When it comes to gaming, the biggest science fiction franchise of all time isn’t Starcraft or Halo or any of a dozen other titles you’d probably name first. Instead, above all those more modern names, somewhere near the top of the pile in the category of longest running, is MechWarrior, though it’s been awhile since we’ve heard much from it.
Online gamers have been battling it out in MechWarrior mechs since the early days of America Online and dial up modems (and before that with tabletop games), and while the franchise has been on a bit of a hiatus since they attempted to take it from the world of PC’s on to the Xbox, it’s about to return with a vengeance. Better still, this time they’re going about it the right way, by ditching the console experience and putting it back on your computer for online, mech on mech action.
Infinite Game Publishing and Piranha Games have announced that they’re turning MechWarrior into an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online). The game has never actually been an MMO before, but even in the days when it was only a shooter, players organized themselves into clans and teams and carried the game outside the simple death matches to create an entire world and culture around the MechWarrior experience. Turning it into MMO is such a natural direction for them to take it, it’s a wonder that no one thought of it before now.
The new game, titled MechWarrior Online will allow players to join one of five great Mech houses, and from there get down to the nitty gritty of mech customization which was always the real backbone of MechWarrior gaming back in its heyday. Do you load up a little Raven with flamers and speed, attempting to burn away your opponents while also running the risk of blowing up, or should you choose a Sunder and stack it with long range missles in an attempt to blast your enemy to smithereens long before he can touch you with his lasers? The possibilities and strategies are endless, and that brainy exercise of twitch gaming death and destruction makes MechWarrior uniquely worthwhile.
Better still if you can at last do it as part of a fully realized, sci-fi world. MechWarrior takes place in a distant future where man has colonized much of the galaxy, fractured into competing empires, which subsequently go to war with each other. Those galactic battles take place with ships in space, and with huge, complicated battle mechs on land. There’s a massive mythology around all of it, though you probably won’t need to know any of it to play the game, it’s worth picking up a couple of MechWarrior novels on a whim. Some of them are actually really good.
Mechwarrior Online is set for release in late 2012. You can reserve your pilot name right now by visiting the official site here. I’ve already locked in my old school, Mechwarrior battle moniker. Hobbit’s back and he’s coming for you. Somebody warn my wife, this is probably going to ruin my life.