Beginners Guide to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Introduction

Welcome to the Inner Sphere, a galaxy racked by political maneuvering and warfare fought by pilots in giant Mechs: the MechWarriors!

If you are new to the MechWarrior franchise, it’s based on the long-running tabletop and video game Battletech series. It’s got detailed lore that runs over centuries of in-game time and dozens of books. It’s not only the best giant robot simulator, it also contains a full campaign mode (several campaigns if you buy the DLC). It’s a complex game, but one that is really rewarding once you take the time to get into it. So let’s go…

Game Manual

If you haven’t played a MechWarrior game before, I strongly recommend that you read the Game Manual — you can download it here. Even if you are the kind of person who hates reading manuals, I still recommend you read this one. It’s very clear and well-written, and will help you get comfortable with the game much faster.

Controls

This game has excellent support for keyboard & mouse, gamepad controllers, and even HOTAS joysticks, so just pick the one you like best and go.

Mechs

Mechs are the giant robots that you will be piloting. They are huge, complex hulks of machinery that you will have to repair after each battle — which costs both time and money. Luckily after each battle you win you can also salvage parts from the Mechs you defeated, which you can then either use as spares for your own Mechs or sell for a profit.

In general smaller Mechs move faster but have less armor and weapons, and larger Mechs move slower but can pack in a lot of armor and big guns. Note that the faster you move, the less damage you are likely to take, so smaller Mechs can dodge a lot of bullets. In general, no matter what size your Mech is, try to keep on the move. Standing still is an invitation to get blown up.

Mechs are divided into 4 classes:

  • Light — fast and agile, not much armor, but great for spotting targets for the big mechs to shoot at or sniping enemies from behind. 20-40 tons.
  • Medium — decent armor, speed, and weapons, but still relatively cheap to buy. This is what you should concentrate on as a beginner. Get good with a Medium Mech before you think of moving up to something bigger. 40–55 tons.
  • Heavy — the standard battlefield Battlemech. Less agile than Medium Mechs, but better armor and weapons. You will find yourself piloting these a lot in a the later stages of a campaign. 60–75 tons.
  • Assault — big Mechs that are really slow but massive tanky behemoths of pain. Fun to drive, but not for beginners. 80–100 tons.

There are 3 major weapon groups:

  • Ballistic weapons (AutoCannons, Machine Guns)
  • Energy weapons (Lasers, Pulse Lasers, PPCs)
  • Missile weapons (Long Range Missiles, Short Range Missiles)

Lasers are the bread-and-butter weapon choice, and most Mechs will have at least a couple of them. They don’t take up much space, and don’t need ammo, but they can be heavy and they do produce a lot of heat.

Many people supplement Lasers with Missiles for either long range support or short range burst damage. Missiles pack a lot of punch, but their damage is spread out compared to the pinpoint damage you get with Energy weapons. You need to carry ammo for them.

Ballistic weapons are for people who like guns. Big guns. They are relatively light and don’t generate much heat, but you need to pack a lot of ammo.

Heat management is a major issue when fighting in a Mech. If you overheat, your Mech systems will shut down leaving you stranded and helpless for several seconds, which can be extremely dangerous for you. So it’s important to learn to manage your heat effectively. All weapons (particularly lasers) produce heat, as do Jump Jets. As a general rule, don’t fire all of your weapons at once — that will produce a huge heat buildup that can take a while to dissipate.

Heat is dissipated by Heat Sinks. If you are finding that the Mech you are piloting is heating up far too fast to control, you might want to add more heat sinks to it in the Mechlab. However note that each heat sink weighs 1 ton, so if you add one, you have to either reduce your amount of weapons or armor to compensate.

The amount of heat a Mech produces is also affected by the environment: fighting is a desert will mean you overheat a lot more than if you are fighting in the snow. So bear that in mind when you accept a contract: don’t take your hottest Mech to a volcano.

Contracts

You are a mercenary, which means you fight for money. Before every battle you are presented with a contract from your employer, and just like the real world, you can try to negotiate extra terms. You get a certain amount of negotiation points to spend on either upgrading the cash payout, the amount of salvage, and the damage insurance. Now many points you have to spend depends on your reputation as a mercenary, and how much your employer likes or dislikes you.

In general it’s usually worth maxing out the salvage payment, because salvage is usually worth a lot more than the cash. However if the battle looks like it might be a difficult one, consider putting some points into damage insurance to cover your ass, just in case.

Note that even if you are doing well and have lots of money in the bank, if you have a couple of big losses in a row it can really bite you in the ass, and you can find yourself losing millions of C-bills on repairs. So choose your battles wisely!

DLC

There are currently two paid DLC expansions to the game.They both add new campaign and career mode options, new Mechs, more mission types, etc. so are well worth buying, especially if you can grab them at a reduced sale price.

Note that even if you don’t have the DLC, if you are playing in co-op and the game host has the DLC installed, it will automatically unlock the DLC missions for you while you are playing in that game. So as long as one of your friends has the DLC, you will have access to it while playing with them.

Co-op

MW5 has a fairly simple but elegant co-op mode which is really fun, and in my opinion the best way to play the game. Basically one person hosts a game and can invite up to 3 other players to take the place of the AI pilots in their lance.

You can begin hosting other players once you have completed the first four missions of the main campaign in Solo mode.

To host a game, click on Co-op on the title page, select Host, and then invite other players you know. If you have the Steam version of the game, it will automatically list your Steam friends who also play MechWarrior 5, otherwise you will need to have a player’s invite code in order to add them as a Friend in-game. (Mine is 4989087663, feel free to add me). To join another player’s game, click on Co-op and then Join to see listed games you have been invited to.

Note that while playing in another player’s game you will not earn any rewards by default (a stupid decision by the game’s designers IMHO), but that can be fixed by using the Co-op Rewards Mod — see below. You should 100% install this mod right away if you play in co-op!

Mods

Although MechWarrior 5 is a great game, it’s kind of unfinished in some ways, but happily the modding community have done some great mods that really improve the experience. Unfortunately some of them have incompatibilities, especially in Co-op play, but the ones I list here I have tested extensively and work well as of the time of writing (start of 2022), so you should be safe to use them in any situation.

If you are using the Steam version of MechWarrior 5, then the Steam Workshop provides you with a quick & easy way to install mods. To make it even easier still, I have bundled several useful mods into the HT93 Mod Collection.

  1. Click on the HT93 Mod Collection link to open the Steam Workshop page.
  2. Subscribe to any of the mods listed that that you would like to install.
  3. Fire up MechWarrior 5, go to the main title page, then select MODS.
  4. Click on the checkbox to activate each of your new Mods. Then click Apply to ensure that the game knows which ones you have selected. The game will advise you to restart.
  5. After restarting, your Mods should now be fully active.

This is slightly more complicated to set up than using the Steam Workshop, but there are some absolutely essential Mods on the Nexus site that simply aren’t available on Steam (yet).

  1. Fire up MechWarrior 5, go to the main title page, then select MODS.
  2. On the MODS screen, select MANUAL INSTALL FOLDER. This will open the Windows folder where your mod folders should go.
  3. Click on one of download links given below which will take you directly to the mod on Nexus.
  4. Log in to Nexus, or if you don’t already have an account there, set one up (you can’t download without an account). Then go back to the mod page.
  5. Click on MANUAL on the Nexus mod page to start the manual download. Nexus will try to get you to pay for a faster download — ignore this and choose the free (slow) option instead.
  6. Open your Downloads folder and find the ZIP file of the Mod you just downloaded.
  7. Open the Zip file and find the folder inside.
  8. Copy the unzipped folder into the MW5 Mods folder. Make sure you copy the entire full Mod folder — you don’t need to open it first.
  9. Go back to MechWarrior 5 and press Q to refresh the MODS screen. You should see the name of your new Mod file appear.
  10. Click on the checkboxes to activate each of your new Mods. Then click Apply to ensure that the game knows which ones you have selected. The game will advise you to restart.
  11. Restart your game.
  12. After restarting, your Mods should now be fully active.
  • Unlock Co-op Tabs: enables players to see everything that’s going on while they are logged into someone else’s game in co-op mode. Only the client player needs to have this installed for it to work. Makes the co-op experience much more fun and interactive when you are playing with friends. (Available on Steam Workshop)
  • Female Protagonist with Voice-Over: it’s hard to believe that someone released a game in 2020 that doesn’t allow you to play as a woman, but they did. This mod fixes that by replacing the male protagonist’s voice and text with a female one. If you want to play a female character, install this. (Available on Steam Workshop)
  • Co-op Rewards: this mod should be considered essential for co-op play. With it installed if you play in someone else’s hosted game you get rewards for participating in missions, which are sent to your own machine and saved with your currently saved game. You absolutely should have this installed if you play co-op. If you don’t, you get zero rewards in co-op mode! Note: the host doesn’t need to install this mod — as long as you have it installed on your system it will work when you play in someone else’s game. (Not available on Steam Workshop)
  • vonBiomes: adds a multitude of beautiful new environments into the game, hugely increasing the variety of missions available to you. Consider this an essential addition to the game. Note that in very rare circumstances there may be some graphical glitches with this mod, especially in multiplayer, but it’s more than worth it for the extra features you get. If you are playing as a client in someone else’s game and you get some visual weirdness, then simply disconnect and reconnect right away, that should fix it. (Not available on Steam Workshop)
  • Star Map Mouse Over: gives you additional information about missions and facilities available at each star system as you mouse over them. Very useful and practical addition. (Not available on Steam Workshop)
  • Cockpit Glass: a simple mod that improves immersion by giving you a simulated glass windscreen in your Mech. Worth installing, it makes a surprising difference. (Not available on Steam Workshop)
  • Portrait Distortion Effect: another small mod that increases immersion by adding animated scan lines to the portraits that pop up when you receive radio messages. (Not available on Steam Workshop)

And that’s the guide! Have fun in MechWarrior 5!

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Rodney Orpheus

Rodney Orpheus

I write about music, tech, and, games. All the cool stuff the kids are doing these days.