Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries - Legend of the Kestrel Lancers Review
Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries had a rough launch, the game itself was solid enough but issues with AI (your teammates liked to trample on everything) and the overall campaign marred what was otherwise a mechanically great experience. Earlier this year, the Heroes of the Inner Sphere expansion launched bringing with it a freeform career mode that made the game feel like a cohesive whole. What does Legend of the Kestrel Lancers bring to the table?
The expansion brings with it a new 14-mission campaign that focuses on the friction occurring between House Davion and House Steiner as you experience the frontline conflicts of the Fourth Succession War. You’ll experience events from House Davion’s perspective, initially contacted to take part in wargames with House Steiner during Operation GALAHAD before you are given a year to expand before all hell breaks loose and things escalate as the year 3028 approaches. Each mission is fully voiced as you’d expect and they are of a very high quality, showing a unique glimpse into the iconic conflict..
For fans, seeing the Davion-Steiner marriage and the “problematic” events that occurred around that (Handing over an entire faction as a wedding gift was always likely to upset someone) play out in front of you as you dance around doing mercenary work is a lot of fun. These missions aren’t easy though, and you need to spend your “gap year” wisely, even if you think you are well prepared, expect to take some losses.
Once you commit to the campaign, you are locked into those missions for the duration with only brief respite for repairs, so that year period of building up your forces is a good opportunity to experience the new quest chains they’ve added, letting you get a feel for the different factions.
The previous expansion, Heroes of the Inner Sphere, only brought a single new environment or biome with it, but this time around there are three new environments; a new swampy jungle whose trees add infuriating soft cover to protect your enemy and ruin your perfect shot; the Tourmaline desert, an imposing barren place full of overwhelming heat and canyons; and finally the Megacity biome allowing for some truly intense city combat.
More variety for combat is always welcome and the verticality considerations in the new maps give you new things to think about as you decide how to take on the enemy. New building structures also add some diversity, their modular nature allowing you to punch holes through them being extremely satisfying, even if they do defy gravity somewhat. The AI does an admirable job here too, using rooftops and cover effectively.
In fact the AI is a whole lot better than it was in the base game at this point. It generally won’t trample facilities or installations you are defending (although it can still do that on occasion) and in combat they can simultaneously be tactical geniuses and just walk in a circle for a few seconds. But overall they are a lot more competent although if you can play with friends, that’s always going to be the better and more fun option.
There are an array of new mission types added to the procedurally generated mission types too that helped keep your gameplay fresh, from Guard Duty which sees you babysit a structure and Scorched Earth which as you can probably guess involves you razing an area to the ground to Objective Raid which has many variants but normally involves finding something specific whilst under attack.
On top of the new campaign, mission types and biomes, Legend of the Kestrel Lancers brings a slew of new mech variants, 23 of them in fact. No totally new mech chassis this time and the new variants are heavily skewed towards heavy mechs but more options and combat choice is welcome.
All this choice comes in handy with some of the base game enhancements that arrived alongside the expansion. Battlemechs can now punch! It’s hard to fathom why this was never a thing but the implementation here is great. Your fists/robot appendages work like any other weapon and can be assigned to a weapon group, then when up close your mech will punch or swing the appropriate sticky-outy bit at the enemy. Reactions to this are satisfying with parts flying off as you’d expect.
As well as melee attacks you can now switch mechs with your AI partners during missions, this allows you to jump to a problematic teammate, take control of a faster mech for a quicker evac or any number of things and is a welcome addition. There are also some quality of life additions like a slightly refined heads up display and Piranha have kept to their policy of smartly avoiding splintering players by making it so only one player in a team has to have the expansion to open it up for all in multiplayer.
Legend of the Kestrel Lancers is an expansion in the truest sense in that it adds more stuff, it doesn’t necessarily change the core of the game too much but it adds to and extends it in sensible ways. A lack of new mechs and some uneven difficulty through the campaign let it down slightly but this is a solid expansion. If you’ve ignored Mechwarrior 5 because of its launch, it’s definitely worth checking out now, Piranha have listened to complaints and whilst still not perfect it’s corrected a lot of the launch games faults.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries - Legend of the Kestrel Lancers (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A solid expansion that brings a lot of new toys to play with and mission variations to play in. The campaign is a fun exploration of a pivotal time in Mechwarrior lore. If you own Mechwarrior 5 you should own this.