As you may know, PGI has been converting the structure bonuses of some 'Mechs to armor. Why is it a big deal? Because armor is much more valuable than structure because of the added critical damage.
In the previous patch they began with some very underplayed 'Mechs such as the Commando, Vindicator and the Victor. What these 'Mechs have in common is that they're 'Mechs that lend themselves well to brawling and skirmishing. Now, these are also 'Mechs with big flaws. The Commando struggles with the SRM tonnage and ammo, the Vindicator has terrible hardpoints and the Victor, having lost its wings is left to be forgotten as an oversized brawler. It's no wonder that the structure to armor conversion on these 'Mechs didn't really have much impact.
However, in the latest patch PGI has brought more 'Mechs to the armor club. Namely, the Cataphract, the Orion, the Atlas and the Highlander. You can clearly see the pattern here, these are again, very brawly und coincidentally, very unpopular'Mechs.
I spent a good amount of time with each of these 'Mechs over the weekend trying to get a feeling what effect the extra armor had on their gameplay. So let's go over each of them now shall we?
Let's start out with the Cataphract. Now, the Cataphract is a mess. It's one of the first heavies in this game and over the years it got powercreeped pretty hard, especially the Warhammer covers every niche the Cataphract can do, except jumping. It has very low mounted hardpoints that force you to expose yourself AND it has a huge profile that is very easy to hit. A terrible combination. However, the Cataphract has some nice quirks that augments its firepower quite a bit most of which are in the 15-20% range.
I'd say the Cataphract seems to benefit the most from extra armor alongside the Orion. All of the variants get 22 CT and 15 ST armor. The CTF is much more nimbler with same STD engines than the Orion, so STD builds already felt really good on it. Now, with the extra armor these builds are pretty effective and if you shield well, they feel even more better. I found out that AC20 builds synergize really well with its quirks, STD engine viability and extra armor. Especially the 1X, 0XP with mediums and AC20, 2X with AC20 and SRM6'es have great mobility and damage potential. Ilya benefits as well, but it's still hurt by the UAC5 nerfs. 4X is still a trainwreck that still needs serious quirk attention to make it viable.
However, I'd say the CTF is still not an attractive chassis for the average MechWarrior. Since most of your hardpoints are at the ground, you'll have to be on top of your positioning and patience. But more often than not, you'll get outtraded by better 'Mechs with better hardpoints and geometry.
My weird addiction Orion has always been a curious beast. It's an extremely brawly chassis with very similar hardpoints to the Atlas and the Cyclops, but it was hampered by its sluggishness with STD engines and general side torso squishiness which made XLs extremely dangerous on it. It has gotten nice quirks as well, especially the mobility quirks such as accel/decel and torso turn rate helped it a little, but it never amounted nothing more than a punching bag for your opponents due to its dependence on STD engines, the resulting loss of firepower and low mounted hardpoints. Outside of a brawl on favorable grounds, it could not compete with the Marauder and the powercreep monster that is the Night Gyr.
With the added 23CT and 16 ST armor, obviously the first thing I tried was to check XL builds and they feel kind of OK now. Especially the Protector feels much better as a long-range platform with combinations of Gauss, PPCs and ERLL. The side torsos hold up fairly well at range. Better XL viability helps the other variants as well and transforms some of them from slow STD brawlers to fast XL skirmishers. I liked the VA the most, loaded up with quad-SRM6'es and an AC10, it can keep up with the mediums and fast heavies while packing a 58 alpha. However aside from the Protector, the Orion still feels very underwhelming compared to the alternatives such as the Warhammer and the Marauder and no, we don't talk about the Black Knight. It doesn't exist. The Orion needs much more help than this if it is ever to become viable enough to become a main driver. I'd start with better weapon quirks and perhaps extra internals on top of armor.
Then we come to the Atlas, which is the quintessential brawler in this game. Again, this 'Mech is a very hard one to do well in, because it only excels in brawling unlike another powercreep monster, the Kodiak, which excels in everything. The Spirit Bear especially mostly obsoleted the Atlas, but it's behind a huge paywall. Anyway, this doesn't mean the Atlas isn't capable, it's just capable in certain situations where you can force a close range fight, without getting picked apart while getting there. It really is more stressful and less rewarding than just loading up UACs on a Kodiak and that's exactly what people do instead.
Oddly, PGI chose to only do the armor conversion on the most unpopular three variants. The D, RS and the K. These are the variants with the least amount of missile hardpoints that really hurt the Atlas' brawling potential and try to turn it into a mid-range 'Mech with more energy hardpoints. Obviously anything that takes away from its brawling potential is bad and naturally people steer away from these expensive 'Mechs aside from the odd misguided RS or K sniper. Does the extra armor help though?
The quirks give you 31 more CT and 28 more ST armor. Which brings your potential front armor to 155CT and 112 ST which is absolutely ridiculous on paper, but only ok in practice. The Atlas D is the tankiest 'Mech in the game now with its -25% crit chance to internals on top of these. It's also the best variant of the three uparmored Atlases right now in terms of firepower with its dual ballistic mounts that sort of make up for the loss of missile hardpoints, but at the cost of more face time. I also like its CT lasers which guarantee at least some way of doing damage instead of becoming a sad panda when your side torsos inevitably get stripped. The D indeed feels great with dual LBX'es and dual SRM6'es and it has quickly became one of my favorite brawlers. It's not hard to break 1k damage in it if the matchmaker doesn't screw you with an open map. The RS still feels a bit pointless but can pull off decent damage if you stay more at range and the K is . . . well I don't have one. Who buys an Atlas K anyway? It has absolutely no niche at all.
Despite the increased armor, the Atlas is still the biggest 'Mech in this game that gets focused as soon as it shows up. The increased armor makes its presence felt in 1v1s, but you'll rarely fight 1v1s in an Atlas. I think PGI should extend the extra armor to the other variants as well, they really need every bit of help they can get.
Lastly, the Highlander. Again, the Highlander is a trainwreck on the proportions of the Vindicator. It had a very similar fate compared to the Victor as being the pinnacle poptarter that pretty much one-shot anything smaller than an Assault. However, when poptarting was nerfed it was revealed to be a mediocre brawler that needed a lot of help. Its low engine cap of 325 also limits its mobility and heat efficiency. It actually got some really nice quirks initially such as extra speed and heat reduction quirks that almost made some of them enjoyable, but they got removed afterwards. This 'Mech is really a case of no fun is allowed.
Unlike the Atlas, all of the Highlanders get extra armor which is nice. What's not nice is, three of them get less while two of them gets more, namely the Heavy Metal and the 732B. The later gets 29 extra CT and 18 ST armor while the rest gets only 22CT and 15 ST. Now, this is an absolutely ginormous 'Mech just like the Atlas but withouts its amazing hitboxes. So in overall, I found that the extra armor on the Highlander is barely noticeable. However, just like the Orion I found out that the extra armor helped its XL viability a bit. So you can afford to max out the engine (which you should) while ditching endo for more heatsinks.
It never felt good though. I really think it needs more armor, but also quirks that increase its heat efficiency. They really need to fix two of its biggest problems to make them viable in my opinion. The first is fixing its jump jets and making them worth the tonnage. Just give them a jump jet quirk that gives more boost. Second, its horrible heat efficiency. Stuck with a small engine, weaponry that occupy a lot of crit slots and jumpjets that off a lot of heat, the Highlander is very heat inefficient. Most of the time you can barely load up 13 heatsinks. Give them a rate of heat loss quirk just like the Locust that'll help them.
So, there you go. I hope this video satisfied your curiousity about the changes.