Part 20: Blue Moon Campaign in Review (by Alien Arcana)Huzzah! Now that we're finally done with Act 1 of AW's Campaign mode, I can post this thing I've been working on.
Blue Moon Campaign in Review
The entire first act of the game is effectively a transition between Field Training and Campaign. Later games in the series don't have a segment like this, since they try and cram their tutorial into the first few stages rather than making it a separate entity. (I prefer AW1's approach, though - I remember what a brick wall the first factory mission was in AW2.)
Mission 1: It's War!
It's War! pits us against Olaf in a predeployed map - just like in Field Training. This time, though, we don't get Nell holding our hand or Olaf making obvious tactical errors (other than the usual AI quirks.) Instead, we just get a very straightforward clash, with a balanced army on both sides. Olaf's forces aren't much larger than yours (though their spread-out starting position makes them seem more numerous) so victory is purely a matter of using tactics and concentrated force to destroy his units while keeping yours intact.
This mission is also our first chance to use a CO Power. Hyper Repair is ideal for the introduction; it's situational enough that you'll know when to use it, but not so situational that you'd need to leave it charged for too long.
Mission 2: Gunfighter!
The second stage of the game introduces the player to two very important aspects of the game.
The first, of course, is the use of factories, which we touch on briefly in Field Training but never get to play with in a real mission. The design of Gunfighter! is such that actually losing is nearly impossible - unless you run your entire army into Grit's firing zone and get everything killed at once, or you somehow fail to notice the foot soldiers slowly invading your home base, you have all the time in the world to wear Grit down. Any "mistakes" you make with the factories don't really matter much, so the learning process isn't nearly as frustrating as it could be.
The other new concept doesn't get nearly as gentle an introduction. I'm speaking of course of Snipe Attack, which is the first of many CO Powers that can wreck your shit if you're not careful. Blizzard, after all, just slowed you down a bit; as long as you didn't overextend yourself, Olaf's CO Power was more a nuisance than anything else. Grit, on the other hand, is explicitly designed to punish the "standard" anti-indirect tactic of parking your tanks just out of range.
Grit teaches you, by way of repeatedly wiping several turns' worth of production off the map, to constantly check the Intel window to see where his CO Meter is at - and if it's nearly charged and you have units within his expanded range, to stop attacking to avoid setting him off. You can't just ignore Grit's CO Power, you have to plan around it.
What? No, no, this is the Blue Moon Campaign summary.
Mission 4: Max Strikes!
Most new players will naturally choose Max for this mission, so we'll look at that version of the stage first.
Playing as the titular CO, Max Strikes! is very similar to It's War! - predeployed vs Olaf, balanced array of units, etc. The naval units are there mainly to show off Max's bad indirects (notice that your battleship starts exactly 6 tiles from one of Olaf's), and also as a not-so-subtle lesson on why you shouldn't build battleships without a proper escort. Beyond that, it's just about the stomping. Max is stupid strong in this game.
If you pick Andy, though, and bypass the Max demo, the game instead presents you with your first real deployment battle (in which both sides have similar production capabilities). However, because battles like that can be a real grind and we're still early in the game, Olaf conveniently leaves his HQ unguarded, giving you a fairly obvious shortcut to victory. The gigantic chokepoint near your base demonstrates the power of indirects - Andy's main advantage over Max.
Mission 5M: Sniper!
This mission follows Max's version of Max Strikes!. The player has already seen Max in action, so there's no need for any further demonstration; as such, both COs are unlocked for Sniper!.
This map will be most players' introduction to the wonderful world of Fog of War. With no indication of where Grit's units are (and with the AI's "ability" to ignore the Fog), you're all but guaranteed to lose unit after unit to cheap shots. Grit's army is actually really small, but it's so spread out, and his range advantage is so huge, that he seems to be everywhere. Thankfully, he's unlikely to manage more than one Snipe Attack, though given that you can't see where he is, watching his CO Meter climb to full can be nerve-wracking.
Incidentally, if you want to S-rank a Fog of War mission, just play it over and over again, recklessly sacrificing all your units, until you know precisely where all his indirects are. Once the uncertainty has been removed from the equation, Sniper! is actually really easy.
Mission 5A: Max's Folly?
If you picked Andy in Max Strikes!, the game forces you to choose Max and take a quick 5-day crash course in what makes him tick.
I find it interesting that the terrain actually favors Max almost as much as it does Grit. Yes, there's mountains criss-crossing the map, but the space between those mountains is flat, with no forests to hinder tank movement, and the path is actually fairly wide in most places. If this were an regular match, rather than a dash for the HQ, you could fairly easily stomp Grit flat. He'd get a cheap shot or two in with his rockets and Snipe Attack, but once out of his vulnerable initial position Max's tanks could pretty much trample right through Grit's soft indirects.
How did Max get pulled that far out of position, anyway?
Mission 6M: Blizzard Battle!
The earliest capture map in the campaign, and for most players the first since it's on the Max path. As with Sniper!, either CO can be used.
Blizzard Battle! resembles the Andy version of Max Strikes! in some ways: it's a full deployment map against Olaf, in which it's not necessary to rout the entire enemy army, just make a few key captures. The tempo, however, is radically different from anything we've seen before. If you don't steal the bridge city, and you don't deny the northernmost city to Olaf, you'll fail the mission before you know what hit you.
In other words, where Sniper! taught you to slow down and be careful, Blizzard Battle! teaches you to speed up and be reckless.
Mission 6A: Olaf's Navy!
The first appearance of Fog of War on the Andy path, Olaf's Navy! feels almost like a regression to Field Training. Olaf has a nearly unstoppable navy, but his land-based forces consist of 4 tanks and a rocket. You could take him with your mechs and recons alone if it weren't for the battleships pounding away at you. It's really the Copter Tactics mission all over again.
I'll be honest: I don't like this mission very much. (In fact, I don't really like the entire Andy path - it feels tacked-on, unlike the Max path which flows naturally from the first few missions.) The problem is that you can either take the trivially easy HQ capture (well, trivially easy as long as you remember where the rocket is), or you can go for the frustratingly hard rout. Waiting out the subs' fuel is almost a necessity unless you're very good at manipulating the AI - yet it feels like a cop-out.
And, of course, your reward for routing Olaf is to do an extra mission and get screwed over later in the game .
Mission 7M: History Lesson!
Sniper! with a navy added in and usage of Max forced. I don't have much to say about this one. Grit has even fewer indirects here than he did two missions ago, and as Paul.Power pointed out, none of them are in the central island.
The mission's only novelty is that it's the first time where naval combat is actually the main front of the battle, rather than a sideshow (as it was in Max Strikes!) or a gimmick (as in Olaf's Navy!). Of course we get the same thing in the other Mission 7, but that one's easy to miss.
Aside from that, History Lesson! is just another FoW mission - get trashed, restart, get trashed again, and so on until you know where all the traps are. In other words, perfect training for about a third of the remaining missions
Mission 7A: Olaf's Sea Strike!
I don't believe I ever actually played this map. Given the difficulty of unlocking it, and the... consequences... of doing so, I never really felt like it would be worth the time.
As a result, I don't have much to say. It's a bonus mission that's almost pure naval combat. Ta-da.
Well, that's all I have to say about Blue Moon. See you in, oh, seven missions?