Anansi review — A light brawler?!

"Do I look fat with this camo?"
In a grumpy moment, I wrote this on Reddit about the Anansi after it was revealed by Smurfy:
Meh. Two ballistic hardpoints are almost useless for MGs, you need like at least three to make them worth it. For true ballistics there is just not enough tonnage. You're left with 2E 1M which means a lot of work to get decent damage and kills with. That's like Locust levels of firepower.
I wasn't completely wrong, this 'Mech truly has pathetic firepower when you compare it to famous lights like the JR-F or the Ember. Ignore the M hardpoint and it's basically a half-Ember. Though, ignore that M hardpoint, and you'll be missing one of the most fearful killers in this game.

'Mech from hell — the Spider

A quick Google search reveals some gems from the forums

Before I move on to the Anansi, let's me talk about the Spider for a moment. If you read my Kitfox review last week, you'll remember me comparing its profile to the Spider's. I concluded that the Kitfox was much bigger than a Spider, but I also mentioned that the Spider was maybe a bit small for its tonnage. Spider is a very narrow 'Mech, while also having a reasonable height(as high as a Jenner and a Kitfox). This means that this 'Mech packs a lot of armor into a small volume. On top of that, Its narrow profile means a more precise weapon lead and aim is needed to damage it. This and the fact that it has balanced hitboxes made it one of the most hated 'Mechs in MWO, especially after it was made a trial 'Mech and surged in popularity towards the end of last year. It even received the honor of a "hitbox complexity reduction" after months of Spider outrage in MWO forums, previously only achieved by the much hated Ravens. This procedure results in a sudden increase of leg fragility, but luckily Spider's treatment wasn't as severe.

Spider hitboxes. Image taken from Tamerlin's excellent Hitbox Localisation thread.

It's not only the profile that makes this 'Mech unique though, its ridiculous mobility is also another factor. With higher engines this 'Mech has amazing responsiveness(acceleration/deceleration, turn rate and torso twist) and is very hard to pursue, even with another light. Being the smallest 'Mech that can mount jumpjets, it also benefits the most from lower numbers of them. It can mount a ridiculous number of them if you're really into flying. Playing with a Spider is the closest you can get to playing a traditional FPS, it's that responsive.

However, all of this mobility and survivability advantages have to be balanced by something —and the developers chose to do that by giving it a unfavourable hardpoint layout. Not only its hardpoints are very few, they are also mounted such to ensure you're always low on firepower. 5D has the most firepower by just having 3xE hardpoints and having two of those on its arms, 5V has only 2xE in its CT and 5K has the most number of hardpoints with 4xB and 1xE(CT), but you can't do anything else other than mounting machine guns and a single laser(or maybe do the Urbanmech build).

Personally, I love the Spider. Its skill ceiling is very high because of its mobility and low firepower. You keep learning new tricks when piloting it too —outsmarting and confusing bigger 'Mechs is a lot of fun. It's almost a psychological warfare weapon.

Anansi — a little bit of everything

With these in mind, I was actually waiting for them to give us a Spider hero that did the opposite: a lot of hardpoints, but bad mobility quirks. I even pitched a suggestion which gave the Spider 7xE hardpoints. 

What we got caught me unprepared. The Anansi comes with 2xB, 2xE, B, 2xAMS, 4JJ(6 max) and a 270 engine limit. This combination triggered a lot of "OH GOD PLEASE NO" alarms in my mind. First, having three weapon systems(AMS included) which need their own ammo in a very tonnage limited 'Mech is not very desirable. It limits customization severely and forces some hardpoints to go ignored. Second, having 2xB is kind of pointless for a light. There's nothing but machine guns to put there and MG's need a lot of hardpoints to be truly effective, I'd put it at at least three. An Ember with 4xMGs is the last thing you want to see with an open component and an Arrow with 6xMGs can pop wounded 'Mechs left and right in no time.

On top of those, this 'Mech also has to mount JJs(6 maximum) —more tonnage and critical slots that have to be put aside. Then you might ask "How did the devs get away with this layout for the stock loadout?". I'm sure you'll appreciate their optimism as much as I did(be aware that Anansi is not a canon 'Mech, it's purely the creation of PGI):

Yep, they just under-armored it by two tons and called it a day —leaving it to us to find a usable combination.

I find this unusable stock loadout trend a bit disappointing. If you're going to create fictional heroes which aren't based on a lore 'Mech with set in stone specifications, why not come up with a usable stock loadout for it? If you can't come up with something decent that makes use of all hardpoints available, maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board and turn some knobs here and there.

The good stuff

If you read my articles, then you know what's coming next. I tend to put negative stuff out of the way so I can focus on what's good. So, what's good about the Anansi?

First, let's take hear the intended usage straight from the developer's mouth:

The thing is . . . this unfavourable hardpoint layout actually works, but I wouldn't call this 'Mech a "brawler" but rather an "executioner".

What makes this 'Mech amazing is that single CT mounted missile hardpoint. Ignore it, and this is the biggest waste of MC next to a Pretty Baby(pun intended); use it, and this a cold blooded killer that appears out of nowhere and grabs a bunch of kills.

Lone Stalkers are the favourite food of the Anansi.

See, when you put an SRM6 there you suddenly get something the Spiders inherently lack; a big punchy weapon, and the Spider is a great platform to make sure that punch is delivered. It's small profile and ridiculous mobility means you can easily get into position —be that behind a bigger 'Mech or facing that exposed component. It also gains that "drive-by-shooting" perk from the Commando as well, that is to dump an alpha in a split second and disappear without being noticed —leaving your opponent confused and guessing.

I found that the best way to use that SRM6 is to use it at point-blank range, hugging your opponent. This ensures that all of the damage focuses on a single location rather than spreading out all over the enemy. You can quickly but painfully kill an Assault or a slow Heavy with this manner, they just won't be able to keep up with your Spider at point blank range. It's also devastating on exposed components, do you see a Shadowhawk with a yellow CT? Come from the side without him noticing, hug that CT for a split second, dump your SRM6 and run away. With some persistence this allows you to rack up damage and kills with little risk. I'd put an SRM4 there at minimum, don't even bother with an SRM2 or an SSRM2, they're simply not effective with just a single hardpoint.

Using the same tactic, I could hold my own dogfighting other lights. Jenners are especially easy to pop with their huge CT sticking out. The tactic is simple —while dogfighting, hug that CT for a brief moment and dump your SRM and lasers. One point blank SRM6 volley and a few good laser hits are enough to core a Jenner and afterwards he's subjected to the wrath of your MGs. A light worth its salt will likely work on your legs and may succeed depending on how well they hold range, but then again you can disengage pretty much at will. Even against other lights.

Other hardpoints are much less exciting. 2xE can be best utilized by MLs and MPLs and 2xB are doomed to machine guns. Still, MG's help by annoying your opponent with plinking sounds and crits here and there, while 2xE is helpful in finishing off your opponents.

How about that dual AMS? I've tried and tried, but you just can't mount dual AMS in a meaningful manner without severely crippling this 'Mech. Endo and Ferro leaves you 13 critical slots, which are needed for five hardpoints, their ammo and jumpjets. You can drop the machine guns, but then you can only bring about one ton of AMS ammo which is quickly depleted. Dropping Ferro means you need to go below 250 engine rating and then you have to worry about additional heatsinks, cooling efficiency(in-engine DHS is better than an external one for the first 10) and speed. I tried a few of these builds, but I just cannot justify the tonnage —you run out of ammo very to quickly to random LRM streams passing by. Maybe if something magical happens and IS AMS ammo per ton is boosted to 2000 like the Clans, then it might more sense. Until then, I don't see much point in dual AMS in this 'Mech.

Overall, this 'Mech is great at killing isolated 'Mechs(any mech except AC40/Dual Gauss, I tell you), diving into groups and taking out wounded ones and being very annoying and distracting overall —just like other Spiders, but with a bite instead.

A proper camo

The camo of the Anansi isn't really over the top like the Hellslinger or flashy like the Orion or the Arrow. It looks more like a proper 'Mech camo which I find very pleasing. You can customize all three channels to your liking.

Black and white for extra stealth

A build suggestion and a demonstration

As I said, this is one those 'Mechs with one "proper" build and other less effective ones —much like the Ember. I settled on the build below:

It has the speed to keep up with (or run away from) other lights and plenty of ammo(for a light) for extended periods of fights. Possible variations revolve around the removal of MG and its ammo, freeing two tons of space. You can either use this to replace MLs with MPLs or bump the engine to an XL270. I wouldn't recommend that though, even two MGs are quite useful in close quarters. Other options are possible by comprimising the engine size and Ferro upgrade.

I also suggest a UAV module with this 'Mech. You'll often find yourself surrounded by many 'Mechs, and it helps to pop a UAV and let your team know what's going on. Plus, you might get a few of them LRM'd in the process.

8 kills secured! Skip to 2 minute mark for action.

Conclusion — Hated, but respected

You don't get this with other 'Mechs

I'm really impressed by this 'Mech, but I have to emphasize that it's not for everyone. I have a lot of experience and success running Spiders and that helped me immensely. If you're new to lights or seldomly play with them, expect a poor investment. This 'Mech is for those experienced Spider and light pilots, who possess a "spidey sense" for threats and preys and know the maps in and out. Though, if you think you have what it takes, prepare for a wild and satisfying ride.

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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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