Part 15: A Game of TAG
Doubleheader! I think I'm sick so sitting in front of Photoshop is actually pretty much all I want to be doing right now, so you guys get the benefit of this!
A Game of TAG
Okay, we're officially here: The most obnoxious mission FS2 has to offer. Seriously. Get past this and you're on easy street. And I'll tell you the SECRET TIP to do so and everything (it's not very secret).
It would've been nice if they'd modified something not so lame, but there's a cunning reason here. The Ulysses, unlike almost every other Terran fighter, has one missile bay, which means you're forced to use TAGs. And they give you a pair of HL-7s and a pair of Prometheus-R cannons, so it's not like you can burn down Shivan fighters with your guns that fast either.
134th Squadron Commander Woman Person posted:
The 134th will now assist with the combat evaluation of the Target Acquisition and Guidance missile. Captain Forscythe of the Warspite has requested you specifically for this mission, so you must have made quite an impression on your last sortie. The Warspite will supervise this combined arms exercise.
When you hit a target with the TAG warhead, the missile's beacon will illuminate the target for allied capital ships within range. All available firepower will be brought to bear for a quick resolution. This technology could be a decisive advantage for the GTVA. In this exercise, we will test the prototype TAG-A.
Command has deployed scout wings to Shivan positions. They will lure targets within range of our guns. Once the enemy approaches, get in behind the target quickly and launch your TAGs. Stay within 3000 meters of the corvette for maximum effectiveness. The Lucidity will provide AWACS coverage.
For this mission you will be flying a refurbished Ulysses space superiority fighter, specifically modified for this exercise. The Ulysses is a Great War antique, but the fighter still handles well and the modifications will enable TAG engineers to monitor the progress of the exercise.
The first Shivan wing gets lured in by Scout 1; a quartet of Basilisk fighters, designated Cancer.
It's kinda hard for me to get good screenshots due to my TAG technique, but I tried. See, TAG-As are dumbfire rockets. They're stupid obnoxious. When you hit one, the bracket around them goes from red to yellow (note it blending into my HUD; I can't win) and they get bounced around visibly from the shot. Then the Warspite tears them apart - for this particular mission it's mounting anti-fighter beams so good, they're usually not used AT ALL in the game. Powerful as hell and really accurate, and if that doesn't help, they fire three-shot bursts.
So my strategy? Get up close, so you can hit them, and as soon as you TAG them flick into a turn and get out of there. Warspite's guns will start shredding the thing, and if you follow it (to make sure it dies) chances are you will get caught in the blast. Of course if you're a real page 2 snypa you can just TAG them from a few hundred meters off, but not everyone is. The real strategy here is TAG, then MOVE. It's really frustrating since my typical tactics are to engage at long range to give myself more time to defend my capital ship, hammer something, and stay on it until it's dead, but in this case you not only have to let them get close to you and Warspite, you have to shoot something and then peel out and shoot something else.
Still, when it works, it works.
Scout 3 brings in five SF Maras, Scorpio wing. The odds are getting a bit heavier, but okay.
As we fight the Maras, Scout 3, running hard from a Shivan wing, helpfully tells us a large Shivan force is headed for us and he broadcasts a Mayday, right before dying. I'm a little busy with the Maras from Scorpio, so another Shivan wing would perhaps not be ideal right now guys, seriously:
So we've got five Maras, and an incoming force of eleven ships, as Lucidity helpfully tells us. Fighters and bombers. What could make this worse?
Well at least one less Mara makes it slightly better.
Warspite helpfully informs us their weapon systems are fully slaved into the TAG system; if Alpha 2 or I don't TAG it, they can't hit it. Point defense? Shooting down bombs? Wellllll....uh.
So as Alpha 2 helpfully tells Command, we're pretty much engaged to the hilt. I barely get the last Mara taken out by Warspite's beams, and go for the Taurvi-class bombers. Command is, as ever, very helpful (not):
Command: All units! This situation has been upgraded to a tactical engagement. Iota wing will reinforce your position as soon as possible. Hang in there, Alpha. Help is on the way.
Command: A wing of five Taurvis now closing in! Intercept those bombers, Alpha.
Alpha 2: That's not good enough, Command! We're not properly armed out here! What do you expect us to do?
Command: We are fully aware of your situation, Alpha. We are also aware that thousands of lives on board the Warspite and Lucidity are counting on you.
Yeah, thanks for that you dick. "NO PRESSURE, THOUSANDS OF LIVES DEPENDING ON YOU."
Alpha 2 responds, "Roger that, Command. We'll get the job done."
In my playthrough, she died half a second later. (This isn't scripted to be so, but I thought the timing was appropriate.)
Thankfully, bombers are EASY to hit with TAG missiles. Not so thankfully, I have a lot of enemies and Iota isn't here yet. As I swing into position behind Virgo, the bomber wing, to TAG them, I hear a somewhat unexpected voice:
Kappa 3: Mayday! Mayday! This is Kappa 3 of the 107th Ravens, GTD Aquitane! Command, do you copy?
Kappa Wing from the 107th Ravens ... hey wait, I remember those guys!
Command sounds ... slightly surprised. It's pretty funny.
Command: Affirmative, Kappa 3. What's your status?
While this conversation is going on, mind you, I'm desperately trying to TAG bombers, shoot down their bombs, and not get killed by the fighters following me with a vengeance, so my attention is pretty well taken up, and I can't see what Kappa 3 is up to.
He's pretty panicked, though:
Kappa 3: Command! Get the fleet out of the nebula! Shut down the portal now! There's no time to lose!
Command: I am transmitting the coordinates of the Aquitane's current position. Return to base immediately. You are badly damaged. (and Command probably means in the head - but did nobody learn from Lt. Ash in FS1's opening cutscene? If a pilot is panicky and talking about bad things following him YOU SHOULD LISTEN)
Kappa 3: Listen to me! There's no way we can stop them this time! Shut down the portal before it's too late! There's something out there, Command! Please!
Kappa 3 disintegrates under the enemy fire before he can clarify or get out.
Command: Kappa 3, do you copy? Please respond. I repeat. Do you copy?
All units, you will disregard Kappa 3's transmission. The communication record of this sortie has been classified level Phi.
So we have a pilot here, who's been lost in the nebula since what, our fifth mission? He's obviously badly damaged, been stuck in the nebula, and Command is just saying "oh hey let's just ignore him whatever." Everyone remembers Petrarch talking about a miscalculation meaning a second Shivan invasion of our homeworlds, right? I'm pretty sure you are supposed to make this connection. Of course, one must not forget you're ALSO busy trying to smash as many Shivans as possible before they annihilate your corvette.
Another wing of Taurvi bombers comes in, and because we're already overwhelmed, they'll likely get pretty close to the Warspite. Iota wing finally jumps in, four Myrmidons actually ready to fight. They tend to take out the fighters first, but leave the bombers to your TAGs and Warspite's guns.
The good news is, you can catch some at long range:
And some up close:
And either way, Warspite has the firepower to take care of it, shall we say.
Command: All clear. Mission complete. Alpha, you may return to base.
True to their word, Command doesn't mention Kappa 3 at all.
The TAG missiles are really underutilized in this game, and it was I believe due partially to a cut feature. There are two more TAG types; TAG-B (guided, akin to a Harpoon without a warhead) and a TAG-C, which is of indeterminate use. There were some bits of code floating around in FS2 indicating a subspace missile strike option; presumably you could use a TAG-C on a heavy capital ship, and a missile salvo would arrive via subspace and strike it with little to no warning and very little response time to shoot them down. Alas, this feature doesn't exist - and nobody's really sure if it was going to and got cut, or was just something that they were experimenting with and didn't use.
Well, that, and frankly the TAG missiles are sort of stupid. Focusing capital ship fire on ONE fighter or bomber is a little silly. I mean it's nice to have target priority, but then again, it seems like capital ships in this game are nasty enough they don't really need it; so sacrificing your fighter's kill power so capital ships can commit gross overkill on an enemy is a bit silly.
Still it's pretty appropriate that a CEU unit would test some tech that works (AWACS) and some that doesn't (TAG-As) ... though who knows, maybe in FS3 there would've been TAG-Ds bringing down the pain with subspace nuclear guns that shoot missiles that shoot smaller missiles. Who can say?
Something less annoying. Whee!