One question that I see asked repeatedly by newer players is which Hero ‘mech to pick up. Hero ‘mechs, for the uninitiated, are ‘mechs only available for real money, and each one has unique hardpoints and other traits that separate them from the C-Bill variants. There are often cries of “pay-to-win” due to these uniquenesses (AC/20 on the Yen Lo Wang, 3xUAC/5 on the Ilya, the Misery being the only Stalker with ballistics, etc.), but I feel that PGI has done a great job toeing that line, providing something that’s different without being strictly superior.
But what about the bad Hero ‘mechs? Are there bad Hero variants? Are there any Heroes that are objectively worse than their counterparts? There are a couple that are debatable, but there’s one ‘mech that is universally renowned as pay-to-lose: the Pretty Baby. Below, I’ve compiled a list of all the available Hero ‘mechs and put them into three categories. I prize unique abilities more than strict functionality, so you may see objectively better ‘mechs ranked worse in the list.
- Boar’s Head – It’s got six energy hardpoints in the arms and a big engine cap.
- Heavy Metal – Extra jumpjets, arm-mounted energy hardpoints, and it plays music? Yes, please.
- Misery – Ballistics synergize well with the typical energy loadouts of the Stalker in terms of heat, and being able to put all your hurt on the left side allows the entire right side to be used as a big shield.
- Dragon Slayer – It’s the go-to jumpsniper because it’s got two energy and a ballistic all on one side. It can also go really fast if you want to waste tonnage on a huge engine.
- Ilya Muromets – Its unique ballistics hardpoints allow it to mount three of most things (UAC/5, LBX-10, AC/10, Gauss (if you’re feeling particularly dangerous)), and the result is a devastating fire support ‘mech (and one that can move much faster than the ridiculously slow CTF-4X).
- Ember – Absolutely badass. Jumpjets, a profile that spreads damage better than a Jenner, and 4xMG for heat-free DPS and incredible critical capability.
- Firebrand – It’s got extra energy hardpoints, two of them uniquely mounted on the high arms, it can run most standard Jagermech builds, and it’s fast. What’s not to like?
- Jester – A shit-ton of lasers, jumpjets, dual AMS, ridiculous speed, and a face? Take my money.
- Flame – Dragons in general aren’t my cup of tea, but symmetrical energy mounts on the arms is a unique change of pace for the chassis.
- Yen Lo Wang – As the only Centurion that can mount an AC/20, it can be an absolute beast in PUG games.
- The Death’s Knell – It can run a bunch of arm lasers, making it one of the only two Commandos that aren’t terrible. It’s bordering on meh, but for a Commando, it’s a winner.
- Protector – It works, but there’s nothing unique about it. It’s just an ON1-V that traded a bunch of missiles for a torso energy mount that I’d be hesitant to use anyways.
- Fang – It’s a ghetto DRG-1C with an extra ballistic slot that would be difficult to utilize.
- X5 – It’s the only Cicada with missile slots. It’s unique, but it’s sub-par no matter how you slice it (as are all non-ECM Cicadas).
- La Malinche – Uninspiring hardpoints make it lacklustre compared to the others. It’s basically a worse 3S with some extra torso twist (and a larger engine cap that you’ll probably never use), but you can make it work.
- Oxide – It’s interesting and unique with it’s all-missile loadout, but the lack of jumpjets hurts it a lot.
- Huginn – It’s unique, and now that SRMs work, you can make it a decent striker, but its flexibility is limited in that you get 4xMG + whatever two missile armaments you want.
- Grid Iron – It’s a 4G that trades a ballistic hardpoint for a missile slot you’ll probably never use. It borders on meh, but I end up thinking it’s the worst Hunchback out of the bunch.
- Golden Boy – It’s a KTO-18 with an extra energy slot and a massive nerf to everything else. Its engine cap is ridiculously low, and it also took a hit on the torso twist. It’s bad.
- The Pretty Baby – Its only advantage is being able to mount an engine you’d never want to mount, while everything else from the mobility to the paintjob is fiercely bad.
“Strengths” and Weaknesses
The selling point of the Pretty Baby, supposedly, is that it can mount a 400-class engine, larger than even the 9M’s 385 engine cap. It all sounds great until you look at the tonnage requirements for engines over a 380XL and realize what a waste it is. Going from a 380 to a 385 is a whole 1.5 tons. The tonnage required to go from a 380 all the way to a 400 is a staggering 6 tons. 6 tons for 4.5 kph? Yeah, that’s a great investment. At the end of the day, there’s never a reason to go over a 380XL unless you’re trolling; you’re simply shorting yourself on desperately needed weaponry for a negligible speed gain – particularly in a chassis that’s only 80 tons. I believe the Pretty Baby also has a slight boost to its turning rate over the other Awesomes, but it’s not noticeable enough to be worth mentioning.
Of course, since it was given such fantastic potential speed, PGI decided to offset that by nerfing its deceleration. The Pretty Baby decelerates a full 30% slower than other Awesome variants – a veritable death sentence for an assault so heavily reliant on mobility. What would be costly mistake in any other Awesome almost always results in a dead Baby.
At this point, I’d like to take a detailed look at what makes the Pretty Baby such an unsalvageable piece of shit: the hardpoints. It has three energy hardpoints and three missile hardpoints for a total of six – fewer than any other Awesome variant (and tied with the VTR-9K for the fewest of any assault). But it’s not just the numbers – it’s the placement and limitations of those hardpoints that make it so damning.
There’s an energy hardpoint in the right arm, one in the left torso, and one in the face. This presents two problems: diversification and convergence. Because one energy hardpoint is in the face, it’s basically damned to be a TAG or medium laser since you can’t fit anything larger; it’s a tragic waste of already scarce hardpoints. The second problem results from one hardpoint being in the arm while the others are in the torso: they won’t be aiming at the same place unless you have arm-lock enabled. Two large lasers or PPCs aren’t exactly show-stoppers, but it’s really sad when you’re forced to manually arm-lock each time you want to fire them.
The missiles suffer from a very similar scenario: there’s a 15-tube launcher in the right torso and two, 4-tube launchers in the left arm. As with the face laser, the two hardpoints in the left arm become a huge pain in the ass due to size limitations. You can’t afford to waste any hardpoints, but stuffing in an SRM6 means that it fires in two volleys. And there’s no hope for LRMs; even with only a single LRM5, it fires two volleys. On top of that, you get the fantastic convergence issue as a result of one hardpoint being in the torso while other two are in the arms.
All of this boils down to extreme build limitations. 2xPPC or 2xLL for energy and either ghetto LRMs or unsatisfying, unwieldy SRMs that fire in two volleys. You could go with SSRMs if you really want to pretend you’re a big medium, but what’s the point of this ‘mech without some stopping power? Go ahead and play around with this thing in Smurfy’s for a while – you won’t find anything that you want to run.
The Hitbox Change
Because life wasn’t already tragic enough for the Pretty Baby, PGI recently (mid-November 2013) adjusted the Awesome’s hitboxes to decrease the size of the center torso by making the side torsos larger. The 9M and Pretty Baby are now that much more underwhelming due to the XL being so easy to take out. While the change was somewhat of a boon to standard engine builds, it also did the impossible and made the single worst Hero ‘mech even worse.
And it’s not just me that thinks it’s garbage. I started a thread on the MWO forums in preparation for this article asking if I should purchase the Pretty Baby. The first and most upvoted response was this. The rest of the thread echoes that sentiment:
… if you are this guy, then yes.
… it is a walking tombstone.
PB… pretty worthless
more like, sh!tty baby
I like Awesomes so I bought a PB when it was released. It is truly, truly horrible and has no redeeming features. DO NOT BUY ONE, IT IS A TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY.
Sold mine for CB, thats how worthless it is.
It’s constantly ridiculed on the forums, in the community at large, and even on the battlefield. It’s like an 80-ton Locust, except that no one owns one. Many fellow believers in the Awesome on the forums have avoided this variant, despite their intense desire to own a Hero Awesome. The ones that did cave are like me – jaded, sad pilots that have developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome for their baddest of bad ‘mechs.
There’s also something missing from the Pretty Baby debate that usually graces every other balance argument: the opposing side. I have found no one – literally no one – that will come to the defense of this variant. The people that don’t own it laugh at it, the people that do cry themselves to sleep at night, and even dedicated Awesome pilots will tell you to steer clear.
People on the forums will argue anything. There are people that continue to assert that poptarts aren’t overpowered. There are those who insist machine guns and AC/2s need a nerf. I’ve even seen tinfoil-hat theories about how 12v12 was designed and implemented solely to nerf C-Bill gain. There is no one sitting on the opposing side of this debate, and that should be an extremely telling indicator of just how pathetic the Pretty Baby is.
The Awesome is an extremely sub-par chassis; its broad torsos, lack of jumpjets, and generally uninspiring hardpoints make it a bit of a joke among assault ‘mechs. The Pretty Baby, however, is truly an abomination. Its one selling point (400-class engine) is something no one should ever do, the deceleration nerf is absolutely puzzling, and the hardpoints are complete trash. I call for a reevaluation of the Pretty Baby, and I recommend some combination of the following changes (preferably all of them):
- Add jumpjets. The lore says the pilot can hop and dodge, so why not let us do it? Compared to any Victor, this thing would still have nothing going for it. It would at least make the Baby unique, and I personally think this is the best option for that reason alone.
- Get rid of the deceleration nerf. Why in God’s name would you make a ‘mech all about mobility and then drastically nerf its mobility? Please just get rid of this. It’s bad enough to fail on its own; it doesn’t need any extra help.
- Add another energy hardpoint to the right arm. It would immediately allow for a lot more diversity, even though it wouldn’t fix the convergence issues. Being able to mount 3xPPC or 3xLL (or at least two in the same location) is just a no-brainer.
- Add another missile hardpoint to the right torso. Like the extra energy slot in the arm, it would allow for more diversity and less irritation. You could actually make a proper LRM boat or load up 2xSRM6 + 2xSSRM2, and Baby would immediately be less bad.
- When Awesomes are re-done with dynamic weapon models and missile tubes, give the left arm missile slots at least six tubes each.
- Re-do the paint job. It’s ugly =[
Honestly consider the Pretty Baby after every change I’ve proposed: an Awesome with four (three-and-a-half) energy hardpoints (still spread out and awkward), four missile hardpoints (still spread out and awkward), jumpjets, speed like the 9M, and a paintjob that doesn’t hurt my eyes. Would anyone be crying that it’s pay-to-win? No. In fact, the 9M would still have more flexible, less awkward hardpoints, and the Awesome would still be a bad chassis in general. All the changes would do is drive sales of one of the most (if not the single most) under-bought Hero ‘mechs. And so I beg you: PGI, please fix the Pretty Baby.
I am a Pretty Baby pilot, and it’s the only Hero I own. I prayed for months for a Hero Awesome, saw what a pile they were releasing, thought on it for a night, accepted that it would be the only Hero Awesome I would ever get, and bought it anyways. I do not regret my purchase and have fun running it, but I would never in a million years recommend it to anyone else.