Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dark Tide - One Day In

(OK a day and a half - I've been busy)

Dark Tide has started.  All of the campaigns have been changed around, and any player can do any campaign, so I'll try to round up some tips for everybody.

One important correction:
In my previous article on the new prizes, I had said that using Gauss Supercharger on the Fusion Cruiser would be a waste, since the stacking of supercharges has been additive past one, so the x3 of the FC with the x1.5 of the Gauss should result in a supercharge of x3.5... which really isn't that much better.  A player (fulcrumer) posted the the following screenshot on the Kix forums:

(OK I cropped & added the circle)

Which shows 4.54x supercharge.  I'd like to know what his retrofit level is on Gauss, but maybe the supercharge is stacking differently when stacking between ship + special vs. ship + weapon.  

Campaign Selection: 
The Elite campaign cannot be aborted, but you can launch another campaign simultaneously.  Someone else pointed out the trick to being able to select the campaign when multiple are open - when you click the relay tower, click on the campaign name to choose which campaign to hit.

Recon Campaign:
6,252 points total (57k more if below level 45)
This entry level campaign didn't seem too rough. I would suggest some sort of long range weapon to outrange the rocket turrets, but not mortars since those won't be able to hit the Reaver ships.  Most of the ships are drones, but there is a Scout on missions 2 & 3, a Hades (Remote targeted torrent missiles) on mission 4, and a Javelin turret on Mission 5.

This campaign has no Forsaken Merc ships to rescue, and is only worth 6,252 points to complete (for anybody above level 45).  Only worth your time for low level players.

Strike Campaign: 
458,421 points (420k more if below level 60)
More players will be working on this campaign.  It can be done with Frosty Crusaders fairly easily, but players with that sort of fleet might want to think about attempting more difficult targets, like the Elite.  I'll run through each of the targets in a little more detail:

Strike 1: (21,942 points)
7 Drones, 1 Scout
2 Javelins, Rockets, 1 Mortar

You start in range of four drones... but not too much going on here, I did this one counterclockwise to take out the longer range turrets early.

Strike 2: (29,900 points) 
2 Drones, 3 Scouts
Javelins, Rockets
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> Flee NE (3 points)

Two Scouts start off active near you.  I  also did this one counterclockwise to leave the Rescue ships a clear path to exit.  They are really slow getting off the screen for just 3 points.  It might be a little quicker if you do it clockwise (from the outside), but your ships will need to be fast enough to cover the Forsaken ships as they exit so they survive.

Strike 3: (42,380 points)
3 Scouts, then 1 Sapper when Ships freed
Brimstone, Mortar, Rockets, Javelins
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> Flee NE (?? points... probably 6)

2 Scouts start active.  This one is tricky to get the rescue ships off the map safely.  The first time I did this I went straight for the rescue, but then the ships died when sailing off to the right side, into the Sapper that shows up.  The second time I cleared the right side, then went in to free the ships, but then everything died before the ships got off the screen.  I did this tedious campaign a third time... took out the bottom two Scouts, headed up the right side & took out the upper scout too, then I headed in to try to hit the prison building from above, leaving the bottom turret, but then the mission ended with victory before I could even free the ships.  Apparently that behavior is "working as intended." Some buildings do not have to be killed before the campaign ends, but they are not (currently) marked.

You're on your own to try to free those Mercs.

Strike 4: (48,008 points)
1 Scout, 3 Drones
Napalm, Javelins, Rockets
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> flee NE then exit NW (9 points)

This one is really easy, I just went Clockwise, then stopped after killing the prison building and waited for the ships to leave.

Strike 5: (54,335 points)
1 Scout, 1 Sapper, then 1 Scout, 1 Hulk when ships freed
Napalm, Javelins, Rockets
3 Forsaken Rescue ships -> flee SW (12 points)

You start in range of the Scout, and the Sapper starts active too, so you'll have to engage it quickly. The Sapper has long range rockets, so keep moving & try to stay at max range.  After that I went NW to hit the Napalm/Javs, then went to hit the mortar and free the ships.  When the ships are freed, another Scout and a Locust Hulk come in from the SW (where the rescued ships head), so you need to turn and get down there quickly to keep them alive.  After that, you don't have to wait too long for the Forsaken ships to exit before going after the remaining rockets.

Siege Campaign:
(~3.6M points)
I ran through the Siege campaign twice, and found it.. annoying.  The maps are large and spread out.  You often have to double back just to clear an area or pick off a lone rocket turret.  

The Forsaken Rescue ships are worth more than they are in the Strike campaign, starting at 4 points per ship on Mission 2 and going to 12 points per ship on Mission 5.  But all in all, I think if you go through an entire Siege campaign and rescue all ships, you get slightly less than 100 points, so you will need to do this campaign at least 9 times to earn the Elite Mercenaries crew.  NOT GONNA DO IT!

I'm not doing this whole campaign as a walkthrough - it's just too tedious for me to do it again.  I found the most serious threat to my ships in these missions (and the Elite) was the thrower-armed Scouts & Hellhounds.  They seem to be Kixeye's counter to Frosty Crusaders blowing through the previous raid.  When engaging the thrower ships, stacking up will allow the thrower to damage all ships.  I tried to split my Frosty off my fleet to draw the thrower fire while keeping my Crusaders in their range.  I had mixed success.  My Frosty Mastodon fleet did better against these ships (more on this in the Elite section), so I would sometimes try to 2-fleet these targets.

The Hulks with Locusts generally stay stationary.  Since my Frostburn has Phalanx 3 with Countermeasure 3, it shoots down almost all of the incoming UAVs and my fleet takes very little damage from those.  I highly recommend some sort of countermeasures when engaging the Hulks.

The other thing to watch out for are the Pyroclast turrets.  Again, the throwers eat up stacked fleets, but even (old) launchers can be used to out range them by stopping just as you fire.

This obnoxious campaign took about 20 coins for me to complete (with no crew).

Elite Campaign:
(~4M points)
The Elite target in this raid is less challenging than the one in previous raids, and easier to do than the Siege Campaign (in my opinion).  Instead of the tremendous barrage of fire we've seen previously, it seems more like just an extra-large map from the Siege Campaign.  Like the Siege, it's also got plenty of places where you end up doubling back, especially if you try to pick off pieces strategically.

My strategy for this target is to start with the Frosty Mastodon fleet.

(no I didn't actually use these Cudas)

I first engage the Hellhounds, being sure to keep the Frosty between the enemies and my Mastys.  Then I sail North to take out the Jav, first Shroud, and the Pyro, then go after the group of Drones and 2 Scouts, with the same general tactic as against the Hounds.  Use the Frosty to draw fire and keep it moving (to reduce thrower damage).

After those ships are dead, my frosty is usually pretty close to dead too, so I retreat and bring in the Frosty Crusaders.

They sail south to take out the bottom cluster of turrets and then activate the 2 Scouts.  I used my Frosty to draw thrower fire from the first one while the Crusaders killed it.  The screenshot shows how I was able to pin the second one against the wall and stay out of range of the throwers while killing it.  After that I come back for the drones, then retreat.  Engaging the half-shrouded turret cluster just north of the drones would be pointless.

After that, I sail the long way around to the Northeast side to take out what I can - the Hades would be a real pain firing missiles at me while attacking the Locust Hulk in there, so taking it from the outside is great.  The mortars will be firing at you, so you have to keep sailing by - you can't stop to shoot at the Hades.  Make a pass to kill it on the way back if you have to.  After the Hades, I keep going to take out the turrets on the large island.  I sometimes take out the Pyros by the mortars from Arbalest overshoot, but they don't pose a problem to take out later.  

After killing those targets, I sail back around and work my way through the base.  I have to keep moving to engage the Locust hulk because of the mortars.  It will fire rockets if you get too close, so my path is a bit of a balancing act to keep my distance from the Hulk, but not get too close to the shrouded Pyro on the other side.  

World Map Targets:
With fewer choices on the map and more choices in the campaigns, players are hitting a lot less of these, and I think it's taking longer for sector bars to open (point levels needed seem about the same as last time).

Remember  that you can choose your entry point on these targets, so choose wisely.

23: (851 raid points, 10 Sector Points)
3 Drones, 2 Scouts

The Reaver ships are shockingly slow in this one.  You're just not getting any raid points to speak of when you hit it.  

43: (27,090 raid points, 100 Sector Points)
4 Drones, 3 Scouts, 2 Hades

The Reaver ships here still aren't very fast... I suspect a decently built Mercury could match them.  I entered from the SW and had 2 Drones & 2 Scouts activated.  I tried to run south before engaging them to stay out of the Hades remote targeting range, but didn't go far enough.  I then came in to finish the Hades and the remaining ships.

65: (381,979 raid points, 600 Sector Points, 600 Uranium)
7 Drones, 2 Scouts, 1 Hulk, 1 Sapper

There's a few videos on these - the generally recommended tactic is to enter from the north and take out the drones and scouts with a surface fleet (maybe using a sub decoy), then sub out the large ships.

The videos mostly show Nighthawks - I was able to do it with my Magnus Drive Spectres by entering from the SW, taking out the Sapper, surfacing far enough from the Hulk to avoid activating it, then I came in and managed to sink the Hulk about 1 second before I surfaced.

Here's one video:

Let's try a Western theme for this roundup - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:
Just about anyone can find a target tailored to their capability. The points on the Strike campaign are pretty low for the higher levels, but it should be doable for just about all players who have any sort of decent fleet.  I also think the Elite campaign's level of difficulty is not too high for most players to attempt it.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the new prizes are pretty amazing?

The Bad:
The most exciting new feature of this campaign is the Forsaken Ship Rescue.  Unfortunately, the "sometimes a level just ends" feature and the "wait a long time for the ships to leave or you don't get credit for the rescue" feature make it slow and tedious to rescue ships.  In addition, I think you'd have to do 9 Siege campaigns, or pretty much the entire raid on Siege, in order to earn enough points for one of the Elite Mercenaries crew.  Getting the Rescue points in Strike is totally pointless.  We need more prizes at lower point levels, and I think if the Forsaken ships are alive and the Reavers are not, I should get credit for rescuing them.

Oh yeah, and good luck opening the sector bar when nobody wants to hit the map targets...

The Ugly:
The level design.  The targets are very spread out which just makes the whole thing take forever.  The Siege Campaign is full of rocket turrets that are spaced out all by themselves. They aren't any challenge, but it sure is annoying to sail out to kill one and sail back.  The multi-hit method I detailed in the Elite is also somewhat tedious.  Why can't I just sail around the right corner to continue my prep?  This may have been an attempt to make players think strategically about how to approach the targets, but it really ended up just being annoying.