At the top of the month, MechWarrior Online, a game we’ve been playing for nearly a year now in beta, was given an official release date. The 1.0 version of the title releases September 17th and with it, some major changes. The client’s interface and all of the menus will be redesigned and the biggest change of all comes in the form of the meta game, known as Community Warfare.

Up until now, Piranha Games has focused on adding content in terms of mechs, unlocks and customization options, while tweaking balance issues and adding new features, but the gameplay over the last year has taken the form of simple 8 vs. 8 PvP where players play for in-game currency and experience points. The meta game opens the game to the BattleTech universe, where players can joine different houses and mercenary corporations as the clan invasion begins.

Piranha updates MechWarrior Online every two weeks and each patch comes with a new Hero Mech (purchasable only with real-world currency) or a new mech design with multiple variants (that can also be unlocked with earned in-game credits). The latest mechs to release are the Dragon Slayer hero and two weeks later, its other Victor variants. The Victor is an assault mech and its addition brings MWO’s arsenal of mechs up to 19, with multiple variants for each.

MechWarrior Online Project Phoenix Mechs

For players looking further down the road, there’s a promotion that ends today that lets players pre-order up to four new mech chassis that’ll release this fall as part of Project Phoenix. Today at midnight the deal ends but players can invest right now to unlock one mech for each weight class, the hero variants and all of the standard variants. There are four tiers for players to purchase, the most expensive (that we bought) coming in at $80 and including all 12, but also including four months of premium time.

Project Phoenix MechWarrior Online Tiers

That’s not all on on the special mech front – the best mech option right now is one for charity. Five year-old Canadian MechWarrior Sarah Parries passed away tragically in May after losing her battle with cancer, but community support and the work of the developers have created a mech based on her own favorite design that players can purchase for $10, with all proceeds going towards the Canadian Cancer Society. The light mech is a fast-moving Jenner with a custom paint job (featuring stars, a teddy bear and a pink unicorn!). It comes with a 10% XP boost and a mech bay. Watch the trailer up top for more and check out the cool screenshots:

Sarah’s favourite ‘Mech chassis was the Jenner with streak SRMs, because she liked to lock on. She loved speeding around with night-vision and lots of medium lasers so she could, “get ’em good!”, blazing through the Inner Sphere with her father Jon. Sarah was an excellent sport and shared her dad’s passion for BattleTech.

“You guys should have seen Sarah when I brought out some old Battletech models for the first time. I showed her a Jenner that was in the box, but it looked a little bit different because it had a dome head. Sarah cocked her head and said, ‘That’s not a Jenner, Jenners have a pointy head!’”

Players can pledge support and unlock Sarah’s Jenner here. The promotion began two days ago and already amassed nearly $50,000 at the time of this writing.

[Update: Thanks to the overwhelming community support in the first 24 hours alone, PGI added the mech to the first group of pledgers over the weekend – since I bought it day one, I tried it out – see the video below for a closer look]

The latest MechWarrior Online patch not only unlocked all of the Victor mech variants, but it brought several important balancing changes, including one with heat penalties to prevent players from unloading all of their similar weapons in one shot (alpha striking), while also boosting the damage on short-range missiles. PGI has also begun testing 12 vs. 12 matches so expect that added to the game soon.

MechWarrior Online is available now (for free!) and releases out of beta September 17th for PC.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.