Greetings, soldiers, and welcome to mech pilot boot camp. Now I know many of the men and women in this room have varying levels of experience facing off against our enemies, the alien Vek. Some of you just charged into the breach for the first time, unsure of what you’ve gotten yourselves into. Others have seen a timeline or two but don’t feel like you’ve developed the skills yet to be a real soldier. Whichever kind of soldier you are, my purpose here today is the same: the help you understand the basic strategies that are effective in the battle against the Vek.
A little background on my own journey as a pilot. I first breached on the fifth of January, and since that time I’ve fought seven battles using three different mech squadrons. Four of the timelines I ventured to came out the other side – three were lost to the Vek forever. I’ve won many battles but made just as many mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable on the battlefield, but that doesn’t make them excusable; our mistakes cost lives, resources, and perhaps most importantly of all, achievements. So my goal today is to teach you the lessons I have learned over a number of timelines, the intermediate skills that can help elevate you from a greenhorn to a true soldier. Perhaps in learning from my story, tragedy can be prevented in your own timelines.
Here’s how this is gonna go. We’ll start out with some basic tools that you should know about but maybe don’t. From there we’ll move on to skills such as mission selection and knowing the achievements you’re striving for from the very beginning. After that, we’ll talk strategy using specific examples from my own battles to help you understand the sorts of difficult choices you have to make on the battlefield. Finally, once the discussion is over I’ll open the floor to questions. So get ready, soldiers, and let’s learn all we can about how to stand against the Vek menace!
USING ALL OF YOUR TOOLS
There’s no manual for war. Sure, there’s a tutorial you can play to show you the bare basics, but even that doesn’t dive into everything you have in your toolbox to help you win the day. During my journey I’ve learned a couple of different techniques the hard way, so let’s discuss them to help you incorporate them the moment you get your hands onto a set of mech controls.
Every turn of combat is made up into two distinct phases: movement and action. The movement phase is when you position your mech on the battlefield; the action phase is when you fire a weapon or make repairs to your machine. Note that repairing does more than just restoring one unit of damage for your mech; it also gives you the time to eradicate other penalizing statuses such as ice in the joints or any parts which might have caught on fire. I’ve watched some soldiers lose their lives thinking that once they were on fire they had no choice but to go down in a blaze of glory, but that isn’t the case: keeping up with your repairs will allow you to fight another day. Your mech can be replaced, but you’ve only got one life.
Now the way I described your options above may make it seem that you have to act in a certain order. Move then attack, or move then repair – these may seem like the only options available to you. This misconception is reinforced by the fact that firing your weapon before you move your mech locks you out of your movement action. If that’s the case, then what do I mean when I say that you can act in a different order? What I mean, soldier, is that your movements and attacks don’t have to be taken one mech at a time. Here’s an example: let’s say I move my cannon mech into firing position to take out a Vek aiming at a nearby building. Behind that Vek is one of my men in their own mech. If I fire my cannon, that mech will take damage too, putting my soldier at risk. But just because I moved doesn’t mean I have to take my action right away – he can move to a different position and then I can fire my weapon. Heck, he can move and fire his weapon all before I take my action if he wants to.
This may seem simple, but in my experience it was easy to get caught up in the idea of focusing on only one mech at a time. “How will this unit move, and which Vek will they hit after movement?” Thinking in this way can cause you to miss the new set of options that might open up by moving another mech before you take your shot. Movement, too, is a more forgiving option than firing a weapon. No matter how many mechs you move, as long as you don’t fire your weapon none of them are locked into the movement that you made. A quick press of the ZL button will make a mild time adjustment that returns you to your original position. You lose this option once you fire, but until then you can move and reposition your units to your heart’s content in order to explore your options on the field.
There’s one tool in particular that it took me multiple timelines to notice on my controls – once I did, I felt stupid for never looking at it before. In the picture above, notice in the upper left corner that you can see unit order by clicking the right control stick. The tutorial doesn’t explicitly tell you about this option or how to take strategic advantage of it, but it is an essential weapon against the Vek. Pressing this button reveals the attack order of your enemies, which can mean the difference between having one Vek’s attack stop the other from executing theirs – or thinking that you’ve set up a situation where two Vek will stop each other and instead they take action in the opposite order, devastating your forces.
This button doesn’t just reveal the order of attacks, but also the order that other effects are going to resolve. For example, on maps where rocks are falling or where the tide is rising, you can see that these natural events will resolve before the Vek start attacking, so you can safely ignore a Vek standing on a tile with such a warning. The same applies to Vek that are on fire. However, Vek standing on cracked ground won’t take damage from emerging Vek until after their attack has resolved, so pushing a weakened enemy onto a cracked tile won’t stop them from executing their move. I learned much of this the hard way, losing units or watching Vek escape my traps because I didn’t know the proper order that these events resolve. Turns out that instead of learning it the hard way, I could have just clicked a button and known it all right from the beginning.
Now that brings us to the end of the simple stuff, the things I should have realized early on but didn’t. My hope is that knowing about these tools right away will help you to avoid some of the same simple but costly mistakes that I made on my earliest missions. Our next topic is knowledge that comes with experience – proper mission selection and being aware of your overarching goals.
Our struggle against the Vek isn’t about a single battle – or even a single war. Our struggle takes place over many timelines, and to achieve all we can in our fight we have to be aware of what we are striving for every time our mechs hit the battlefield. There are a number of achievements to obtain in our neverending battle and none of them happen by accident. Every time you jump to a new timeline, you should already know which achievements you plan to get so that you can make decisions according to those goals. The choices you make – from your mission selection to your loadout to your sacrifices – will depend on which goal you are striving for in each timeline.
Let’s first focus on Island Challenges. These are achievements which can be gained over the course of completing a single island. Two of these achievements focus more on the costs you incur during battle – either damage to your mech or damage to buildings. These are relatively simple because they make it easier to choose what to sacrifice in a given situation. If you have to choose between a mech that’s been webbed and a building that’s under fire, all you have to ask yourself is which achievement you are trying to get. If you’re trying to clear the whole island with no building damage, the clear choice is to let your webbed mech get smashed while you defend the building.
Some of the island challenges are more about mission selection. One asks that you earn or buy 10 energy for your grid while the other asks that you earn 9 reputation. To accomplish these tasks, you’ll have to think about what missions to choose on your island, and some islands won’t even have the right combination of missions to help you. For example, to earn 9 reputation on a single island, you’ll need three of your four missions before the headquarters attack to grant 2 reputation for completing the objectives. If that’s not possible on the island you are on, you’ll have to wait until the next one. Because the grid power achievement also allows you to buy energy, that one is a bit easier – you only have to earn one unit of grid power as long as you get 9 reputation to purchase the rest. You could theoretically knock out both of these on a single island!
Where island challenges focus on a single corporate island, challenge runs are achievements that must be earned by completing three corporate islands in a row in a specific way. It takes an entire timeline to complete one of these achievements, and a mistake means you’ll have to try again in a whole separate timeline. This can make these achievements a bit more frustrating, but using the strategy of wise mission selection along with preparation for the challenge run can help you out a lot.
Here’s an example from my own failed missions. I tried not once, not twice, but three times to earn the There is No Try achievement, which requires you to get three perfect islands consecutively in a single timeline. The first two times I kept finding myself in situations where I was outnumbered or outwitted and had no way to prevent an objective from being lost. When I finally started my third run, I had a realization. I asked myself: “why am I choosing the missions with the highest threat ratings?” The fewer objectives you have, the easier it is to meet them all. The best way to get a perfect island is to focus on the lowest stakes missions. The rewards may not be as great when you get to the end, but you’re much more likely to have a perfect run and get the achievement. Once I had this realization and started choosing easier missions, I got my There is No Try achievement without breaking a sweat.
As a back-up, think of which challenge runs you can try for simultaneously so that if one goes south, the other can potentially still work out. With my two failed perfect runs, I also kept my options open for one of the other challenge runs, specifically Engineering Dropout (no powering up weapon modifications) and Trusted Equipment (don’t change your gear or your pilots). By keeping these open as back-up achievements while working towards the more difficult one, I managed to still obtain goals on the timelines that ultimately “failed.” And by being willing to adapt to new circumstances, you can do the same, soldier.
WAR STORIES FROM MY JOURNEYS INTO THE BREACH
Now while it can be helpful for you to hear the general strategies that help you be more effective, there is very little that can prepare you for the sorts of difficult decisions you might have to make in the heat of the moment on the battlefield. The best way to help you understand those kinds of moments is to share some of my own experiences, the strategies I employed that ultimately won the day and the ones I tried that failed me. Let’s start with the picture above, a final battle that ended in a timeline destroyed.
You can see that I was in a pretty sight spot. Three clusters of buildings were in danger from four different sources, and all of my resources were pushed to the edge. My Renfield Bomb, the necessary weapon to destroy the Vek hive and the objective for the mission, was at one single point of health. My grid power was also at one, and so was one of my mechs. Not only did I have four enemies who were directly attacking to worry about, but the Psion’s special ability was to deal a point of damage to all my units – the Renfield Bomb included. In essence, I had five targets to stop with three mechs, and my circumstances seemed impossible. I resigned myself to failure and determined that my only solution was to pray that one of the buildings that got attacked would benefit from the random chance of a shield forming.
I did luck out and have my building survive, but the Renfield Bomb got destroyed by the Psion Vek, which I failed to account for in my plan. I thought this would lose me the battle – instead, another Renfield Bomb dropped onto the battlefield, and my turns until victory extended slightly. Turns out that you get at least one do-over in the final mission if your Renfield Bomb is destroyed – had I known that, I could have sacrificed the Renfield Bomb on an earlier turn in exchange for reducing some of the building damage. In the long run, knowing that the Renfield Bomb was a secondary objective compared to grid defense would have helped me make better decisions. It’s something to keep in mind for future timelines.
Sometimes during a mission, getting an objective will mean making a move that seems dangerous or impractical. On one particular corporate island I found headquarters under attack by the Vek, and their leader was a beetle. Beetles attack by charging, so they can sometimes end up far away from the action if you simply push them to a different tile on the battlefield. This is helpful for getting buildings out of harm’s way, but it can also put the beetle far away from your mechs, which is a problem when killing the beetle before the end of the mission is one of your objectives.
On the penultimate turn, my beetle target was poised to charge clean across the field far away from any of my mechs. It was a great situation to be in defensively – my buildings would be safe – but there’s be no way for me to kill the beetle during the next turn. I had to figure out a way to trap it, but my options were limited. It was at the top edge of the map, but moving it downward would put it in a position to do 3 damage to my grid, quite a severe blow. The mechs capable of doing damage couldn’t reach it to take it out that turn, and they needed to focus their attention on stopping the other Vek anyway.
The one tool I had at my disposal was a science mech with no offensive abilities. I couldn’t move the beetle, I couldn’t attack the beetle – but I could stand in its way. I placed my science mech in the beetle’s path to stop its attack, putting it in a position where my other mechs could destroy it on the next turn. This action required me to sacrifice a mech in order to obtain an objective, but sacrifice can sometimes mean the difference between victory and defeat. Combat will always be about measuring cost and determining which objective is the most significant to you in the moment.
These are hard lessons to learn, and these are only the lessons of a traveler who has seen less than a two handfuls of timelines. My knowledge is sure to grow greater with experience, and yours will too. Life is about choices, and those choices have a significant impact – but in a world with time travel, even our deadliest mistakes are ones we can learn from. At this point, I’ll open the floor to questions. I’ve shared many of my strategies and techniques today but I might have missed something pertinent to your needs. If I have the knowledge necessary to guide you in your fight, soldier, I’ll help as best as I can. If you have nothing to ask, then all I can do now is wish you luck as you head once more into the breach.