Part 14: Battle of the Wilderness
So I'm using the SCP now since it makes FS2 - already a pretty game - MORE PRETTY. I decided disc swap was a good changeover point because I like making arbitrary decisions. The SCP for those of you who are unaware, is the Source Code Project - a few years after Volition made Freespace 2, they released the source code to Volition Watch, a now-defunct fansite that covered all Volition's titles (I worked there when the SCP was released, actually) though now basically 100% of the work goes on at Hard Light Productions. The SCP is a community-built expansion and update of the FS2 engine. It's not always the most efficiently coded work, but it puts out some really nice results at this stage. BloodWulfe is the man to talk to when it comes to the SCP though so I'll let him post about it.
News from the front!
Battle of the Wilderness Command Briefing:
(Video / Mirror 28.1MB)
(Audio / Mirror 4.1MB)
Admiral Petrarch goes over the high points for us:
The NTF is losing badly to the Colossus in Polaris, and the NTF is losing badly to the 13th Vasudan Battle Group in Sirius. Allied Command expects a total victory in 30 days, which means they're reallocating resources to the subspace portal - both studying it directly and exploring the nebula beyond.
The portal was constructed by the Ancients, who were an extinct race whose remains were discovered near the end of the Great War (and responsible for finding the chink in the Lucifer's armor). After renaming the portal the Knossos gate, Command figured out that Admiral Bosch, while a junior officer, found evidence leading to the Knossos Portal, and sent the Trinity - the cruiser we discovered in the nebula so long ago - through to activate it and to jump through it for as yet unknown purposes.
The portal may, in a few years, provide the means to get back to Earth - though Command knows its destruction is more important than studying it in case a Shivan armada comes through. And that might be likely - destroying the SD Ravana seems to have pissed off the Shivans, who are intensifying their presence in the nebula.
And finally, we get our hands on three new pieces of tech: First, the Charybdis AWACS - we've already seen this in the SOC loop, of course - which has the ability to use its enhanced sensor array to boost your radar range in the nebula- basically if an AWACS is around, you'll be able to target enemies directly farther away than usual, instead of the usual practice of being able to see red dots indicating enemies, but unable to target them until they're very close. The second is the Morningstar - it's basically the "giev missile or bump" gun - hit something with this and they get knocked around, disrupting any ability to stay on target or course, though it does practically zero real damage. And the last is the EMP missile - a somewhat useful little guy, the EMP misisle flies out, and when it detonates it temporarily shuts down any weapons or subsystems in its blast radius. Very useful against bombers if you want to disrupt an attack from multiple bombers before you swing around and destroy them yourself. Also has a nice tendency to destroy bombs. If you hit a capital ship with it, it'll temporarily shut down nearby turrets, which can be pretty good or pretty lame depending on how good your aim is :p
I'll admit, I don't use the Morningstar except in one mission and while the EMP missile is a useful tool, I'm much more a fan of direct damage weapons.
Battle of the Wilderness
(Video / Mirror 8.4MB)
(Audio / Mirror 1.2MB)
Pretty simple one here. We jump through the portal into the nebula, meet two freighters and an AWACS ship, and escort them to the Deimos corvette Warspite. The freighters are carrying the new experimental TAG missile, which is what the 134th CEU has been tasked with testing in the nebula environment. No-prize if you guess you'll be using the TAGs next mission. Double no-prize if you guess it kinda sucks.
As a final note, your commander notes you can call in a wing of bombers and another wing of fighters via the Reinforcements menu if things get too nasty. I'm not actually sure if doing so affects your end-mission results, so I did it both ways and kept the run where I didn't call anything in. Really you won't need to if you load out with everyone's favorite, Tempests.
Alpha is four Perseus fighters, and after you deploy, the convoy jumps in. You'll note my blue HUD disappears against the nebula in this region (different areas of the nebula actually look different) so I changed to an obnoxious yellow HUD for better contrast.
Even as the Lucidity, our AWACS support, powers up its radar array, a wing of Manticore fighters close in and start causing trouble.
We take them out pretty quickly, but they're followed by multiple successive waves of 4 Manticore fighters.
With AWACS support, you can boost out to engage them practically by the time they jump in, which lets you be more efficient in your defense.
Here's a better shot of the convoy. You can see the two crates carried in the nose of each Triton transport, and the AWACS in the middle. Also note how engines really stand out in the nebula but not everything else does. This looks really good in motion.
The nice thing about Triton transports is they aren't unarmed or armed with a piddly pea-shooter; though these guys don't have enough real firepower to stand up to any slugging match, their hulls are pretty tough for transports and they have flak guns for defense. Pretty good against fighters and incoming bombs, which is a nice bonus if a Manticore slips by you - it's not going to have a free ride killing your transports. It might have a free ride getting the AWACS though, but hey.
After taking out a few waves of Manticores and a couple of Maras, Command lets us know a Cain-class cruiser is in the area, the Malor.
Now you could call in Zeta wing, for heavy bomber support:
But why bother? Cains have surprisingly low hull strength and no flag set that fighters can't destroy them. Frankly, these really are the Great War relics the captain of the Actium was talking about way back when - they suck.
After trashing the Malor, the Shivans get a little sneaky. They send in a wing of Nephilim bombers:
And a wing of Basilisk fighters at the same time:
As you can see my strategy is the same, and they die pretty fast. Then in a stunning display of tactical thought, the Shivans send in pairs of Nephilim bombers unescorted, totalling six bombers.
This is, as you may expect, no threat. As you near the rendezvous point, the Lucidity calls out to the Warspite to activate its IFF; the Warspite responds, does so, and heads towards you. At this point the Warspite becomes targetable - apparently low emissions in the nebula helps you stay stealthy.
The Warspite relieves you of your escort duty as Command tells you no hostiles are detected in the vicinity, so you can jump home, escort complete.
Not the most exciting mission, I know. However the next one makes up for it by being obnoxious as hell!