The Let's Play Archive

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

by Alkydere

Part 4: Timey-Wimey doesn't even begin to explain this...

Timey-Wimey doesn't even begin to explain this...

Welcome back to mission 4 ladies and gentlemen. Are you ready for some game design that makes sense on paper but no sense in the setting? I mean, worse than usual that is?

What's the latest news from the war council?

I can't believe how quickly Omega Land is drying into dust. It's all happened in the past few months. Something's going on, I know it! And Black Hole's different, too. Even though Sturm's out of the picture, it looks like they have an objective and are following someone's orders.

Important plot point here! Well, important point for what passes as a plot in this game. Of course, we won't be addressing that any time soon though. And by "any time soon" I mean "Next mission".

Our army is severely undermanned, but they're growing larger and larger. There must be someone or some group directing their movements and activities.

For now we're in the dark. All we can do is attempt to cut off their supplies.

C-Commander Rachel! This is...terrible! Awful! Horrible! Catastrophic!

Ladies and gentleman, the Green Earth soldier. Remember, we're not representing just Orange Star, but the entire Allied Coalition! Of course, it will be a long time before we see any Green Earth COs, but until then the soldier portraits of other nations were a convenient way for the writers to show conversations with more than a single nameless soldier.

What is it? Take a deep breath and start talking!

There's a gigantic missile headed right for HQ!

What?! A missile? How long do we have?

Impact in approximately...thirty minutes!

Gah! We have to launch a counterattack! Don't take your eyes off that missile! Bring it up on the screen, now! I want to watch it as we fight!

There's a missile approaching, what should we do? Randomly attack the nearest enemy force, that should solve our problems! Anyways we're whisked off to the map, but there's talking still being done so I'm not going show it quite yet.

Attention, allied forces. Begin retreat procedures immediately.

Dream on, freak! You're the CO controlling that missile, right? This is our homeland, and we're going to find a way to defeat you!

Enemy untested: skill levels low. Enemy victory is impossible. Resistance, useless. Approaching missile is your doom. Commencing attack procedure...uh...alpha.

If she's untested, how do you know her "skill levels" are low? That sounds like something that would be determined by some sort of test. Also, as much as I rag on Jugger, I love when he breaks his corny computer personality like that.

Once Jugger stops talking the top screen, which is normally full of information, switches over and shows a countdown. That missile will take 30 minutes, real time, to reach the target and blow up. This level is two-part tutorial. Part the first is an introduction to anti-air units, basically "Here are the units that shoot down enemy air". Part the second is an introduction to timed battles, basically the Advanced Wars version of speed chess. Since this is a tutorial level you don't even need ten minutes, hell this level would probably be easy if the timer was brought down to 5 minutes. Of course, I'm gonna go even faster than that since I pause the the game to stop and write (unlike many LPers I don't amass a collection of pictures and then try to remember what was happening afterwards, instead I play, screen cap, pause, write, play, etc. The other method ends up being an even bigger trainwreck for me.). Luckily for those without emulators, the countdown does stop during combat animations and when the characters talk because otherwise you'd use up a good five minutes on this level alone from Rachel describing all the new unit types to you.

30 minutes? I can record mid-game Fire Emblem chapters on HHM faster than that. How the fuck could anyone possibly take 30 minutes on a goddamn tutorial?

The only thing the mechanic ever really precludes is leaving the game running while you phone a friend or something. And even then only if they don't pick up.

Hey, so what! Maybe I'm not that strong, but I'm the most stubborn CO you'll ever meet! I won't stop fighting until there's not a single one of you left standing! Everyone take a look at the screen. It shows a map of the continent, right? As soon as we start fighting, the countdown will start. But if we can defeat these chumps here before the timer reaches zero, we win. Things may not look good now, but this time, our army has the upper hand! Let's move out and teach these creeps they can't mess with us!

Missiles are strangely courteous these days. You know, what with the whole "waiting to start their countdown until you're done preparing for battle" thing.

All right Rachel has stopped talking and I finally have control...OH COME ON! SHUT UP DAMMIT AND LET ME PLAY! And no, that is not a powerful force, our pre-deployed army is even more custom built to smash the Black Hole enemy than last time. Anyways, ignoring Rachel's additional tutorial text let's move on.

All right, a view of the map that's not spoiled by talking, let's see what we have here. Up top we have a T-Copter, an Infantry, a Missile and a Tank. The T-Copter and Infantry have no purpose on this map at all. On the bottom we have 3 Anti-Airs and a Rocket. Jugger's forces are in the middle and he has one B-Copter, one Bomber, two Fighters and a Tank that's in range of my Rocket. This will be a slaughter.

I have no idea why Jugger doesn't just run away, it's not like we could actually catch his airforce if we wanted to, and if he's defeated he can't control the missile any longer and it becomes a dud. I can understand perhaps he had to be near the target to coordinate targeting data to whatever silo launched this super-missile, but he was already about to retreat when Rachel arrived with his job done. If the fat bastard of an eyeball ran now, we'd never be able to catch up to him and there'd be nothing we could do to stop the missile from landing.

Speaking of things that don't make sense, something else irks me about this level. You see, every turn is supposed to be one day on the battlefield. When your units fight it's not just one salvo, it's supposed to represent an entire day's worth of a knock-down drag-out battle. Turns therefore represent a set amount of time in-universe. And yet in the campaign every time they say "OMG, we only have X amount of time!" and state the time the player has as if it's canon. If it takes a tank a whole day to move 6 tiles, you're not even going to have time for it to move a single tile in 30 minutes. So, what, are days variable units of time? Can COs control the rise and fall of the sun at a whim and then go "Your turn!"? I mean, days pass at whatever the speed the player hits "end turn" so you can't even say there's X days in so many minutes. I realize I'm over thinking a game, and I have nothing against the game type (in fact I think the speed-chess setup is a good idea) but the way it's handled by the characters just makes me go .

Anyways, enough fridge logic, gotta leave enough for Artix to wonder about after all, let's look at the units. Luckily the player can just tap X to remove the incoming missile alert and show the standard information on the top screen.

Well, god Alky, way to completely steal my thunder there. I thought it was my job to bitch about how nothing makes any fucking sense? The only thing I can add to that is why the hell does defeating Jugger magically make the missile a dud? I'm pretty sure the explosives don't give up when they see the CO is down. In fact, look at all those anti-aircraft guns that were deployed for this mission. You'd think one of them could take 5 seconds and shoot the damn thing down, but no, that would make too much sense for AW.

Also, "time" now joins "war" on the list of "Things the writers have no idea how it works."

Clearly both are true, it's just that the missile and COs are traveling much faster and thus 30 minutes for them can be an arbitrary amount of days for the slower troops on the

oh, look, I've gone cross-eyed.

Sorry, but that was one mechanic rant I couldn't let go. Also, considering how many turns/days you can stuff in 30 minutes, that's gotta be the slowest damned ICBM ever.

Over in these woods, we have our first Rocket Artillery, with it's range of 3~5 shown off below in the highlighted tiles. Rockets have a larger range, and far higher attack than Artillery, and are some of the most wonderful units for clearing a path in the game. The downside is they're expensive (15K compared to an Artillery's 6K), have even weaker armor than Artillery (meaning you're less likely to have a chance to retreat and recover them if the enemy breaks through and manages to reach them), have less ammo, less fuel and use wheels, not caterpillar treads, to move. Meaning your Rockets will move at a crawl if you don't have any roads. They take 2 movement (and therefore 2 fuel) to move across plains, and 3 to move across Forests. That being said, Rockets project so much force so very far that they are definitely worth it. Especially when you start to get on bigger maps. As you can see, our Rocket can reach the enemy Tank without even trying, it can also reach the enemy Fighter but Rockets can only hit land and sea units. Lets see what happens when we open fire on the Tank.

WHAM! For comparison, an Artillery will generally only do 4-5 damage to an enemy Tank on a Plains tile. Our Rocket nearly one-shot it even without any CO buffs or active CO powers.

These are great fun to use, but unless they're pre-deployed or the game has a handy road, I generally would rather build artillery. They're awesome at holding your own defensive chokepoints, though.

And here we have our Missiles, which are more or less a dedicated anti-air version of Rockets. They have the same armor, the same range of 3~5, the same ammo count, the same fuel. What they do have different is a list of targets, one less movement, and a whopping 5 vision due to their powerful targeting systems, making them nice to have on Fog of War maps. I really don't use Missiles very much because as wonderful as the idea of providing area denial against enemy air is, flying units have enough movement to generally just go around, or in the case of Bombers and B-Copters, just fly right inside their minimum range and start wrecking stuff. Often attacking the Missiles themselves for obvious reasons. Kind of makes it hard to justify their 12K price tag. Missiles do have one wonderfully redeeming quality: they hit hard enough that a full health Missile will almost always one-shot an enemy unit. Wandering into an enemy Missile's attack range is generally an instant death sentence for the enemy aircraft. In fact, since the enemy B-Copter is out over the water, and therefore we can't reach it with our Anti Air tanks, let's take care of it with our Missile.

Yea, poor B-Copters had no idea what hit them. Missiles can be hard to use, especially since the AI is smart enough to stay the fuck out of their range 90% of the time, but if you put them covering your front lines the enemy will either keep their Bombers and B-Copters away or lose them.

Missiles work pretty well in pairs, four squares away from each other, so each can cover the other's blind spot. I'm with Alkydere in price vs. efficacy, though.

I am baffled as to how the same company can make the relatively sensible AI here, and the bloodthirsty, suicidal Fire Emblem AI.

Now, before we kill them let's look at the two other new units on the field that our enemies brought for us. First of all, we have the Fighter, which is exactly what it says on the label. Fighters have the highest movement in the game, a whopping 9 tiles before any CO shenanigans. Meaning they can evade ground targets and catch up to enemy airborne targets to fulfill their role of air-superiority.

Another unit that's normally too high in price to field. AWDS preserves the beautiful inability to move through enemy units, however. So until your enemy brings up something that can attack jets, parking a fighter somewhere prevents the enemy from walking past underneath it.

Next we have the Bomber. The Bombers are expensive, flying bags of health and pain. They're pretty much the only airborne unit that has a decent chance of living through an attack from a Missile or Anti-Air tank, though they'll generally be sent limping home to the nearest airfield with only 1 or 2 health left. They are also one of the hardest hitters in the game and, with their long range they're great for speeding past the enemy's front line and turning any fire support they have into pancakes. They're also wonderful for pounding away at heavy armor, as well as simply removing lighter units from the map.

Big move and hard hit. These are a lot of fun to play with. Their movement type means that not a lot can strike back, either.

Finally, we have the Anti-Air. The AA, MAA, or AA-Tank is the direct-fire ground-to-air solution and what I normally use. They're cheap at only 8K, a mere 1K more than a normal tank, and they can strike ground units too. They don't hit air units quite as hard as Missiles, but they can also devastate Infantry and do decent damage to light vehicles. You don't normally want to send an AA to fight a Tank in a head on fight as the AA will lose in the long run, but they have enough armor to hold for a turn or two on the front lines, and hit hard enough that you can rely on them to safely finish off 2 or 3 HP tanks. Let's see them in action.

Despite the lesser ability to handle armor, these guys are well worth the price bump compared to a tank. They're the best method to discourage B Copters and bombers, or to take them down if they risk it, and the anti-footsoldier secondary role isn't to be sneezed at.

Lovely! As you can see they're not nearly the beatsticks that Missiles are, but airborne units have more than enough reason to fear them. Especially since planes are expensive and AAs are dirt cheap. Losing an AA or two can easily be shrugged off, losing a Jet or Bomber is expensive enough to be painful. Choppers don't do good against AAs at all, but when it comes to a Bomber-AA fight the side that attacks first is the one that usually comes out on top.

AAs are less than half the cost of a fighter, and only just barely over a third of a bomber. So while a bomber on the offense might win the fight, there's a bit of a cost disparity there.

Remember how I said that this mission's pre-deployed army was even more perfect for smashing the enemy than what we got in the previous mission? Yea, I wasn't fucking kidding. Here we are, 1:03 in and at the end of the first "day". Fucking time-shenanigans. The combined HP of Jugger's remaining units doesn't even add up to a full 10. God-damn I can't wait until we beat the campaign and can play on hard mode. At least there will be actual battles at this point in the campaign. Not hard battles, but stuff that takes more than two turns.

Enemy army has many anti-air units. Victory improbable. Ready naval unit. Jugger retreat.

Yea, weren't you just taunting Rachel one turn ago Jugger?

But retreating in full view of the enemy is...

Survival takes priority over victory.

What!? Lord Jugger, wait for us!

Team Rocket is blasting off agaaaain!

This is so stressful... We can't afford to make a single mistake!

Yea, yea, "something something tutorial". Press X to swap between incoming missile screen and actual information screen, press R to bring up a flavor text blurb to learn exactly what I've been telling you about units. I got it.

Anyways, here we are on turn 2. Jugger merged his fighters into a single unit and then sent his crippled bomber to dent our Missile. Whoop-de-fucking-do. My AA clean up the map and we win with 28:32 left to spare (AI turns are fast so they really don't take up much time). Yea Rachel, we really couldn't afford as single mistake, could we?

There's that 'taking advantage of the AI tendency to want to combine' again.

Yes! We did it!

Fantastic! Nice work, Commander!

Let's redirect that ballistic missile into the sea. If we can recover it intact, we can reverse engineer it to gain valuable insight into their technology.

Um, if it's a ballistic missile, wouldn't it currently be on an unguided ballistic course? Only reactivating whatever guidance systems it uses in the last few minutes of flight for fine-tuning? Not much wiggle-room for aiming it somewhere else.

IntSys-science appears to be on a similar level to Capcom-science.

We've got a helicopter. Shouldn't take too much imagination to see how it's done.

Oh no! There's a helicopter occupying the same general airspace! *CLONK!*

Yes, ma'am. It's too bad the enemy CO got away, though.

He survived the last time we fought, too. He's a tough shell to crack. Commander Max should be arriving soon, so I'm heading back to the front line. You're in command here, now. Don't let me down!

Yea, better make sure those four cities and HQ pay their 1k gold to the OS coffers on time every day.

Wait, Commander Rachel! Shoot, she's gone. She's such an understanding leader. I'm glad she's with Orange Star.

Again, an S-Rank on a tutorial level, nothing to brag about.

*Sigh* Why can't you have a more groan-worthy personality Rachel? Sadly it will be a while yet before we get any COs with lines as groan-worthy as Jake's. Anyways, next time we meet a new enemy CO, get our first factories, our first thing resembling an actual fight, AND we can chose COs. So it's up to the thread if I use Max, Rachel or Jake. And hopefully an update that isn't as pathetically short as this.

Why would you want more groan-worthy people like Jake? Give me more people like Lash.

If by 'like Lash', you mean 'has some terrain affinities and is a Black Hole member', then you're in luck!

Also, be prepared to watch me herp the derp next time.