to be looking at an 11xcERSL build (woah devestating!) with 13 double heat sinks (oh). Which is obviously way too hot to be anything but a gimmick, unless it comes with something like a 25% energy heat gen quirk. In fact, the only two potentially useful things this will allow you to do will be to boat all your guns in your arms (useful, but requires tonnage sacrifices and I wouldn't call it OP) or boat 9 of a particular weapon (and again we have that heat issue, and you could do 8 without the omnipods). Without actually seeing the mech I can not make a final verdict, but right now it's looking to be not pay-to-win.
But now it's time to talk about builds. Since it's an omnimech, I can't really break down my theorycraftiness on a per-variant basis, as there are only 2 unique CT configurations (one with no hardpoints, one with one energy, and I guess one with an AMS). They may have unique CT quirks that justify using various CTs, like the Ice Ferret, but I can't really...predict those accurately... So instead, I'm going to highlight a few builds, and present the different options based on which level of the pack you buy (with or without the hero and reinforcements add-ons).
Also since it's an omnimech, all builds will have the same upgrades (cEndo and cFerro thank god) and engine (cXL 320 which moves you at 139.32 after speed tweak), as well as 8 hard-locked jumpjets (damnit).
Build 1: Small Pulse
This is definitely going to be one of the go-to builds for the Viper. Fortunately, you don't need the CT energy hardpoint, or the extra arm energy hardpoints of the Hero or Reinforcements to pull it off!
- Max armor everywhere but LA at 0 and Head at 17
- 2xcSPL per ST and RA (6 total)
Having the Hero and Reinforcement packs will allow you a bit more freedom when it comes to placing weapons and perhaps optimizing omnipod loadouts for quirks. I can see a few advantages to this (having one laser CT, two in a side torso and 3 in the opposite arm would allow for more flexibility and sustainability), but nothing game-breaking as of yet.
Build 2: ER Medium
This is the other big build we're likely to see. Of course, you could run it identically to the cSPL if you like (it could even be run full asym which would help), but I suspect most people will find it too hot with only 13 DHS. So I'm also looking at...
- Max armor everywhere but Head at 17 and each arm at 12
- 2xcERML per ST and 1xcERML in CT (5 total)
Now, this build essentially drops one cERML for one DHS, which I almost always think is bad, but...it lets you use your arms as shields and it takes advantage of some mounts which are pretty awesomely high & tight. The downside? This particular configuration can only be run if you get the reinforcement variants. Sorry.
Build 3: SRMs
This will almost certainly be used much less than the other builds, but it looks like a real option.
- Max armor everywhere but Head at 17 and RA at 0
- 1xcSRM4 in each ST and LA, 1xcERML in CT
The CT laser can be swapped out for a cSPL, or you could drop a heat sink to load up on 3 cERSLs (or 4 if you drop a half ton of ammo), but that might get a bit hot. Or maybe it won't, we'll have to see! This build requires the reinforcement pack for the RT missile hardpoint, and hero for the LT. But on the bright side, it will almost certainly be one of the weaker Viper options.
Build 4: ...Ballistics?
Here's the thing. if you try to slap a UAC/10 on this thing - with the arms stripped of armor and the Head at 3 - you'll get a whopping ZERO tons of ammo. And a single UAC/5 isn't exactly a dream build. So I don't think ballistics will truly be an option...with the exception of Machine Guns.
- Max armor everywhere but Head at 12
- 2xcMG in each ST (4 total) with 1.5 tons of ammo
- 3xcERSL in each arm (6 total)
This build can obviously only be run if you own the Hero, and pretty much all permutations of it work best using Hero omnipods in one place or another. Though, you need the Reinforcement pack for the LT ballistics, and I suppose you could do 5xERSL with those omnipods, though it'll be less nice.
And all the rest...
It's an omnimech with a 6 unique variants, so I'm not going to go over every possible configuration. But there are other options like 2 ER Meds and an ER PPC, or 2 ER Meds and 2 ER Large, or 3-4 ER Meds and a Large Pulse, or 8 ER Smalls, or...the list goes on. But we'll have to wait until the mech's released to see how good any of those actually are! For now, I'll just leave you with some
I've got some issues. As I said at the top, they did the Hero mech as well as I could hope for to prevent P2W complaints. But the reinforcement mechs are a bit too optimal for my taste. The Viper VPR-C is the only variant with a CT energy hardpoint, which is a huge deal for pretty much any of builds that you'd run on this mech. The only way you wouldn't always use that hardpoint is if the CTs of other mechs came with ridiculously good quirks. Which is something they sorta tried with the Dire Wolf and Ice Ferret (the quirks weren't ridiculously good, but they were/are very considerable) and people still only took/take the energy CTs almost every time. In fact, the biggest example of a time where I wouldn't take the CT-energy is if I wanted to keep all my weapons in the arms...which all but requires the Hero variant's omnipods to pull off.
So yeah. I'm not a huge fan of all that, but I never have been. The bright side is that you'll be able to run at least 1 or 2 good builds on it with just the base $20 pack, they just might not be optimal, depending on quirks. The dark side is that you won't get nearly as much wiggle room for experimentation, which is one of the most fun things to do in this game! I think my next article will be about the pricing model for these one-offs, recommendations for improvement and such, because...it really does deserve its own post.
At the end of it all, my prediction about the mech itself is that it will be a slightly-more-useful version of the Ice Ferret, and that it will fill in nicely as 40-tonner numero dos. It will have its own identity, distinct from that of the Shadow Cat, and it will jump like crazy.
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