‘Mechwarrior 5: Clans’ Takes a More Cinematic Approach to Its Giant Robot Campaign

MechWarrior 5: Clans
“MechWarrior 5: Clans” takes a more narrative approach to the video game series. (Piranha Games/TNS)

Giant robot games are having a moment. FromSoftware revived its mech franchise with “Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.” “Mecha Break,” a futuristic multiplayer game, turned heads during The Game Awards. Now, Piranha Games is entering the mix with a follow-up to its solid title “MechWarriors 5: Mercenaries.”

Just in time for the 40th anniversary of BattleTech, “MechWarriors 5: Clans” marks a big departure for Piranha’s take on the series. In the past, the studio made titles that were geared toward the competitive scene, but this entry has a more cinematic approach as a single-player campaign.“Clans” takes place after the events of “Mercenaries” and follows a squad of five pilots from the Smoke Jaguar cadet program. Kabbal, Ezra, Mia, Liam and Naomi have to prove themselves to the higher-ups. Players control one of them, but they can direct the others through simple radial commands or by entering a Battle Grid, which offers a top-down view so players can precisely direct their teammates.

“It’s an expansion of the systems in MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries,” said Chris Lowrey, narrative director. “There are more set pieces. It tells more of a cohesive story.”

In the hands-off demo, I got a sense of the scale and scope of the adventure. The Star of five squadmates head out to investigate drop ships when they’re attacked by an enemy named Valasek and his advanced guard.

Russ Bullock, Piranha Games CEO and campaign director, showed off the destructible environments as these lumbering machines blasted each other. He said damage is strategic and players can shut down enemy weapons with a well-placed shots. Positioning is important because the fronts of the mechs often have the most armor, so it’s better to have teammates attacking from behind.

Unlike “Armored Core VI,” “Clans” combat is slower as players feel the power of the machines. The slower pace allows players time to outthink their adversaries as they look for ways to flank and destroy them. Occasionally, during the missions, players will get orders from the higher-ups.

The developers said players won’t stick with one character, but rather, they’ll jump around playing as different members of the Clan. “It’s more of an ensemble cast,” Bullock said.

Because it’s a narrative-driven game, it raises questions about how Piranha handles failure. If players see a teammate’s robot explode, what happens? The developers said the ally ejects out so they aren’t eliminated from the squad and can still take part in the story. Mechs also can’t be repaired on the fly, but instead, they must be fixed up between missions.

With “Clans” telling a story around a fresh set of troops, the game seems to be a good entry point for newcomers to the series, and it arrives as the Battletech franchise celebrates its 40th anniversary. For those who want more background, they can read “The Blood of Kerensky” series. Piranha Games’ projects takes place during this era.

Players can expect “MechWarrior 5: Clans” to launch later this year on PC, Playstation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S and Xbox One.

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