The state of brawling

Note: This is an answer to a Reddit thread titled "Bringing back the Mad Dog".

Do not go gently into the light (image source: Lordred)
I don't think much action is needed for the MDD or that it needs "saving". Due to its 6 missile hardpoints in the torsos and plus the ability to bring 5 lasers in its arms, it's one of the 'Mechs with the highest alpha potential without sacrificing much survivability or mobility. You can two-shot almost every 'Mech in this game, provided you don't get blown to bits while closing in.

I think the biggest problem with it is that brawling and short range fighting is still one of the least rewarding and hardest to pull off gamestyles in this game. Yes, if you're one of those masochists who took their time to master positioning, hitboxes, SRM flight time for hundreds of matches with the brawlers, you can usually do as well if not better than the best guys in your team and occasionally just wipe the floor with the enemy team. However it doesn't change the fact that simply taking an HBR with ERML+Gauss is requires less effort, skill and luck factor to do well with. The hitboxes of the MDD are just the icing on the cake.

In order to make pure-bred brawlers/SRM strikers effective and therefore to make at least half of this 'Mechs in this game actually viable, something about brawling needs to be done instead. You can band-aid individual 'Mechs with quirks but the problem will still be there. Why bother taking a short range loadout when everyone runs with ERML+Gauss/ (ER)PPC+Gauss that can seriously cripple you with just a single alpha and most maps favor ranged "trench warfare" style battles? People are even screaming for Atlas armor buffs because the poor thing is currently nothing but an easy damage farm for better teams.

I hate power creep, but it was PGI's choice to introduce Clan tech and then ridiculously buff some IS 'Mechs to or above that level. Though, in order to make these kinds of 'Mechs more viable, something needs to be done. Here's a few ideas:

  • Buff SRMs. Seriously, buff them. SRMs are the staple of brawling builds. An SRM boat in your face should be freaking scary. Getting the jump on anyone or entire teams with brawlers is hard work (depending on the map) and should be rewarded accordingly. Currently, laser vomits (with Gausses) and most of the dual Gauss 'Mechs can comfortably keep up with the damage department with the brawlers. Brawlers have to wade through a bukkake of lasers and Gausses to get to their targets, reward them for doing so. I'd first significantly increase the SRM speed, so that it'd be actually effective all the way out to 270m against all targets (lights and mediums too) rather than the current 50-100m "no-escape-zone". After that I'd look into spread reduction(non-artemis SRM4/6's are ridiculous, especially the Clan ones) and lastly damage buffs. Maybe we'd start seeing some Commandos afterwards.
  • Very unpopular opinion: Bring problematic weapons in-line with the rest. I'm looking at the ERML here, it's such a Swiss-Knife of a weapon with little drawbacks that impacts the game balance in a negative way. Pretty much every clan 'Mechs brings 3-5 of these and 4-5xMLs are perfectly capable of disposing of an SRM brawler at close ranges. Long range weapons should be costly in tonnage (LLs and LPLs). When you have a 1 ton weapon doing the same work, it breaks a lot of things. For starters either reduce the range significantly or nerf the damage back to 5. Unfortunately with the introduction of the Clan lasers, PGI redefined the ranges in this game as close range under 405m, mid-range under 600m and long range over 800m. This screwed up the brawlers with effective weapon range ~100-200m incredibly. Clan Gauss is also another straight upgrade over the IS one that is cheap to bring, introduce a significant downside for it. It saves 3 tons over the IS one with the same stats after all. Brawlers sacrifice a lot of things for their loadout, punish other gamestyles as well for their choice and make sure there are no weaponry which does everything with little downsides.
  • Band-aids for brawlers. I hate it, but it must be done. Most of the pure-bred brawlers in this game are in dire need of rescaling, heat-reduction quirks, hitbox fixes or extra armor. The brawlander for example is simply a pressure cooker due to it being unable to cool itself properly. The Centurion is just a shadow of its former glory due to a massive nerf to its hitboxes (and the resulting CT heaviness), the Vindicator is so chubby that it just melts under fire. The Orion can overcome most of these problems, but it simply lacks the mobility to defend itself and needs more protection (armor). The JJ heat hurt the brawlers much more than it did poptarts.
  • These are just stuff off the top of my head. As long as PGI still pretends the balance in this game is "satisfactory" while disgregarding how some weapon systems and 'Mechs are suffering, these types of 'Mechs will always feel underwhelming and inferior.
I'm hopeful for the next supposedly massive balance pass but given how PGI is still secretive about it, I'm expecting yet another failure that will only reward a very narrow spectrum of weapon choices and playstyles.
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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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