MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries PC review — Solid gameplay in a repetitive, boring world

Get ready to stomp through buildings, blow things up, and get swarmed by enemies ad nauseam.

MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries Review
(Image: © Windows Central)

Launching today, December 10, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is a throwback to the days of old. Some of you may even remember MechWarrior 4: Vengeance from 2000, even if it's fleeting. From what I can recall from all those years ago, the premise here remains the same: walk around in a giant BattleMech and shoot all the things.

MechWarrior 5 takes place in the 3100's, and humanity has colonized a region of space called the Inner Sphere, but everything is in chaos, and there are constant Succession Wars between factions.

You take on the role of Commander Mason, an up-and-coming pilot who's forced onto a trail of vengeance after an attack by another mercenary company. You set out on your own path, building up your little merc group as you go.

Sounds cool, right? Who wouldn't want to travel to different star systems piloting a variety of mechs and shooting things, living that sweet, romantic mercenary life? I will say this: at first, MechWarrior 5 is a blast, and I had a ton of fun in the opening hours. However, the nostalgia and cool factor wear off rather quickly.

So how have the years treated this venerable series? Let's take a look.

Piloting a mech sure is fun

What I liked about MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

MechWarrior 5 is a long time coming, resurrecting the series after a long hiatus for its single-player games. More so than its predecessors, it actually feels like you're in the mech (not even including the VR mode). You can feel the mech shake as it stomps forward, the recoil of the big AutoCannon 20 as the massive slug booms out of the barrel, and the reactor power up when you're deploying into a mission.

This experience made me practically giddy, even after several hours, and it got even better when I started throwing lead, lasers, and missiles at enemy combatants.

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MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
Genre | Sci-fi mecha
Players | Single-player, co-op
Developer | Piranha Games
Microtransactions | No
Store | Epic Games
Launch date | December 10, 2019
Launch platform | PC
Price | $50

Besides some different ballistic, energy, and missile weaponry, MechWarrior 5 features a startling amount of mechs, each suited to different purposes. Some are scouts, fast machines that are lightly armed and armored, but good at getting around. Assault and heavy mechs take the enemy head-on, lumbering into battle with the biggest guns you can attach to them.

Seriously, there are a lot of choices here, but the game introduces new models slowly to keep you from getting overwhelmed. You'll start with the Centurion, which I mained for a few hours, but you can earn and buy more as the game progresses.

MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries Review 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries Review 4 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

If the story doesn't interest you, then hop into Instant Action. In this mode, you can choose any mission type and any of the mechs available in the game. Feel like trying the Atlas, Warhammer, or King Crab? Go for it, strike out on your own, and have some fun. Honestly, this was the part I enjoyed most.

There's also co-op, allowing you to team up with your friends and take on missions together. It's available in both the story and Instant Action modes.

More so than its predecessors, it actually feels like you're in the mech.

Overall, MechWarrior 5's gameplay is well thought out. Fighting other mechs feels gritty, forcing you to strategize to figure out the best way to take them down. Going into battle under the tonnage limit means you'll be at a disadvantage, so be sure to have a good spread of mechs to meet the challenge. You need to juggle what to bring with you, too, whether that's more ammo for your AutoCannon, additional bullets for your machine gun so that you can pelt enemies and buildings, or heat sinks to lower the risk of overheating when using energy weapons.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

When on a mission, you have to pay attention to your mech's status, your weapon range, and the enemies' spread. There's a lot to worry about, not to mention your evasive movement patterns and keeping on course. To be sure, it's not for everyone, but players who like the complexity of piloting and maintaining a mech will find a lot to love.

Boring, lifeless, and repetitive

What I disliked about MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

As much as I love reliving childhood memories with modern tools, sometimes, it's best to leave the past in the past; let it lie, so to speak. I suppose that's how I feel about MechWarrior 5. It doesn't do a whole lot to bring the series into the modern era, besides slapping on a nice coat of paint and adding complexity. Everything just feels lifeless — the NPCs don't move or really do anything. It feels like no one lives on these planets, and there are only a few biomes you'll encounter.

While I don't think anyone plays a MechWarrior game for the story, it's nonetheless disappointing to see such poor writing on display here. The campaign is predictable and boring. Dialogue is just bad in most cases, and you'll hear the same lines over and over. Paying voice actors is expensive, I realize — and not all of them give great performances — but boy, did I get tired of hearing Ryana. She'll tell you the same mission briefings over and over ad nauseum, and it's especially grating since you'll be doing the same handful of mission types repeatedly. Funnily enough, you'll also encounter recycled enemy pilots and garrison commanders.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

And that leads me to my biggest gripe with MechWarrior 5: the encroaching boredom. The gameplay, as I said, is pretty good, but it can grow dry and tiring before too long. To handle the sharp difficulty spikes, you'll need to grind missions in lower-tier areas to gain enough skill points and funds to take on upper-level tasks and quests. You'll go through a staggering amount of money just traveling to new star systems and repairing your mechs after a battle. Not to mention the real-world time it takes to sit through loading screens, which come complete with frame drops and, once again, repetition.

The game flow goes a little like this: find your favorite type of mission (mine is Demolition), travel to it, negotiate bonuses, complete it, go to the nearest Industrial Hub to make sure you get the best prices for mech repairs and replacement parts, then go back to the same system to take on a new contract. Once you have several million C-Bills (the game's currency), buy an upgraded mech. Grab a story mission or two when you think you're ready. Repeat that for hours on end, and you can see why I ended up begging to play something else.

MechWarrior 5 ended up being a forgettable, repetitive experience.

MechWarrior 5's balance and AI still need some tuning, despite some patches during my review period. Your friendly AI pilots are just plain stupid most of the time, though they have now learned to break formation. In battle, they used to stick right by you, often getting in your way, or shooting you instead of the enemy. You can order them to do basic things like attack your target, go to a specified location, form up, or cease-fire.

Now they fan out and try to take on enemy mechs, tanks, and VTOLs on their own, which often leads to them getting wrecked and you getting stuck with a massive repair bill. Not to mention them being out of commission for months of in-game time or getting themselves killed. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Even when you're heading to the evac point to end the mission, these idiots will still be dinking around with the huge swarm of enemies and getting themselves ruined. Even ordering them to form up doesn't help all that much since they're still getting pelted while trying to catch up to you.

All I can say is if you're going to play this game, max out the damage insurance payout when you're negotiating a contract, assuming you survive and complete the mission. Otherwise, reload to an autosave point from before you started the contract, and either try again or do something else. It just gets so dull, fighting the same things over and over for little reward.

Wrapping up

Should you buy MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries?

Unless you really, really like the BattleTech universe, or want to spend $50 to pilot a mech for a few hours, then probably not.

I think the heyday for MechWarrior has come and gone. There are just far better mech games out there than Mercenaries these days; Titanfall 2 comes to mind. Or even BattleTech itself, from Hairbrained Schemes.

MechWarrior 5 definitely has some positive elements, especially if you simply love mechs regardless of any rough edges. I can't say I could personally buy or recommend this game and feel good about it. I would put it down after a couple of hours and probably pick it up once every few years to re-experience piloting a mech.

The old MechWarrior games are classics, for sure, and Mercenaries could have been a truly solid entry. However, it ended up being a forgettable, repetitive experience complete with a grind that had little payoff.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is a long-time gamer and PC hardware enthusiast. From the mid-90s on, he has constantly tinkered with computers and played every game he could get his hands on. Coming from a varied background, he found his passion in writing about Android in 2016, which also launched his writing career not long after. Now, Jordan is an avid gamer who just loves sitting down with tea or a glass of cold water to play whatever game has his attention (or he's reviewing), and he's lucky enough to make a living out of doing so. You can find him on Twitter if you want to chat: @jccpalmer.