Category Archives: Editorial

Bad ‘Mechs – Rifleman

Rifleman Coffin Dance

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Corporal O’Moore didn’t know what the Dracs were thinking. Wave after wave of aerospace fighters fell to his RFL-3N Rifleman‘s paired Imperator Autocannons and Magna Mk. III Large Lasers, many before they could even fire a salvo or release their bomb payloads. His Rifleman‘s Garret D2J–still state of the art even after half a century of warfare–continue to work like a dream, swatting down Kuritan Sabres like flies. 

It was enough to make O’Moore forget he and the rest of the First Clovis Guards were desperately trying to defend their home. But it only lasted for a few moments.

“They’ve broken through!” came the panicked voice of Major Yasser over the unit-wide comms. “First and second battalions fall back to waypoint Charlie. Third battalion, we need you to defend the logistics corps until they can pull out.” 

Third battalion. That was O’Moore’s unit. He took his eyes off his Rifleman’s scope for a moment to bring up his external cameras. Soldiers were all rushing to vehicles being loaded with munitions, desperate to pack as much as they could before the Kurita forces arrived. 

It didn’t take long. Not two minutes after the last of the Sabres fell to O’Moore’s guns did the first Drac ‘Mech appear on sensors. A Panther, of course–you couldn’t spit without hitting a Panther in the DCMS. But its particle projection cannon still made it dangerous. 

O’Moore’s targeting computer easily picked out the 35-ton ‘Mech as it confidently stomped into range. At 600 meters, he squeezed both triggers, sending twin bursts of tracers that stitched explosions up the Panther’s chest. He followed up with both his heavy lasers that melted more armor over the light ‘Mechs left arm and right leg. The machine staggered under the sudden loss of so much armor, but managed to fire its PPC in response, missing O’Moore’s Rifleman wide. 

Another salvo should take it out, O’Moore thought. Once again he depressed both triggers, but this time the paired autocannons that made up the Rifleman’s arms were silent. His internal diagnostics reported his ammo bins had run dry firing at the Sabres earlier. And with his ammo being whisked away on the beds of his regiments’ logistics craft, they wouldn’t be refilled anytime soon.

Instead, O’Moore fired his heavy lasers again. One struck the left arm again, shearing it off at the shoulder. The other hit the Panther dead center, opening a smoking wound that made the machine’s heat signature spike on O’Moore’s screen. An engine hit. No doubt that Panther’s cockpit was a sauna for its pilot.

And no less hot for me, he noted as a fresh wave of heat caused O’Moore’s cooling jacket to kick into overdrive. His Rifleman’s heatsinks weren’t designed to dissipate repeated firings of his large lasers, so he’d be down to just his Magna Mk. IIs. That’d be enough to finish the Panther off.

Just then, O’Moore’s radar pinged with another signature–this time a Dragon. Its own Imperator-A struck him in the shoulder, while a flight or LRMs rang deafening explosions just outside his cockpit’s glass. Slapping the override button, O’Moore fired at the new threat with everything he had, desperately trying to convince the Drac to find a new target.

Alarms were blaring and his cockpit was hotter than an active volcano, but O’Moore knew there was no escape. The Dragon could just run him down, and besides, the Rifleman’s heat burden made it feel like it was trying to move through molasses. 

The Dragon’s pilot was smart. Rather than engage in a slugfest, it began maneuvering to O’Moore’s right, threatening the truck convoy that was making its escape. He turned with it, slowly, trying to breathe air hotter than the sun while deciding if he could survive firing even a single laser just one more time.

He never got the chance. The Dragon suddenly pivoted and before O’Moore could react, it was in his rear arc. The Rifleman’s paper-thin rear armor couldn’t hold up to a stiff breeze let alone a full brace of autocannon, missile, and laser fire. His only consolation, as a flash of light signaled his Rifleman’s fusion engine losing containment, was that at least the Drac pilot was blowing him away rather than the retreating convoy of First Clovis Guardsmen.


RFL-1N RiflemanThe Rifleman is an exceptional ‘Mech. Exceptional in that the only reason why the Rifleman remains popular is because every attempt to replace it has somehow miraculously managed to be worse. This gave the Rifleman‘s engineers centuries to come up with better, more combat-viable variants. However, while the RFL-3N Rifleman is perhaps the most popular and numerous variant, it remains one of the worst heavy ‘Mechs ever designed, so cripplingly handicapped by a lack of ammunition, armor protection, and heat capacity that it’s only useful for guard duty in rear supply lines or in one-on-one gladiatorial combat where the pilot won’t have to gauge heat spikes beyond a single opponent. 

Getting to the RFL-3N will actually take more than two centuries of failure. The initial RFL-1N was first designed in 2505 by Kallon Industries as a medium fire-support unit. As one of the earliest ‘Mechs ever made, one can forgive Kallon for some missteps. The RFL-1N suffered from chronic overheating owing to its all-energy payload and criminal lack of heatsinks. Over fifty years later, Kallon would improve upon the 50-ton ‘Mech in the RFL-2N, upgrading its primitive components to open up payload capacity to replace the 1N’s large lasers with twin PPCs and add two additional medium lasers as well as six additional heat sinks. Although a marked improvement, the RFL-2N still suffered from the original’s dismal overheating issues. 

It wasn’t until 2770 that Kallon introduced the RFL-3N during the Amaris Civil War. Intended for long-range fire support and anti-aircraft work, the Rifleman RFL-3N was ten tons larger than its forebears. It used that additional weight to mount an Imperator-A AC/5 and a Magna Mk. III Large Laser in each arm. A pair of Magna Mk. II Medium Lasers offered the RFL-3N additional defense should it lose any of its main weapons, but its paltry 10 heatsinks made it impossible to continuously fire its energy weapons without suffering massive heat spikes. 

Rifleman

What made matters worse for the RFL-3N was its equally paltry ton of AC/5 ammunition shared between both cannons. This offered pilots just ten shots before needing to resupply. Combined with its inadequate heat-sinking and mere seven-and-a-half tons of armor, the RFL-3N is completely unable to perform in sustained engagements. 

Scholars will argue that the Rifleman was never intended to serve as a front-line heavy ‘Mech. In its intended role of defending supply lines from marauding air assets and the occasional light scout, the Rifleman excelled. Its Garret D2J targeting-tracking system–a system so potently accurate that it remains in production to this day–allowed the Rifleman to easily swat down incoming aerospace assets and deter lighter ‘Mech elements from a safe distance.

However, as the Succession Wars wore on, House militaries pressed more specialized ‘Mechs into roles for which they were never intended. The Rifleman increasingly saw postings to front-line regiments where its lack of armor (especially in the rear arc), ammo, and heat capacity were a liability.

Despite this, the Rifleman remained popular with MechWarriors thanks to its menacing silhouette, its impressive firepower, and its unique ability to swing its arms 360-degrees in order to engage opponents attempting to approach the ‘Mech from behind. This tactic was made famous by Solaris champion Gray Noton, whose custom Rifleman, Legend-Killer, ended the career of more than one promising competitor who thought they’d managed to get the drop on Noton.

3025 Rifleman

Before the ultimate dissolution of the Star League, two replacements emerged for the Rifleman. Kallon introduced the JagerMech in 2774 intended to replace the Rifleman in the anti-air role, while Technicron Manufacturing brought the Quickdraw to market in 2779 as a front-line heavy ‘Mech. Neither ‘Mech succeeded in replacing the Rifleman in either role, with both machines instead serving alongside Riflemans in various militaries across the Inner Sphere.

The RFL-3N would exist for over two centuries before finally seeing significant improvement. The RFL-3C, introduced by Davion engineers in 3026, replaced the twin AC/5s and large lasers with paired AC/10s and an additional two medium lasers as well as an extra ton of armor and autocannon ammo. This variant finally fixed the Rifleman‘s heat problems, although its ammo remained limited. Eight-and-half tons of armor was also still regarded as insufficient for a 60-ton ‘Mech.

The Gray Death Memory Core offered enhanced technology as the solution to the Rifleman‘s problems. Double heatsinks (including two more) effectively solved its heat issues, while an additional ton of armor mitigated some of the ‘Mech’s protection problems. One issue that was made even worse was its singleton ammo bin, which was tasked with feeding two ammo-hungry Ultra AC/5s capable of exhausting that bin twice as fast. 

It wasn’t until the Civil War era that the Inner Sphere saw a Rifleman that was truly capable of extended firefights. The RFL-8D saw Vicore Industries remove the Rifleman 5M’s armament in favor of twin Mydron Model RC rotary autocannon/5s fed by a staggering six tons of ammunition. Double heatsinks and a pair of ER medium lasers kept the ‘Mech cool, and 12 tons of armor kept it well protected too. Jump jets provided the Rifleman with an all-new feature for the chassis, and the same Garret targeting computer continued to direct its new armaments at any foe unwise enough to approach.

RFL-8D Rifleman

Curiously, it wasn’t merely Inner Sphere armies that saw the future potential of the Rifleman. Alexander Kerensky’s SLDF had several Riflemans amongst its regiments, eventually leading clan engineers to upgrade the design. The Rifleman IIC leans into its anti-aircraft role by pairing four large pulse lasers with an Active Probe. Even with five additional tons added to the chassis, the Rifleman IIC is curiously slower than the RFL-3N, although it does mount three jump jets to better position the ‘Mech to address incoming forces. Eleven tons of ferro-fibrous armor keep the ‘Mech protected and 19 nineteen double heatsinks keep the pilot relatively cool, although they can eventually be overwhelmed by repeated alpha strikes.

Both the Inner Sphere and the Clans have so many different variants of this venerable design that the chassis requires its own encyclopedia to identify them all. One could attribute the Rifleman‘s success to the business acumen of Kallon Industries, who spread production of the ‘Mech across multiple facilities in multiple House nations to ensure the design survived the Succession Wars. Kallon also licensed the design heavily, allowing other manufacturers to make their own variants using common parts. This kept the Rifleman fighting even as so many of its contemporaries faded into obscurity. 

But let’s not forget that it took centuries for iterations of the Rifleman to eventually raise the chassis to its fullest potential. And while the Rifleman remains in service with militaries, mercenaries, and even Solaris gladiators, the most popular machine isn’t always the most potent. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Fireball

Fireball Eldoniousrex

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Private Ensha heard the growling tone of his Fireball’s Streak SRM launcher as it locked onto the Toad leaping from cover. Secure in the knowledge that the missile’s homing seeker would find its target no matter what the Toad did, he pulled the trigger and sent two contrails spiraling into the flying battle armor. As expected, both struck home, sending the Elemental warrior crashing back to the ground.

Only to have that same Elemental warrior almost immediately pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and raise its own SRM launcher to fire back at Ensha’s ‘Mech. 

“What the fuck!” Ensha cried, half in dismay, half disbelief. He’d been told by various veterans in the Deneb Light Cavalry that Clan Elementals were tough, but even one of those missiles would have blown a hovercar to pieces. For the Clanner to survive two direct hits and then fire back was beyond unfair. 

Especially considering he only really had that Streak SRM launcher to deal with the Toads. Experience had already taught Ensha that firing the machine gun on his Fireball’s right shoulder was about as effective as getting out of his ‘Mech and taking on those armored monsters with a squirt gun.

Ensha locked onto another Toad and fired a second pair of Streak SRMs. Again, both hit, knocking the Elemental flat on its back. Zooming in on his external camera, Ensha saw the Elemental’s cracked faceplate as black ooze seeped in to rapidly fill the gaps. And just like the other Toad, this one shook itself off and came after him like an angry hornet, firing its laser to score a few hits on Ensha’s chest plate.

Panic was starting to set in. Ensha looked around and saw the other Fireballs in his lance were having similar trouble downing targets. Command had said these new ‘Mechs were specifically designed to take on Clan battle armor, with Ensha’s lance formed as a fast-response unit to deal with Elemental incursions. It was starting to look like someone in AFFC procurement hadn’t done enough research to verify those claims. 

When he saw his sergeant’s Fireball go down after two Elementals sawed their way through its arm, Ensha broke and ran. With a top speed of well over 180 km/h, at least his Fireball could take him away from danger faster than any ‘Mech in the Deneb Light Cavalry.


Fireball Evil Egg

Aside from vastly superior ‘Mechs and weapon designs, the Clan Invasion also introduced the Inner Sphere to an entirely new threat: Elementals. Clan warriors bred with superhuman strength and clad in powered armor that both augmented the Elemental’s inbred power and protected the warrior through advanced life support and automatic combat medications. In the early days of the Clan Invasion, single Elementals were known to have brought down entire ‘Mechs, smashing through thin cockpit armor and killing the pilot therein.

In response, the AFFC and the New Avalon Institute Of Science began rapidly prototyping ‘Mech designs that could effectively combat armored infantry. The Fireball was specifically designed to rapidly reach areas beset by Elementals and eliminate them before they could wreak havoc. Although an abject failure in its intended role, the Fireball’s outstanding speed eventually allowed it to become an exceptional scout and forward reconnaissance ‘Mech. 

The Fireball‘s defining characteristic is speed. With a running velocity of 184 km/h, the Fireball is one of the fastest ‘Mechs ever to come out of the Inner Sphere. NAIS scientists and Corean Enterprises engineers settled on four tons of standard armor as sufficient protection, and armed the Fireball with a single Streak SRM-2 and a machine gun to deal with Clan infantry. 

On paper, the Fireball seemed ideal. Unfortunately, by the time NAIS received accurate reports concerning the toughness of Elementals, it was already too late to modify the design. As such, the Fireball entered production with insufficient armament to be a true threat to Elementals, let alone satisfy its mission requirement of dispatching Elementals efficiently.

Fireball Card Art

In 3053, the first production runs started delivery to the Crucis Lancers, Deneb Light Cavalry, and Ceti Hussars, all regiments guarding the Lyran side of the Federated Commonwealth from incursions by Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon. All three regiments often assigned their rookie pilots to newly delivered Fireballs in order to build experience against what was perceived as easy prey. 

It soon became clear that Elementals weren’t afraid of the new design. The Fireball‘s armament was found to be woefully inadequate in its first encounters with Elementals. Reports of Elementals dismissing machine gun fire and SRMs as they charged fearlessly towards quick-response Fireball lances often resulted in their pilots learning too late just how dangerous an Elemental could be. 

Having utterly failed in its intended role, the Fireball was quickly repurposed as a scout and reconnaissance ‘Mech, a task to which its almost ludicrous speed was far better suited. The Fireball became a common sight in scout lances during the FedCom Civil War, where both Lyran Alliance and Allied forces made use of the design as its factory on New Avalon changed hands. 

Corean Enterprises made several attempts to improve the Fireball after its disastrous initial deployment. The ALM-8D, introduced in 3054, replaced the Streak SRM-2 launcher with two medium lasers and an additional half-ton of armor. This was considered a vast improvement over the original and quickly became the new standard for regiments deployed against the Clans. The ALM-9D instead replaced the right-shoulder machine gun with a single medium laser and another half-ton of armor. This variant was more commonly given to raw recruits where the Streak SRM launcher’s targeting system would result in fewer wasted shots.

The ALM-10D, introduced in 3076, was a massive rework of the 8D variant. Adding MASC, Heavy Ferro-Fibrous armor, a targeting computer, and replacing the medium lasers with extended-range upgrades, the ALM-10D would begin production following New Avalon’s recapture from the World of Blake and remain in production into the Dark Age

Fireball

There is one other variant of the Fireball worth mentioning. Leaning into the design’s exceptional agility for illegal underground ‘Mech racing, the ALM-XF strips the Fireball down to just two ER small lasers and three tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor. The freed-up tonnage is then devoted to a massive 320 XXL engine, MASC, a Supercharger, and an XL gyro, providing the ALM-XF with a cruising speed of 240 km/h and a theoretical top speed of 400 km/h.

The Fireball offers a complicated legacy. Out-performed by newer scout ‘Mechs and designs purpose-built to deftly handle armored infantry, the Fireball‘s continuing presence can largely be attributed to Corean Enterprises maintaining Fireball production lines alongside its more famous ‘Mechs like the Centurion and Valkyrie. However, one can only assume that the Fireball will be the first production line to cease operations as soon as Corean engineers come up with a more competitive light scout.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Hellbringer

Hellbringer

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Khan Lassenerra has directed us to create a new heavy OmniMech. And he has… ordered this BattleMech to be completed within six months.” 

Each of the scientists and techs within the Hell’s Horses boardroom had different expressions after this announcement. Some looked down in solemn contemplation, a few stared back at Scientist Hyun in open-mouthed astonishment for the exceptionally short timeline. One threw his tablet on the table and lit a cigarette in direct defiance of the Star Captain’s “no smoking” ordinance. 

Technician Samson picked up his jaw before whispering, “That’s… not nearly enough time.” 

“Contractions, Samson,” barked Hyun. “Nevertheless, we do as the Khan commands. Ideas?” 

The boardroom was met with utter silence for several uncomfortably long moments. Then, a voice from the back: “We could use the lower assembly of the new Summoner chassis?” 

Hyun squinted. The voice was too far away to discern the source. Perhaps calling an all-hands meeting for a single ‘Mech design was not the wisest course of action. “And why would we do that?”

“Because you said this needed to be developed quickly,” came the sheepish reply. “Well, that is half the design right there.” 

There were a few nods, and Hyun conceded the point. They needed to move fast and starting from a proven design was a boon she couldn’t deny. They needed all the help they could get.

“This limits the design’s potential capacity, but it is a start,” Hyun said. “Now, let us discuss payload.” 

Hellbringer

From there, the boardroom descended into utter chaos. A section of the scientists demanded anti-personnel pods and machine guns for urban combat. A contingent of techs suggested an Active Probe and ECM to counter the growing threat of electronic warfare within the clans. A scientist at the far end simply shrieked “AMS”, prompting Hyun to write the acronym on her datapad without really considering either the source or purpose of such a suggestion. 

“And, let us be frank, our MechWarriors are not the best of the Clans,” Samson said during a brief lull in the brainstorming furor. “A Targeting Computer would be most helpful for our warriors.” 

“Agreed,” Hyun said, adding the technology to the long list of suggested equipment. “We have yet to discuss actual weapons.” 

The room once again fell silent. Then another voice from a distant corner of the packed room said what everyone was already thinking. 

“Twin particle cannons, a short-range missile launcher, and several medium lasers?” 

“Brilliant,” Hyun said with a smile. “Get this down to our engineers. We have a prototype to build.” 

As the room cleared, a single scientist stayed in her chair, staring at the notes she’d taken during the manic planning session. In theory, this new ‘Mech would be able to meet the demands of any battlefield–a true OmniMech. Only she couldn’t help but think that this design was slightly unfocused. And there was the nagging feeling that they were all forgetting something vitally important… 


Academics that have studied the Clans find the Hellbringer (also known as the Loki to Inner Sphere MechWarriors) to be a bit of an oddity. Its primary configuration comes with a litany of performance-enhancing equipment that most Clan MechWarriors would consider questionable, if not outright dishonorable. An anti-missile system, ECM, and anti-personnel pods provides the Hellbringer with additional defenses, while a Targeting Computer and Active Probe ensure the Hellbringer pilot can engage enemy ‘Mechs effectively in almost all circumstances. 

Hellbringer MWO

However, Clan Hell’s Horses wasn’t about to sacrifice the Hellbringer’s potential weapons capacity in order for it to mount this additional equipment. In order to ensure the Hellbringer could keep pace with similar ‘Mechs in the Clan’s touman, the ‘Mech was forced to maintain a running speed of 86.4 kph. That left armor protection as the only element engineers could scale back, leaving the Hellbringer with an abnormally light shell of just eight tons of standard armor. 

Hells Horses’ engineers were also perhaps too focused on the Hellbringer’s speedy development to remember that its mostly energy-based weapons would need to be offset by heatsinking capacity. The Hellbringer‘s 13 double heat sinks allow it to shrug off some of the heat generated by its twin ER PPCs, but not all, and it’s certainly not enough to cool the ‘Mech down if the pilot starts firing its trio of ER medium lasers

Despite these flaws, the Hellbringer would go on to become a popular ‘Mech, especially with Clan Jade Falcon MechWarriors. First introduced in 2926, the Hellbringer was disseminated to most Clans thanks to Hell’s Horses leadership gifting the design for political favors. By the time of the Inner Sphere invasion, it was a common enough sight amongst the invading Clans to be designated Loki by Captain Galen Cox for its “utterly mad” configuration. 

While the primary configuration of the Hellbringer maintained a mostly energy-based weapons payload, alternate configurations lean more heavily towards ammo-dependent armaments. The A configuration retains the Active Probe and machine guns but swaps the SRM launcher and ER PPCs for twin ER large lasers, an Ultra AC/5, and an LRM-20. The ECM, Targeting Computer, and anti-personnel pods were swapped for a NARC Missile Beacon for improved accuracy of nearby fire-support units–another strange addition for a society that values honorable single combat.

Newer configurations of the Hellbringer tend to eschew the specialist equipment to devote more of its 28 tons of pod space to weapons. Interestingly, the Hellbringer‘s dissemination also included Inner Sphere armies, with the G configuration sporting an Inner Sphere-built Improved Heavy Gauss Rifle. By the Dark Age era, Clan Sea Fox readily provided the aging Hellbringer to any customer willing to pay for it.  

hellbringer A

Amongst the Home Clans, however, the Hellbringer has largely been replaced by the Ebon Jaguar, a superior design that offers similar speed and firepower with far greater armor protection while maintaining a 65-ton gross weight. In 3121, the Jade Falcons attempted to improve their favored design with the Loki Mk II. Also known as the Hel, the Loki Mk II drops the Hellbringer‘s engine to a 260XL (resulting in a running speed of 64 kph) to devote even more of its pod space to weapons. The primary Loki Mk II configuration mounts twin Gauss Rifles alongside twin ER Large Lasers with a Streak SRM-4 for lighter targets. The Hel’s B configuration is even more powerful thanks to a Long Tom artillery cannon mounted in the right arm. Ferro-Fibrous armor improves the Hel‘s protection over its progenitor, but it still remains a relatively fragile heavy ‘Mech. 

The Hellbringer marks a logical extreme for Clan designs emphasizing offense and mobility over defense. While the Hellbringer‘s primary configuration offers its pilots a curious array of equipment, most would likely be better served by a few more armor plates. Today, Hellbringers are the preferred mount for elderly Clan ‘MechWarriors looking to die in a blaze of glory or younger warriors too foolish to consider their own mortality.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Hoplite

Courtesy of Eldonious Rex

“This thing is the coolest ‘Mech you’ll ever drop feet-first into a firefight.” 

The claim sounded dubious even as the ‘Mech salesman attempted to accentuate the point with several slaps to the Hoplite‘s shin armor. Lieutenant Brooke Casia, executive officer of the Crimson Tigers mercenary company, was in the market after having her Centurion shot out from under her during her last contract. The squat ‘Mech certainly didn’t appear “cool” by her standards, looking more like a cleaning drone that had grown legs and an autocannon.

“Alright,” Casia offered with a sigh, “what’s so ‘cool’ about it?”

“The air-conditioning!” Another set of slaps once rang off the Hoplite‘s hull while the salesman laughed at his own pun. “Plus, this ‘Mech has sixteen whole heat sinks. You could fire everything this bad boy has while running full-tilt through a desert and you’ll be cool as a cucumber inside the cockpit.” 

This was enough for Casia to raise an eyebrow at least. She’d never enjoyed the sauna-like temperatures that ‘Mech combat frequently produced. A ‘Mech that couldn’t overheat would be an asset.

Hoplite

But there’s always a catch, Casia thought. “I can see an autocannon port here,” she pointed at the Hoplite‘s right arm, “and five missile ports here,” she pointed again at the launcher jutting from beneath the ‘Mechs cockpit. “This thing got anything else in terms of firepower?” 

The question seemed to finally reign in the ‘Mech salesman’s enthusiasm. “What you see is what you get,” he said. Casia noted this statement was made without a single slap.

“So that’d be, what, a 10-class autocannon and an LRM-5 launcher? Not exactly standing up to my old Centurion. Does it go faster at least?” 

Now the salesman seemed utterly crestfallen. “Same running speed as the Centurion. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t have any jump jets either.” 

Casia blinked. “Alright, so what does it have over a Centurion?” 

“About three tons of armor. That’s it.” 

“So you’re saying I lose half my firepower, a battle fist, and the ability to shoot upward without tilting the whole damned ‘Mech for just three tons of armor?” Casia ended the question with a slap to the Hoplite‘s other shin. It seemed far more intimidating than encouraging coming from her.

The ‘Mech salesman winced as though physically struck. He could already tell that this sale was as good as gone. “Ah, well, we do have other ‘Mechs’ in our garage…” 


While later Star League ‘Mechs often pushed boundaries in search of a technological edge, the Hoplite was born in the League’s early years, well before the rise of the massive industrial complex that would produce such unnecessary machines as the Charger and the Assassin. The Hoplite was designed and built to fulfill a specific military requirement for the least possible expense. As such, the Hoplite is a simple, rugged, and dependable ‘Mech that achieves its objective and little else.

Hoplite

Introduced by Martinson Armaments in the year 2758, the Hoplite is an infantry support ‘Mech. The HOP-4D comes armed with a dual-purpose LB 10-X Autocannon and a five-rack LRM launcher. The autocannon is effective against almost all targets, able to fire single slug rounds at armored targets and scatter-shot against infantry and light-armored vehicles. The LRM-5 launcher offers infantry with long-range suppressive fire and counter-battery fire on a mobile chassis. The Hoplite is durable, with an impressive eleven and a half tons of armor that allow it to withstand withering fire in order to protect Star League infantry, but its ability to combat enemy ‘Mechs is somewhat lacking. 

Although the LB 10-X is a reliable weapon, its limited ammunition and lack of secondary weapons make it vulnerable should the autocannon become disabled. The LRM-5 launcher is sufficient to support infantry, but most ‘Mechs will find it a minor nuisance at worst. The Hoplite can take serious punishment, but its inability to return that punishment ultimately makes it vulnerable in the modern battlefield.

Back in its heyday, however, the Hoplite was a popular machine. Part of that was due to the simplicity of the design: without arms, pilots didn’t have to learn how to control upper limbs, and with a curiously high number of heatsinks–16, in fact–pilots also didn’t have to worry about heat build-up. The Hoplite could fire all of its weapons until its ammo bins ran dry while running over a volcanically active mudflat and never have to worry about spiking its heat gauge. Combined with its massive armor and simple weapons loadout, Star League MechWarriors often considered Hoplite pilots just a step above tankers.

Star League generals, however, loved the Hoplite. It was a cheap, no-nonsense machine that was ideal for bolstering forces and filling out billet slots. The SLDF eventually came to possess thousands of the dependable machines, and many examples could be found in Alexander Kerensky‘s forces prior to their flight from the Inner Sphere. In fact, the design was so common during the Star League era that Wolf’s Dragoons thought it would be an innocuous design that wouldn’t arouse suspicion during its mission to spy on the Great Houses. Little did they know that the Hoplite had actually died out during the Succession Wars precisely because of its popularity with military leaders.

Hop-4bb Hoplite

The only notable variant was the HOP-4B, which replaced the AC/10 with a PPC and upgraded the LRM-5 to an LRM-15. This gave the ‘Mech better long-range engagement and improved firepower. A Star League “Royal” variant of the HOP-4B was also produced, adding Artemis IV tracing to the LRM launcher, Guardian ECM, CASE, double heat sinks, and an anti-missile system

The Hoplite would once again become a dying breed after Wolf’s Dragoons cut ties with the Clan Homeworlds in 3020. By the Jihad era, the Hoplite was again facing extinction, both due to a lack of factories creating replacement parts and due to the fact the Hoplite had long been outclassed by more contemporary designs. Even during the Star League era, ‘Mechs like the Griffin, Shadow Hawk, and Wolverine offered similar firepower with far greater mobility, and most skilled generals knew that mobility was the key to winning conflicts. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Land-Air Mechs

Land-Air 'Mechs

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

“Alright, here’s the deal,” Major Sheffield began. He then pointed at Sergeant Donaldson. “You get in the front seat, and you,” Sheffield pointed to the SLDF navy pilot he knew as Lieutenant Barber, “get in the back seat.”

The two SLDF service members looked first at each other and then at the monstrosity before them. It looked like an aerospace fighter had crashed into a ‘Mech and somehow fused the two together. It was a grotesque abomination of all things both pilot and MechWarrior considered holy, and it didn’t exactly motivate either to comply with the Major’s orders.

“With respect sir, just who exactly is going to be in control of that… thing?”

“Great question, Donaldson,” Sheffield replied with a smirk. “You both are. On the ground, Donaldson is in charge. In the air, Barber takes the yoke. Or stick–I’m not sure what you spacers call the thing.”

“Yoke is technically correct, sir,” Barber replied, stone-faced.

“The idea here is to cut down on the training required for Land-Air ‘Mech pilots by simply having both MechWarrior and pilot in a dual cockpit arrangement. If these tests go well, it could usher in a new age of cooperation between SLDF services.”

Sheffield’s pitch sounded like it had come straight from the bureaucratic number crunchers at SLDF procurement, and it did nothing to instill confidence in either of them.

“Communication will be key,” Sheffield added. “You’ll both have the authority to convert your Stinger LAM to either Air or ‘Mech mode, but you should engage targets in the mode best suited for the engagement. Now, get suited up and start blasting targets.”

The two pilots again looked at each other, looked at the Stinger, and then sighed in unison. It was the last time either Donaldson or Barber performed any task in sync. The dual cockpit test would go down as a colossal failure for the dual-cockpit LAM concept, and SLDF training footage would later include recordings of Barber and Donaldson engaged in fisticuffs over who would take control of the LAM during various stages of the test.


First Lord Michael Cameron II ruled the Star League during a time of unprecedented technological innovation. During his reign, the Star League Defense Force would produce impressive and terrifying military machines such as the Awesome BattleMech, the Cameron-class Battlecruiser, and the Gotha Aerospace Fighter. However, it was also a time of completely unmitigated spending for the Terran Hegemony‘s military industrial complex, and as such, it resulted in just as many hits as it did misses. Some of the more spectacular failures have already been discussed in this article series, but none were more costly than the unfortunate Land-Air ‘Mech.

Commissioned in 2680 by Admiral David Peterson, the intent of the Land-Air ‘Mech was to produce a unit that combined the deployment speed of an Aerospace Fighter with the versatility of a ‘Mech. An Aerospace Fighter could rapidly strike targets but its ability to support ground forces was limited. Meanwhile, the BattleMech required DropShips to deploy but once fielded were the undisputed kings of the battlefield. The Land-Air ‘Mech, or LAM, would theoretically combine the advantages of both to create a weapon that ensures the SLDF and Terran Hegemony’s military dominance for centuries to come.

At least, that’s what Admiral Peterson envisioned on paper. The reality of the Land-Air ‘Mech was far from the ideal superweapon that SLDF generals and engineers wanted.

Shadow Hawk LAM

The first company to win an SLDF contract was Allied Aerospace, which created the SHD-X1 in 2680. Based on the already proven Shadow Hawk, the SHD-X1 was a bi-modal Land-Air ‘Mech, meaning it would convert directly from BattleMech to Aerospace Fighter without any intermediate steps.

The brand-new conversion technology proved problematic in multiple ways. First, the bulky tech added five additional tons to the SHD-X1 compared to the all-‘Mech SHD-2H, but also limited the space available for the fusion engine and internal fuel tanks. Thus, the SHD-X1 was slower than the SHD-2H on land by nearly 20kph and had a greatly limited combat radius in fighter mode. Additionally, the AC/5 was replaced by an ER Large Laser and the SRM-2 was removed in favor of an internal bomb bay. Newer technologies of the era such as extra light engines, an Endo Steel chassis, and Ferro Fibrous armor all couldn’t be employed due to the LAM conversion technology’s bulk.

SLDF procurement officers were already skeptical of the new design’s limitations, but things got worse for the SHD-X1 after several test platforms were lost during public reviews in 2681 and 2682. The engineering flaws that led to these lost machines were largely solved by the time the SHD-X2 arrived in 2684, but by then the platform had already gained a reputation as a dangerously flawed design. The SLDF canceled its order, and although Allied Aerospace built 20 SHD-X2 demonstrators, the company failed to attract a single buyer.

Stinger LAM

The first viable LAM came from LexaTech Industries in 2688 with the introduction of the Stinger LAM. Ten tons heavier than the original Stinger and armed with three medium lasers, LexaTech’s design introduced the first tri-modal Land-Air ‘Mech. A third mode allowed the Stinger LAM to deploy its wings and legs simultaneously, allowing it to rapidly travel at low altitudes thanks to the ground effect. Although lacking an internal bomb bay, the Stinger LAM retained the speed of the land-based chassis and impressive Aerospace performance as well.

However, the Stinger LAM revealed several flaws shared by all Land-Air ‘Mechs. While the Stinger LAM proved that the additional bulk of the conversion technology could be accounted for, it still reduced overall payload capacity for either a pure ‘Mech or Aerospace Fighter of similar size. Being completely unable to mount weight-saving technologies such as XL engines or Endo-Steel chassis meant LAMs were often outclassed in their engagements. Land-Air ‘Mechs also proved to be quite fragile. Damage taken to the conversion technology would effectively “lock” the LAM in whichever mode it was currently deployed.

Cost was another issue. Not only did pilots require twice as much training due to the twin mandates, but LAMs themselves cost many times the price of either a single ‘Mech or Aerospace Fighter. With no lack of manpower, the armed forces of the Inner Sphere had more than enough financial incentive to simply invest in proven technologies to bolster their war machines.

Still, the Stinger LAM did at least find niche applications where it was better suited than either an Aerospace Fighter or BattleMech. The SLDF navy often deployed Stinger LAMs in operations on minor planetoids such as asteroids or comets, or against forces that were unlikely to deploy fighters or ‘Mechs of their own.

Immediately following the Stinger LAM came the Wasp LAM from Harvard Company in 2690, which found success in similar niche roles and often served alongside its predecessor. Allied Aersospace’s second attempt at a Land-Air ‘Mech, the Phoenix Hawk LAM, finally vindicated the company in 2701. With harsh lessons learned from its earlier failure with the Shadow Hawk LAM, the Pheonix Hawk LAM proved a far more capable design, retaining the original Phoenix Hawk‘s performance while adding a bomb bay and other capabilities from the conversion technology.

Although there were a few smaller success stories, the crucible of the Succession Wars proved Land-Air ‘Mechs were too costly for all-out warfare between galaxy-spanning armies. Most commanders were loathed to commit the expensive designs for fear of losing them, and with limited stores of spare parts, the destruction of most LAM factories proved to be a death knell for the innovative technology. Only LexaTech’s factory on Irece was still producing Stinger LAM components by 3025, but the Nova Cats put a stop to that after their successful invasion in 3050.

Surprisingly, Land-Air ‘Mechs had a brief renaissance courtesy of the Word of Blake. During the Jihad, Blakist forces unveiled the Yurei, Pwwka, and Waneta LAMs based on its Spectral Series of OmniFighters. By this era, Clan-spec weapons and double heatsinks weren’t quite enough for the three Wobbie LAMs to stand against more traditional ‘Mechs and Aerospace Fighters, once again limiting their use to surprise attacks against inferior foes. The conclusion of the Jihad saw all Blakist factories destroyed, ending the saga of the Land-Air ‘Mech for good.

Spectral Series LAMs

Ultimately, Land-Air ‘Mechs proved that not every new technology has a place in war. I’m sure given more time, research, and investment, Land-Air ‘Mechs could have revolutionized combat as we know it. However, time is often the resource in the shortest supply during wartime. We may yet see the LAM return once again as technological advancement returns to the Inner Sphere, but for now, Land-Air ‘Mechs are dead. May they rest in peace.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Banshee

Banshee Clown

Courtesy of EldoniousRex

“What. The. Fuck.” 

Hauptmann Müller turned to his chief technician, normally the best in the 3rd Lyran Guards, but now Müller was beginning to question his qualifications. 

“Yes, sir?”

Müller raised his arm and pointed at his Banshee’s cockpit. “What the hell is that?”

The tech sighed and shrugged. “We ran out of white paint, sir.” 

“So you thought it would be a good idea to substitute-” Müller paused to look at the pink skull that had been crudely drawn over the Banshee’s head, “-neon pink?”

“It’s all we had, sir.” 

Müller’s animated arm movements made it clear he was less than amused. “Well, scrub it off! I can’t take on the Dracs with a pink cockpit.” 

“We’re less than two hours from Vega and I’ve got the rest of the company to arm,” the tech held up a datapad to prove it. “What’s wrong with pink?” 

“It doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of hardened DCMS fighters,” Müller huffed. 

“Yeah? Well, neither does that popgun of an autocannon you got there,” the tech quipped. “Which, by the way, I gotta load up. If you’ll excuse me.” 

The chief technician left Müller staring at his ‘Mech, wondering if he still had enough time to just dump a bucket of paint thinner over the pink Banshee’s face. 


The Banshee is one of the oldest ‘Mech designs in existence thanks to a lineage that traces back to the Terran Hegemony. First produced in 2445, the original design largely attempted to mimic the Mackie in terms of firepower, using a combination of autocannon and PPC as its main armament and then backing it up with a pair of medium lasers and a single small laser. Although extremely well armored for a ‘Mech of the era, the BNC-1E Banshee was often criticized for its limited speed, even though its initial running gait matched the Mackie‘s 54kph.

By the year 2475, engineers at the Terran Hegemony decided it was time to solve the Banshee‘s single problem of low top speed. However, their solution was to replace the original engine with a massive GM 380 fusion reactor. This engine alone weighed over 40 tons and severely restricted the Banshee‘s ability to carry adequate firepower for an assault-class ‘Mech, forcing the removal of both medium lasers and a ton of AC/5 ammunition. Surprisingly, Hegemony engineers decided to retain the Banshee‘s 16 single heat sinks despite the fact there was almost no scenario in which even repeated firing of all its weapons would ever require all 16 heat sinks. 

Left with just a single PPC, an AC/5, and a small laser, the Banshee often found itself out-gunned by ‘Mechs half its size. Although adequately armored and surprisingly nimble for a 95-ton machine, the Banshee’s abject failure to deliver more ordinance than even a 50-ton Centurion forced the Terran Hegemony to relegate the 5,000 Banshees produced to provisional garrisons or training units.

Ironically, what saved the Banshee was its poor reputation for being an under-armed behemoth. The outbreak of the Succession Wars in 2786 forced House militaries to employ whatever ‘Mechs they had available, and this pushed the Banshee into active military use, although most commanders still kept it in second-line or fire-support units owing to its lack of firepower. Some forward-thinking commanders recognized one of the Banshee‘s greatest strengths lay in its massive fists, employing the Banshee as a sort of “brawler” ‘Mech to ensure better-armed allies weren’t forced into hand-to-hand combat during close-quarters assaults. Banshee MechWarriors employed in such a manner often took a page from the Atlas‘s playbook and painted their cockpits with a white skull. 

A full third of the original 5,000 Banshees produced were still in operation by the end of the Succession Wars, but even before then, engineers from various Houses attempted to rectify the Terran Hegemony’s original mistake in making the BNC-3E. The Free Worlds League first replaced the Banshee‘s AC/5 with another PPC and added back the two medium lasers in the BNC-3M, which first saw production in 2579. This solved the BNC-3E’s ammo problems with a more powerful energy weapon, but the same weapon overtaxed the Banshee‘s 16 single heat sinks.

Defiance Industries obtained the Banshee‘s design specifications and license in 3026, eventually creating the BNC-3S model. Defiance engineers felt that the Terran Hegemony had it all wrong in thinking the original Banshee was too slow, so they swapped the GM 380 for the smaller Pitban 285, dropping the chassis back down to a shambling 54kph top speed. However, the tonnage saved thanks to the smaller engine allowed Defiance to upgrade the autocannon to a larger caliber, add an entirely new PPC, four medium lasers, another small laser, and an SRM-6 missile launcher. An additional five heatsinks over the BNC-3E model keep the machine cool so long as the pilot avoids repeated alpha strikes. The BNC-3S would go on to become one of Defiance Industries’ most iconic ‘Mechs thanks to its popularity in the Lyran Armed Forces.

The BNC-3S would go on to inspire the BNC-5S following the discovery of the Helm Memory Core and its long-lost Star League technology. An XL engine allowed Defiance to bring the Banshee back to a more stately 64kph top speed while replacing the AC/10 with an even more powerful Gauss Rifle. Both PPCs were upgraded to their Extended Range counterparts, while the use of double heatsinks kept the BNC-5S far cooler than older models. 

More recent models use a Light Fusion Engine to retain at least some of the same durability as BNC-3E, while others make use of newer, harder-hitting weapons such as Heavy PPCs. The most recent model, the BNC-12S, upgrades the 5S with a Clan-tech XL engine, an Endo Steel chassis, and Clan-spec lasers. The saved weight allowed Defiance engineers to add several tons of additional armor, making it both the hardest-hitting and best-protected Banshee ever made. 

The moral of the Banshee’s story: a bad ‘Mech is eventually good, but a good ‘Mech gets deployed so often that they run out of spare parts when the factory gets destroyed.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

 

Bad ‘Mechs – Hornet

Hornet

Courtesy of EldoniousRex

It looks like an egg,” griped corporal Sumners sullenly. 

Lieutenant Garcia sighed. Losses had been heavy on Misery, and Sumners busted up Stinger had been replaced by an HNT-151 Hornet. She knew it wasn’t exactly an upgrade, but she hadn’t expected Sumners to be quite so morose about the assignment. 

“It looks like an escape pod that grew legs,” Sumners said when Garcia failed to respond. 

Garcia sighed again. “Your complaint has been noted, corporal.” 

“It looks like an angry peanut that’s trying to steal barrels of other peanuts so nobody can eat any peanuts.” 

“Sumners, I understand you had a rich and storied history with that Stinger, but you’re a soldier in Wolf’s Dragoons and you’ll pilot whatever the quartermaster damned well provides. Are we clear?” 

This minor dressing down did nothing to improve Sumners’ mood. “Yes ma’am.” 

“Good. We need everyone out there to meet the Third Ryuken regiment, and that includes you in your shiny new peanut-klepto metal egg.”

This managed to get a wry smirk from Sumners, who finally picked his head out of his hands, saluted, and trotted away from Garcia and off to the small ladder that would lead him to the Hornet’s cockpit. Now that she was looking at it, Garcia thought the Hornet really did look like an angry egg.


Following the success of the Crusader, which had gone on to become a workhorse of the SLDF, Kallon Industries started eyeing more niche defense manufacturing contracts. One of those was for an urban scout ‘Mech, a role that was becoming increasingly important in the fighting on Periphery worlds. However, Kallon’s proposal was a design that even on paper seemed ill-suited for the role. At 20 tons, with a top speed of 86 kph and armed with a single LRM-5 launcher and a medium laser, the Hornet was at best a light support unit masquerading as an urban scout. With little interest from SLDF procurement for a ‘Mech that didn’t even meet the most basic of requirements for urban combat, the initial HNT-171 Hornet variant was shelved for over two centuries.

As the Succession Wars finally began to ebb, Kallon Industries rediscovered the Hornet blueprints in the ruins of an ancient factory and decided to put the design back into production. Unfortunately, much of the advanced technologies used in the HNT-171 were no longer available, such as the Endo Steel chassis, Ferro-Fibrous armor, and anti-missile system. The downgraded HNT-151 Hornet was introduced in 2990 and sold on the open export market where it was advertised to mercenary units as a light support ‘Mech.

One of the initial buyers was Wolf’s Dragoons, which purchased a significant portion of all Hornets ever produced. There the Hornet served with distinction during the Battle of Misery, although the Hornet‘s success is perhaps best attributed to the battle acumen of Wolf’s Dragoons officers and MechWarriors than the ‘Mech itself. That said, the Hornet briefly became a favorite with the Federated Suns where it replaced ancient Stingers, Locusts, and Wasps with March Militia units. The Ceti Hussars and the Deneb Light Cavalry also equipped themselves with Hornets, but by the time of the second Star League and the FedCom Civil War, the Hornet had long been surpassed by superior designs in every role. 

Besides an almost ludicrous design that provides very little protection for the pilot, the MechWarrior suffers from the typical flaws of a light ‘Mech that sacrifices speed for a meager increase in armor and firepower. Although the extra armor allows it to withstand strikes from similarly light ‘Mechs such as the Locust or Stinger, and its LRM-5 launcher allows it to engage at distances typically reserved for much larger units, the Hornet lacks the speed to disengage when it’s confronted with a superior force. Jump jets only partially solve this issue, and commanders fielding Hornets were encouraged to use terrain wisely in order to provide a secure line of retreat for Hornet pilots. Note that this tactic didn’t save those Hornet pilots if the enemy force also had jump-capable ‘Mechs.

In an urban environment, the Hornet was at a strict disadvantage as it loses the benefit of the LRM-5’s longer range. An anti-missile system provides some additional protection from shoulder-fired missile launchers, but the closed-off spaces sometimes didn’t provide enough time for the anti-missile system to react to new threats. 

The Hornet was better employed as light support to heavier fire support ‘Mechs where it could add its long-range fire to whatever target the primary units were engaging while simultaneously defending them from return fire using their anti-missile systems. Jump jets and a medium laser provided some defense against armored infantry, but the Hornet‘s lack of arms made defending against Elementals difficult.

The Hornet did make a comeback in the later years of The Republic with the HNT-181 variant produced by Coalition Armory Inc. under license. Upgraded with an XL engine, Compact Heat Sinks, an MML-5, and a Small Re-Engineered Laser, the HNT-181 Hornet provided additional versatility without sacrificing performance, although the performance of the Hornet already left much to be desired. This cheap but modernized design was perfect for periphery militias to protect against bandits and pirates but failed to stand up against more threatening designs. 

Hornet

And finally, there’s the issue of the Hornet’s looks which were comical even for ancient Star League designs. I mean, just look at the thing. It looks like a soybean cosplaying as The Rocketeer

As always, leave a comment with your opinion of the Hornet below along with your suggestion for the next Bad ‘Mech.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Future Of MechWarrior

By now, you’ve probably heard about Microsoft’s intent to purchase Activision Blizzard, the massive publisher slash developer which produced the first MechWarrior games. This will bring the entire MechWarrior IP back under a single roof for the first time, and it’s gotten some of our hopes up for the possibility of a re-release or even a full-blown remake of MechWarrior 2. Combined with some of the other momentous news beats I’ve heard, I think it’s time we take a critical look at the future of MechWarrior.

And that future should first start with the present, which is MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. As you know, MechWarrior 5 developer Piranha Games (PGI) was purchased by Swedish games publisher EG7 in late 2020. Since then, MechWarrior 5 has been released on Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation and received two expansions in Heroes of the Inner Sphere and Legend of the Kestrel Lancers

All told, it’s been a pretty good run for MechWarrior 5, but it’s starting to sound like that run is coming to an end. In its most recent financial report (as noted by No Guts No Galaxy‘s Sean Lang), production on MechWarrior 5 is ramping down. 

“Although the community reception [of PlayStation MW5 launch] was very positive, the overall sales on PlayStation had low impact, resulting in an operating loss for the quarter,” wrote EG7. “Piranha has largely finished its development on MechWarrior 5 with limited residual effort for future maintenance. In Q4 2021, as the team further ramps down on MechWarrior 5, the plan is to fully utilize Piranha’s talented team to staff various key projects for the group such as the Lord of the Rings Online update.”

Mechwarrior 5 Dead? We don't know!
Watch this video on YouTube.

It seems pretty clear that MechWarrior 5 is staring at the end. However, all hope is not yet lost. Lang mentions in his video that he’d at least heard of a third expansion that was in development at PGI and it seemed relatively close to being released. While production might be winding down, that doesn’t mean it’s completely ceased, and this unnamed expansion might yet see the light of day. 

After that though is a big question mark. PGI still has the MechWarrior license from Microsoft until 2025, and it seems like a giant waste for a company that has spent almost a decade working on MechWarrior to suddenly drop the IP and just become a support studio for Lord of the Rings. 

At the same time, we know PGI has been hiring and there are still a few positions available on the company’s career page. It’s possible that part of PGI will be supporting LotR Online while another part continues to support the MechWarrior license. That’ll mean continued updates for MechWarrior Online and maybe--just maybe--work will begin on MechWarrior 6

One could argue that some tentative work has already begun on MechWarrior 6. As The Art of BattleTech recently reminded me, the Warden Pack for MechWarrior Online included several new cosmetics, including Elemental armored suits. Those Elemental battle armor models would be awfully handy in a future MechWarrior game about the Clans, not to mention MechWarrior Online’s vast library of Clan ‘Mechs. 

Warden Pack MWO

If there is a MechWarrior 6 coming--and this is entirely unfounded speculation, so don’t go saying this is some sort of revelation--my hope is that it features a somewhat more curated campaign. Randomized missions are all well and good and I think MechWarrior 5 has great procedurally generated maps, but what I really remember from the first two Mercenaries games was how even side missions felt like their own memorable stories. 

PGI has a lot of experience with MechWarrior and it’d be foolish to throw away the MechWarrior license without using it at least one more time before 2025. 

But What About MechWarrior Remakes? 

Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, the deal between Microsoft and Activision isn’t a sure thing. The FTC has already announced plans to review the merger and FTC chair Lina Khan has expressed growing concern about consolidation in big tech. That deal is by no means a guarantee. 

But let’s assume that the FTC doesn’t block the deal. We’ll likely see the acquisition finalize around next summer. Then, Microsoft will own every MechWarrior game produced except for PGI’s games (MechWarrior 5 and MechWarrior Online). This significantly simplifies the legal complications that are inherent in the BattleTech franchise and opens the possibility for those older MechWarrior titles to be released or even entirely remade. 

MechWarrior 2, GBL, MW2:Mercs

In January’s news report I might have made it seem like Activision was the big barrier to getting MechWarrior 2 released on something like GOG, but it’s come to my attention that’s probably not accurate. 

Activision has actually been historically more inclined to release their back catalog on services like GOG, whereas Microsoft has been reluctant to do the same because of GOG’s anti-DRM policies. That’s why you’ll see games like Dark Reign, Interstate 76, and Diablo on GOG, but you won’t find many (or any) Microsoft games. 

So why didn’t Activision release MechWarrior 2 on GOG? It’s certainly not for a lack of demand, what with MechWarrior being the second most requested franchise for the platform. I asked Trevor Longino, former head of PR and marketing at GOG, what kept the two apart. “While I was definitely an internal champion for [bringing MechWarrior to GOG], the legal problems were insurmountable,” he told me over Twitter. 

Those legal problems were likely licensing issues. Activision owned the game, sure, but Microsoft owned the MechWarrior license, and getting MechWarrior 2 rereleased would have meant royalty payments to Microsoft. That could have all been hashed out by lawyers, but in the end, the market potential for a MechWarrior 2 rerelease was probably too small for either side to bother paying lawyers to duke it out in a boardroom. 

But with Microsoft owning Activision, there’d be no need for lawyers to get involved. They’d own the license and the games--all they’d have to do is update it to work on modern hardware. 

“There are still a lot of legal hurdles remaining,” Trevor added, “but I admit if I were at GOG these days I’d be agitating for us to bring it up to our legal contacts there.”

MechWarrior 2

Here’s where we run into the second major issue with a MechWarrior remaster. Yes, Microsoft is an immensely powerful company that certainly has the resources to update its back catalog (just look at Halo and the Master Chief Collection for proof of that), but it comes down to whether or not MechWarrior would be profitable enough to bother. There’s also a technical element involved where some games are cheaper and easier to update than others. For example, MechAssault still hasn’t been updated to work on Game Pass reportedly due to some issues with getting the game engine to work on a modern Xbox

If there were a third-party developer that specialized in updating old games and was willing to assume the financial risks of doing so, then maybe we’d see those old MechWarrior games return. There are a few game studios out there that specialize in this sort of thing, but one of them stands out in my mind, and that’s Nightdive Studios.

In case you’ve never heard of them, Nightdive has made a name for bringing old but not-quote-forgotten games back from the dead. Games like System Shock, Doom 64, Turok, Powerslave, Darklands, Metal Fatigue, and Strife. Thanks to Nightdive’s proprietary tech, they’ve figured out a way to bring back these old games in a way that’s profitable. 

“We’d love to see the classic catalog make a return,” Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick told me after I reached out on Twitter. “It’s long overdue.”

But will Nightdive me the ones to do it? Kick wasn’t able to make any promises just yet. “All I can say is that with the acquisition the chances of anything happening are greatly improved.”

Still, the possibility is there. For the first time, the biggest barriers to bringing those old MechWarrior games back from the dead are gone. All it took was $70 billion and the biggest merger in video game history, but nobody said BattleTech was a cheap franchise.

Remember to keep your fingers crossed, folks. We could be heading into one of the more exciting times to be a MechWarrior fan.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Bad ‘Mechs – Nova

Nova on fire

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

They scoffed at cadet Rual when he’d requested a Nova for his Trial of Position. An older machine with a long history, Rual’s sibkin ridiculed his choice as one outclassed by most of the new OmniMechs that had joined Clan Nova Cats’ touman in recent years. The Huntsman was just as rugged and possessed a far greater and more versatile arsenal. The Shadowcat was sleeker, faster, and had greater range in most of its configurations. Even the older Stormcrow outclassed the Nova in most metrics.

Rual didn’t care. This ‘Mech had called to him. It promised glory. 

The techs had promised him much worse. The Nova had already suffered a partial containment problem from its previous MechWarrior and had warned Rual to ensure all safety protocols remained enabled. But Rual had learned from his instructors that an automatic shutdown in a true combat scenario was a death sentence. What difference was it if it came from a fusion containment breach or high-explosive shell? 

Nova

So Rual had slapped the override almost as soon as he entered the Nova’s cockpit. In its primary configuration, the Nova possessed more firepower than it could safely use, but Rual had seen in a vision the glory that all 12 ER medium lasers would bring him. If only he could line up the perfect shot…

There. His first opponent, an Adder, had just crested the hill and was pelting him with PPC fire. A strike on his left torso burrowed worryingly deep and a blast of heat alerted Rual to what was most likely even more engine damage. Rual ignored the heat and ignited his jump jets, closing to within striking range of his arsenal of lasers.

Another hit, this time on the left knee. The actuator froze, causing Rual to stumble upon hitting the ground, but he managed to keep his ancient machine upright. Finally in range, Rual brought up his left arm and fired.

Immediately the Nova’s cockpit went from a pleasant sauna to a nearby volcanic blast. Sweat poured off Rual’s neurohelmet in great rivulets, obscuring his vision and splattering on his sensor screen. The Adder had taken damage, but not enough. It still had one functional ER PPC. 

Another hit. Another wave of heat. Alarms were blaring in his cockpit, but the Adder had made a fatal mistake. It had stumbled into the center of Rual’s targeting reticle. 

The Nova raised both its arms slowly, as though reluctant to follow its pilot’s commands. All 12 extended-range lasers fired at once in a brilliant display. Two struck the Adder in the opposite arm, severing its last remaining PPC. One struck the cockpit, dazzling the instructor fighting Rual in the trial. Six melted armor all over the Adder’s torso, while several more burrowed inside and slagged the 35-ton ‘Mech’s gyro, dropping it to the ground.

The last thing Rual saw was the Adder falling backwards. The last thing Rual heard was the warning of a containing breach. Then his world became a brief flash of white, searing heat, and then nothing at all.

Nova MWO

By many measures, the Nova is not truly a bad ‘Mech. In comparison to the multitude of Inner Sphere designs that the Nova bested during the first years of the Clan Invasion, the Nova is an excellent machine that was faster, more maneuverable, and better armored than anything fielded by the House militaries. However, in comparison to contemporary Clan OmniMechs, the Nova was a deeply flawed design already well past its prime.

Production of the Nova first began in 2870, soon after the introduction of Elemental infantry in Clan Hell’s Horses. The Nova was designed specifically as an infantry support ‘Mech capable of carrying a full point of Elementals into battle thanks to special handholds that dotted the ‘Mech’s chassis. A rugged design, the Nova proved itself just two years after entering service during the campaign against the Smythe-Jewel Kindraa. Production would continue for over half a century before Clan Ghost Bear conquered Tokasha Mechworks and repurposed it to produce more modern designs. But by then the Nova had already proliferated to every major Clan in such numbers that it remained a common sight well into the 3000s and even beyond. 

Nova IlClan Recognition Guide

However, even at the time of its introduction, the Nova’s primary configuration possessed a single and often fatal flaw. Its 12 ER medium lasers produced far more heat than the design’s 18 double heat sinks could handle. So much that a Nova pilot who fires all 12 lasers at once risks immediate shutdown. If the pilot can somehow survive the heat, repeated firings can result in engine damage, and should the pilot disable the automatic safeties, the Nova’s 250 XL engine could breach in an explosion worthy of its name.

That said, there’s no denying what devastation 12 medium lasers can cause. A pilot willing to risk it all can take down vastly larger threats provided they can remain conscious in the sauna-like atmosphere of the Nova’s cockpit.

As an OmniMech, there are many other variants of the Nova that do not suffer from this catastrophic heat problem, and many smart Nova pilots avoid the primary configuration whenever and wherever possible. One could posit that the only reason the Nova still exists at all is entirely because its OmniMech heritage allows it to evolve beyond the flaws of its initial design. 

Nova TCG

After a century’s-long hiatus, the Nova once again entered production with Clan Jade Falcon in 3073. Its ubiquity led to the production of an entirely Inner Sphere version under the Black Hawk moniker, and even Clan Sea Fox produces a non-Omni version of the Nova for export purposes. However, it’s noteworthy the Sea Fox design doesn’t imitate the original’s 12 medium laser armament, and newer variants similarly avoid overloading the Nova’s limited heat capacity.

I think this is the most controversial choice of a bad ‘Mech so far, but there are honestly very few truly bad Clan designs. But out of the Clan OmniMechs, the Nova is easily the least impressive and has largely been matched or surpassed by even modern Inner Sphere designs.

We got plenty of bad Inner Sphere ‘Mechs in the pipeline, but bad Clan ‘Mechs are harder to find. List your favorites in the comments below and I’ll add ’em to the list.

And until next time, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Bad ‘Mechs – Charger

courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Gunjin Hataka gently wrapped the headband around his head as he knelt before a single candle and a burning stick of incense. He knew that this could very well be his last day alive, so he savored the sensations as he meditated on the nature of bushido. Of being a warrior.

And also why he was cursed with the regiment’s only remaining Charger

Technically, it was a promotion of sorts. He was now piloting the heaviest ‘Mech in his lance, almost double the weight of his Chu-i’s Phoenix Hawk. A proud Combine design that had served with distinction throughout the Succession Wars and bore the visage of a true samurai.

But Hataka knew the truth. Although his Charger massed 80 tons, it had the same armament as a lowly Locust. Five small lasers meant he must close to perilously short-range combat in order to be even remotely effective, and at that distance, he might as well start punching with his reinforced left arm. And with so little armor protecting him, the odds of closing to that distance was vanishingly small. His new ‘Mech made almost every assignment a suicide mission.

Hataka felt like a warrior of the divine wind about to attack in a war fought many centuries before he was born. Thus, it was only appropriate he honored their memories in a similar tradition. 

After several moments, Hataka bowed low enough so the rising sun on his headband touched the floorboards. Then he stood and walked away confident he would never return.

MW5 Charger

courtesy of PGI

Of all the ‘Mechs SLDF procurement somehow approved, the Charger CGR-1A1 is perhaps its biggest mistake. By the end of the Star League, corruption was so rampant that procurement officers rubber-stamped an assault ‘Mech that had so few weapons it wouldn’t concern most light ‘Mechs if one were to encounter one on the battlefield. The ‘Mech’s massive LTV 400 engine was also so expensive that you could purchase multiple traditional scout ‘Mechs for the price of a single Charger.

3025_Charger1

And yet, through grift, graft, or grit, Wells Technologies managed to secure funding to produce an assault scout ‘Mech–a battlefield role that never existed until Wells Technologies dreamt it up. Their proposal, the Charger, was an 80-ton ‘Mech equipped with the largest engine available, so large that it actually comprised more than 60% of the ‘Mech’s total weight. Ten tons of armor meant that the Charger was more than adequately protected in its role as a scout, but this left a mere 2.5 tons left for weapons. 

Wells did the best they could, but the end result was still so pathetic that the finished machine was almost immediately ejected from the SLDF after its introduction in the year 2665. A top speed of 86 kph was only barely acceptable for a scout, and five small lasers meant that the Charger was outgunned by nearly every ‘Mech in existence. 

Nobody saw the benefit of an 80-ton scout ‘Mech that couldn’t fight, so every Charger was returned to Wells Technologies en-masse. This resulted in Wells warehousing over a thousand Chargers as the company desperately tried to find a buyer. Lucky for them, the fall of the Star League and the start of the First Succession War brought forth an eager buyer happy to take every Charger Wells had in stock and more.

CCG_Unlimited_Charger

The Draconis Combine contracted Wells for an exclusive production contract in addition to every ‘Mech they had. Chargers were then distributed throughout the DCMS to fulfill whatever role was required of them, but because of their poor armament, the Charger was most often relegated to anti-insurgency work or garrison duty in low-conflict zones. Oddly enough, this led to numerous Chargers surviving the Succession Wars where many other designs didn’t.

Still, the DCMS wasn’t entirely filled with fools, and this meant that Wells Technologies would frequently receive requests for alternate variants that emphasized firepower over mobility. Most often this meant dropping the 400-rated engine down a few steps and improving the armament by adding a large autocannon. Several variants sold to the Capellan Confederation through the Kapteyn Accords did exactly that, and the Charger gained a reputation as a fearsome assault ‘Mech on the other side of the Inner Sphere.

Back in the Combine, the Charger would eventually serve as the base chassis for the vastly-superior Hatamoto-Chi, a ‘Mech that took the Charger‘s samurai aesthetic and dialed it to an extreme that wouldn’t be matched until well after the Jihad. While developing the Hatamoto-Chi, Luthien Armor Works also used newer technologies to retool the elderly Charger, coming up with the CGR-3K model. This replaced the standard engine with an XL version which added enough room to replace the Charger‘s armament with four medium pulse lasers and an LRM-20 with Artemis IV fire control. It also gained additional mobility thanks to five jump jets. 

CCG_Counterstrike_Charger

As for Wells Technologies, they were less successful than their machine. Although the Charger was ostensibly a Combine ‘Mech and Wells Technologies was under an export restriction, the company sold Chargers on the black market illegally to recoup its costs on several other failed ventures. Combine officials eventually found out and punished Wells with enough lawsuits to push the company into insolvency. Luthien Armor Works then purchased Wells for a steal, ending the centuries-old company in 3027. 

There’s absolutely an argument to be made for the Charger as an ideal melee fighter. Its mass and barrel fist could be employed to devastating effect if a foe were foolish enough to close the distance with a Charger. But few pilots would be foolish enough to close with a Charger after recognizing its distinctive silhouette even after multiple upgrades gave the ‘Mech vastly improved firepower.

The Charger remained in production by Luthien Armor Works until the factory’s destruction during the Jihad. After that, Charger numbers finally dwindled until they eventually disappeared for good.

Consider this Sarna’s Christmas gift to you, dear readers. We’ll have one more news update before the end of the year and then it’s off to 2022.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

Christmas Urbie