Quick Look: MechWarrior 5: Clans

2 Apr 2024

Last week we had the opportunity to sit down with Piranha Games, the developers behind the recent MechWarrior titles and talk with them about their upcoming game MechWarrior 5: Clans for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. At once something both new and familiar, MechWarrior 5: Clans builds on a lot of systems from the recent MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, but in both story and style it hearkens back to the bygone era of 1995 and MechWarrior 2, the last time the series really focused on the clan wars.

First things first, for those unfamiliar with the series, MechWarrior is part of the Battletech universe, a long running military science-fiction setting most known for its tabletop wargame and the aforementioned MechWarrior series of video games. As one might assume, you pilot a mech and use it to fight other mechs in open combat, and the series has typically gone out of its way to sell the fantasy of being a mech pilot by leaning more into the simulation aspect. Customization of your mech is encouraged, damage to individual components is tracked, and the controls allow for fine control of various subsystems. It’s a flight sim, but for walking tanks.

While I wouldn’t call myself a diehard fan I do have some experience with the setting, having played MechWarrior 2 back in the day, and there was a period where I was super into the Battletech pods (essentially a full enclosed simulator) when my local arcade had them. Still, it’s been a while so I’m approaching this mostly as a newcomer would.

MechWarrior 5: Clans returns to the clan wars setting we last saw nearly 30 years ago. Aiming for a more narratively focused game this time around, you’ll be following Jayden and the members of his star (a five-member squad), all of them new cadets for the clan Smoke Jaguar. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves, as the clans are embarking on an invasion of a region of space referred to as the Inner Sphere.

While we didn’t get much more information on the plot than this, the devs were certainly passionate about the source material. They viewed the clan wars setting as one of the high points of the series, were eager to explore aspects only touched upon in the novels until now, and were especially excited to finally give players a chance to play as Smoke Jaguar, the only clan in the initial invasion that wasn’t playable in MechWarrior 2. It also seems the story will be a bit more focused, following the individual struggles of Jayden and his crew rather than solely focusing on the larger conflict. Their hope is that by the end of this, veterans of the series will walk away with a new favorite clan.

The story isn’t the only throwback, as Clans is shaping up to be a primarily single-player campaign broken up into missions, rather than the more open-ended nature of the previous Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries. Other differences from Mercenaries include an emphasis on utilizing your squad with various commands you can give them as well as a tactical map view you can use to order them to specific points like an RTS. Alternatively, there is co-op for up to five players so you can fill your star with friends instead of letting the AI handle it. They’ve also updated and expanded the customization options for mechs, which I’ll be eager to get my hands on as someone who spends way more time in the garage than out in the field.

The last major change is that Piranha Games is aiming to make Clans a more approachable entry into the series by a number of means. The stronger emphasis on narrative is meant to help introduce new players to the setting, and modern control changes have been made like adding a radial wheel for accessing many of the advanced commands. That all said, they hope to have kept the essence of what makes a MechWarrior game, and classic control options will of course still be available as well as robust mapping options to allow for alternative setups like HOTAS joysticks.

Sadly we don’t have a release date yet, but it’s tentatively set for later this year with more information coming out this summer. I’m personally looking forward to it with much anticipation, but in the meantime I have an ancient CD to track down to prepare myself. You can check out a new trailer for MechWarrior 5: Clans below!

All images courtesy of Piranha Games