Before discussing Long Range Missiles in MechWarrior Online, first they must be called what they are: Long Range Bombardment Units (LRBU).
LRBU has existed for a long time in military history. In medieval days and in some places before then, there was the bow & arrow. Good archers could shoot arrows over long distances saturating opponents under multiple missiles. Over time, there has always been some form of LRBU in combat, moving to catapults, cannons, mortars, rockets and missiles, each able to bring more ability to damage targets at long range at minimal risk to the shooters. Despite what some think, skill is required to employ these weapons since a shooter has to aim over long distance at times guessing where the target will be if it is a moving target such as cannons firing on people/ships or mortars aimed at moving targets on a battlefield. In modern times some rockets/missiles have the ability to be either remotely guided through manual control or guided by machines using some type of sensor/radar to lock on to the target.
Counters to these types of weapons have also existed the most common and oldest being to use cover such as terrain/shields/armor to protect the target from attack. Closing with the shooter of LRBU also works since usually those trained in firing such weapons do not have much skill at close range fighting. Modern times have brought electronic countermeasures though these counters are far from perfect and should never be treated as hard counters.
So now we come to LRMs in MWO.
The typical counters to LRBU work against LRMs fired upon a target. When a BattleMech can fire a lot of LRMs, that means they do not have good close range defenses, so you use cover while trying to figure out who and how to close with the unit firing. Who should be figured out before a match by hitting the TAB key when a match starts, you can see what your teammates are using, even without weapon loadouts it still gives a good idea of who can do what and how they affect the team you wound up on. Mechs with decent speed can take on LRM users, not just the fast lights but also fast Mechs such as Centurions and Dragons that some people think are not good. All it takes is one of them to do so.
Once one unit engages an LRM Mech, the target now has to choose, he can keep firing his missiles making him an easy mark for the person who engaged him or he can try to defend himself but the few close range weapons do not make up for what the engaging unit brings even if that unit is smaller. That is just basic tactics in dealing with LRBU units. I know this because I ran a Mech using LRMs and there were plenty of times someone engaged me forcing this situation. ECM was supposed to be a partial counter but instead has become too much of one (see next blog).
That said, there do seem to be one or a few problems with LRMs as designed in game, the one standing out the most is the weapon arc combined with bad game code for cover. Previous MechWarrior (MW) games did not have weapon arc on missiles because of the advantage it gave over other weapons, avoiding a lot of terrain that could provide cover. MechCommander (MC) had arcing missiles but still required line of sight before firing. Then there is the problem where cover does not always provide cover specifically against sensors that are used to detect and guide LRMs to targets. Just because you can detect something does not mean you can fire on it. As mentioned previously both early MW and MC games show this, MW allows early detection of units even behind cover (not a good thing) but all weapons cannot fire on targets even LRMs. MC allows detection with less effect (not as much info until closer, range is not that far) and while having arc, still requires line of sight before allowing missiles to fire. MWO however allows both arcing missiles as in MC and they can be fired even when there is no line of sight due to the strength of sensors, from MW, this results in the best of two previous games giving an advantage to anyone using LRMs. This is the most critical flaw of LRMs in my view and what makes them seem too strong in some players’ opinions. It is strange that LRM missiles arc while SRM (Short Range Missiles) do not.
A possible problem stemming from the arc is hit location. When LRMs hit their target despite hitting all over, most of the hits tend to result in what I call the Punch Table Effect. This is based on tabletop BattleTech rules, in certain situations BT weapons hit on a table that attacks everything from the waist up (torsos, arms and especially the head). Because vital systems and weapons are usually located in these areas, the results are far more damaging to a Mech than the Standard Hit Table. Situations that usually use the Punch Table include when the target is standing behind partial cover that protects from the waist down, standing in water (usually weapons cannot cause harm through water unless using advanced rules) and a jumping unit landing on an opponent. Point is due to the new arc effect LRMs have been given, they hit more often in this manner causing damage to systems that take longer to take out. Now it is hard to say for certain if this is a problem, after all Energy and Ballistic weapons have the ability to aim at locations based on player skill so it is a valid question why LRMs should not have something similar since LRMs cannot usually be aimed like the other two weapon types mentioned so they need something to be combat worthy, this explains why they have Lock On that must be maintained.
If they were to either modify sensors to work properly and/or remove the arcing effect of missile flight, I believe the effects of LRMs would be reduced to tolerable levels.