Part 3: Lashing OutLashing Out
I'd say welcome back to the LP, but at the rate I'm going, well, some of you probably haven't finished reading the last post. Anyways, today we get to see two new COs, including one that we can actually play as besides Jake!
Not anymore! Thanks to me, they're all caught up now.
Gangway! I'm here!
Hooray! It's Max!
Uhhh... 'Sup? Who are you?
Jake's a local boy, so he's never seen the Macro Land COs.
What?! You can't be serious! Don't tell me Nell's little sis didn't tell you about me! I'm Orange Star's powerhouse, Max! I'm sure you've heard of me!
So much for keeping Rachel and Nell's relation secret.
And your choice for Jake's coloring makes him look like he's related to Max, as well. Change Max's colors, stat.
We're kinda out in the sticks, so news is hard to come by.
All right, I'll let you off easy this time. So where's Rachel?
She's back at HQ for a war council. She'll be back in a couple of days.
Ain't that something? And after I came all this way to help, too. But here I am, so let's get out there and take back all that land you lost! What's your name, kid?
You know, in any other game I'd point out that Max probably had orders and therefore had no choice but to come out here. However, this is Advance Wars we're talking about. It's reasonable that Max decided to come out here just because he thought he could have fun roughing up some Black Hole troops, and therefore almost reasonable he'd be a bit miffed that Rachel wasn't there to visit when he arrived.
I'm Jake. I got transferred to the Omega Land front a few days ago.
Hah! Nice to meet you, Jake. Man, you've got a lot of nothing out here! If the Black Hole attacks with any force, there's nothing to stop 'em.
Don't I know it. So what's your style, Max?
I like to hit the enemy hard and fast! No sneaking around for me. I like to pop 'em in the nose in direct combat! POW!
Yeah, you've got some serious guns. Any strategy you don't like?
Yeah, I guess. Why don't you check out my CO profile for the details?
All right, cool...
Commander Jake! Bad news. We've spotted Black Hole troops!
About time. This was getting awkward.
What?! Rachel's not here... Guess I have to step up!
Whoa there, rookie! Running around without a plan is like painting a big, fat target on your chest. Why don't you take a seat and let me show you how it's done!
Word. That'll probably cut down on casualties and stuff.
You're a smart kid. I like that. We'll be fighting side by side in no time. I'm gonna go kick some Black Hole! Watch and learn, Jake!
Go get 'em, Max!
Tee hee hee...
Yes! Meet one of the best COs in the game, Lash! Why is she one of the best? Well, you'll see. Artix, prepare to meet a character you won't hate.
I know that laugh...
You've heard it before
Yeah, I know who it is.
Tee hee hee! What a pathetic bunch! I'm sooooo bored! Tee hee hee...
Huh? She's just a young girl?
And you're a conscripted DJ, what of it?
Actually, what sort of qualifications are needed to become a CO? Jake's not even the least appropriate general that gets fielded this war.
Don't let her fool you. She roughed us up last time we fought. Hey, Lash! I thought we knocked some sense into you last time around!
Oh, look, it's Orange Star's great big monkeyboy, Max. Let me guess... They shipped you out here 'cuz you stink at indirect combat, right?
Shut your trap! What're you scum doing out here, anyway?
I'll never tell! But I do know that while you guys are all beat up, Black Hole just keeps getting stronger...and stronger...and stronger!
She's right about that, but shouldn't both of us be exhausted? What's going on? How did you recover so quickly? Where did you get your supplies and funding?
Cities? They found a massive number of cities to capture?
Don't be silly. Units and funds don't persist from one mission to another.
Quiet, this is plot time. Gameplay possibilities aren't stupid enough for the plot.
Duh! Like I'd even tell you that! But don't worry--you'll find out soon enough. You lucky guys get to help me field-test my latest invention, the black bomb! It's gonna BLOW your minds! You'll get a BANG out of it! Tee hee hee!
Black bomb? It's nothing more than a big missile. Our copters will take it out.
Nuh-uh! Copters can't attack it! I'd back off now if I were you.
Bah! You're wasting your breath. Let's just get to the blasting!
I'd agree with you...if you actually stopped talking and let me play at this point.
Terrible bomb puns aside, she appears to hate the main character as much as I do. This is acceptable, and I will tentatively give her my stamp of approval.
She's also the only major CO who's openly callous and okay with sending her troops to die. If you subscribe to the 'these games are actually nasty wars even if they have bright colors' school of thought, that makes her the most honest, since everyone else is like that in practice.
I guess the COs are just Wars World's upper class, and they don't care about the peasants.
Max, check it out! The enemy has two Md tanks!
Relax, will you? Take a look at what units we've got deployed. See those battle copters over the sea? Use 'em right, and we'll just be fine.
...and Max goes into Tutorial Mode here and tells us about capturing HQs, which I already talked about last mission so I'm just gonna cut him off here.
All right, lets take a look at the field. We've got nothing more than a pair of Mechs, an APC and an artillery to defend our home with, but we've got a sizable airforce of B-Copters. The enemy has four tanks, two normal, two Md or Medium tanks. Those would normally be so much food for the B-Copters, but the one air unit Black Hole has is going to put a dent in that plan.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Black Bomb, a massive bomb slapped onto a rocket engine. It counts as a jet so, as Lash said, our copters are defenseless against it and we've got no airfields to repair them afterwards, unlike our ground forces. The black-bomb will do massive damage to all units within a 2-range radius.
For being a new invention, I expected something a little more...sophisticated than duct-taping a rocket engine to a couple missiles.
Forgive Artix; he hasn't quite gotten a grip on Black Hole's style yet.
The bomb's gonna go off no matter what, so I try boxing it with my Bcopters, blocking it's movement while having my other three copters fly off into the corner out of it's movement range. With any luck, Lash will just set it off here and damage the two copters and leave the other two alone. We also load one Mech into our T-Copter, move our APC forward to act as a wall and move our Artillery forward as well so it can actually fire. You see...Max's ranged units are kind of...special. We'll get to that in a moment, first let's take a look at the new units presented and our new COs.
Not that it matters yet, but Alkydere set this up well. The unit that can shoot back (the mech) is on the tile that will heal and resupply it. For non-combat units, there's no functional difference between 1 HP and full, but the guys who shoot want to be healthy.
...I'll have more interesting tidbits in a few more maps. Cut me some slack.
Here are our B-Copters. They are, in effect, flying tanks. They are also the bane of tanks. As helicopters they're far faster than ground and sea units, though not quite as fast as jets for obvious reasons. They also have enough fuel to give them a massive endurance for flying units. B-Copters will devastate ground units. They are the bane of all tanks as the tanks can only use their mounted MGs to fire back and rarely do more than a measly 1 or 2 damage to a B-Copter, and often don't even do that much. The same goes for infantry, but infantry are cheap and you often don't care if your enemy's B-Copters tear them to shreds with return fire. Unless you have some dedicated Anti-Air, such as Fighter jets, AA tanks, Missiles or Cruisers, B-Copters are a pain the the ass to fight and it's often best to build your own B-Copters to match them. Quite nice for only 9K a pop.
B-Copters are one of my favorite units to use. Flight, low cost, resistant to most land units, and decent attack in one package. However, they get no terrain stars to their defense. This is actually important; even plains give one star. Although it doesn't hurt their mobility, these guys lose a noticeable bit of attack in rougher terrain, but they don't gain its benefits.
We're also given a T-Copter. There's really not much to say besides the fact that these transport choppers are just APCs that traded their ability to resupply for the ability to fly. Quite useful hauling our infantry divisions over rough terrain but nothing special to talk about.
That seems like a pretty significant trade off. I would think free fuel and ammo is a bit better than being able to fly, except in some pretty specific circumstances.
Winning the map in one move is probably a decent example of specific circumstances. Don't discount the value of a single well-placed infantry to capture from the back lines.
And here's the enemy MdTank. MdTanks are just bigger tanks, but it comes at the cost of lower movement and fuel costs. MdTanks can tear through normal tanks with relative ease, only taking 2-3 damage from a full health enemy Tank under most circumstances. They're also big enough you really don't want to try to do anything more than slow them down with Mechs. Use indirect fire, B-Copters, or anything bigger to deal with MdTanks as they'll crush anything smaller under their slowly advancing treads. Basically, Tanks are Cavaliers, MdTanks are Knights, and B-Copters are Dragon Riders if we want to get into more Fire Emblem comparisons. Anyways, enough of that, let's look at our COs before we continue.
This is the first unit I won't really praise much. These guys are absurdly tough, yeah, but their low movement and high cost keeps me from placing them against much but normal tanks. They had a solid place in AW1, but AW2's new unit outpaced them in a number of key areas.
Here's Max, Orange Star's own gorilla. Jake wasn't kidding when he said the guy had some serious guns. The guy could probably throw Tanks at the enemy, and in a less literal sense that's exactly his style. All of his non-infantry direct fire units get +20% to their attack while, but all if his indirect fire units have their range reduced by one. This can get frustrating and nasty, especially if you're on a sandstorm map and your Rocket's attack range has been reduced from 3-5 to 3-3.
I really like using indirect fire and choke points to winnow enemy forces. Max has his place, but it's not one I employ if I have a more elegant solution available.
Of course, in a way Max really doesn't NEED indirect fire, especially with his powers. Max's first COP gives his already beefy units an additional +40% attack boost, bringing him up to 160% attack power. This is pretty damned good for only having to fill 3 stars on the CO meter. However, he's lost the +1 bonus to movement range that he had in AW2, probably gave it to Jake. His SCOP beefs his attack power for his direct fire units by a truly massive +70%, bringing him up to 190% attack power before you apply any other effects. The man's tanks can just roll through enemies.
Max's hits are brutal. Theses aren't the weird, randomized hits of Jugger. This is damage you can count on, and it's enormous.
Since Max is our first CO who's powers affect unit strength in general, here's his unit chart. As you can see from the red bars, everything but Max's infantry and indirect fire units get a nice buff, but everything with a ranged attack, from Artillery to Battleships, loses a range. Since air units are all direct fire Max's airforce is pretty damned beefy, and that includes the B-Copters we were given in this mission.
Here's Max's Theme for your listening pleasure.
Now let's look at our opponent. Lash is a wonderful character but I suspect that's because it's just really hard to mess up the "manic, amoral mad scientist" character role. Lash's CO abilities can make her an utter beast too. For starters, her units get a +5% bonus from every star of defense a tile gives, excluding air units for obvious reasons. That means if she's got an artillery piece firing from a city it will get a +15% bonus to attack
The defense boost is especially important with how Advance Wars calculates it (Alkydere already provided that below). Digging Lash out of high-defense terrain is a royal pain. Naturally, this means she's also one of my favorites to use against other players.
As you can see from her CO powers Lash really, really loves terrain bonuses. Either one makes her tear across the map as her units ignore movement costs. Meaning her tanks will blitz right through some woods that would otherwise slow them down. Her SCOP, Prime Tactics, is the real beast though. It DOUBLES terrain bonuses from her. Plains are now 2-stars, forests are 4-stars, cities are 6-stars, and HQs are a whopping 8-star defensive bonus. Each star is a -10% mutliplier for damage taken, so while defending a city her units will only take 30% damage from an incoming attack (6 x 0.1n + 0.1 from SCOP active = 0.7n damage nullified). In addition, this effect stacks with her +5% attack from defense stars, meaning that unit on a city will get a 40% attack bonus when it retaliates (1 + 6 x .05n + 0.1 SCOP bonus = 1.40). When Lash has her SCOP active you either back off or hold your ground, you don't advance as you're only going to get hurt.
And here's Lash's Theme for when you're performing some SCIENCE!
The best character thus far. Not that she has a whole lot of competition, but her power seems reasonably useful and she doesn't make make me immediately hate whoever designed her. Yes, I'm looking at you, Jugger.
Roads, shoals, and other 0-star terrains are the only safe places to attack her when she fires off her super power. That one star on plains gets to be real important here.
Tee hee hee! Go, go, go black bomb!
Back to the battle! My plan works perfectly and Lash's Black Bomb only damages two of my B-Copters, I was a bit worried it would run up to the top and blow up on my ground units as, even blocked in, it still had the range to reach them. The Black Bomb does a whopping 5 damage to any unit caught in its blast. By sacrificing these two choppers I only effectively lose one whole B-Copter when I merge the damaged units, leaving me with four B-Copters to pound away at the enemy armor with. Also, I suspect the Black Bomb's explosion is on the same effects layer that the cursor is on, so there was no explosion effect for me to capture. Only the Black Bomb disappearing and my Copters being reduced to 5 HP each. This might make things confusing when we get some Black Cannons and such on the map.
Since this is the tutorial, the black bomb does always go off on turn 1, and its 9 move and area of effect mean it's not possible to stay completely clear. Minimizing the damage like this is the player's best bet.
Whoa! It exploded!
Yes, well it was called a "Black Bomb" for a reason Jake.
And it did a ton of damage, too! Stupid black bomb. I underestimated it!
I'm just absolutely blindsided by the fact that these guys were surprised that something called "Black Bomb" not only exploded, but did a fairly significant amount of damage. Absolutely shocked.
Max then goes onto explaining merging units, we still are in Tutorial Country after all, but I explained that last round so I'm skipping the dialog. Anyways, we merge our damaged B-Copters, move our T-Copter down to approach the Black Hole HQ, move our undamaged ones forwards, and the ground defenders wait for the onslaught of the MdTanks. In other words: jack all happened but shuffling.
Merging units like this has a nice little benefit for your Technique score: only destroyed units 'count'. Despite the fact that Alkydere is technically down a B-Copter, his Technique score is unaffected. This is one of the basic tricks to keeping your Technique high in longer missions.
You took the brunt of the black bomb's explosion and you're still fighting? Ooh, you guys stink! I gotta figure out how to produce black bombs at airports!
A not so subtle hint that eventually Black Hole, and then the player, will be able to buy their own Black Bombs. I never really use them to be honest, their cost (5K I think, as I said I never really use them) is just a bit much for a one-shot toy in my opinion. I'd rather save it up for a nice Rocket, NeoTank, Bomber or Battleship that can smash enemies over and over, not to mention kill things. Black Bombs share the same limitation that other "map attacks", such as Missile Silos, CO attacks, and Black Cannons, have: they can't actually kill enemies, they can only reduce them to 1 health.
I've only found one use for Black Bombs: their wide damage and lack of actually killing enemies means they can be good for softening up a group so you can kill a lot of them in one turn. Your power score is based not on total number of enemies killed (that's usually 'all of them'), but rather the most you wiped out in one turn. This can help arrange that, assuming you care much about scoring. Most of the time I prefer a weapon that's at least potentially more than single-shot.
Anyways, Lash's infantry finally reaches our gates. As you can see defensive ratings mean a lot in this game. A full health Infantry squad only brings our Mechs down to 7 HP due to them taking cover in the city. Meanwhile, our damaged Mechs do some rather nasty damage in return to the Infantry standing out in the middle of the bridge. Even worse (for Lash, great for me) is that the city will heal our damaged Mech for 2 damage at the beginning of our turn.
Oh, and Infantry does jack-all to armored units like APCs.
We're on to day three.
Hey, Max, you knocked some heads on the front lines of the last war, right?
Yeah, that was a rough one. We only won 'cause we fought together. I got a feeling this is going to be tough, too. You're a bit short on allies.
Well, you were the first CO to get Omega Land's back, Max. I'm psyched!
I just happened to be the closest one, that's all. Call it fate. I didn't even get permission from HQ-- I just rolled over here!
Remember what I was saying before about Max just popping over to say hi to Rachel without orders?
Psh, orders. Who needs a chain of command?
...that I beat you with...
Was that cool? Aren't there supposed to be policy meetings or something?
When an entire continent's in danger, there's no time for meetings! I'm sure Nell will take care of all the red tape and paperwork for me.
So the rest of your crew is back in Macro Land?
Yeah, they've got their hands full sweeping up the crumbs of Black Hole's army. I don't think they'll be over here to help anytime soon.
This game really is supposed to be a direct sequel to the AW2, taking place mere months after Sturm was defeated. This is why everyone's so shocked at how fast Black Hole has recovered.
That's too bad--we could use 'em!
Keep your chin up, kid! You got me, and I'm not planning on throwing in the towel!
Yeah, you're right. I'll get better, too. We'll protect this continent together.
Now you're talking!
Talking done now? Good, let me play.
Anyways, here's how things stand at the beginning of Day 3. Honestly, it's gonna be a race between capturing the HQ and routing enemy forces.
First thing's first: Fire the Artillery! You always use your indirect fire units first if you can. Either to soften up the enemy, letting your units mop them up without worrying about return fire, or to free up space for your direct fire units to advance. Here you can see me showing off my Artillery's range, which is rather anemic. Though since we're playing as Max we really don't want to use indirect fire units unless we're given them, except maybe Rockets and Battleships. A normal Artillery would be able to also pound away at the Tank to the enemy Infantry's left, or the full health Infantry from that position.
At least Max doesn't lose any actual damage output from his indirect fire units, just their range. Max's Artillery is able to destroy the survivors from the ill-fated attack on my entrenched Mech.
And now it's time for Max's B-Copters to get into the fight. As you can see Lash's Tanks were barely able to scratch the paint on my B-Copters. This is why you want to keep some AA tanks around if the enemy has an airfield.
The results against the Md Tanks aren't quite as good, even with Max's attack bonus. It's still something that's very much in the B-Copter's favor, and works even better if you can concentrate firepower on a single target.
Lash attacks and somehow the APC wall between the enemy armor and my Artillery manages to hold.
At the end of Day 4 my Mech has just now reached the enemy HQ, but the enemy forces are nearly gone. I pull my APC back and now Lash's tanks are forced to attack the B-Copters if they want to strike anything. Not a pleasant proposition for ANY tank. Instead she moves her MdTank back to the city and pushes her Tank forward without attacking. Shame that won't change anything for Lash, my B-Copters laugh at the AI's confusion and ineffectiveness.
Unlike in Fire Emblem, the AI is clever enough to avoid instantly suicidal attacks. A 1HP MdTank isn't going to survive attacking a higher-HP copter, so it doesn't.
You won, Max! Let's grab that Lash and get her to tell us all about Black Hole's numbers.
I doubt she's still around. She's a tough one to pin down.
Ah... You're right. She bounced! What are they playing at?
Our people have a story of a young ball who bounced. On the first day he bounced one meter...
I wish I could tell you, kid. I was sure we'd finished off their boss. We're not gonna figure it out here, though. Let's go grab some grub.
I hear that! I want you to tell me about your time on the front lines, too.
Hah! I've got enough stories to talk all night. First, there's this boy, Andy...
"...Who was the last person to see our old advisor alive..."
We'll leave the two be. Anyways, another S-Rank to toss onto the pile.
Yes you are Max, yes you are. Anyways, next time Rachel takes on Jugger, and we get to poke fun at Wars World's strangely elastic time.
Goddammit, Jugger again already?
It's going to be a long game for you.