A Primer for MWO Players

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This primer is intended for players of MechWarrior Online (MWO) who want to try playing MechWarrior: Living Legends (MWLL). It will explore the differences between MWO and MWLL, from touching on each games' particular design elements to the finer mechanics of how some BattleTech concepts are handled, as while each game may seem similar to one another on the surface, there are many fundamental differences between the two.

Overcoming these differences can be confusing and frustrating for new MWLL players whose previous MechWarrior experience is grounded in MWO. As a result, this page was created to help you learn what to expect when playing MWLL, compared to the behaviour of game elements you are used to from MWO.

Please note that this primer is NOT meant to demonstrate one game as being better than the other -- it is solely a tool to aid MWO players in becoming more accustomed to MWLL's mechanics.

Game Design Differences

There are a number of basic game design choices that both MWO and MWLL have chosen to handle quite differently and are easily the most noticeable things you will come across.


The first and perhaps foremost is that MWLL does not feature a Mechlab function. Originally, a Mechlab functionality of some sort was planned for MWLL, however attempting to implement a Mechlab properly and seamlessly into the game's framework at the time proved to be impossible for the original development team. Over time, the lack of a Mechlab became more of a feature rather than a drawback or problem with the game.

In comparison, MWO was designed from the ground-up around having a working Mechlab from the beginning in order to deliver an experience that closely mirrored older Mechwarrior titles such as MechWarrior 2, which followed the Classic BattleTech (CBT) system of critical slots, while also borrowing elements from MechWarrior 4 in each location or component having a fixed limit of how many and what types of weapons can be fitted to certain locations.

General Gameplay

MWLL's gameplay is based off of the Battlefield series of games and lets players control a wide range of vehicles (referred to as assets) found in the BattleTech universe that include Battle Armor, Tanks, Aerospace Fighters, VTOLs and of course, Mechs where teamwork and combined-arms strategies are encouraged. The most popular game-type is Terrain Control, where players capture strategic locations and hold them to deprive the other team of tickets. It is similar to the Conquest game mode in MWO, except with the inclusion of repair bays and forward 'Mech factories, these bases take on much more significance than you may be used to. Capturing a base with a 'Mech bay can be crucial in securing victory on some maps as it forces the other team to respawn at their main base and spend time walking to the front lines.

As a result of this design choice, there is an economy system where you earn CBills (money) for dealing damage, capturing bases and a few other activities, such as spotting enemies while using C3. You use saved CBills to purchase fixed-configuration assets of your choice. As a result of having an economy, players can respawn in typical games when they die. In addition to this, players are guarenteed a minimum amount of CBills upon respawn, which is governed by their rank. You rank up by gaining points, which are earned the same way as you earn CBills.

MWO focuses on deathmatch gameplay, similar to games like World of Tanks or World of Warships, where the main goal is to defeat the other team by killing them. This is aided with the use of the matchmaking service that allows you to get into a game quickly and that also lets you enter the matchmaking queue with a number of your friends who will be on your team. MWLL has no matchmaking service; instead, players join servers/games in progress and pick a team before they spawn in. The game will prevent too many players from joining one team at a time, although with a much smaller community, it is up to the players in the match to ensure the match is not stacked, either by numbers or skill, in favour of one side.

Given their different approaches to gameplay, MWLL's pacing is slower than MWO. A typical MWLL match takes up to an hour to resolve, while in MWO a match is usually over within 15 minutes or less.

Source Material

MWLL follows CBT when it can, but it breaks with the tabletop game in some areas. Reasons for modifying CBT concepts are usually gameplay-based, where a mechanic from tabletop does not fit well with the game, is difficult to implement or is found to be unbalanced or simply not fun to play with. A good example of this is with Medium Lasers -- all of these weigh two tons for MWLL's variants instead of being one ton like CBT, regardless of being regular, extended-range or Clan. This change was made because MLs of any kind are very efficient weapons for their weight, leading some configurations that use multiple MLs to have a disproportionate amount of firepower.

MWO adheres much more closely to CBT, down to weapon ranges, tonnage, slots and damage dealt. Instead of modifying weapon stats like MWLL, MWO uses mechanics such as ghost heat (heat scaling) to curtail the boating of weapons like MLs.

Game Balance

  • In MWLL, light 'Mechs are primarily used as starters. They are all you can afford at the start of a match and you use them to bankroll more expensive assets later in the game. Lighter assets are also useful as scouts or flankers to capture lightly-defended rear bases in Terrain Control games, especially later into the game after most players have moved into slower assets. In MWO, light 'Mechs are commonly used as assault hunters, using their high speed/acceleration and high-DPS, short-range loadouts to harass or take down assault 'Mechs that are out of position or simply to very quickly dart in and out of cover using massed lasers to precisely carve their targets up.
  • Because of the economy system and concept of asset progression throughout the course of a match, MWLL does not balance its light assets directly against heavier ones. Instead, they are balanced around their cost and role(s) that they are intended to be used for. This means that it is very unlikely you can bring down an Atlas using a Cougar, since the Atlas costs twice as much as the Cougar and will be the stronger unit in a duel due to the higher price tag. That being said, more expensive assets are not automatically better; the best tool for the job depends on the strategic situation you are currently in and how many CBills you have available to spend.
  • MWLL has no skill trees of any kind, as there is no in-game framework to keep track of them and it is incompatible with the way the game is set up. There are also no consumable items or skills akin to Cool Shot or Airstrikes in MWLL.
  • 'Mechs are generally less agile in MWLL than MWO, with slower torso turn rates, acceleration and leg turn rates, that reflect the slower pace of play. It also means assault 'Mechs are more vulnerable to being crippled by Battle Armor, Aerospace Fighters or long-range fire. However, 'Mechs tend to have greater torso twist/pitch ranges in MWLL to give them some ability to defend themselves against aerospace units. This difference is not only balance-related as mentioned previously, but is also related to the lack of a skill tree providing agility benefits. Of all the general balance differences, this one is perhaps the hardest for most MWO players to adjust for, as a 'Mech will not hit top speed in two or three steps, so there is a higher demand on making smart choices with regard to positioning.
  • It is also somewhat easier to headshot a 'Mech in MWLL than in MWO. This being said, headshot-kills are quite uncommon with a couple of exceptions, namely the Awesome. The head hitbox for all 'Mechs tends to "bleed" damage to the center torso, making a deliberate head-kill require time and consistent gunnery to pull off. In many cases, it is often faster to simply focus the center torso than the head to get a kill.
  • Since MWLL features air assets as well as artillery in the form of the Long Tom (LT) and the Thumper, stalemates or camping standoffs can be broken far more easily in MWLL than in MWO. Bombing runs by aerospace fighters can deliver crippling damage to slow ground units, while shelling by a competent LT or Thumper gunner can devastate 'Mechs that do not turn their radar off. Since most LRM 'Mechs do not carry Guardian ECM and need active radar to achieve locks in the absence of a spotter using NARCs or TAG, they are especially vulnerable to being hit by Long Tom shells.
  • Lastly, MWLL has no third-person view, unlike in MWO. This was a decision made as it was believed that giving players a third-person perspective would lead to an unfair advantage as it allows for peeking around corners or cover. It was also done to maintain a higher level of immersion for the game.

Mechanic Differences

  • As mentioned previously, since MWLL utilizes a system of fixed variants for its 'Mech and non-Mech assets, there is no ghost heat whatsoever.
  • Another consequence of using fixed variants is that targeting an asset in MWLL does not display its weapons loadout. This makes visually identifying opposing units more important. With some time in MWLL games, you will learn to notice the particular silhouettes of common variants, as variants are almost always visually distinct from one another.
  • Dealing damage earns you points, which allow you to gain ranks and CBills that let you purchase more expensive assets. From a direct gameplay standpoint, scoring kills is not as vital as in MWO, though kills do provide a CBill bonus, even if you are nowhere nearby -- you will still gain a bonus provided you dealt damage to the player that died. For MWO, damage is not as important as securing kills on your opponents, since killing the other team is generally the easiest way to win.
  • The time-to-kill (TTK) is generally somewhat longer in MWLL than MWO. This is primarily the result of assets not using Mechlab-optimized loadouts for maximum efficiency, but also MWLL does not model engine critical hits the same way as MWO does. An Inner Sphere 'Mech with an XL engine will not be destroyed upon loss of a side torso; instead, any hits to the destroyed torso will transfer to the centre torso and deal twice the damage as it normally would have. When a side torso is lost in MWLL, the accompanying arm is not lost as well, nor is your top speed & heat dissipation impacted, unlike MWO.
  • To continue from the previous point, shooting a destroyed side torso is a good idea in MWLL, whereas in MWO, doing this is to be avoided at all costs since shooting destroyed side torsos in MWO reduces the damage you deal. For more information on damage modelling in MWLL, check out the Armor article.
  • Rear torsos in MWLL work a bit differently as well. There is only one armor section that covers the entire back of a 'Mech. This rear torso section typically has slightly less armor than a side torso section. When the rear torso is breached, your 'Mech is "engined", losing half its maximum speed. Damage dealt when the rear torso is breached transfers to the center torso with a 3.0x multiplier.
  • LRMs, SSRMs, ATMs and Arrow IVs in MWLL cannot lock onto targets that are not in your line of sight. In order to indirectly fire these missile weapons, the target must be painted with either a NARC beacon or using TAG. This helps prevent LRM spam tactics from making the game significantly less enjoyable. It also rewards teamwork.
  • Unlike MWO, MWLL does not feature radar sharing by default. In order to share your radar with your team, your asset must be equipped with C3, a specialized piece of equipment. This can be also circumvented by talking with your team and calling out contacts as you see them so your team knows where the opposing team is at and thus can respond effectively.
  • In MWLL, you can switch your radar between active and passive with the R key. When passive, you will be much harder to detect on radar yet will have a vastly reduced radar/targeting range yourself. MWO has no passive radar toggle. You can also target opponents out of your line of sight in MWLL, whereas you must see the target to lock onto it in MWO. See the radar article for more information.
  • MWO's version of the Advanced Tactical Missile (ATM) launcher is a missile weapon that loses damage the further the missiles travel. MWLL uses a setup closer to that found in CBT by having three different types of ATM: extended range (ER), standard (STD) and high explosive (HE). Each type of launcher deals damage that remains the same no matter how far the missiles fly.
  • SRMs in MWLL fire as a stream of missiles, whereas in MWO they fire all at once in a single burst.
  • MRMs in MWLL are dumbfired like in MWO and cannot have their course corrected once fired.
  • UACs in MWLL do not feature random chances for jamming. Only when fired for too long or too quickly do these weapons 'jam' and thus require time to be ready again, similar to RACs in both MWLL and MWO.
  • Players can eject from their assets in MWLL. While doing this in general combat is not recommended, in a duel (1v1) setting doing so can enable you to win, provided your opponent is weakened to the point where BA SRMs can kill them. Also, on the off chance you run across a 'Mech listed as NO DRIVER with a destroyed head section, you can actually take control of that 'Mech and drive it home to repair it or sell for the CBills.
  • MWLL does not feature any UAVs at all. This can make gaining visuals on the other team's deployments more difficult, but also opens the door for dedicated scout units. Also, with aerospace fighters and VTOLs, obtaining aerial recon is always an option but requires a player to take that role on.
  • Overheating in MWO briefly shuts your 'Mech down until it cools enough to automatically start up again -- you only die if you massively exceed heat capacity. In MWLL, exceeding your asset's heat capacity will cause you to begin taking damage almost right away, which can be lethal if you are heavily damaged. As a result, avoid exceeding your heat capacity as much as possible. You can use the flush coolant key (C key, by default) to help keep heat under control.
  • MWLL features both screen- and aim-shake, whereas MWO only has minor screen-shake. This is a useful mechanic for some variants as it allows them to buy time during battle to gain the upper hand. That being said, only a few weapons induce any kind of shaking, namely missiles, PPCs and larger autocannons.
  • Trees, rocks and other obstacles in MWLL have a physical 'presence' on the map and will slow down or stop your 'Mech down if you walk into them. Some trees will be destroyed when walked into, while some will not. In MWO, you can freely walk into/through trees without any effect on your 'Mech. This is often a difficult adjustment for many MWO players to make and it will challenge your piloting abilities.
  • MWLL utilizes constant throttle by default, meaning when you stop pressing W, your 'Mech maintains its throttle setting until you slow down or brake. In MWO, the default is throttle decay, so not pressing W will bring your 'Mech to a stop. You can use the default K key to switch between constant and decaying throttle if you need throttle decay to play.
  • Hostile TAG lasers can only be seen using Night Vision in MWLL, whereas they are always visible to all players in MWO. There is also no heat/IR-vision in MWLL.
  • Stealth Armor exists in MWLL as a hard-mount only on one 'Mech, the Anubis, which allows it to be detected at only 350m compared to the regular 500m for all GECM-carrying assets. While its stealth armor does not build heat, interfere with seeing hostile target icons and is always active, the Anubis carries no coolant to compensate.
  • There is no ballistic AMS, and LAMS does not generate heat.

Jump Jets

Jump Jets in MWLL are generally simpler to use than in MWO.

  • MWLL offers two types of Jump Jets - standard (often simply written as "JJ") and improved (often written as "iJJ") - while MWO only has a single type of Jump Jets.
  • MWLL's standard JJ offer a simple, relatively short jump that can be vectored in whichever direction a player's 'Mech was initially moving, although provides nearly no room for mid-jump direction change.
    • Improved Jump Jets allow a player to vector their 'Mech's jump in any direction the player wishes to move, even while in mid-air, and provides roughly twice as much fuel as standard Jump Jets.
    • Jump vectoring can be controlled with the same movement keys as those used to move a 'Mech. It is key to note that the jump vectoring is relative to your torso facing, not your legs as in MWO.
  • MWO's Jump Jets allow for almost the same movement which is possible with MWLL's improved Jump Jets, and can even allow a player's 'Mech to rotate itself 180 degrees while in mid-air, and while keeping original momentum.
  • Furthermore, MWO features fall damage, and jumping from great heights will result in minor damage to both of a 'Mech's legs. This mechanic is absent in MWLL.

See Also