Ok, let’s rap for a second, guys. We all know that giant robots are both large and robotic, and that, in MechWarrior Online, by PGI Games, they’re also just absolutely covered in weapons. Now, if you’ve been following this weekly column then you know that there are different sizes of ‘Mechs and that different weapons are effective at different ranges. These two facts, combined with the varying speeds your giant robots can achieve through the use of different engines means that ‘Mechs can serve a number of different roles on the battlefield.
The role of your ‘Mech is primarily determined by three factors: Size, Speed & Loadout. Since these three factors are really the only variables in MechWarrior Online that means that the previous sentence was kind of pointless. It’s ok though, keep reading, we’re gonna get to the actual meat in just a second. The important thing to know here is that your role determines your strategies and how you should pilot your ‘Mech. Know your roles and you will immediately see an improvement in your game! Well, theoretically, anyway.
Brawler: 50+ Tons, 57+ KPH, 270 – 400m Range, 40+ Firepower
This is the heavy hitter. Brawlers like to get up in your face with either a small number of very devastating weapons (AC/20s, SRM6s) or a large number of smaller weapons (9 Medium Lasers). Brawlers care less about accuracy and more about staying power. They want the biggest, meanest, most devastating Alpha Strike they can get to put their enemy down as fast as possible. They operate “up in yo face” and make you regret coming to work today. Good Brawler pilots make excellent use of cover and stay with the pack for ambush tactics. More than any other role, Brawlers have the widest variation in speed. From the CN-9A running over 100kph to the D-DC rumbling along at 57 kph, Brawlers are still terrifying opponents at short ranges.
Sniper: 60+ Tons, 57-70 kph, 700+m Range, 30+ Firepower
Snipers are probably the most efficient killing machines in MechWarrior Online. Mounting ER PPCs and Gauss Rifles, snipers are capable of bringing the pain from far off with pinpoint accuracy. They tend to stay on the group’s flanks, and up high, giving them a clear command of the battlefield, though a good sniper definitely uses cover to his advantage. Two or three good snipers are capable of pinning down an entire enemy team while the brawlers move into position. This role is entirely about accurate fire. Due to the high weight of gauss and its ammunition “Gauss Snipers” have to make every shot count. This isn’t a factor for PPC snipers, though due to the extreme heat of these weapons their firing rate tends to be much lower than the heatless gauss. This role takes on a whole new dimension when the sniper has jump jets, becoming a “Pop Tart” that hides behind cover, then rises up on its jets to take a shot before dropping back into safety.
Scout: <45 Tons, 120+ kph, Any Range, Any Firepower, ECM
Scouts are almost exclusively light ‘Mechs except for the Cicada, due to the high speed requirement and the usefulness of a small chassis. A scout uses ECM coverage to sneak forward of the main group and attempt to spot or flank the enemy. For a Scout everything is about speed, maneuverability and ECM. A scout wants be to able to see the enemy without being seen, and if spotted wants to get away as quickly as possible. Scouts don’t have the armor or the firepower for a prolonged fight, usually because so much of their weight is taken up by an engine. While they can be a real nuisance to heavier ‘Mechs in one on one fights, and a swarm of them can bring down any ‘Mech in the game, their high speed and low firepower mean they can’t usually take down anything quickly. Scouts are also the base cappers and the resource gatherers, capable of quickly darting across the map to be anywhere they’re needed at a moment’s notice.
Interceptor: <60 Tons, 100+ kph, 270m Range, Any Firepower, Streaks
The Anti-Scout, Interceptors specialize in hunting down and eliminating scout ‘Mechs before they become a problem. While there are many different kinds of interceptors on any number of chassis, the most common are fast mediums and other lights, and the universal constant is that they have Streak SRMs. Scouts are fast and hard to hit, but Streaks track and hit Scout ‘Mechs no matter how fast they’re moving. Interceptors, depending on size and speed, either stay with the pack if they’re mediums at around 100kph, or they move with the scouts if they’re 120kph+ lights.
Skirmisher: <65 Tons, 90+ kph, Any Range, 30+ Firepower
Skirmishers are probably the hardest ‘Mech role to play effectively, especially solo. They don’t do as much damage as brawlers, and they aren’t as fast as scouts or interceptors, but they excel in hit and run tactics. Many scouts take on skirmisher roles, moving into the enemy’s backline and mounting quick attacks against unprotected and unsuspecting opponents, but the dedicated skirmisher’s job is all about distraction, which requires the coordination of a four or eight pilot group drop. A skirmisher moves to the flanks of the pack and attacks enemies from the rear or side in a lightning fast, high damage attack. The skirmisher then flees, turning the enemy around. When the enemy turns, a well coordinated team can use that moment to push in and take advantage of the sudden disorganization of the enemy team. Skirmishers generally come in the form of Centurions, Hunchbacks and Dragons, though lighter ‘Mechs can often perform the role just as well.
The Boat: 65+ Tons, 40+ kph, 1000m Range, 40+ Firepower, LRMs
The missile boat is the bane of the new pilot’s existence. It seems sometimes as if, as soon as the match starts, Bitching Betty starts complaining about “Incoming Missiles” and then an unending rain of fire from the sky starts with unerring accuracy. The LRM Boat usually mounts at least 40 LRMs, if not 60 or more. Once an LRM Boat has target lock, their missiles track from a high arc and come down upon ‘Mechs with deadly accuracy, spreading damage across the entire ‘Mech rather than in the pinpoint spots of snipers. If working with Scouts, missile boats don’t even need line of sight to target lock, instead using the Scout’s target for indirect fire. Boats tend to stay far back from the group, in a position that allows them maximum cover while they wait for their teammates to provide them with targets for their missiles. The truly dangerous missile boats, however, can fight effectively from 300-500m, using direct line of sight, Artemis IV and TAG to decrease the spread and increase the speed of their missiles, hammering dozens of explosives into their enemy at ranges too close for the enemy to seek cover.