There are 3 primary stats of a mecha. This is Maneuverability (MV), Targeting (TR) and Sensors (SE). They are all very important. MV is determined by how much the mecha is carrying, how agile the base mecha is, and how many installed weapons you have. This is the penalty that will be applied when trying to dodge enemy attacks, and is not possible to go above 0. TR is determined the same way, except that it IS possible to go above 0, but only for the Argoseyer -- a special case. Sensors is how far you can see and how well you can detect enemy mechs. TR can be boosted by having a high level targeting computer, and Sensors by having a high level sensor suite. Keep an eye out for high leveled TCs and Sensors, save them and transfer them between your mechs as necessary.
First things first: do the tutorial, get the Corsair. I'm assuming you started with mainly the Mecha Gunnery skill. Mecha Gunnery is good; there are good weapons that use the skill throughout the game. The corsair starts with a Rocket Launcher which I find nearly useless and only eats up ammo costs, and a Laser Cannon, which is one of the best weapons you can get, especially at this point.
Until you get your renown up you can't even get good salvage, because you are fighting SF1 mecha. So go fight in the 3 starter arenas (Hogye, Gyori, Namok) and do as many missions as you can. Once you start fighting stuff like BuruBurus, you are good to go. This is when you can start getting good guns for your mecha. Most BuruBurus carry Shaka Cannons, they are basically DC 90 versions of your Laser Cannon with a ammo limit, but they will do. I would ditch the Rocket Launcher by now (if you haven't already) and stick two Shaka Cannons onto your Corsair at this point. Combined with a decent Speed and Initiative, you should be able to fire them at least as fast as they will cycle.
There are a lot and a LOT of useless weapons in the game. Things like DC 20 Light Rockets that won't scratch the paint of most mechs, or DC 20 Autocannons are only there for one thing...to sell for money. There are very few decent weapons that you will be using.
Here's a list of weapons you should keep an eye out for :
- Shaka Cannons (only at start)
- Laser Cannons (better than Shaka Cannons, but still too short-ranged)
- Storm Pistols (DC 50, but has a range of 72 and BV 5; decent for short range damage)
- Starburst Rifles (DC 70, with a max range of 96, ACC +3. Nice range, combined with the accuracy bonus, this is your early sniper rifle for doing called shots on head locations)
- Rail Rifles/RG-8 Railguns (DC 80, with a max range of 72, BV 5. The BV lets it do decent damage at short range, but that's about it.)
- Breaker Cannons (DC 100 ARMORPIERCING HYPER, range 96, deals damage to all modules/limbs of the target mecha (HYPER), this leaves your enemies as scrap metal quite quickly though so you won't be able to salvage much, but once you're rich in-game it probably won't matter too much.)
- Phase Cannons (Max range of 144 lets you shoot anywhere onto the map right from your starting position! Armor piercing to boot! This is the holy grail of the mecha gunnery skill class. Your late game config should consist of multiple phase cannons letting you chain fire them at targets across the map.)
Mecha Artillery (DC 10 and above)Edit
I'm not a big fan of this class, as the Phase Cannons are more or less god-like already; and as far as i can tell, the lower the DC of the weapon, the more XP you get. However, this skill also lets you fire missiles, and that is useful. Most missiles are junk, because there are guns that do the same thing with no ammunition worries and using the Mecha Gunnery skill, so the only reason to use missiles is... the Blast factor. It lets you hit multiple targets at once, which can be useful. Unfortunately, even then you are unlikely to do any damage because they have next to no penetration, even if you are firing it at a mech with lots of armor missing, it can still fail to do any damage whatsoever.
- Heavy Missiles (There are 2 types, DC 120 and DC 150, the DC 120 version has blast 2, DC 150 has brutal and blast 3, so its basically superior.)
- Supernova Missiles (Found on Radcliffs, conveniently capable of being head-shotted, they are one shot, DC 200, Blast 3 missiles, mainly for softening up a large area of enemy mechs.)
- Light Nuclear Missiles (There are two versions. Both are DC 200 Blast 3 Hyper Haywire. The one on the Gigas bomber is one shot only; the one on the Monstrous groundhugger has a 6 shot clip, however the only way to get this is to buy and strip a Monstrous for it, and that is very, very expensive. Well worth it however. This is more or less the only missile capable of actually doing damage without requiring a mecha to have no armor whatsoever. Each shot though, is extremely expensive.)
Getting your next mechaEdit
Firstly, don't even bother until you get a decent Mecha Engineering skill, or you wont be able to modify it properly. I would say the minimum level is 5, and be prepared to save and reload a lot.
Well if you have really good Conversation skills, you may be able to convince a recruiter to sign you on. The Federation Defense Force gives you a Daum battroid, and the Solar Navy a Condor. Both are decent and a step up from the Corsair. Otherwise, chances are you are going to buy it or get it from salvage.
A Thorshammer is a good first choice. It comes equipped with 3 Laser Cannons. Don't be scared by the low MV and TR scores, this is because the 3 Laser Cannons are stupidly installed in the body, and the weapon mounts are occupied by worthless missiles. Switch the Laser Cannons to the arm and arm mounts, move the Corsair's Laser Cannon over, and you have a very lethal short-range mecha.
What I usually do however, is simply straight up save for a ZeroSaiko, as the Corsair can last you for quite a long while. It's the 3rd most agile mech in the game (Vadel is close however), with the Argoseyer being first, and the Gladius being 2nd (and can only be obtained at least 20 days into the game). It has decent armor letting you survive hits that you can't dodge, and you can stick quite a few guns on it and only go to MV -2 or -3. The starting configuration is rubbish; you will want to modify it with as many weapon mounts and Phase Cannons as possible.
After that, you could switch to some Savin variant. Remove the built-in Vulcan Interceptor and the built-in LAS-5 Laser Cannons (obsolete by the time you are considering buying/salvaging Savins) and you can get an even lighter Mecha then the Zerosaiko, with the ability to carry heavier equipment. Arguably, though, once you've reached this point your game has probably been "made" and you can complete the game soon.
What you should NOT use, no matter what :
- Ground huggers; they have very low MV and little space for modification. You are a sitting duck in one.
- Arachnoids; again, low MV, and the benefit of a turret does not help.
Firstly, there is the concept of space. Every body part has a maximum space limit, and every component you install into that space takes up more space. Going above the limit is possible, but you need really high Mecha Engineering skills for that.
Whenever possible, mount weapons instead of installing them. Installed weapons decrease your MV, whereas mounted weapons do not. So whenever possible try to save things like mounting points, right arm mounts, left leg mounts, etc from salvage. The Tech Vulture talent is invaluable for this.
Weapons mounted in the hands, head and turret have a 180 degree Arc, while weapons mounted in the body and legs can only be fired within a 90 degree Arc, directly forward in other words.
Shields are confusing. They can be mounted on arms to give you a chance to parry attacks, determined by your Mecha Fighting skill. They also give a small penalty when attacking using that arm. There are two types of shields: normal shields, and beam shields. Normal shields have an extra mounting point for weapons, but beam shields are a lot lighter, damage melee attacks if blocked with it, and can block energy weapons. I would say, if you want to use shields, beam shields are superior. The Defense Rating is an indication of the penalty you get when attacking with that arm if it has the shield mounted, even though the number may be negative, there is still a penalty.
Wheels are rubbish, switch to Arc Jets as soon as possible. Arc Jets are very light (0.5 tons each), give you the skimming ability that lets you move over water, and can allow limited "jump"/flight ability, depending if you have wings on your mech or not. Also mechs mounted with arc jets will not crash if they have a leg shot off, it takes a lot more than that.
Overchargers are very good components, but they take a lot of component space. Make sure to have good Mecha Engineering skills before trying to install them. They increase the speed of your mech, sometimes dramatically, and are useful for everyone, because they let you move more distances while giving your enemies less time to shoot at you.
When changing mecha, make sure to strip high value components like your weapons, sensors and targeting computers from the old one to install into the new one. These will be very hard to replace otherwise.
You can also add additional limbs to your mech. Extra hands, extra legs, wings, turrets...all are possible. Be warned that doing this is a serious hit to your MV, but it can let you add mount more weapons than possible, and if you are adding wings, add flight capability to a battroid.