The Let's Play Archive

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2

by Dragonatrix

Part 64: Feinne's Notes: The Art of War

While Dragonatrix is working on getting things back together, here's a promised effortpost!

So, let's talk about offensive and defensive flow and control of the battlefield situation for a bit, since that's really what getting through the game without any losses comes down to. Everything starts before a battle even begins when we assess what we're up against, what our objectives are, and what special problems we may be up against on the map. We then need to identify the major threats, be they a special boss, specific demon pack, or some unpleasant tamer (which will be something we'll be seeing a LOT more of as the game progresses). We then want to, as much as possible, design our groups to negate and annihilate these threats. And I mean both of those actions, we don't want to do anything so half-ass as mitigating the damage they'll do while we try to bring them down. We want to set up to completely erase them before they can even try to cause us problems, and the game will indeed give us tools to do just that if we have the foresight and will to use them as we progress here.

So, what constitutes a major threat? It's basically anything that's actually got a chance of killing a party, as you'd probably assume. Some things to watch out for are enemies with any of the following: Assassinate, the ability to Stone characters, powerful group physical attacks, and Megidoloan. You might notice most of those things are in one way or another related to physical attacks, and you're not wrong. This is why I've mentioned you absolutely want to have as many of your parties immune to physical attacks as possible, and your main character able to repel physicals to laugh off even Pierce. Megidoloan, though, is a special case. I'm sure veterans of the game know the specific enemy I'm actually meaning when I say you should watch the fuck out for Megidoloan, but basically you should probably assume anyone who's got that is also going to one-shot you with it and set things up to not have to see it happen. These are just rules of thumb of course, for example you should always act like every boss will ruin you even though most of them are chumps.

So now we've noted our threats, we now need to look at the actual map and consider what is going on in it. Do we need to just kill everything? Do we need to do some kind of horrible escort or protection thing? Or are we maybe on some kind of time limit? This tells us whether we can stay on defense or have to go on the offensive. My general instinct is to stay on the defensive unless you really need to go hard on something, because that lets you keep your parties together and prevent them getting overwhelmed. That said, there are a lot of maps that won't really let you just stay in place and butcher all comers. You'll have to learn how to see from experience when this'll be, though it's mostly things where there's an actual time limit. The physical reality of the map can also inform this choice, though.

Looking at the map itself is important, because it lets us know how feasible it is to do what our instincts tell us we want to do. How well can we move around? How well can we exclude enemies from our defensive lines, and what sort of mobility effects and range do enemies have? It's easy to say "I want to go on defense" or "I want to rush down their throats and finish this fast" but if you can't manage to work out how to accomplish this on the map you'll just get torn up. We can see this quite a bit on, for example, Megrez's map. We need to plan around moving on the docks, which is pretty restrictive without Flight or Phantasm. This leads to really wanting to get our people in position before they're even needed.

Now that we know what we want to bring and where we want to go, it's time to start the battle and see what the hell the AI decides to do in reaction to your actions. This itself can really change things, because sometimes the AI does shit you don't really expect and forces you to scramble around a bit. This isn't to say you can't plan for what the AI will do, because in certain situations it's incredibly reliable (and indeed knowing how it's scripted to behave lets you break the fuck out of it by taking certain actions). This, though, is the sort of thing you pick up just from experience, and probably dying over and over again in certain difficult maps.

One tricky thing is recognizing when it's a right time to rush someone out alone to take out a big threat, because sometimes you'll get that chance. It can feel like a really good idea, but you still need to keep in mind what other threats exist and what enemies are likely to engage them if they've had to run out of support range. Even weak enemies can wear down a party, especially if they're set up specifically to annihilate one enemy.

One other thing to keep in mind is when it's time to say fuck it and just focus on killing enemy leaders (which is actually a big part of why I always try to keep single target attacks around). There are some enemy parties that are just too dangerous to leave alive, and the best solution to them is to use a ranged party to murder their leader and never see them fight at all. We'll discuss those as we see them in the game, they'll start becoming pretty common by the end of things. Just never let lust for experience distract you from winning maps. You can always just do Free Battles for more experience.

Anyway here's to hoping Dragonatrix will be able to get back on this soon, and I'll start thinking up another effortpost in the meantime.