Part 97: April Fools 2015Advance Campaign Mission 18: Rivals! AC (or "There is always more, and it is always worse")
All right. Finally. Let's get this thing wrapped up and put to bed. Joining me are...
... haha, yeah, you've noticed there isn't a link to a video. And realised what day of the year it is. In reality, I've tried the mission four times so far and made pretty much zero headway. But you know what? Just because it's April Fool's Day, doesn't mean I can't provide some actual content, too. Since this mission is so legendarily hard, I thought I'd do a bit of analysis of why it's so hard, what makes it stand out from the competition. Put together with a selection of screenshots from the aforementioned four attempts, here are some thoughts on this mission.
Let's start with the obvious problem: fog. Fog of War against the AI is a pain at the best of times - you can't see them, but they can see you - and the high speed air units make it much, much worse, with the AI's ability to swoop in unerringly from far outside your vision range. Also note: no forests on this map. We've got nowhere to hide, and nowhere really to run to either.
Now let's strip away the fog and see what's under the h- oh jeez. Andy, I know it's not your fault this time, but you couldn't possibly be more wrong about there not being many units.
First up, Eagle has three B copters arriving in our base on his Day 2, meaning we have to be ready to deal with them on our Day 3. AAs are the obvious solution, but then on Eagle's Day 3, light tanks and AA sweep in from the flanks. This combined arms policy is pretty difficult to deal with - naturally I want to build AAs to take out the B Copters and the looming threat of the bombers behind them, but Eagle's light tanks will cheerfully pounce on the corresponding lack of anti-tank weaponry. And if I did tanks or artillery? Well that just plays into the hands of the copters and bombers.
And then as we're struggling to deal with this problem, it turns out that it was just the starter: the main course shows up on Eagle's Day 4, when the bombers arrive. And the medium tanks reach the bridges to our central island on Day 5. If we're lucky - an early Lightning Strike will hurry those middies up to the front that much faster. Incidentally, Eagle's fighters won't move until we build air units - with nothing to attack, they'll sit around eating crisps all day. Everything else is coming straight for us, though.
Is there any way to mitigate all of this nonsense? A little bit. For instance, it's pretty easy to block up the northern flank using your starting mechs and the good ol' AI's serious chokepoint problems when it comes to strong units being blocked off by weaker ones.
There are plenty of problems with this, of course. Eventually, Eagle builds rockets and their slow whirrr up the field just lets you know that the failure of this chokepoint is ultimately inevitable. A bigger problem still is the fact that if Eagle's bombers even get a sniff of this chokepoint's existence, it's finished.
But the biggest problem of all is that it's ultimately rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Your centre and south get pounded so hard that while a northern blockade slows the bleeding, it can't stop it. Still, being able to hold off Eagle's forces even slightly is something. It just highlights a few lessons - firstly, you can't hope to win this one by rout. Not only are Eagle's predeployed troops ridiculous, but he also has that 19k vs. 11k production advantage. Yes, he has that in NC too, but in NC he doesn't have a giant predeployed force preventing you from early expansion. It's the combo that's lethal (Sturm got that combo in TFB as well, but at least between your three COs you have both comparable production and comparable predeployed forces).
What else is there? Well, getting a missile launcher out on Day 3 isn't the worst idea - if you can whack one of Eagle's bombers before it arrives, then you've made his assault a little less harrowing. Of course, that only works if the bombers are dim enough to try flying into range - which, like a lot of stuff when it comes to planes, is down to the RNG. Also note that 90% - Eagle's defence is, like always, a pain to deal with.
See, at least when Sturm sends a crapton of stuff at you in The Final Battle, he has the decency to be easy to smash up in return. But you just can't keep Eagle's bombers down, especially when your AAs start taking damage from counterfire. And Eagle will cheerfully retreat anything crippled down to 1 or 2HP or less, so he can heal it up and add it to the inevitable second wave of bombers that shows up while you're still tearing your hair out trying to deal with medium tanks. And that's the thing: he just keeps on producing. While you're fighting one fire, he's starting two more. There is always more, and it is always worse.
What about ? Sadly, it doesn't really work. I mean, they'll tank as bravely as anything, but bravery just isn't enough. Even damaged Eagle bombers can finish them off in a turn if they mob together - and with resources this tight, 5000G for a unit that can't put out damage and still gets destroyed in a turn ultimately isn't worth it.
So what else is there to talk about? How about strategy guides? Well, I've had a quick go with this one - my second attempt used it, but between the RNG deciding to not play along and me just making silly mistakes, it fell through. I should give it another go, maybe make save states or something.
Trouble is, I wouldn't enjoy that. In fact, I'm extremely close to not enjoying this mission at all - it's a hell of a torture chamber, especially after the long slog that the rest of AC has been. This April Fool's joke was very, very nearly a letter of resignation. Hell, this thing's long overdue for the LP Archive already.
But hey, once more unto the breach, dear friends. I'll give this a couple more tries, at least. If I can't do it, maybe Socker can (Incidentally, Final Battle Part 1 is ready for recording, though it'll be a while before I'm available to record with him). And if he can't... well, we'll see.