Banshee review, a tale of castles and guns

Deal with it
95 tons, a silhouette like a brick, looking perhaps to similar to other mechs. At first, I wasn't impressed by its appearance which seemed to be a weird mix of the Shadowhawk and Kintaro. It turned out to be an overreaction my part when I read its profile and saw that it's "supposed" to be looking this way. As I played with it more and more, the crude looks indeed grew on me. In BT universe the Banshee is old, very old. In fact, if I read it right, it's the third successful battlemech design right after Mackie and Emperor.

Unfortunately in the BT universe the Banshee quickly fell out of favor when it became apparent that you just cannot slap a huge engine on an assault and call it a day. Its puny armament of a single PPC, AC5 and SL meant that it was only useful being a turbocharged damage sponge, running around in the battlefield shouting "'tis but a scratch!" and ripping off limbs in occasional brawls. Hence it quickly fell out of favor, but the production still continued because everybody loves suicidal brawlers being the distraction.

When it comes to MWO, things are usually different than BT though. But still one wonders, does its modern reimagination share the same fate in MWO?

The Purpose

Of course, if PGI was to introduce the Banshee to MWO they had to give it some oomph so that it could stand up to some beast of mechs we already have in-game. What they did was giving the Banshee a ton of torso hardpoints, essentially making it a moving castle wall, full of weapons sticking out. However, this time they probably realized that they couldn't say "Ok this one is the ballistic mech, this one is the missile one, and this one is the laser one" as that formula is getting old with the newer releases like the Battlemaster and Shadowhawk. I'm quite impressed with what they came up with, which can be summarized as:
  • Almost exclusively torso-mounted weaponry
  • Tons of hardpoints dominated by energy hardpoints
  • High engine cap
  • Decent torso mobility
  • A mix of high and low mounted hardpoints.
  • Hero variant with arm-mounted weaponry
They didn't want something that could rival the Atlas in brawls with a balanced hardpoint layout, but something more on the lines of "Jagermech of the Assault class". A support assault that can withstand return fire while dishing out serious hurt, with some room for other roles provided the pilot can do them.
One does not simply outbrawl an Atlas

The Variants

Click here for more info on these monsters
The Banshee comes in three distinct flavors:

BNC-3E: This guy is the dakkamaster. It is unique in the sense of being the only Assault in MWO with 4B hardpoints, though PGI dodged the "AC40/2xGauss Assault" bullet by placing all of them in the same torso. The scariest you can get is with the 2xUAC5+2xAC2 combo, sporting a solid 14DPS before double-tapping. You can easily go over 20DPS with the use of E hardpoints and double-tapping, which is absolutely insane for a non-missile mech. It's basically a JM6-S mounted sideways on an assault chassis.

BNC-3M: This is the one if you want the speed. 8E hardpoints with an engine cap of 400 means that you can go for extremely cool(for MWO standards anyway) LL/PPC&ML builds with decent speed or balls to the wall with a big engine medium laser monster that handles like a fast heavy.

BNC-3S: 3S is an absolute terminator on paper. It gets additional 2 hardpoints, for a total of 10. It's also the only variant(excluding the hero) with a missile hardpoint and a hardpoint on arm. This is the variant for those who seek an all-in-one mech for all ranges. The drawback is that it's limited to a 345 rated engine maximum, but it's not a big deal when the focus is on firepower. It's also the best looking Banshee with the beefiest "weapon arm" in this game. 

BNC-LM: I have no experience with the La Malinche, but it's the Banshee variant that trades the number of hardpoints for better hardpoint location. You get to utilize the arms and get the 20 tube missile hardpoint from 3S and enjoy a better torso twist range(110 instead of 90 degrees). With hardpoints spread out all over the mech and limited number of them, this mech deviates from "Boat all the things!" mentality of standard variants and encourage larger weapon usage. It could also be potent for brawls with the superior torso twist range, but torso twist speed penalty hampers that advantage.

The Survivability

At 95 tons and 18 of those dedicated to armor, while being relatively slimmer compared to an Atlas, it indeed looks like the Banshee lives up to its bricky looks when it comes to survivability. Though when it comes to MWO, looks can be deceiving. Hitboxes and mech art/geometry make or break them and the Banshee gets its fair share of problems.

I do not have the exact hitbox localisation at hand, as they're still not available on forums and Banshees don't exist on training grounds maps yet, but I can say that they feel like Battlemasters when it comes to taking damage. Stare at your enemy and your CT is almost guaranteed to suck in all the damage. Twist and you can somewhat spread damage between your CT, ST and arms. Get randomly hit by a poptart, and the chances are your CT is hurt. It's not uncommon to have your CT cut clean if you get a bit careless. Battlemasters can usually get away with it since they're a bit more mobile and smaller, but when you're in a 95 ton Banshee it's a lot harder to pull off.

The problem exacerbated by the typical loadout of the Banshees; they require you to stare at your enemy to apply damage. 3E with AC5's and AC2's, 3M and 3S with tons of lasers and 3S with an LRM, they all require you to keep the enemy in sight for prolonged periods. Only 3E or other variants having PPC's/AC as their main weapon can somehow evade this problem. Anything else and protecting your CT becomes a serious issue. On the plus side, the arms on this thing can block some fire. Since they're mostly free of weapons, you can safely lose them without any penalty to your firepower, giving you a huge buffer.

With some luck, you can still persist on the battlefield for a long time thanks to the sheer amount of CT armor points available. You can go over 100 without compromising your back armor(and 110 by dropping to single digits), which is very respectable. Just watch out for those high-alpha mechs on the battlefield.

The Gameplay

The "flaw" I mentioned in the last part is the exact reason why I love this mech. The sheer DPS coming out of this mech is just unbearable for your enemies. Nothing can take you on in a staring contest, the Banshee will quickly core any component in no time. You are guaranteed to send anyone you engage looking for cover. Yes, you will have to expose your upper torso meanwhile but unlike the contemporary Jagermech, you have the armor to hold against any return fire. Though, not all of the variants are equal in this role.

I find the 3E the most succesful in a ranged-support role, very similar to the Jagermech. It probably has the best non-missile DPS in this game, which makes it a great choice for a suppressive fire mech. Builds like 2xAC2 and 2xAC5 can keep a whole team in cover and keep the brawlers away. This is also the variant to play if you feel like playing "whack a mole", slap 2xPPC and 3xAC5 on this and you have a 35 alpha mech, with the ability of pumping additional 30 damage in-between PPC shots. Though, if you want to make use of 4B slots you have to use a STD engine, which hampers your mobility. A lot of ballistics tonnage also means not enough slots or tonnage for heatsinks. After about two alphas, you will have to fall back to your cannons.

3M is a great mech for a mobile laser support role. It can easily fit a STD350+ engine, have a few PPC's with the rest filled with ML's and still have 21+ DHS. I've seen a few adventurous pilots running around with 8 ML's and XL400 engines with good success. Though, whatever you do, this mech is still not the "laser brawler" that we dream of. Even with 23DHS', keeping 8 energy weapons cool is simply impossible. You will have to disengage after 2-3 alphas and disappear for a while. In that sense, this variant is better used as either a long-range LL/PPC support or a short range striker that quickly dumps a huge alpha and dives into cover.

3S was the variant I highly anticipated. 10 hardpoints(8E 1B 1M) on a 95 ton mech is a mouthwatering combination. The possibility of mounting the biggest weapon of each weapon group AC20, PPC and LRM20 on top of 7ML's to back them up reeked of "win" to me. Interestingly this was the mech I struggled a lot. You just cannot use an LRM, PPC and a AC10/20, a boatload of ML's and keep your mech cool. Ignoring the missile hardpoint results in thoughts like "Maybe I'm better off in a 3E/M". Pursuing an "all-doer" role was very time and patience consuming because the the possible weapon combinations are just insane. Even including SL's and SPL's make sense in some situations, which are usually not an option on other mechs. Admittedly even after eliting this mech, I'm still searching for that "perfect" build. The main problem is heat in almost all situations, which made me realize how 1.4x DHS is limiting this mech. You have to comprimise on your energy hardpoints if you want to have something workable, and if you don't, expect to keep shutting down unexpectedly in front of the whole enemy team when you finally demand "all she's got".

Overall, this is a mech that can dish out good damage for a good 10-15 seconds before needing to disengage for a while to cool off. If your positioning and your team can allow this, then hitting good damages and a high kill count is easily doable. Because of this, I would not call this mech solo friendly.

The Builds

As I briefly touched upon in variants section, building for Banshees is tricky. A lot of hardpoints with almost half of them being energy weapons mean a very hot mech. From what I've seen, most people just ignore the 3S and 3M right after they finish their basics and go back to 3E for PPC/AC goodness. This does not mean the other variants are terrible though, they just need more effort and depend more on the team. Here's a selection of what I've been seeing and what I came up with so far:


Without a doubt, the most popular build is what is humorously called the Metalord 3xAC5 2xPPC build. It has great stopping power and can quickly drill into big mechs in the open. When it gets too hot, it can fall back to 3xAC5's while it cools off. A STD300 hardly gives it any mobility at 56.3KPH and a terrible turning radius, but the upper torso still feels responsive enough to track any mech at mid-long range. 

If you feel like just having insane DPS and making any mech foolish enough to stick their head of cover get peppered with lead, then the next build is for you. 2xUAC5 2xAC2 and 4ML will give you the control of the battlefield, while making you a primary target. The only problem is the inevitable overheat, but you still have UAC5's to fall back to. Though carrying 8 tons of ammo all over your mech is another concern.

The last build is what I personally use and have had good success with. It's a fast-ish 3E with 2xUAC5 2x MG 2xLL 2xML and an AMS for rainy days. MG's are purely there to bump up the UAC5's to shoulders, as no matter what method you use, anything you put there will default to lower ballistic slots. 2xLL give you good ammo-independent punch at range and 2xML makes a nice pair with UAC's at close range. Use MG's for celebrations.


There's so much you can do here. Either go crazy with PPC's or opt for speed with ML's, even mix them up with SL's or SPL's for fun. I settled on a very speedy and cool 3xLL 5xML build that served me well. STD370 makes this mech very responsive and it almost handles like a fast heavy. You can drop to STD350 for another DHS and AMS.

Or you say "Nope. For the old days of PPCs!" and slap on 3xPPC and 5xML. It's still relatively speedy for an Assault and kind of cool with 21DHS. But let's not deceive ourselves, there's no way in hell you're keeping this mech cool with this build. If your team is aggressive and the enemy ignores you, then the damage you can output with this build is pretty good. But if the enemy comes for you and makes you alpha repeatedly, then your damage output quickly grounds to a halt.


This is the toughest nut to crack. Do you want to use all 10 hardpoints? Good, prepare for massive cooling problems. Do you want to ignore the extra hardpoints? Then what the hell are you doing with this mech? Here starts the big struggle. I admit I haven't found a build that I can really settle on, but these should be a good base to start on.

Let's start with the "I want to be everything!" guy. This one has an ALRM20, an AC5+PPC combo and 4xML+3xSL to back them up. The ammo is plenty for both systems and the speed is on the lower end of the "bearable" spectrum; but this guy is absolutely effective at all ranges. Wait for elite before trying it out though, you really need every bit of cooling efficiency before putting this to good use.

How about we lose the LRMs and see what happens? We get 14 tons to play with, and we get to upgrade the AC5 to AC10, SL's to SPL's(well you can also take ML's), bump the engine to 340 and get an extra DHS to boot. I even crammed in an ASRM6 to use that 27th mouse button I never use. This is what I use now and it's somewhat more effective, but the next modification I would try would be removing the ASRM and getting an AC20 instead.

The Verdict/TL;DR

The Banshee is a solid addition for the Assault deck. PGI finally plugged that 95 tons gap and did a great job at making another mech feel unique. The Banshee does a good job at being a moving castle wall that packs some serious hurt, but falls a bit short in survivability. Does it make Atlases obsolete? Hell no. An Atlas will outbrawl any Banshee. Does it make Stalkers obsolete? Hell no. A Stalker will outsnipe any Banshee. Does it make Awesomes even more obsolete? Hell yes.(I had to plug that in, sorry) The torso mounted weapons demand good aim and positioning from the pilot and the mech is harder to build for thanks to numerous hardpoints. If you're a new pilot looking for your first Assault, I would suggest steering away for safer havens. Still, this is a great mech to complement any team. 

  • Insane DPS potential
  • Mostly high-mounted hardpoints
  • Decent mobility
  • Good armor
  • It's hard to spread damage
  • No arm weaponry means absymal close range performance(except LM)
  • Cooling problems when all hardpoints are utilized
  • Somewhat hard to build for
Price Range: 8,542,695 - 9,067,028 Cbills

It's not over yet!

Banshee review series on Rak's Armory:

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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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