MechWarrior 5: Clans: humanizing mechas

A mech stands near a round structure in MechWarrior 5: Clans.
Piranha Games Inc.

The Mecha genre is having a bit of a moment right now. Last year’s Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon garnered mainstream attention thanks to a growing love for developer FromSoftware. Another title, Mecha Break, had a big moment at last year’s Game Awards when it debuted on stage. It’s a great time for players who love giant robots already — and there are more exciting mecha games on the horizon.

MechWarrior 5: Clans is set to launch this year, giving one of the genre’s biggest names another new game. It follows 2021’s MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, a co-op-focused game with an emphasis on PVE battles. Clans is an entirely different beast, though. It’s doubling down on story and shining a spotlight on the human pilots who are usually hidden in a cockpit. That makes Clans a potentially unique mecha game that makes the most of the BattleTech universe the series is set in.

Clans‘ emphasis on story would be immediately apparent when developers from Piranha Games Inc showed me a first look behind closed doors at this year’s Game Developers Conference. The first thing I saw wasn’t a giant robot but a cutscene full of humans. A salty sergeant barks at a row of pilots in a familiar scene pulled straight from classic military movies. It’s the kind of cinematic sequence that I don’t see a lot in action-focused mech games.

A mech shoots a ship in MechWarrior 5: Clans.
Piranha Games Inc.

The developers on hand affirmed that cutscenes like this are core to Clans. The studio aims to tell a more human story about pilots, filled with interpersonal relationships. They compare it to MechWarrior 2, one of the series’ more narrative-heavy installments.

The crew is mostly made up of entirely new heroes. During a gameplay mission, I see their dynamic in action as a crew of piloted mechs spreads out around an objective-filled area while chattering over their radios. Though those characters are invented, Clans will still draw heavily from the existing BattleTech universe. For instance, Sarah Weaver is an important character in the story.

While that modern approach to narrative is new for the series, gameplay doesn’t seem to have changed too much. The gameplay I saw had a group of mechs moving from objective to objective in a desert. They’d scan objects, shoot enemy bots, and perform a thrilling rescue after some pilots get hit with a surprise attack. And, of course, the series’ signature mecha customization will return, with the developers saying that it’s using the same kind of suite that was in MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Though players only play as one pilot, the squad setup plays an important role in gameplay. Players can call up a radial menu at any point and issue commands to their five computer-controlled teammates. They can also flip into a top-down view, drag to select multiple squad members, and click a point on the map to direct them. Features like that play up the teamwork aspect that’s central to the story.

A battle grid is shown in MechWarrior 5: Clans.
Piranha Games Inc.

MechWarior 5: Clans feels like the right mecha game for the genre’s current moment. Longtime fans will get a deeper dive into the BattleTech universe’s lore, while newcomers will get an approachable entry point to the series thanks to its more direct storytelling. And Clans delivers all of that without sacrificing the one thing that really matters: big bots with big guns.

MechWarrior 5: Clans launches in 2024 for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

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