MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries free update could be a big improvement

When MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Released in 2019, it was a deeply flawed game, and largely still is. But the developers at Piranha Games have been relentless in applying new updates to improve the situation. The next attempt, announced Thursday, is a free update launching on September 23 that could allow players to avoid one of the game’s biggest glitches.

MechWarrior 5 focuses on the spear, a formation of four heavily armed righting robots called Mechs. In multiplayer, you can make other humans your three spear mates, but in single player, the rest of your team is controlled by the AI. At launch, that AI was dangerously stupid. As in, “protect people who live in an apartment building by charging through said apartment building” stupid. The situation has improved a bit, but the system for giving orders in the game is still lacking in nuances.

Once a mission begins, you only have four options to command your AI-controlled spearmates. You can tell them to go somewhere and you can tell them to stay where they are. You can have them follow you or you can have them attack your current target.

That is all.

It’s a bit like sending a US Air Force fighter pilot on a mission on a billion dollar plane and telling them to get it back on the fly. As a result, I find there is a lot more damage than necessary, both to my hard-won collection of restored Mechs and to the targets we’re trying to protect. Focusing fire on the enemy, using the different range weapons mounted on all of my Mechs, is basically a game of chance.

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An aerial view of a pitched battle in a big, shiny, futuristic city.  The buildings stretch to the horizon.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries you are getting two new biomes with your paid expansion. They include megacities, like this one.
Image: Piranha Games

With the September 23 update, Piranha will add the ability to switch between Mechs on the fly. That will allow the player to take control of each of their three spear partners in turn, and then return to their personal Mech when they are done playing. That should make setting up ambushes and using long-range weapons much more effective than it is now.

Piranha is also adding close combat. Long a fixture of the board game, it’s a welcome addition to this digital iteration.

Along with the free update that all players will receive, Piranha is releasing a story-focused expansion titled Legend of the Kestrel Lancers. The announcement was scheduled for the first day of Gen Con, the nation’s largest board game convention. It’s poetic, as the expansion focuses on one of the board game’s most evocative chapters, and one of Gen Con’s greatest stunts.

In 1988, the then owners of the FASA franchise arranged a wedding at Gen Con for fictional characters Melissa Arthur Steiner and Hanse Davion. The union would unite the Lyran Commonwealth and House Davion, creating a new superpower. They even brought cake. From our 2017 retrospective:

An original copy of the wedding invitation delivered at Gen Con 21 in 1988.
Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon

It was at that moment that the groom gave his bride the gift from the neighboring empire. His invasion fleet was already on its way, falling from orbit on dozens of worlds with blazing weapons.

“Everyone in the audience looks under the cake,” said Jordan Weisman, co-creator of the BattleTech and MechWarrior franchises. “There on the plate are all the planets that are being invaded while they are there.”

An epic tournament followed, in which players in the audience were pulled from their seats to fight fictional battles that would become fodder for the next round of novels and game supplements.

Legend of the Kestrel Lancers will tell a story from that same fictional period, known as the Fourth War of Succession. That means starting from MechWarrior 5existing sandbox-style structure. It will include 14 missions and seven missions, with large-scale conflicts organized on handcrafted battlefields.

Both the free update and paid DLC will launch simultaneously on Windows PC, via Steam, GoG, and the Epic Games Store, along with versions for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. More details can be found at the official website, although Piranha did not announce the price of Legend of the Kestrel Lancers Thursday.