Part 28: Normal Campaign vs. Hard Campaign: Spot The Difference - Part 1
Normal Campaign vs. Hard Campaign: Spot The Difference - Part 1
I thought I'd change things up a bit and do a post about the differences in the mission maps between Normal and Hard Campaign, highlighting what was done to make Hard Campaign... well, hard (and sometimes questioning how effective it was). I also thought it'd be quite instructive for people who've never played AW2 to be able to see what it'd be like for people going through the game normally. If you fancy making this into an actual spot-the-difference game, then by all means you can study the maps first before scrolling down to look at my comments - although in some cases it's patently obvious what's changed.
In Normal Campaign, Orange Star is Tutorial Land, and Border Skirmish is the second mission - covering a lot of the game's basics. The first mission of Normal Campaign, Cleanup, didn't make it to Hard Campaign, probably because it was too easy. Hard Campaign makes Border Skirmish the first mission and changes it dramatically, not least by suddenly plunging it into Fog of War. You've got more units, but then so have the enemy - a whole lot more. The map's structure stays pretty similar, with only a few minor changes, but the fog of war changes the whole atmosphere of the battle. Taking a simple tutorial level and turning it into a serious challenge makes for a very effective "welcome to Hard Campaign" mission.
Orange Dawn (third mission of NC, second of HC) changes dramatically - most obviously, it's a lot longer now, and very windy (and with no copters to shortcut over to Flak's side, either). There's also a laser, and it's now a "War Room" style map, with no predeployed units and bases only.
The changes are a lot more subtle for Andy's Time, but they change the way the mission is played quite a lot. The minicannons in the east are a fairly obvious change, but the central island is the thing to focus on: moving the base there south one square puts it into Black Cannon range, turning it from the "obvious capture" base of Normal Campaign into a "bit of a white elephant, really" base of Hard Campaign. Flak also gets two bases rather than a base and a city: this helps him develop a lot more rapidly. On the plus side, Hard Campaign gives you an airport to play with rather than just a T-Copter. The lab map is here now: in NC, it's in Flak Attack
With Test of Time the geographical changes are fairly minor - what stands out is how many units there are, on both sides. Black Hole gets some serious firepower, including small and medium tanks and the infamous battleship-in-a-lake. The lander at least serves a purpose: in Normal Campaign this mission introduced Fog of War, and the idea that naval units could hide in reefs the same way that land units can hide in forests.
POW Rescue, Mountain Ops and Sea For All are all exclusive to Hard Campaign, replacing Flak Attack (the planes and surface-to-air defense tutorial), Lash Out (the naval tutorial) and Cleanup (the very first mission) respectively.
Again with Liberation the changes are fairly minor at first - there are some missile silos and airports hanging around, and the Black Hole base in front of the pipe seam makes it trickier to attack. Of course, the main difference with Hard Campaign here is what the factory pumps out: we've already seen how Liberation Hard Campaign is one of the toughest and most generally unfair missions in all of Hard Campaign, and certainly the toughest this side of Green Earth.
Moving on to Blue Moon, we reach Tanks!!! The geography of this mission is the same in both campaigns: the biggest difference is that Adder now has neotanks to throw into the mix (plus a few extra small tanks). To compensate, instead of two infantry we have four mechs - the good news here is that we can reach the missile silos a lot faster in Hard Campaign than in Normal Campaign. And at the end of the day, neotanks go down as fast to Grit as medium tanks do, so it's not that much tougher.
Toy Box makes the map two columns wider and one column taller, and chucks in a few predeployed units and pipes. It's still a big scrambly mess, but you have to plan your routes a little differently to, for instance, grab that nice cache of properties underneath the pipeline. The lab map city stays in the same "place" - the city surrounded by water, with bridges to the east and south.
Neotanks?! gives you a bunch of battle copters to worry about and spend your missile silos on rather than, say, crippling the infantry that are trying to take over the whole west side of the map. It also throws in a tank, artil and mech to contest those crucial properties by the bridge and make winning a real struggle. All this turns Neotanks?! into the second-toughest mission this side of Green Earth.
Reclamation makes the map a little bit larger and throws in a laser cannon and some missile silos, as well as giving Lash some predeployed forces. A few other details change (airport changes into a base, there's another base for Lash to grab), but other than that it's quite similar.
A big massive picture for big massive Nature Walk. The geography stays the same, so it's all about the units. A few extra neotanks slot in to make your life difficult, as well as some rockets, medium tanks etc. And the two mechs start two squares closer to your HQ, so you've got one less turn to work with (the infantry are one square further away, but this has the benefit for Lash of them not getting tangled up with the mechs). On the plus side, you get an extra pair of medium tanks - but given this is Grit, it's not an amazing amount of help.
T Minus 15 also keeps the exact same geography, and the unit changes are subtle as well. Flak now has one extra bomber, two tanks and two AA near your starting units, and a few other extra units scattered around the place. The extra bomber in particular makes life harder for Olaf's southern forces. On the bright side, Andy gets two extra bombers, so it seems like an okay trade-off.
Two Week Test again has the same geography: the only difference is that now both sides have pre-deployed units. Of course, Lash has a lot more than you, including infantry and mechs very close to your front lines and that pesky battleship. Still the same "survive for 14 days" remit, though.
Again the geography stays the same for Factory Blues (come on guys, show some creativity!), but Lash has pre-deployed units (and of course a much nastier bunch of units to come out of the factory). The good news is that your Orange Star helper gets some more starting units too.
Arriving in Yellow Comet, Sensei's Return has become quite a bit larger, with a wider peninsula to work with. Adder also has minicannons and a bunch of pre-deployed units to work with, including those two cruisers and a missile launcher hanging around near his HQ. Of course, Sensei can still roll him over here because he's... well, Sensei .
For Show Stopper, the geography stays the same and even your first look at the map under Fog of War is exactly the same - it's only once battle begins that you see the differences. Adder has more stuff at his disposal, and it's deployed further forwards. He also has the battleship/submarine mini-navies in each lake that end up being spectacularly useless. The lab map city stays in the same place.
Sea of Hope again has the same geography in both campaigns, but the two big differences are a) Adder now has three bombers rather than one bomber and one B-Copter, making Sami's life a whole lot tougher and b) he also has four neotanks. There are a couple of other changes, but they're fairly straightforward.
Silo Scramble gets changed rather a lot - in Normal Campaign it's a one-front battle rather than the three-front one of Hard Campaign - to make up for this, in NC the central island has some bases to shorten your supply lines. And then there's the predeployed units.
A Mirror Darkly keeps the geography the same but upgrades Lash's forces with neotanks and eight extra units that start out further up the field. Of course, you get medium tanks rather than tanks to defend your HQ, which helps a lot.
Foul Play has the same geography but throws in more units - three extra tanks up by the "Surprise Package" makes your coup there that much tougher, while Adder's Ridiculous Doom Army gets an advance guard of middies and tanks, and more neotanks (but strangely it loses its AA). You get one more bomber and a middie replacing a small tank for your troubles.
Well, that's it so far, I hope it's been interesting to watch. I guess I'll do the second half of this when I finish Hard Campaign.