Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dragon Strike Campaign and prizes

The Dragon Strike campaign was released last week, and I haven't gotten around to reviewing it or the prizes until now.  This article took a while because I wanted to play through the campaign a couple times. The short story is that the prizes aren't super great, so I didn't feel the rush.  I thought the higher priority was to take a close look at the Cadmium armor... which I did.

This campaign is structured like other campaign sets, unlocking at level 55 and having three difficulty levels with increasing encounters and decreasing time at each level. The main differences from other campaigns are: 
  • The time allowed for each campaign is longer than other campaigns - 24 hours for Pack 1, 18 hour for Pack 2, and 12 hour for Mastery.
  • The third level (mastery) is a limited time campaign. It will be available until November 10th (Tuesday before the next raid).
Of course, the other big difference between the Dragon Strike and other campaigns is that some of the encounters (3, 5, & 7) are attacks on your base.

I have some tips for these campaign encounters:

Encounters 1 & 2 (FvF):
  • These aren't easy targets, so make sure you have a good FvF fleet to use that won't utilize the ships you depend on for base defense.
  • Scourge Torpedo subs can beat these pretty handily.  Even without those, I used my Spectres with Assault Torpedo B to prep all of the ships except the ones with thermal.  Just be smart about your flagship - make it dead, Phantom, or expendable because they will chase it (on encounter 1).
Encounter 4 (Drac Platform with guard ships):
  • Not a simple target either, but if you break it apart into sections (instead of just charging in) you can do it more easily.
  • Subs can also prep some ships in here, but you probably want to be careful about trying for the ones on the interior.
Encounter 6 (Drac "Base" with guard ships):
  • The initial entry has cryo mines, you can rim those and try to get some retargeting onto their turrets.
  • After opening the gates & clearing mines, the base might be sub preppable (Tiger Sharks & Banshees).  Tiger Sharks with their sonar can probably clear the mines themselves.
  • Watch out for the Ballista in this base - keep moving to make it useless.
  • Pinch something - either an Enforcer or the center turrets.
Encounters 3, 5, & 7 (Base Defense):
  • If you don't want to coin base repairs, plan your time so that you can wait the time between base repairs but still complete the campaign in time.  Leaving 8 hours for base repair (this allows turrets to be fixed), you can do the first two packs over that 8 hour period and you are allotted 18 - 24.  Hit #3 at the start, then #5 eight hours later.  If attempting the Mastery level with three base hits, you won't be able to let your turrets totally repair between each hit - you'll need to work with damaged turrets or do some coining.  I would suggest running the first two hits closer together, then making sure you are fully repaired for the final one.
  • After a successful base defense, you will get a 12 hour bubble.  Starting the base defense encounter will not pop an existing bubble.
  • Don't be afraid to drive your fleets.  Greta Spader won't send you any condescending messages.
  • Don't worry about sub defense in your guard fleet.  If you have a ship optimized for sub spotting, consider swapping it out for something with more punch.
  • Use an Aegis if you have it.  It can be tricky to use an Aegis in offline base defense, but when you can drive it to a spot, it is much easier to use.
  • The incoming ships were heavily distracted by firing at non-defensive buildings like resource generators and labs.
  • They also seemed to prioritize targeting guard ships over turrets, so a ship would often drive into pyroclasts or other short-range turrets to fire at guards.
  • Use a crew - Sea Serpents is very useful since the extra evade works against the missiles and launchers that the attackers are firing.
  • Keep your dock away from your entrance side of your base - the attackers seem to fire a few missiles with very long range when they warp into your base, and those few missiles really love docks somehow.
  • The Proto-Nemesis in #7 is most vulnerable to subs.
Just to diagram a few of these principles for you, I'll show my interior base layout:

(I actually recorded a video, but the file got corrupted.  Sorry!)

The Aegis isn't usually part of my guard fleet, but I have room for it since the Dock 12 upgrade (haven't messed with my guard yet).  I also use a Mastodon & Omega Behemoth instead of the Rhinos.  The Mastodon is a little more optimized for base defense with its longer range, but my Rhinos have more punch and I can drive the Rhinos to the spot I need them.  l also don't need the Omega since I don't need its sub spotting.  Again, the Rhino has more firepower.  When the battle starts, I drive the Aegis into a position to cover the Enforcer, and the Rhinos behind that to cover the Enforcer's fire circle.  If the Enforcer dies, I would drive the Aegis to cover the Harlock Carrier, and reposition the Rhinos to stay out of trouble.

One more update - at Mastery level, I used the layout above, but I swapped that carrier for a Grim Wrath (to get even more reload on my Rhinos), and used Steelheads crew.  The Proto went down without even killing my Enforcer.

And just as an aside, I'm not too thrilled with this design for OP7... I need to spend some more time laying out a new concept.

For an even more sneaky tactic, check out PriceIsWrong's video of the Elite campaign.  At one point, he shows how guard ships on the outside can be used to make the attackers circle back and forth in your channel.  You may be able to keep them under Apoc Mortar fire with this tactic, or even make them time out if you are skillful and patient enough.

And now on to the prizes....

Shockwave Plate:

Versions of this armor are available from prize packs 1 & 2.  This armor has a benefit of giving a flat damage reduction (like Plate armor or deflection) against launcher shockwaves (and nothing else).  comparing the damage reduction to the amount of damage from an Antipode shock (24k+), it seems pretty low, so for this to have a good effect even in its intended use, I would think you need to stack up a few of these plates.  With that configuration, you are losing your options for the defense bonuses from Zynthonite armor, which most ships depend on.  

Ignoring the usefulness (or non-usefulness) of the armor's special capability, the Shockwave Plate 2 has a decent build time for a "large" piece of armor, but the Shockwave Plate 1 does not.  The weight per armor point is the same as the other Forsaken Plate armors.

It is tough for me to come up with a ship configuration where this armor would be really useful - most PvE targets do not have enough massed launchers to get shockwaves against decently built player ships.  In base hitting, Enforcers do have a decent chance of getting a shockwave against incoming ships, but I'm not sure that I'd want to build a fleet or even a single tank ship to be so specialized.  

Ballista Turret:

The Ballista is available from Prize Pack 2.  Most of the players who went to build the Dead-Eye Ballista found out that the turret has a big weakness - The D-E Ballista fires at a spot like the Arbalest, so it has real trouble against moving fleets. I am pretty sure this turret does the same, but even so... Information from readers and the forums suggests that the Ballista turret is aimed, unlike the Dead-Eye.  Comparing this turret to the Javelin, we see only a mild DPS increase although it does have much better range.

The key to using this turret is finding a way to make it hit.  For example, placing a Ballista on the center island with my base layout I showed above would be pretty much useless.  Incoming attack fleets are not stopping anywhere for very long.  The only way I could think of to make the Ballista (or the Dead-Eye version) useful would be to layout the base so that it fires straight down a chute at incoming ships, so that they are moving toward the shot.  

Fundamentally, I don't think players that will be able to win this turret are really looking for another turret that has similar DPS to the turrets they already have, yet would require a base redesign to use effectively.

This turret has a nice range upgrade and a mild DPS upgrade from the Javelin.  I suppose it would be preferred to the Jav, but maybe not a priority to build.

Draconian Coaxial Turret:

This limited base defense turret is available at the Mastery Prize pack (1 per campaign with a limit of 5).  This is an improved version of the Coaxial turret we have had available for a while. The major differences are that the countermeasures have longer range and are area effect (like flak), and the gun fires more slowly with a heavier shot.

The DPS of the "gun mode" is improved compared to the previous Coax:

And the 4 shot flak is the only way the countermeasures are even remotely useful in today's game - the incoming volume of missiles from ships like Rhinos will easily overwhelm any sort of single shot countermeasures available to a player.

The problem with the countermeasures is that many players are using Blade Missiles with their 80% flak evade... so the flak mode will still only reduce the incoming volume of fire by 20% at best (unless you can layer a few of these).  It likely won't be enough to make enemies stop for very long.  But the other thing to consider is that the gun mode has a range of 96, so it might be able to get a few shots onto enemies that don't carefully stop at their missile weapon's max range (98.6 with Blade and SFB3 or GMS).  The Pyroclast has the potential to hit harder, but with a range of 90, it is easier for attackers to avoid.  For players that can earn it, I don't think this turret will be the key to stopping missile (or any fleets), but it will possibly be a benefit.  For example, it you look at my base picture up above, I might consider replacing the third Pyroclast in with one of these - it would cover the other two front Pyros and the Enforcer.

So overall, I think that Dragon Strike is a pretty cool concept, but the prizes are pretty meh.  Play it if you want.  Don't if you don't.