Part 181: Super TowerSuper Tower
Buckle up for a unique and at times aggravating challenge. Video length is an hour and a half, but that's the 'condensed' version. Winning time was three and a half, most of it spent making small, tedious adjustments - it doesn't have to take nearly that long if you know what you're doing. Which I didn't, of course. General Revil will like this one - if you're a fan of OCD-compelled packing in of structures, you'll enjoy your stay here. If you aren't, you'll hate it, because that's pretty much mandatory. Wide open spaces are not to be found, and mistakes in placement will be severely punished.
Welcome ... to Super Tower.
Do not judge this book by it's cover. Irregular terrain, basic rectangle, some ore and no creeper structures of any kind, save for that thing in the upper-left corner. Some explanation is definitely needed here, and it is given.
This is both true and false. Lia will have more to say, per usual. But it most definitely will be very difficult.
This is unfortunately and misleadingly worded, a fact which caused me some annoyance while figuring it out. If this statement was completely accurate, it would be totally impossible to win. The mechanic described though is very much a thing, and paying attention to it is absolutely essential.
Here's a 10-seconds in shot. We're already seeing the first phase - the core dispenses small amounts of creeper, decidedly not-small amounts of runners, and functional digitalis along it's designated path. It's, uh, not safe to approach at this juncture. Let's get something going.
It takes just over a minute, about 1:15 actually, for the core to make it all the way around the map. It sticks right on the edge and will never venture inwards. Meanwhile I have a Beam up and am working on an always-on Sprayer for defensive blanket purposes. As far as it goes, this is a good if pretty self-evident idea.
It's worth noting at this juncture that there are no Totems. Upgrades are not, and won't ever be during this map, available. That fact will become painful.
A couple minutes later, I've connected to a second Ore Deposit and am getting more beams up. Two others I'm leaving alone, being careful to stay away from the edges of the map because I'm afraid of that core.
Notice the very right side of the map. There are a couple of digitalis tendrils extending towards the middle, and if you look closely you can see a couple white growths that aren't active yet. They will be. They will be.
The dynamic of this map is quite different from the standard Creeper World 'can you survive the start' idea. Super Tower puts you in an initially comfortable position, and gradually squeezes, increasing the pressure over time. At this point I started to feel like ok, this isn't too bad. I'm starting to get an economy up, plenty of air defenses and the spores are coming infrequently and one at a time ... I'll need to deal with those runners eventually but I've got a nice sizable safe zone here in the middle ... everything's cool.
I put up a Terp to fill in some holes in the terrain, and a Sniper to start working on the runner population. And almost as soon as it powers up, it starts taking damage from the core passing by, eventually going below half health. How fun. So I retreat a bit. Also you can see a little here that we are getting some larger runners. I don't know if the core itself makes them bigger (that seems to be the case), or if it just generates larger ones once a certain amount of runners are present, or ... ? I'm sure Regallion will have a field day with this map and fill us in.
Killing the critters has its own hazards, because they splurt creeper when they die. It appears that they do so proportional to their size as well. So the more I kill with snipers, the more weaponry I need to eliminate the extra creeper. And all the while the digitalis slowly but inexorably eats its way closer and the safe zone begins to shrink.
Look at the Spores coming in from the west. We're now over 26 minutes in to this first attempt, but I'm pretty sure it isn't time-based. I gradually ramped up, almost got flooded once but was able to beat it back, gradually ramped up energy ... but as soon as you reduce the runners to a certain level the core suddenly starts spewing projectiles at you MUCH faster. I was not prepared, and didn't have the energy to handle it. About a minute after this, the spores had worn down my beams and the supporting infrastructure, and started crashing into my network. Shortly after thinking I was looking good, wearing down the core's critter resistance, I was doomed.
Not nice, game. Not nice at all.
Take 2 - 19:45 video
I cut out some of the first try, and quite a bit more afterwards. Clearly energy was the problem, so to get by the increased spore attacks I wanted more. My goal was 20-25 energy before I started killing runners, which I thought would be enough.
Heh. I had no clue. But it was an improved plan.
So I got to the point of managing the runner population again and handled the spores this time, partly with the use of more terping to get a little more flat area for reactors. Next I needed to knock out the core. I knew I wasn't ready for what would come next but I needed to see how bad it was going to be so I could figure out how to handle it. And I ran into a problem. If I placed a nullifier close enough to the core to fire, the core destroyed it when it came by. There are no power zones. No way to extend the range. I even tried putting up shields to protect it, but that does no good - they defend against creeper and spore hits, but not the core's distance-based attack. And it's actually worse than that ... it sucks the ammuntion as well, remember, so the nullifier couldn't even fire anyway either.
Here is the answer to the dilemma. The core doesn't damage ALL units within a certain range, it damages the CLOSEST ones. Which means I can use these higher-health cannons as whipping boys of a sort. Finally, at long last, I had taken down the core!
Immediately upon doing so, runners leapt out of all corners and began running around at a high rate of speed. We were warned.
Then, shortly afterwards, comes this. If the spores from each corner are a second apart in launching, they aren't more than that. Now the big runners don't come anymore but other than that, this never stops. It's a constant four-corners runner and spore assault. I had about 26 energy going into this and would soon have it demonstrated for me that this is laughably inadequate as, energy supplies overwhelmed by both the air attack, the constant stunning everywhere, and the resultant destruction of vital structures by digitalis, the network collapsed and quickly. I had merely gotten to the point where I could trigger the real challenge.
The initial triggering is just before 30 minutes on the video if you want to take a gander at that.
Now a series of reloads with increasing amounts of terraforming and cramming in of reactors - and other things - began. The key things to check on here were total energy income, which here is up from about 28 to 41, snipers on each corner (two, but one of them has three in the upper right) and beams on each end of the rectangular formation (seven here). Here I have succeeded in creating more room by flattening out terrain, and also creating better, clearer anti-digitalis fields of ire. And of course a nearly 50% boost in energy. I didn't think it was enough, and I was most definitely correct. Held out for a bit but the relentless spores and critters wore me down pretty quickly.
Notice also the ore mine at the bottom. This got pretty low on health and basically stayed there. It gets stunned regularly when the core passes by, but amusingly it probably has like Bertha-level health at this point because it keeps getting damaged and then healing. It stayed in the mid-30s percentage wise for quite some time, only going down a little and healing a little on each pass. And this is a thing that can be used to your advantadge over time on stuff that isn't super-fragile (i.e., relays and energy structures which have to be at least one square back from the outer perimeter or they'll go boom and quickly). We'll see an even more extreme example of this later, but if you can keep stuff within the damage radius without it dying, it will eventually build up stupid amounts of maximum health and therefore have outstanding longevity when you need it.
The only thing changed here is a handful more reactors crammed in, weapons are the same, we're at 45 income.
Once again things fall apart fairly quickly. You can see that a lot of the runners are gone and the perimeter is relatively intact aside from the stunning convention, but the beams are just out of juice. Here the deficit is 17 which is about 40% and that's just too much. We can't keep up with the incoming.
Next try is at 50 energy. Look at the north and western sides. I've taken down a few of the cannons so they are spaced out a bit. This will reduce the energy draw a bit but also allows me to fit in the odd reactor in between them, so long as it is slightly back of the main line. I also think I added one more sniper in southwest somewhere around here.
Noticeably, energy supplies lasted several seconds longer but were still insufficient.
More of the same technique. You can see a lot of the network is very grid-like with regularly spaced pink reactors dominating. 55 Energy now. And the survey sez ...
That we have a new problem. The energy lasted long enough, but we just couldn't get it out to the beams fast enough to keep them firing. You can see how empty they are here. Lacking any ability to do upgrades, the answer was more beams. Now the thing is, I had gone down from seven to six on each end to cram in reactors. This proves that's a bad idea.
Next try had basically the same energy, 7 beams on a side, and 2 snipers per corner so I've gotten rid of a couple of those recently.
And it actually was initially good enough. Got a short energy shortage and not much of one. Problem is that once you eliminate the mass of stuff, the spores keep coming and the corner cores spam small runners. Look at the west side. I don't think there's a single front-row weapon that ISN'T stunned. I eventually got out of that and thought I was ok ... but then the southeast corner got away from me.
I would eventually, after more trial and largely error, do two things; add more snipers and move relays as far away from the corners as possible, because well they are too vulnerable and when the digitalis starts encroaching everything else can last a while but losing those means losing a whole bunch of connected stuff.
It took me some time to realize just how vital the snipers were/are here. To keep everything else away you need to keep the stunning to a minimum, and there's just no other way to do that. Otherwhise the cannons get stunned, then the digitalis moves in unopposed, reactors start getting stunned, other stuff starts getting destroyed, crying and reloading ensues.
Here's what it took. I've expanded to the south, with some hardy weapons taking the brunt of the blow. 60 energy, 7 beams in each direction, three snipers on each corner and another couple along the north and south flanks.
Look at the corner Digitalis Cannons, northeast and southeast. I got a little close there, the corners are the most dangerous. Those cannons are basically permanently in the 13-18% range in terms of health. They'd probably win a melee fight with anything this side of a Thor. Stupid amounts of max. health.
There were still some tense moments, but I managed to shore things up with a couple extra weapons placed 'outside the box' - with the main core gone that's a lot safer now. Then I started moving in on one of the corners. Notice the mortar - as mentioned these are basically copies so it's having the same ammo-drain and damage problem. I found once again that it was necessary to have some 'tank cannons' take the punishment in the right spots so that a nullifier could do the work. Cutting off the digitalis flow from all directions definitely helped as well. But I was able to push through, get rid of the four corners without any particularly significant problems, and claim a long-earned victory.
I spent several hours on this level. It was fun, but definitely also frustrating as well.