Sunday, September 20, 2015

Caustic Warfare Campaign and Prizes

Kixeye has released a new time-limited campaign for us called Caustic Warfare.  It will be available for about 2 weeks.  the preview described Draconian vs. Scourge elements, and so I was hoping it would be playable like some of the Reaver vs. Drac elements, where you could hide in a corner and let them grind away at each other a bit... but that turned out not to be the case.  Anyway I'll go though the flow of the campaign and give a once-over for the prizes.

Like most of the other higher end campaigns, Caustic Warfare has three levels, where the first level has five battles to fight, then each successive level adds another battle.  The difference is that the total time allowed is reduced compared to other campaigns.  Only 4 hours are allowed for Level 1, 2 hours for Level 2, and 1 hour for Level 3.  Most other campaigns allow 12 hours / 6 hours / 1 hour.  Time isn't really an issue in terms of doing the Campaign even at the third run-through, but the lower time does make it less feasible to get any slow repair between missions.

Full breakdowns of the targets are at Dark Alliance in the following posts:  

Level 1:

Level 2:

Level 3:

This thread includes pictures of the layout:

A few YouTube vids are out as well if you'd like to see some playthoughs.

Overall, I think most players find that the campaign is difficult to do for free, but it is of generally lower difficulty than the Raid.  I found that the layout of the ships made it tricky to use my raid strategy with a Frosty tank + Zombie Rhino/Masts.  Quite often a Stonefish or even a Viperfish would get around me and fire on my fire support ships.

Don't forget to use a crew... Sea Serpents, Steelheads, or something offensive like Wolfpack are my favorite choices for the Scourge.

Each encounter is summarized below:

Mission 1:
This one consists of Draconian ships picking off a few wounded Scourge ships at the start.  Using a fleet that you don't use against the Scourge for this first encounter is probably a good plan - I used Crusaders.
Dracs: 3 Kodiak, 1 SCX, 2 V2-H
Scourge: 1 Goblin shark, 2 Viperfish (all heavily damaged)

Mission 2: 
In this one, you start out surrounded by two groups of Scourge, each with 2 Viperfish and one Goblin Shark.  
Scourge:  2 Goblin Shark, 4 Viperfish

Mission 3: 
The Scourge get their revenge and pick off a few Dracs to start.  The Daggertooths and Viperfish aren't too bad to deal with, but the Stonefish tend to get around you and get a few shots in.
Scourge:  1 Viperfish, 2 Daggertooth (slightly damaged), 2 Stonefish
Draconian: 2 V2-C, 1 SCX (all heavily damaged)

Mission 4: 
The Electric Eels make their appearance here.  I find them not too bad if you can engage them in isolation, but when the other Scourge are hitting you as well, they can really mess you up when they surface, stun you, and start firing their depth charges.  Definitely focus on the Eels.
Scourge:  2 Electric Eels, 6 Stonefish

Mission 5: 
You show up at a runied Drac installation.  The Scourge are a little beat up but still have their teeth.
Scourge:  2 Viperfish (damaged), 3 Daggertooth (damaged), 2 Stonefish

Mission 6: 
I hear Vegas is giving 200-1 odds on the Super Fortresses.. I still wouldn't take that bet.
Scourge:  4 Viperfish, 2 Goblin Shark, 2 Stonefish
Forsaken: 3 Superfortress (heavily damaged)

Mission 7: 
Some of the ships start inside the land area, so make sure you are not depending on torpedos only to hit the Stonefish.  You may be able to use the land to your advantage, try to keep them from getting too close.
Scourge:  3 Viperfish, 1 Daggerfish, 1 Goblin Shark, 1 Electric Eel, 2 Stonefish

So far, I've done this campaign for the first two prize packs.  On the second run-through (with an Uncommon Sea Serpents Crew), I used my CM Frosty / Crusaders for the first mission, my Grim Wrath/V2-H fleet for missions 2 - 4 (no repair between), then my CM Frosty / unarmored Rhinos for missions 5 and 6.  The only coin I needed was to fix my Frostburn after mission 5.  I had about 16 hours of repair built up when done, but this campaign will be available for another two weeks, so I don't feel a rush to get through it.

The Prizes:

Prize Pack #1: Strike Warheads

This combo weapon system increases damage for both missile and torpedo weapons.  Its obvious use is for builds that combine torpedos and missiles (V2-H or Hunters), but it is also pretty good compared to just Concussive Warheads (for Torps) or Enhanced Warhead (for Missiles) if you are willing to soak up the extra build time.  For a Missile-only fleet, I would prefer Interception System to get the speed boost.

Prize Pack #2: Charon Torpedo

This is NOT the same Charon Torpedo that the Scourge are using against us.  It has shorter range and does less damage.  But it is still a very effective choice for players to use, doing more than twice as much damage at a longer maximum range than the Assault Torpedo.  Its drawbacks are its lack of speed boost and its very long build time. 

The build time is obvious on the bubble chart:

One more point that you should be aware of... The Charon Torp is only 44 DPS/hTon.  Although it is clearly the hardest hitting torpedo, and sub builds are not usually weight limited anyway, the Charon's DPS/weight is not in the same neighborhood as the Blade Missile (237 DPS/hTon on a Rhino).  If you are looking at combo missile/torp builds, and you need to save some weight, these torps should be the first thing to drop.

The longer range of the Charon is very interesting, as many PvE targets are built around the previous range of 75 - 78 that most players had. Subs using Charon torpedoes might be able to freely prep targets that were not preppable before.  Of course the drawback is that building (or refitting) a sub fleet to take advantage of these torpedoes will be a long build time proposition with the day and a half build time for each torpedo.  (over 19 days for a Banshee build)

Prize Pack #3: Protoype Hunter 

With strong missile and torpedo buffs, as well as good speed and defense, this hull seems tailor-made to fight the Scourge.  It also is the first hull we've seen with the "Assault Deflection" statistic.  Assault Deflection works like built-in plate armor against any incoming damage from enemy ships.  After any resistance is applied, the deflection is subtracted.

To compare with some of the other prime Scourge-fighting ships out there, the Hunter looks pretty good, but not vastly superior.  The Rhino is certainly a great choice, and the very high Evade of the Frostburn is sometimes overlooked in comparison to its field & detection capability.  Even the V2-H R10 has some points worth considering.So overall, I don't think the Hunter is so great that all your other Anti-Scourge fleets should be put into storage. 

I'm seeing a lot of people posting builds like this:

(click on pic for Huggy's link)

I'm sure this build would really tear into the Scourge (and plenty of other targets too), but at 24 days each, you are really looking at a long shipyard commitment.  I haven't been a huge fan of the combination torpedo/missile ship builds, as torpedoes can be kind of slow and short range compared to missiles (and also less weight efficient).  But the Charon torpedoes will pack a big punch, and the tougher Scourge ships last long enough for the torpedoes to land.  Just remember those 4 torpedoes add 6 days to the build time all by themselves.

Since I'm fairly happy with where my Rhinos are going, I was thinking more of using a single Hunter as a Spotter/Tank.  With the Assault Deflection, good sonar, and good defenses, I'm thinking something like:

(click on pic for Huggy's link)

I didn't turn down the opportunity to use the new Blade missile, but I'm trying to focus on defense here, so I combined Reflective Coat with Shielded Electronics.  I would also have an Aegis behind this to provide some countermeasures - without that I'd want 1-2 Phalanx instead of Blades.  This ship is light - allowing it to be inserted into many fleets, and reasonably quick to build (under 2 weeks).  It should have enough armor to last through most Raid battles. A non-coiner might want more armor, to allow for a few encounters then some significant off-line repair time.  

By the way, I'm also thinking about a similar concept for a Neptune build, to take advantage of its Siege Deflection to tank against Strongholds.  I'll leave that build as an exercise for the reader (hint: leave your heavy weapon at home).

In fact, since this isn't a flagship hull, it might be worthwhile to build a few of these tank-builds, which would allow for rotating them through "tank" duty, then going offline for an extended time to repair them all.  I used that sort of strategy for the very first raid I won a top hull prize.  Of course, the ships I used were my old Peacemaker Floating Fortresses to tank for my new Siege Missile E armed Hammerheads.  And they were fighting targets that looked a lot like the Drac Base Artillery Platforms.  But I won my Strike Cruiser... and I was on my way.

Final thoughts:
It's a bit ironic that you need to fight the Scourge to get the best anti-Scourge weapons.  

If you don't yet have any good ships built to fight the Scourge, but you do have the blueprints for hulls like the Rhino, V2-H, or Frostburn, and some decent missile weapons like the Blade, Harrier, or even the Siege Missile Z, you should probably skip this campaign and keep focusing on a plan to use what you have.

If you already have a fleet that is good against the Scourge, you should be able to win this stuff without too much expense / trouble, but maybe you don't need it so much... and you should stick with what you have.

And if you have no fleets and no plan against the Scourge... I suspect this stuff is out of your reach at a reasonable cost.  (why are you still reading?)  A better plan might be to go after the V2-H and Siege Missile Z in the first Sea of Flames campaign, and then try to get the D53-D Disruption Missile from Tier 3 in the Weekly Mission.  As a starter, I put together this V2-H build for a player with "Tier 3" technology.  Once you win those, get building and get on the Retrofits where you can... I suspect the Scourge will be around for a while.