Author Topic:  Viper: First Impressions and Review  (Read 5667 times)

21 Jul 16

Read 5667 times

Offline GMan129

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It's not the most unique mech ever, with easy comparisons to the Cicada, Ice Ferret, and Phoenix Hawk, but there are also a few weird things about it that I want to talk about.

Let’s start with the positive weird things. It's a unique-looking mech. I love unique-looking mechs. There is absolutely some stuff in common with the Crab and a couple other mechs too, but there are more than enough distinguishing features that make it easy to tell what you're looking at. And I don't mind its aesthetics either - it's not the badass that we see in the Cyclops or Huntsman, but it's a funny lookin' mech and that's cool with me. Seriously, you take the actuators off this thing and it looks absolutely ridiculous. I love it.

And I like how many hardpoints it has. Not nearly enough tonnage to use them, sure, but there are some really wacky builds that you can do: 11 ER Smalls (or flamers if you're touched) can be a fun option, and I like options. And having a lot of hardpoints means that you have more options on how to use them – I can do 6 energy on either side without a problem. Beautiful.

But not all of the weird stuff is stuff that I like. Most of it, I have mixed feelings about. And the biggest "mixed feelings" thing I get is putting weapon quirks on the set-of-8 omnipod bonuses. Because I think I see what they were getting at, I can see a few reasons why this absolutely makes sense. First off, it takes a big tool away from min-maxing tryhards like me, forcing us to make a substantive decision between abusing the omnipod system for optimal hardpoints or for optimal quirks. Second, it appeases people that want stock mechs to be...if not good, at least realistic. Not a position I agree with, but some people have it, and PGI has supported it with quirks in the past, so whatever.

And...this might be a bit specific to my experience with this stuff, but have you ever gone to Smurfy to look at clan omnipod quirks and tried to figure out exactly the right combinations for optimal quirks? Have you then repeated the process 3 times that week because you didn't trust that you did it perfectly the first time, and then done the whole process again a month later when the quirks changed for a dozen clan mechs? And it's not like I'm complaining; the end result does feel good, like the feeling of a freshly dusted computer, but getting to that point means lots of tedium, discomfort, and sneezing. And if PGI wants to simplify that process, I can't complain.

Except I'm an internet commenter, so I'm going to complain anyways! Alright, remember how I said the set-of-8 weapon quirks would "force us to make a substantive decision"? Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work out that way. It ends up being a simple question of "can I run a good build on this variant without swapping out omnipods?" If it's a yes, and the set-of-8 quirks are good, you're set. Just run that, you'll have a good time. If it's a no...then you're just back to abusing the omnipod system for 11 energy hardpoints on a mech with 8.5 tons of pod space because the only time you don't feel cold inside is when you're overheating in game. Except now, you're doing this with gimped quirks, on a mech that started out gimped, so it doesn’t feel quite as good. It is worth noting, however, that the VPR-D actually has set-of-2 bonuses rather than set-of-8, so you can slap those legs on and get those sweet energy cooldown and XP quirks. This is getting patched out. Thanks jojoxy for the heads up.

I also don't like the idea of taking a tool away from tryhards like me, because I am a tryhard like me. I want my mech to be better than your mech, and I want that to be because I know more about building mechs.

And I think that another issue that really held it back is the complete lack of structure quirks, and the anemic nature of its agility and weapon quirks. If these set-of-8 bonuses were in addition to equivalent bonuses from just the CT and then like a 25% or 50% structure boost, it wouldn’t be a huge deal at all. Or maybe it would, but it would be more of a discussion than just a thing that I’m sad about.

That being said, I will never be disappointed about a mech being bad at release. Underquirked, undergunned, whatever, I don’t care. If a mech isn’t an outlier on the upper end of the spectrum, that means it does not threaten the game’s balance, which means that I (as a balance fetishist) am a happy camper. It is much healthier for these paywalled mechs to be weak on release and buffed later than it is for them to be strong on release and nerfed later. Obviously we all want them to be perfectly balanced always, but, come on. That’s not gonna happen.

But while we’re on the topic of pay-to-win-style-shenanigans, I’ve got to talk about the Medusa hero mech. The first Clan hero mech. The one that will set the tone for all other Clan hero mechs. And while the Viper chassis in general is not strong enough for any of its variants to be pay-to-win, this is one of the most egregious examples of pay-to-optimize that we’ve had, made worse by the fact that it is going to be a permanent paywall. And this is the precedent it sets – not only does it have the absolute best arm omnipods for the Viper in general, it has by far the best set-of-8 quirks. So it’s double pay-to-optimize, and we have these warning signs that the other Clan heroes will have similar pay-to-optimize issues. So what we have is Russ at a townhall saying “we were super hesitant about clan heroes because of the risk it poses to balance and pay-to-win issues” and then we get 4 clan heroes in a row, which all have potentially important unique omnipods.

And it seems like a really weird phenomenon to me. Like, is there another game where you can take a character which is weak…spend money…and it gets a bit better? But still not better than other characters? It’s just bizarre to me, but I don’t like it. I can’t quite articulate why, but it feels bad. Maybe part of it is because I know that there is going to be a mech to do this that isn’t the Viper, that’s actually good without those extra sweet omnipods. And I know it’s going to be a problem then. Like can you imagine if you could spend 15 bucks and upgrade one of the KDK-3’s side torsos to have 3 ballistics instead of 2? That would be insane.

I think that the set-of-8 quirks also is in part to try to check those issues, so you can't slap Hero omnipods on and get great quirks on omnipods without making sacrifices...but for some reason it still has the best set-of-8 quirks.

I think I’ve rambled long enough though, so let’s talk about those builds, baby!


Build 1: Laser Vomit

This is my favorite build for a few reasons. First of all, it's gotten me the best results. Just straight-up, I've felt more useful in this build than in any of the others.

It also is the best fit for the Viper, in my opinion. Ideally, I'd want the crazy small laser or small pulse builds to be the "best fits", but this thing's just too squishy to play those reliably. Sure you can do good in them, but you can also die really, really fast. But this has the range and firepower to do what it needs to do without dying.

And, perhaps my favorite reason, all you need to run this is the base pack. And that makes me very happy.

You can also do this Medium Pulse version, but I felt the range was still a bit too short to be good.

Build 2: Small Pulse

It feels gross to have 0.36 extra tons, but damnit, this is the best way to run the build. The 10% range and 5% heat gen are just too valuable, and it gets all these other great quirks on top of that. I don't like how arm-mounted it is, but...sometimes you just gotta make your peace with these things. Or do something weird like this, if you want.

Build 3: ER Smalls

This is absolutely my top pick for the silly factor. It's kind of like a laser version of the 6x6 JR7-IIC, but way less devastating. Still, it's an entertaining concept, even if it's not that great in practice.

Build 4: SRMs

I'm not a fan of this - there's a reason we boat energy weapons on mechs with minimal pod space - but I'm not mad at it either. Could be a nice change of pace.

Miscellaneous Musings

The jumpjets are crazy. Like, I would be happy if I could remove jumpjets without even getting the tonnage back (though that would be silly). For one thing, they will just completely prevent you from dissipating heat while being used, which I hate. But also, I've experienced many more of those glitchy things where you get thrown way up in the air if your feet just catch a ledge, and they can be particularly deadly in this mech. Maybe it's just going to take some getting used to, but the mech feels super floaty in a lack-of-control sort of way.

It also feels huge. Usually, lights and other mechs that go at similar speeds are very resistant to LRMs, and drag many of them into the ground, or the spread is so wide that many miss. This thing gets absolutely obliterated by them. Though it gets obliterated by pretty much everything, so maybe that's not entirely fair to specify.


Off: 4
Def: 2
Mob: 9
Fun: 6
OVR: 5.25

For what it's worth, I know these scores are silly, subjective, and just about irrelevant. Just kinda feels good to put abstract concepts into numerical form. Tickles part of my brain.

GMan129 is an officer of the Steel Jaguar competitive team, he is the owner of and writer for MetaMechs, and he does some writing for NGNG as well. He has been playing MechWarrior Online since the early days of closed beta, and has spent far too much time and money on this crap. If you're interested in supporting his self-destruction, consider checking out his Patreon!
« Last Edit: 23 Sep 16 by Seth »

27 Jul 16

Reply #1

Offline wayeward

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"I want my mech to be better than your mech, and I want that to be because I know more about building mechs."

I know you said you couldn't articulate why the Medusa hero is bothersome really, but I think this nails it on the head actually. It seems clear to me that the game is now slipping (further?) towards "spend money to optimize" rather than good old "spend time optimizing your builds" with actual gameplay knowledge, or even old fashioned experimentation. Maybe this is because the developers are interested in attracting new players (and clan mechs, despite the omnipod system, always seemed to me to be aimed at those unwilling to experiement with different engines, etc, and simply wanted something to jump into and enjoy ). And if new mechs fit that bill, well, all the better for their sales right? More to the point, what I find bothersome is that the experimentation and ability to spend hours in the mechlab optimizing a build could be overshadowed by the pay to optimize pattern here. Before playing this game I heard and read about how the game truly centered around experimentation, build-quality, teamwork, and skills--ideas the MWO community used for years to defend the game from being called a simple "pay to win" platform. Looking at the disturbing distribution of important omnipods for special builds of late (8 srms on the Huntsman, etc), requiring one to pay for Heroes and reinforcement packs on top of base packs for the Night Gyr and Huntsman, well, it is at least a pay-more-to-optimize phenomenon. A bit unsettling, to be honest.