The X-5 - The forgotten hero (A mini-review/rant/guide)

A few days ago, somebody asked about the X-5 on reddit and this was my response:

As an owner, I wouldn't recommend it. Customization options are very limited, as you have to have speed and thus a very big engine for its tonnage. The most balanced build you can have on it is 4ML+2SSRM2's, which is very hard to do impressive stuff with. You're better off with a Jenner-D. 
As I see it, only get this mech if you're a fan of Cicadas, and just have to have this mech in your collection. Don't expect this to be a money maker, you'll feel inferior to pretty much every mech you fight. Other Cicadas offer more effective builds with more variety.

Silly, as the X-5 is actually my first hero mech and it is delusively named "Money Maker". I still stand behind my comment though, this mech is truly one of the least customizable mechs I've ever owned. It is also one of the rarest mechs out there, probably coming after mechs like AWS-8V and COM-1D. Even a sight of a Pretty Baby can't be considered "rare" compared to one that of X-5. Why though?

When PGI announced the X-5, I was in-love with my Cicadas and I couldn't be happier with the announcement. A missile Cicada, in a light world dominated by streaks. If you lived through those times you'd understand, when it came to 120+ KPH world, there were Raven-3L's/COM-2D's and others. Streaks(and missiles in general) used to do ridiculous splash damage and would always hit the CT. An energy/ballistic equipped Cicada in a world without HSR simply stood no chance against the mighty 3L, if you were so unlucky to come across one.

A streak Cicada was not a challenger to the 3L/2D in this regard, as it did lack ECM, but it could still hunt other lights and was a welcome addition to the Cicada selection. So I bought it with much enthusiasm. Let's say, after few rounds I was quite disappointed with the weapon arrangement on this mech;

The missile dilemma

Only two tubes limits you to either SSRM2's or SRM2's. Yes, you can go for SRM6'es but you will have to sit there and stare at your target as you launch 3 salvos of 2 missiles. That's a big no-no for the Cicada, as you have a huge CT hitbox frontally. It's a big, squishy target and best used for hitting and running from bigger mechs. You actually do your target a favor by getting into circle fights with him. What you want is to hit and run behind cover for a while, leaving him confused and be a watchful cicada meanwhile.

SSRM2's also take a while to lock(Artemis helps a lot though) and force you to stare at your target for a good 1-2 seconds for a lock and if you want to fire more, you need to keep staring while your target throws whatever he has on you. So, if you aren't going to hunt lights exclusively and want to live long, you also don't want SSRM's in your Cicada. After the latest changes, it's not even certain those two streaks will hit a location that will hurt your enemy anyway(they randomly pick a component).

That leaves SRM2's as the only viable general choice(a big IMO of course) for using this mech towards its purpose; hitting hard and then running. Though, you can only hit so hard with 2xSRM2's for a mere 8 damage per shot that is not guaranteed to hit one component. If this mech could mount 2xSRM4's, then I would be making a much different argument here(in a very positive way). The missile hardpoints on this mech disappoint in this case.

Energy vs Engine

Then we move on to the redeeming part, the energy hardpoints. With 2E mounted on arms and 2E in torso slots, it's a very decent arrangement. Together with 2B, it is the only Cicada with arm mounted lasers and it doesn't suffer  firepower loss like the 2B when they get shot off(they tend to in Cicadas). The problem is, after filling out the missile slots and cramming in a big engine, you can't mount any other meaningful energy weapon other than 4xML's and have a decent heat efficiency(remember, E+M combos are hot). MPL's are a decent upgrade to ML's, but you just don't have the tonnage or critical slots for enough DHS's for an acceptable cooling efficiency.

The next meaningful upgrade is a pair of LL's and I must admit, they work rather well if you prefer a more ranged gameplay. The bad thing is, you have to downgrade your engine and throw out a few heatsinks if you want to keep using other hardpoints(at least missiles, otherwise why would you even buy an X-5?). With a pair of LL's at hand, this means things will get hot as soon as you find yourself in a "fight or die" situation. I consider XL300 to be the bare minimum for LL builds for the X-5. Which leaves you at 133.7 KPH with elite efficiencies.

The results

So what does this leave us with? I must admit even after 70k XP in my X-5, my builds are not optimized as I only played my X-5 on and off during last year. That being said, here are my two succesful Cicada builds that are effective for hitting and running as I described.

This stock+ build is surprisingly the most effective as I've discussed before. It gives you a balance between speed, firepower and cooling efficiency for prolonged shooting.

This is a recent find, it's a blend between the heat efficiency of the first build and the firepower of the one below. Another ton of SRM ammo has been added to make this mech the one with highest damage potential.

This one is a dual mode Cicada, 2xLL's for long range and 2xSRM2's and 2xSL's for close range with a few LL shots thrown in-between. Terrible heat efficiency means those LL shots have to be very well placed.

Making up for the negatives(Mentality of a Cicada pilot)

So, you bought this thing out of curiosity(12$ well spent), and you know it's not the best mech, but there has to be a way to have fun with it right? Yep! But not without some self-improvement.

First thing you should know is that, even though it's regarded as a "big light", you can't play it like one. Consider these things; it doesn't turn as well as other lights(4 deg/sec slower than a XL300 Jenner with XL330, makes a big difference when you're going fast), it's not as fast as other lights(except if you max the engine, which I don't recommend), it doesn't accelerate/decelerate as fast as others and most importantly it is considerably bigger/taller than 35 ton lights. Maybe jumpjets to the rescue? Tough luck.

So you can't expect to dive into a group of 5 mechs, kill that XL dude with a good alpha and make it out relatively unscratched. A Spider won't even break a sweat, a good Jenner pilot won't be troubled much. You will probably screw up your CT or at best get out with a leg hurting. Do it again and you're dead, cursing this stupid mech. It's hard say describe how exactly you should play it, but I can point on some important stuff that worked for me;

  • It may seem obvious, but you need a very stable aim going at high speed(remember what I said about not stopping?). Unlike the Jenner, that can use jumpjets to aim 6ML's perfectly in the air(which a lot of people use to good effect), ignoring terrain features, in a Cicada you're always fighting against the elevation. If you're spreading your humble payload of 4E+2M all over the enemy mech, you're just a slight annoyance for the enemy. There's no easy way of getting this, but lowering your mouse sensitivity and letting your hand do the hard work is the best way of starting. You can also plan your movement beforehand (Go uphill, track the relatively even crest while shooting and dive down again) or pick your fights on even surface. Though, you also make the things easier for your prey if you do the latter.
It's always a bumpy road for the Cicada
  • Thankfully, Cicada helps you do this easier. One thing Cicadas have going on for them is ridiculous torso twist range and speed(same with Hunchies). Not only this makes tracking enemies easier, but also allows you to do perfect drive-by's without changing your direction. This is especially very useful in city maps where directions are dictated by straight streets. With better torso twist range you can shoot during ingress, watch as your prey turns around to see who's shooting him while reloading and shoot them in the back again while making your escape in the same direction.
Dat twist

  • Plan your escape. Remember me saying Cicadas turn rather bad? If you run into a wall after a drive-by, every member of the enemy team in-range will try to shoot that big meaty Cicada. Make sure there is enough place for making your escape. I died far too many times to this.
  • Resist the urge to circle your prey. The less you expose your huge head to enemies, the more you live and the more effective you will be. Only do it if you're certain you can kill him without taking major damage. If your enemy has AC20/AC10/ERPPC's, GTFO and engage at range.
  • Your SRM2's are your cornering weapons. You take a corner, let go of 4 SRM's, annoy your enemy and disappear again before he realizes it was a Cicada. They're not super effective, but if you make the habit of taking those instantaneous opportunities, you can use up 100 SRM's in no time(which is why I tend to take 200 ammo these days).
  • If possible, engage between 200-270m. Enough range for your SRM's, but also enough range to dive into cover should something goes south. It's also the perfect range to make use of your torso twist ranges. I also noticed that SRM hit detection works better at longer ranges.
  • Keep probing the flanks, check out the enemy spawn locations, finding straggler mechs and wearing them out as they try to escape will net you a lot damage and sometimes kills. Plus, you get to keep them away from frontlines.
  • Avoid lights. Seriously, a Jenner will chew you up in no time. You exist to annoy bigger mechs, not the other way around. 
  • Never forget that you're a big meaty target that everyone will prioritize over an Atlas tearing them apart. You're an easy kill in their eyes, and in MWO easy kills are prioritizied over everything(squirrel!).

The Verdict

It's a hard mech to do good with. It requires you to compensate for its weaknesses by forcing you to play very differently. Is it worth the money though? Definitely not. You can apply the stuff I described above to a 3M and will do many times better.

If you want a hero mech that will be effective right away and well worth the money spent, or want a mech you can experiment with its build a lot, then please, stay away.

PS: If you happen to be a PGI member reading this, I beg you to increase the tube count to 5 for this mech. Enough for SRM4's but also LRM5's, giving it more versatility. A 4ML+2SRM4 Cicada can do serious damage.
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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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