The Locust - Revisited

Deal with it
It's the double XP weekend! We all know these are the times when our most-hated mechs are dusted off and leveled. It's a painful process, but if you're a collectionist like me, it must be done nevertheless. This weekend's special for me was my LCT-1E, which I bought after getting harassed by one a week ago. That guy dove into our group, lit up a few mechs and got out before anyone grasped what the hell was happening. He used his small profile and speed so well that I never had a chance to properly aim. I was really amazed by this type of gameplay, you're literally one-shot away from dying at all times.

Typical demise of a Locust
 before the hitbox fixes
When they it was first released, I found the Locust beyond horrible. I could work with limited armor and that "one-shot away from dying" thing, but their leg hitboxes were so broken that they never had a chance. They are the only mechs that I sold with frustration and had no regrets about. Just look at the video of these guys playing with Locusts to get a taste. Fast forward a few months, by some impossible chance, PGI noticed this and reduced the size of Locust's leg hitboxes in a patch. I still didn't bother as I had closed the "Locust book" for good, but PGI went ahead and released additional variants. 1E was especially very tempting among the two, with 6 arm-mounted lasers it's by far the hardest hitting Locust. At 1.5M a pop, it wasn't that expensive either. So why not give them a second chance?

First a dozen or so rounds? Absolutely brutal. I tried to play it like how I play my other lights, which didn't end well. Rushing ahead got the attention of other lights who did a quick work of my Locust. Rushing ahead will also get you peppered with missiles and believe me each time you get hit by LRMs, that's your Locust dropping 5 or 10% every time, which is a really big deal. Your legs will suffer. Rushing ahead will also get you locked by the whole other team and if you're the first target that ever popped and locked on their screen, too bad. Now, whenever you pop up again their mechs will target you instantly, you will be the prime target again.

One does not simply outsmart opponents with a Locust

It's not about "rushing ahead" though, being overeager is the number one killer of Locust pilots. Do you see a juicy Stalker side torso that is about to pop? Just go in there and pop it! Except there's a huge chance he's not alone and you will get insta-popped/legged by an AC/PPC round from a mech you didn't notice. Even in somewhat chaotic brawls people will actually stop firing at that DPS Cataphract tearing them apart and try to kill you. Why? Because they want that sweet cookie as TheB33f put it. You're an easy kill, so if they go down they might as well bring a weak Locust with them. Let's say you got lucky and caught an isolated LRM boat, but whatever defense weapons he has(MLs if you're lucky) are still very capable of killing you. They don't even need to properly aim, a few laser cuts here and there and your legs are already falling apart. I am not even talking about other lights, as soon as they see a Locust, they get kind of hypnotized and even do suicidal things to kill you. After dying dying and more dying I realized that, if you want to be useful you simply can not be noticed.

The frustration doesn't stop at survivability, it gets worse when you try to build your 1E. What do you use? MLs? They're simply too hot and soon I realized they also require a lot of time on target. That's you exposed to return fire for one whole second and counting ingress and egress, that's a lot of time to eat an AC20 to the face. SLs? Too little damage and the duration still feels long, just not enough damage per beam. SPLs? Hmm these actually feel decent, but the heat is still somewhat hard to manage. I tried many variations I've never ever contemplated on putting on my mechs, like 2xSL and 4xSPL and 2xSL 2xSPL and 2xML. Nothing felt decent.

After 37 matches in my 1E and having elited it purely solo with 1.26 K/D, here I am with the face expression of a man who survived a month of passage through a desert. I can really go into detail, but I don't want to prolong this further, so I'll just give a "lessons learned" list. Some rules apply to other lights too, but you have to be really strict about them when piloting a Locust(1E).
  • Never ever ever be the first to engage in Locust. Never be the first mech that the enemy sees, no matter how occupied they are. Learn to hold back, learn to hide. Even if your team is badly losing, hang by your group and don't stray.
  • The rule you have to stick to: only engage when the enemy is actively engaging something else. If you get aggro, disengage immediately. 
  • Never ever stop in a Locust, even when nothing is happening. Go around in circles, check the flanks without going too far try to use this time to build up your situational awareness without putting yourself in danger.
  • Never ever run in a straight line when running towards/away from your enemy. Make zig-zags, try to put something behind you and them, use the terrain elevation. Just make sure they have a hard time aiming. Sometimes depending on the map, this is unavoidable, so plan ahead. This was probably the reason of half of my deaths.
  • SPLs are life. They require little time on target, you can be in and out instantly and they dump a lot of damage(20.4) in just 0.5 seconds. Use them. You can offset the terrible range with your speed and clever usage of terrain. Divide them to 3 groups of 2's to make heat more manageable. Take coolant flush when possible. After eliting, coolant flush will hardly be necessary.
  • Seduce and lure your enemies. Your Locust is an irresistible target, use it for your advantage. Most mechs will take great risks if they think they can quickly finish you off. Lure them to your team and disengage immediately, watch them get disintegrated.
  • LRMs are your worst enemy, especially LRM boats with target decay module will be able to hit you long after you're in cover. LRMs will screw up your legs, your weakest parts. Try to identify LRM boats and their positions. Do your engagements when they're busy with a friendly mech.
  • Protect your legs! This is one of the few mechs where you can leg yourself purely by accumulating fall damage and running into mechs.
On top of these, you will need a lot of experience with MWO to make all the right decisions. You simply cannot make a mistake and get away with it. An AC20 to the leg, a Gauss shot to the CT and you're pretty much out. This may be the worst mech ever for some, but it's also a great training mech that will test your skills and instincts to their extreme. In that regard, I found them really fun to play with, especially since their legs aren't as bad as before.

How about a demonstration? This was a round where I did a pretty good job at being sneaky and following these rules. In fact, my little Locust was probably the reason of our comeback.

Here's my latest Locust build as well, it's pretty straight forward:

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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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