MWO is about to get its biggest update to date.
MechWarrior Online has grown massively in the five years since its initial launch. Developer Piranha Games tells me it has roughly quadrupled in size, now at over 100 unique mechs and over 1000 different variants, and tomorrow it’s getting its biggest update to date.
The Solaris update will bring in a whole host of changes to the game, but the main course is the Solaris 7 arena. Solaris 7 offers brand new 1v1 and 2v2 competitive modes, the first time MWO has had combat on such an intimate scale. It will have its own maps, leaderboards, and matchmaking rating called SSR, all injected with the flavor of the MechWarrior universe’s most famous gladiatorial setting.
Check out this brand new teaser for tomorrow’s update.
Piranha considers the Solaris update as something of a relaunch for MechWarrior Online, and it shows. All the modes people know and love will still be there, but the Solaris 7 arena feels like something wholly its own rather than just another game mode, with its own dedicated section in the menu. And that new starting point makes me more interested than ever to jump in.
The fantasy of starting fresh from bottom of the ladder and fighting your way to top is an excitingly accessible one.
Players are immediately given a non-customizable loaner mech for each of Solaris’ seven divisions, which break MWO’s massive mech roster into discreet tiers based on competitive strength. That means you don’t have to already own a mech to compete, and you’ll at least be on slightly more even footing than if you didn’t know the difference between any of the mechs. That fantasy of starting from bottom of the ladder and fighting for money and experience to make your way to top is an exciting and accessible one.
But for the MechWarrior veterans out there, they’ll be able to dive in with their decked out war machines and fight in quick and dirty duels where min-maxing your loadout and carefully planning your strategy can be the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, Solaris is opening up even more options for customization, adding ‘bolt-ons’ that let you strap horns, shoulder pads, and even giant metal wings to your mechs for an extra cosmetic flair.
You start your career by picking between one of three patrons, each of which will offer you a boost to a different reward earned from your fights. If you manage to raise your SSR enough in a single day, you’ll also start attracting sponsors that boost those gains even further, but losing too much will send those sponsors heading for greener pastures. All the sponsors are named after recognizable corporations from MechWarrior lore as well, adding a ton of flavor to what is ostensibly a dressed up win streak mechanic.
Want more giant mechs? Check out this new preview of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries’ explosive destruction systems.
Another first for MWO is being able to publicly spectate games. Everything about how Solaris plays is built into the story behind it, and Piranha have strived to really make it feel like the gladiator games it is supposed to be. So what better way to express that then being able to watch random competitors at the top of the ladder duke it out?
It’s hard to predict how popular Solaris will end up being with a playerbase more used to clan warfare and coordinated team play, but Piranha has high hopes. MechWarrior Online has come a very long way from our review in 2013, but this huge update has been designed to be understandable and accessible, making this a pretty exciting time to consider jumping in.
For more giant robots, be sure to check out our new first look at the destructibility in MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.
Tom Marks is IGN’s PC Editor and pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.