Seeing footage of XCOM: Enemy Unknown at this year’s PAX: East quickly reminded me how much I longed for the glory days of well executed turn based strategy. Not only did the XCOM look incredible, it also seemed to mysteriously capture the tone and pedigree of the original title. If you’re anything like myself and have been waiting for a proper release day for this long anticipated title, we’ve got great news, the wait is almost over! XCOM is set to invade North America on October 9th 2012 for both 360 and PC. (click for more info)
Crow. I’m eating it. In the months leading up to the release of Mass Effect 3 I spent a lot of time on this podcast hating on the thought that another game with such a rich singe-player experience was being tainted with the stench of multiplayer aspects. (anyone still playing Dead Space 2 multiplayer? Right.). Here’s another game, I thought, that was going to take hard-fought achievements away from the single player campaign and replace them with grinding achievements in multiplayer. Well, here we are now, and I’m a mass effect multiplayer believer.
Unfortunately, playing online with strangers is often a mess, where squadmates typically compete for kills rather than cooperate toward completing the challenge. Fortunately, we’ve got a pretty solid squad here at NA-HQ and have also played some excellent rounds with our community. Today, I wanted to share some of my experiences from the front lines and present some helpful tips for getting the job done during those weekend community challenges.
To be clear, this is not about exploits, or setting in the conditions in your favor. We enjoy the craziness of random opponent and random map. We don’t all have elite weapons, and the rare weapons we do have are around II. While just about any four people can whip through a Bronze in 20 minutes, I like to focus on the future. So hopefully these practical tips will help out players of all combat and skill levels on the higher levels.
1. No more heroes… we all go home or nobody goes home
In the words of the immortal Sgt. Slaughter, “it’s time you learn we’re a team, Red Dog… We all go home or nobody goes home.” Those words are as true today as they were in 1987. No one needs you to hold your ground and take one for the team while you go “stand-up” against a Banshee. Sometimes falling back is the best option, allowing you to re-establish a favorable fighting position against the enemy. Additionally, the +1000 points or so you’d get from killing that Banshee on your own pale in comparison to the team bonus you get for a Full Extraction, keep that in mind. And if you’re that dude who hits the LZ and runs alone straight to the opposite corner of the map, I can’t help you.
2. Team member is down… it’s a trap!
Don’t panic. Your teammate died for a reason, don’t throw that sacrifice away needlessly by charging into the room to be obliterated by an army of Geth Pyros. Your first instinct is to revive the teammate as quickly as possible, but that sometimes leads to a pile of bodies. “Patience. Use the force… think.” – did a Maruader pick the player off while they were focusing on a charging Brute? It’s usually the weaker enemies hiding nearby that actually get the kills because the larger ones draw more attention (check the log). The AI wants you to return, it’s a trap. Players revive at the end of a wave, and can revive themselves just before bleeding out. You have options. Use them.
3. Start simply, do what you know, use your talents, practice.
“The intermediate interface chapter on haunting says it all. Get them out yourselves. It’s your house.” Like I said, it’s not like we’ve got great weapons. We work together. The Avenger is a great all around weapon and can be more than deadly in capable hands. I’m a terrible marksman, I’m more accurate with the Falcon than the Widow, so I leave the sniping to others. // How’s that concussive shot doing against that Atlas shield? Stop wasting time, call your Engineer over to Overload, they’d probably appreciate you keeping the Phantom off their back. // While you can’t always have a squad for every occasion I think an Engineer is too well-rounded to be left out of any battle. // Don’t forget about tech and biotic explosions… as a team. // The point is to be consciously aware of personal (and class-based) strengths and weaknesses.
4. Turn the tables… in the Crossfire!
Holding a position is a pretty decent strategy — holding a position, bugging out when there’s trouble, and regrouping back at the original position without explicit planning is a great one. The problem with holding a position however, is that the team will eventually be overwhelmed by sheer numbers or outflanked. And then what? While you don’t get any style points for spotting, it’s the single most important thing you can do on your team. There are moments in every match where you think, “gee, all of the enemies are pouring out of the same location, seems too easy.” That’s when you need to start looking around.
When all eyes are trained on the same path, it’s time to survey the other routes. If you can, take a flanking position on your own squad, one that is close enough that you can rejoin the squad if a tactical retreat is necessary. Get the enemies caught in YOUR crossfire… Cross-FIRREEE! This serves two purposes: 1.) you slow down a flanking wave of enemies with cover fire to avoid fighting on two fronts and 2.) should a grenade / brute / turret / phantom / pyro attempt to team-wipe a group standing in the same place, at least one or two players might survive the lapse. Which brings me to…
5. Start a demolition derby, aka the “blender”.
Consider a scenario in which you are one of the last… or the last person alive on your team. You can do this… “they have more sharkticons than you have photon charges? Start a demolition derby!” It’s time for guerrilla warfare. Personally, I think the entire match should be fought this way no matter how many in the squad are standing, but it’s easier with one or two. A good squad should use the observer camera to watch your flanks while you run away. The strategy is to pick off smaller enemies one-by-one, while taking the natural circling paths throughout maps. Don’t move so fast that you walk into a turret, but not too slow to let the slow, hulking enemies catch up. (Alternatively, don’t move so fast the you catch up to the elite enemy on the other side.) What should happen is that you’ve got the entire mob lined up neatly behind you. Then, the elite enemies are much easier to handle one on one. “Me Grimlock say execute THEM!“
Good luck, good hunting, and Happy Gaming.