MechWarrior Casual // Guide: Ballistic Weaponry
Guide: Ballistic Weaponry
Be sure to check out my previous guide: Energy Weaponry
When logging into Mechwarrior: Online as a new player, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the bewildering array of weapons on offer; there are literally dozens. Of those, you can select a fully customizable array, numbering from one to ten or more. As if this wasn’t enough, you’re not going to be using these weapons one at a time- you’ll be firing multiple weapons at a time, or perhaps all at once. You won’t have one trigger- you’ll have three to six.
These options can easily run away from a new player. Hopefully, the following guide will give you a brief introduction to weapon types, individual weapons, their strengths, weaknesses, and synergies.
Firstly, welcome to first-time Mechwarriors. This is part two in my series of tutorials outlining the basics of all weapons in Mechwarrior: Online. Part one covered energy weapons, and part two will cover ballistics, a personal favourite of mine.
Ballistic weapons are more traditional weapons: they fire a lump of metal at something you want to destroy. This lump comes in the form of ammunition. There are a number of disadvantages to carrying ammunition.
Firstly, it can run out. Running out of ammunition renders a weapon useless for the rest of the match.
Secondly, it can explode. If your armour is stripped and the location holding ammunition is hit, the ammunition has a chance to explode. This causes catastrophic damage to your mech, oftentimes blowing a part of your mech clean off!
Thirdly, it weighs a lot. Each ballistic weapon will require multiple tons of ammunition to fuel it, adding weight that isn’t cooling your mech, adding to your firepower, or making you faster.
Ballistic weapons themselves also tend to weigh a lot. Besides the machine gun, there are no real “small” ballistic weapons, with the smallest autocannon weighing in at 6 tons dry- you’ll still need at least a ton of ammo! This puts it at the same weight as the heaviest energy weapons available. Once you’ve equipped your mech with something like a Gauss Rifle or an AC/20 and collected enough ammo to use it in a protracted fight, that weapon alone will be approaching the weight of an entire light mech.
Despite their need for vast amounts of weight and ammunition, ballistic weapons tend to generate far less heat than energy weapons. Running cool means a lot in a fight. Ballistic weapons thus have a poor damage-to-weight ratio, but a good damage-to-heat ratio.
Like PPCs (covered in part 1), ballistics require travel time to reach their target, but will deal all their damage at once as they hit.
Autocannons come in various bores. The smaller the bore, the less damage they do, but the longer their range. Smaller autocannons also have a better fire rate. Autocannon rounds will droop with range, meaning that when taking very long shots, you will need to aim above your target.
The AC/2 has an extreme range and fire rate, but runs quite hot for a ballistic weapon. It has the disadvantage of needing to look at your target non-stop to use it, but the damage dealt is quite good. This is another weapon best taken in a pair, or in extreme cases, four on a Jagermech.
The AC/5 has great range and decent damage, coupled with low heat. A decent choice, but comes into it’s own when used in multiples.
Not a bad weapon, but again, for two more tons, you can get the big daddy- the AC/20. If critical space is an issue, the Gauss Rifle probably has you covered. If you really don’t have the weight, though, this could be the gun for you. One thing it does better than the AC/20 and Gauss Rifle, though, is fire rate. Letting off a large round every 2.5 seconds can make for a relentless assault, but does let you look away while reloading to protect your vital components.
When you get hit by one of these, you know all about it. Dealing crippling damage at close ranges, it can open up smaller mechs with ease. The weapon is, however, incredibly large, so fitting it in a torso means no ExtraLight (XL) engine, and most mechs have lower arm actuators, which means there just isn’t enough space. If you can afford to pay the price, though, it’s a devastating weapon.
Ultra autocannons are much like their vanilla brethren, but can fire once during each cooldown (with a chance of jamming for a few seconds). This means that, for short bursts, they can deal obscene amounts of damage.
Again, we have only one of these available until the Inner Sphere gets into it’s stride (and steals things from the Clans), but it’s still a very useful piece of kit:
Ultra Autocannon/5 (UAC/5)
The UAC/5 in the patch preceding launch was an absolute monster. At the time of writing though, it has received a nerf, so we have to wait and see if it brings it back in line. As it stands, it is a regular AC/5 that you can fire once during it’s cooldown and risk a 20% jam chance. It is a ton heavier, though, and carries less ammunition per ton, so the AC/5 is still to be considered if weight is an issue.
It is a decent choice as a main weapon for a lighter mech, but taken in multiples can lay down a torrent of lead that can take down almost anything.
What does LB-X stand for? No one really knows. No matter, it’s just a big shotgun. The spread lets you pepper enemies at all ranges, but will not deal true focussed damage until the ranges close to point-blank. What sets the weapon apart, though, is that each weapon has an enhanced chance of scoring a critical hit on a component (damaging and possibly destroying a weapon, heat sink, etc). It also deals large amounts of damage to exposed internals. The number is the number of pellets fired. To make the weapon even more attractive, they’re lighter than regular autocannons. Again, only one weapon to enjoy in this class for now:
LB Autocannon/10-X (LB/10-X)
This weapon sees more use than the AC/10, partially because of the weight savings, and partially because of the crit-seeking capabilities. A favorite is a Jagermech with multiple LB/10-X and machine guns (which share the critical hit capabilities). This build is showcased in Unstruck’s guide.
All in all, a decent choice if you can’t use an AC/20 or Gauss. Just make sure you get the best out of the crit seeking!
The Gauss rifle is another enormous weapon. It doesn’t do as much damage as the AC/20, but it makes up for it with extreme range, almost no heat, no projectile drop, and it’s ammunition doesn’t explode! What’s the bad news? The gun itself can explode. The previous patch also introduced a mechanic where the weapon needs to be charged before it’s fired. Hold down the trigger for 0.75 seconds, and the weapon is charged. Let go, and it fires. Hold on for too long, and the weapon discharges again. It makes it tricky to use in a close-range maelstrom, but not impossible.
The weapon is a ton heavier than an AC/20, but gets more ammunition per ton, so it evens out. This is a good choice, particularly if you don’t have the crit space for an AC/20.
This is an oddball amongst the ballistic weapons. It only weighs half a ton, and does precious little damage, but it can be taken in large numbers (slots permitting), and has the same crit-seeking properties of the LB/10-X. Take as many as you can, and go for the internals! They can be used to great effect, and just the sound they provide makes them fun to use.
I love ballistics. The visceral sounds they generate really make using them fun, from large single shots to barrages of small-bore autocannon fire. They are heavy, so your builds will tend to be built around them, but they are a rewarding weapon.
As I said in the last guide, everything I’ve said is accurate for the launch patch (17/09/2013). As always, there are many different ways to make things work, especially in Mechwarrior: Online, so feel free to recommend odd combinations and uses in the comments!
Next time around, I’ll cover missile weapons.