MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries – Heroes from the Inner Sphere Review

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries had a bit of a tumultuous launch back in December of 2022. Though some critics loved it, such as myself, the game’s various failings did little to assuage the concerns of an already skeptical fanbase. From the wonky A.I., problematic spawn logic, lackluster story, and overall performance issues it’s hard to fault the MechWarrior community for begrudgingly adopting MechWarrior 5.

Fast-forward over a year and a-half later to today. After a preliminary delay for further polish and to get free from the clear way of CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077, the first DLC for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has dropped – Heroes from the Inner Sphere. If you want the boilerplate assessment, well, it’s certainly motivated me to reflect back on my small initial review.

To be blunt: I clearly scored MechWarrior 5 too highly at launch (if perhaps by half a star approximately), because Heroes from the Inner Sphere is precisely the way the giant robot stomping and thrashing simulator must have deployed.

The MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries – Heroes from the Inner Sphere update benefits all pilots.

Before I even enter into what Heroes from the Inner Sphere increases the game, I wish to address exactly what the accompanying patch fixed, since the changes affect both the DLC and also the base game. First and foremost, the whole economy continues to be rebalanced for the better. In MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, players tour concerning the Inner Sphere taking on odd jobs to gather C-Bills, salvage, and reputation. While rep was a flat reward, C-Bills and salvage shares earned inside a mission might be increased via Negotiation points. The higher your reputation with a faction the greater points you'd to enhance your potential payout and haul.

The balance was a bit off, though. See, you might negotiate an insurance payout that will cover BattleMech damage, but it’d cost an immense quantity of suggests absorb the weighty costs tied to heavier mechs. That, and also the initial allotment of accessible points was meager at the beginning of the game. This made it hard for players to maintain stocks of weapons and mechs in early stages, and in the late game it resulted in players having to prioritize insurance over anything else.

Thankfully, Piranha have boosted not only the number of reputation points earned via faction reputation increases, but have also increased the amount of damage each pip of negotiation in insurance covers. This paired with the sweeping changes designed to the in-game shops and economy allow players to more freely opt for increased salvage shares and a larger payday without fretting over whether they can repair and replenish their BattleMechs or not.

The second substantial quality-of-life change in the Heroes from the Inner Sphere patch finally made it so enemies no longer (or at least rarely) spawn directly on your ass. Previously, enemy vehicles and mechs would certainly generate from nothing in your flank. Naturally, this meant increased damage and higher repair bills (which fed in to the insurance problem). It didn’t feel very realistic either. Mods did ultimately address the spawn problem, but as of the Heroes from the Inner Sphere patch they’re no more a mandatory install.

Smaller changes important to note are overall improvements to both friendly and enemy A.I., an over-all performance uplift, a much better intro cinematic, a lore-friendly and simple to parse news feed, improved music, various new weather effects that impact gameplay, and little tweaks to the control settings. Even without owning Heroes from the Inner Sphere, anyone picking up MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries today is grabbing a substantially better game than the one that dropped in 2022.

Seeing as MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries makes the jump to console and is on the Xbox Game Pass I’m pretty confident the number of first time pilots is quite high. The Heroes from the Inner Sphere DLC isn’t include in Game Pass (that is pretty standard for DLC around the service), however the quality-of-life patch that went live alongside the development does make sure the greenhorns are in for a better initial experience than those people who jumped into MechWarrior 5 on Day 1. Oh, and the game is on Steam now, so those PC fans available adverse to purchasing games around the Epic Games Store can finally partake in the rampant robot destruction.

As for console, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries runs well around the Xbox Series X, but performance isn’t entirely perfect. While the Heroes of the Inner Sphere patch did improve overall frame-rates and stability on PC, the ray tracing setting still incurs far too heavy a performance penalty to merit enabling. On Xbox Series X, however, it appears ray tracing is on, and while the main harbour runs mostly at 60 frames-per-second, drops are not uncommon when near explosions, and the first-person Mech Bay struggles to maintain a coherent frame-rate.

But, that last bit is easily ignored beyond MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries’ stupid “speak with Fahad/Ryana” objectives. The sport plays well on the controller too, though experienced pilots may wish to disable the throttle decay that’s enabled automatically, and can wish to tweak the aim-assist to best fit their preferred weapon types. All said, the Xbox port is fairly solid around the Series X, though I've browse the Series S and One versions aren't entirely optimal. I can’t talk to their states personally, but if you somehow possess a Series X I recommend the main harbour.

Heroes from the Inner Sphere is the best method to play MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Now, to the true star of the review: the very first MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries DLC itself, Heroes of the Inner Sphere. In a nutshell, it’s awesome. The marque new addition is Career Mode, that is far, far better than the campaign. I mean, the campaign isn’t actually all that bad from the gameplay perspective, and it’s a good option for greenhorns to begin. But, the open sandbox nature of Career mode is just superior, and that’s before factoring in the new Cantina missions and mech upgrades.

In Career Mode pilots can pick certainly one of six houses to start, each using their own starting lance and beginning sector of the Inner Sphere. From there they’re liberated to undertake missions because they see fit. Pilots still need to grind up their mercenary company’s rank, recruit and level pilots, and purchase better mechs and equipment, but they’re now liberated to achieve this at their own pace.

In accessory for the more sandbox approach, Heroes from the Inner Sphere adds 7 new Hero mechs, 7 new BattleMech chassis, 50 new mech variants, a a handful of new weapons and equipment (like the 360-degree BAP radar and Chemical Lasers). There’s even a new “extra solar” moon biome and mission-type called “Beachhead.” Both of them are incredible in their own right, with the solar moon biome possessing one of my personal favorite skyboxes in recent memory. Beachhead is a multi-objective mission that’ll test your mech piloting skills and is perhaps one of MechWarrior 5’s most satisfying experiences.

Atop all of that are the new Cantina side missions that feed into the added Career Jobs. You will find five Jobs total, each with ten upgrades that may be unlocked by completing those fancy Cantina side missions. These additional objectives help liven up the gameplay loop in MechWarrior 5, even when they aren’t the most creative tasks available. Knowing I have to acquire and switch in a Commando mech, for instance, meant I actually used mission intel to scout out how to locate one, and I made sure I was properly equipped to leg the bastard to higher increase my odds of salvaging one.

The Career Job upgrades themselves seem small at first, but their bonuses are additive. So, while one or two upgrades may not seem everything impactful initially, installing a whole group of them on the mech can change an average chassis into an absurdly deadly powerhouse. These upgrades are not cheap to install however, however they do offer pilots an additional method to specialize and enhance their favorite mechs outside the standard Mech Lab. Both systems provide pilots engaging long-term goals to pursue, which in turn lends the greater open-ended sandbox approach in Career mode some appreciated focus.

The Verdict

All of the new additions and more sandbox Career Mode arguable make Heroes of the Inner Sphere the best way to play MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. The new mode allows pilots to forge their own path within the embattled Inner Sphere, while the Cantina missions and Job upgrades provide enticing long-term goals. All the other tweaks, changes, and adjustments made in both quality-of-life patch and DLC itself are merely compelling bonuses.

I still have some minor grumbles. The UI remains flat and I’d like an in-game choice to center my radar (and also the capability to disable the D-Pad element on Xbox). I still would like to visit a way to carry some progression over from coop play (although the inclusion of crossplay is an objective win). Hell, even a proper Quickplay queue could be amazing. Yet, those are small complaints now, thanks to Heroes of the Inner Sphere addressing most of my major gripes from MechWarrior 5’s launch. On both PC and Xbox, Heroes from the Inner Sphere may be worth every C-Bill.

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