Hello MechWarriors! This Rak also known as Tahribator and today I'll be reviewing the latest addition to the IS light stable, the Wolfhound.
This Wolfhound pack was donated to me by DarthPeanut so many thanks to him for making this review possible!
Before we get to the MWO's take on the Wolfhound, let's take a look at the Wolfhound in BattleTech to get an idea of its reason for existence.
Wolfhound in BattleTech
The Wolfhound was engineered by the Lyran Commonwealth for a single purpose: to counter the fast and powerful light 'Mechs of the Draconis Combine, namely the Jenner and the Panther. The first prototype rolled out in the year of 3028 and it was quickly adopted by elite mercenary units such as Kell Hounds and Wolf's Dragoons. It was the 'Mech of choice of the legendary MechWarrior, Phelan Kell who later had his Wolfhound upgraded to a Wolfhound IIC by the Clan Wolf. The serial production began in the year of 3052, just after the battle of Tukayyid.
Its looks definitely reflect where the Lyran Engineers got their inspiration from. The main shape seems to be copied from a Panther and married with the energy boating capabilities of the Jenner. It carried a lot of armor and was also designed to be easily maintained in the battlefield by the usa of standard components.
Wolfhound in MWO
Firstly, Alex did a great job with the artwork. Its silhouette definitely resembles the Panther but it has stronger lines and a tougher look. However, when we look at the actual in-game model, it feels like it lost some of its character during the modeling. The in-game model looks a bit crude with its sharp angled lines, especially in the shoulder area. Its legs are also much skinner, which is actually good thing in terms of gameplay, but it also gives it a more fragile look.
Disregarding aesthetics, the Wolfhound has an excellent geometry in terms of gameplay. It has big arms which look perfect for absorbing damage. The whole torso is extremely small, with the whole mass concentrated in the hexagonal shape in the middle, but it has some depth that adds to the side profile. The legs are very skinny and look hard to focus.
On the scaling department the Wolfhound gets a pass as well. It's pretty much a skinnier Panther which is already a well scaled 'Mech.
Overall, its looks are decent. It doesn't have the sleek looks of the Panther and the animations are somewhat stiffer than normal, but it's not an ugly 'Mech by any means.
When we take a look at the hitboxes, you can see that PGI took their time doing them. Frontally center and side torsos are hard to focus. The Center torso is the largest over the middle hexagonal structure, but otherwise it's a thin narrow strip. The side torsos occupy the sides of the hexagonal structure but interestingly the shoulder pads also count as side torsos on the Wolfhound. Especially shoulder pad on the right side extends over the arm. Frontally everything is nice and balanced, but keep in mind that when you twist, you'll be presenting a large side torso area to your enemies. Another interesting thing is that the laser hardpoints on the sides of the center torso also count as side torsos. This helps mitigate damage to the sides.
Hardpoint PlacementThe Wolfhound is an energy boat. Each variant comes with 5 to 6 energy hardpoints which are divided between the torsos and the right arm. The left arm is unused and can be utilized as a shield arm or can be completely stripped for tonnage.
So it's just another energy boat right? And it has less hardpoints than a Firestarter, so why bother, it must be inferior right? Well, let's take a look at the hardpoint placement to see if numbers are indeed everything that counts.
Therefore, while it lacks the raw firepower, this is a much better peeker than the Firestarter. When married with its excellent hitboxes and tanking ability this makes it a very effective skirmisher on the battlefield. I'll speak more on the gameplay implications later, but let's take a look at the Wolfhound variants first and see what we have to play around with.
Building for the Wolfhound
Making builds for the Wolfhound is very straightforward, since it's a tiny laser boat and you have so little to work with. However as I mastered each variant and then played some more, I realized certain weapon combinations tend to work better than the others. First of all realize that this is a mid-close range harasser and not a sniper. So while it's entirely possible, I wouldn't recommend you to slap ER Large Lasers on this and go sniping. That's a job that's best left for Ravens and other lights with better energy quirks and high hardpoint placement. What this 'Mech likes is a combination of either Medium Pulse/Medium Lasers, pure Medium Pulses or combination of a single LL/LPL and medium lasers for the rest. Basically if you're going to play it brawly, go for minimum face time with medium pulses and utilize its tankiness or if you want more range and versatility; combine medium lasers with a big energy like a Large Laser or a Large Pulse. I found pure medium lasers very underwhelming as they lack the punch and the face time is too long for the gamestyle this 'Mech demands.
GameplayAlright let's get to the good stuff. How does the Wolfhound play and how does it feel like? When I first received the pack, I was expecting to be underwhelmed since I didn't hear good things about the 'Mech and I didn't bother reading up much on it as I predicted it to be mediocre too. So I went in blindly and after a two hour adrenaline filled session with incredible matches, I came out extremely thrilled and surprised with this 'Mech. At that time I had also recently finished eliting my Arctic Cheetahs and they even didn't impress me this much. So much that I actually went on Twitter and congratulated Russ for perhaps the best IS light 'Mech ever since the Firestarter was introduced. Bad move. Since this was against the general opinion, some people even took an offense to my supposedly bad feedback to the developers and tried to name and shame me on Reddit. I was even called a shill for liking it. Internet drama ensued. It was sad.
|Wolfhoundgate scandal shook the Reddit that day|
But I still stand behind my words. Let me tell you why; the Wolfhound is an extremely balanced 'Mech. It feels very similar to the Arctic Cheetah in that regard. First of all, the Wolfhound hitboxes behave completely different from other humanoid IS lights. Since the torso is small and compact, it's very hard to focus components for your enemies. The arms mitigate a lot of damage and unlike IS lights, the Wolfhound is also very hard to leg. Out of the 145 matches I've played so far, I can count the times I've been legged with my fingers. The hitbox behaviour is very different too. A speedy Wolfhound tends to tank with its side torsos first due to its unique torso geometry. This means that this 'Mech reacts very well to torso twisting and you're not on a Center Torso timer like the Jenner. Due to this, it's very possible to tank silly amounts of damage even with an XL engine. You can even consider putting a STD in there for a mini-Atlas experience. All of this means that it lasts longer on the battlefield compared to other IS lights. For example a Firestarter has more hardpoints and potentially better alpha, but with a Wolfhound you can easily persist longer on the battlefield and easily make up for the lack of raw firepower.
Secondly, the hardpoint placement makes this is an amazing peeker. The tightly packed torso lasers beams allow you to shoot through tight gaps and holes your enemies can't shoot back from. Despite the mainly torso mounted weaponry you also have no problems tracking enemies. The extra torso twist speed quirk allows you to be very precise with your aim too. You can even track Arctic Cheetahs flying all over the place.
Lastly, the Wolfhound is very hard to disarm. If you take off its arms it'll retain at least four energy hardpoints in its torso. The same thing can't be said for its main competitors such as the Firestarter and the Arctic Cheetah. Especially the Arctic Cheetah turns into a cute kitten when you defang it by going for its fragile arms and side torsos.
All of this makes the Wolfhound a very potent enemy with a unique playstyle. The playstyle I developed ended up being a close-mid range aggressive corner peeker. You basically seek-out vulnerable enemies such as assaults, keep them occupied with constant harassment and waste their time while racking up damage. The Wolfhound face-tanks really well so whatever they throw back at you you can either evade or simply absorb it. I don't suggest getting really close, since at close range your side torsos become a huge target and an XL death is unavoidable against a competent enemy.