Friday, September 2, 2011

'To Mantis Stronghold'

The Moustache King
The preceding story mission was: 'Colonial Counterattack'

The following story mission is: 'Probing The Enemy'

Another travelling mission. Just how many are there in the Vega storyline? One way to bulk up the total I suppose.

General Walter Victory has a word, telling you to get yourself over to Aurora orbit and await further orders. He's a bit sniffy about the fact that Natassia gave you the Colonial ship Blueprints (BPs) but seeing as how you have them you might as well buy one and kit it out. You've probably done so by now but good advice none the less.

Natassia reminds you that you may need to explore the route to Aurora first. Once you get there she says that she half expected you to do a runner and desert, so she's glad to see you. Allow yourself a small blush at her approval and the mission is done.

So now you have Aurora to plunder. Loads of white missions and the chance to find Rare BPs too. I decided that my first action would be to tackle the Defend Energy Collector mission. Why? Well when you arrive at a new planet the first order of business is to find the nearest energy field. Often they are a distance from the Landing Zone (LZ) and it's not easy to find them. If you take the Defend Energy Collector mission, then it will lead you straight to one. Cunning eh? Of course it turns out that the LZ on Aurora is right in the middle of an energy field so my brilliant idea fell rather flat. Mark my words though, one day, deeper into Pirate Galaxy, that tip will pay off.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Clan of 1

I find myself as the Admiral of an empty clan.

For a long time I was a member of The Ghost Warriors, a fine clan with helpful members and a relaxed atmosphere. The founder was an old buddy of mine which is why I joined, but he left a while ago. Since then the clan got a little thinner but the new leadership were still a good bunch.

A few weeks back the founder contacted me and asked me to join his new clan, The Order Of Heroes. I felt a little guilty about leaving the Ghosts but still said yes. There were half a dozen members or so and I was made to feel welcome.

Life is very busy at the moment so it was a few days before I logged back on. When I did I found that everyone had left the clan but me. What did I do? Does my ship give off poisonous fumes, do I emit dangerous geek rays?  I've no idea what happened, but as the only member I found myself as the Admiral of my own clan.

Now this is cool in some ways. For example I now have a Blue Tail.

I can also fly to Vega and pilot the conquest ship. That was a lot less exciting than I hoped. Maybe if I actually took part in a conquest rather than just hung about in orbit.

Now I really should just disband the clan, as I have no real interest in conquests or being an Admiral. However it seems a shame to let the 3,610 crystals and 61 log files in the clan fund go to waste. Anybody want to take it off my hands? You can join and I'll just leave, making you the new Admiral. This outstanding offer is for a short period only, because sooner or later I'll just have enough and go Ronin again.

Well at least I can say that I had my own clan, if only for a little while. Fear my Blue Tail.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

'Molikar Search'

The preceding story mission was: 'Gaining Entry'

The following story mission is: 'Jogging Memory'

Time to see if the crazy theory, seat of the pants engineering and cunning flying has delivered the goods. Let's find out if that modified Fusion Drive will stop the Molikar Long Range Guns (LRGs) blasting you from the skies.

Fly to Molikar and try for the surface. Natassia tels you that Ethan Copernicus will meet you and help in the search for Vicius The Mutilator and the imperilled Rosebud. Now I don't feel that it would be a significant spoiler to say that you do reach the surface of Molikar safely. I'd have been more than a little cheesed off if the last few missions had been nothing but a wild goose chase.

Strangely though, Ethan lands scant seconds after you do, in a borrowed ship named Freedom's Force2. What the hey? Where did he get a modified fusion drive from? Did he get the first one off a production line that chugged into life after your prototype was built? I don't remember seeing him doing any of the legwork? Why didn't he test the damn thing by going first? He's to blame for all this anyway the bearded buffoon. Mutter, grumble...

Okay calm down, it's only a game. Ethan has a few areas of interest to search, and to be fair he does come along and absorb a lot of Mantis hate as you go. Eventually you find a confused amnesiac in a damaged ship. The Mantis are all over him so you have to kill them quick. When he's temporarily safe, the mystery man tells you that his ship needs an orbital thrust engine so it can break into orbit. Ethan stays with the poor soul as you search the one area the amnesiac has not yet checked.

In my first try at this mission the amnesiac was destroyed quickly. In my second try Ethan did a poor job of protecting him and he was killed just as I saw an object on my scanner. Third time was the charm though and I found the engine he needed. Mystery man must be related to Montgomery Scott because in seconds his ship is repaired and streaking up, up and away.

Next you have to return to Baumar and escort the amnesiac to Jogan, which isn't too difficult. Ethan and Natassia then wring their hands over the fate of Rosebud and the mystery man. Enough of this! Next mission.

Monday, August 15, 2011

'Colonial Counterattack'

Oh the warm glow of belonging
The preceding story mission was: 'Alerting Colonials'

The following story mision is: 'To Mantis Stronghold'

You've reached the orbit of Axiom, and Tobias has a final word before you get down to the surface. It seems that the Colonials don't know about the attack on Lyris so you have to warn them. Ivanova is at Administration City so find her there. He also generously says that he now respects you after your recent heroic exploits.

Finding Ivanaova is easy enough, and she's already told General Walter Victory of the Mantis attack so he's now preparing a head on attack. Go and find him at military HQ. On meeting the General all I could think was, 'What a Fantastic moustache.' All he could think was, 'Conscripted pirate scum.' Fair enough I suppose, considering.

He's prepared to give you a try as a messenger though. He sends you to deliver the call to arms to four bases. Off you go to reach the four Colonial Guard outposts at the cardinal compass points around the city, but you have to do it in under five minutes. I was in my Shock Speed Stun so this was the perfect mission.

I streaked away to the first base, using the Speed Actuator to let me use the Afterburner more often. No problem this mission. The Guards are keen to fight, so after you deliver the message to each base they fly off towards their HQ. After you've done all four bases, go back to the HQ yourself.

The General is impressed with your flying, and might be inclined to try your fighting skills later. He announces that it's war and there's a Mantis attack force on Aurora. It's time for revenge.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

27th July Update

The core of the latest Pirate Galaxy (PG) update was v2.0 of the achievement system. Splitscreen described it as a new system but I think that's a bit of a stretch. Some new achievements have been added, such as Grand Explorer, and some bugs have been fixed.

Best of all you can now find out what elements of the Blueprint (BP), missions and zone visited achievements you are missing. I've posted before about the need for this so I'm glad to see it at last. Before this update I was 1 short of having all the Gemini BPs, but had no idea what it was. I had assumed that it was a Shock ship Gemini BP as I didn't have a Shock so couldn't see BPs such as Stun Charges or Speed Actuators. I could see the Tank, Storm and Engineer BPs and I had all of the Gemini versions of those. I even wrote a list of all the Gemini Shock BPs and had gone through the system collecting at least one of each to discover which was missing. When I found that I had all of them I was not happy and assumed that either it was a bug or perhaps a paint job BP that I hadn't found.

Then came Achievements v2.0 and I found that it was a Warping Aim Scrambler. How a BP that you collect in Antares can be the missing Gemini BP I've no idea. Still it only took me 5 minutes to get to Terasa and collect via the deaths of a few level 19 Avengers. At last, the Gemini BP Collector achievement was mine.
Update: In the changelog for August 11th 2011 it says 'Fixed a bug in the achievement Gemini Blueprint Collector that caused it to also require Antares blueprints.' Well that resolves that problem. Thanks to whoever read here then went and got it fixed.

Every time I get a new achievement I check my position in the Hall Of Fame. At that time I was number 1,086 so the top 10 don't have to worry yet. However the Hall Of Fame ladder has a flaw. For some reason there is a cut off of some sort at 1,018. See the screen grab. I'm on the lower side of the cut off so should actually be some places higher. I'll try not to sulk until Splitscreen fixes this.

Update: I've recently realised that the names in the ladder at the top of the second section are all GMs. It seems that they are causing some sort of log jam in the ladder.

Friday, July 22, 2011

'Gaining Entry'

Are you lot ignoring me?
The preceding story mission was: 'Back to Mizar'

The following story mission is: 'Molikar Search'

Now then, this is a good 'un. At first glance it seems identical to 'Testing Aggro' but it's a lot tougher. While I was playing this there was a large squadron howling in frustration as they failed again and again. I can understand why, and I bet it's driven many a player to distraction.

I played it solo and in my first 8 attempts failed, by trusting to skill, judgement and luck. Then I realised that there is a systematic method of working out The Solution. In the next 8 runs in zeroed in on three numbers which would allow anyone to nail this blighter. Am I going to tell you what those three numbers are? No. Of course not. However I will tell you how to discover and apply them yourself. Then if you want to be a spoil sport and blab them all round Mizar then that's up to you.

The aim of the mission is to get three different Mantis types to damage the Aggro Beacon (AB) Layla Hornblower built for you. As on Terasa, you must get the AB to receive damage within a maximum and minimum value in 60 seconds. It's harder this time though as the Mantis are tougher. That means that the damage accumulates quicker and it's harder to stop it by fragging the Mantis. However Layla saw fit to install the AB with a Repair Droid (R2 unit), which is the key to beating this mission. You activate it by scanning the AB.

You are given directions to three locations where the following happens

  1. The AB is attacked by 4 level 35 Detonators and requires between 50% and 65% damage.
  2. The AB is attacked by 4 level 35 Marauders and requires 65% to 85% damage.
  3. The AB is attacked by 4 level 35 Pyros and requires between 80% and 90% damage.
In my first attempts I just tried to judge when I should start attacking the Mantis, hoping to kill the last when the damage was in the required range. However there were too many variables. Sometimes I got few critical hits and the Mantis lasted longer doing too much damage. Other times they did damage quicker, or slower which was just as bad. Half the time I got the Detonator attack right, but then I'd fail in the Marauder attack and have to start again. Luckily failing does not get you podded, so failure is free.

Once I realised that the variation in the Mantis and my own attacks was the problem, I came up with a theory.   If I stopped attacking the Mantis then that removed one variable completely. Second, if all 4 Mantis were allowed to attack the AB then the damage they inflicted, though greater and quicker, would be more consistent and easier to gauge. Third, the R2 unit is very consistent. I could turn it on exactly when I wanted, it always runs for 15 seconds, and it repairs damage at a fixed rate. 

Bare with me, I'm getting there. 

The practical application of this geeky variation theory is this. As the Mantis attack the AB, select it and leave the mission sidebar open, as in the screen shot above.  Watch the 60 second countdown (between the cryonite reward figure and the % complete figure) and when it gets to whatever number feels lucky to you (50 for example) scan the AB to start the R2 unit. The AB will repair faster than it's damaged and by the time it runs out it will be back at 100%. That leaves the Mantis what ever time is left in the countdown to damage the AB. So if you started the R2 unit at 50 seconds then the Mantis will have 35 seconds to damage the AB. Don't fire on them. When the timer runs out you will be told if the AB unit took too much, too little or a Goldilocks amount of damage. If the AB unit took too much then next time start the R2 unit a few seconds later. If it took too little, then start the droid a few seconds earlier. If the damage is just right then remember that number for the next attempt and move on to the next attack. 

There is still variation of course, so if in one run the Detonator attack worked with a 45 second start, then it may fail at 45 seconds in a later run. If so, just move the start by plus or minus 1 second. It just means that you are at the edge of the required range and need to nudge nearer to the middle. 

I've tried explaining that as clearly as I can without telling you the answer so I hope it makes sense. 

When I worked out my three numbers, which are the points in the countdowns to start the Repair Droid, I felt extremely smug. I'm sure others got there earlier and quicker, but I don't care. It's nice to beat a mission through using your brain every once in a while.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

'Alerting Colonials'

The preceding story mission was: 'Saving Tobias Planck'

The following story mission is: 'Colonial Counterattack'

There's no time to mourn cuddly uncle Bill. Tobias says that with Lyris under attack you have to bomb over to Administration City on Axiom. Warn the Colonial defence forces before the Mantis get there.

This sounds exciting but the mission is basically fly to Axiom and earn 30 crystals in the process. Still you probably needed a chance to pull yourself together.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Paying Customer

Picture stolen from
Two years and three months after joining, and 19 days of Pirate Galaxy (PG) play time, I finally put my hand in my pocket and paid for the privilege.

I've already posted on the arguments about paying in Cheating? Or paying your way? Feel free to comment if you're either outraged by my actions or want to pat me on the back. Another good read on this topic is Tobold's MMORPG Blog. Tobold regularly blogs on payment for online games and he talks a lot of sense. His blog covers a much wider scope than mine and is always worth visiting.

From my Pirate career so far I had collected just over 12,000 gold bullion. Some of this was rewards for levelling up, but most was compensation from Gamigo ages ago for a service outage. I'd decided that I wanted to get myself the 6 month Ultimate Membership which costs 66,000 gold. I clicked on the purchase gold button in the shop and a separate browser window opened to take me through the transaction. Gold is purchased in packages so I chose the 54,500 deal which was almost exactly the amount I needed. A couple of clicks later and the deal was done, costing me just over £44. Minutes later the gold appeared in my game account and I took out my membership. I should say that this was for my Gamigo account which houses my main pilot. My Splitscreen account is separate so how smoothly that would go or how much it would cost I don't know.

For those who don't know, the Ultimate Membership means that playing the game is virtually Energy (E) free. Using my Blaster, Repair Droid, Shield, Aim Computer or any other equipment uses no E at all. I can also repair ships in the hangar for free, and jump between planets at zero E cost. Resurrecting yourself costs just as much E as it normally does but that's the only cost there is. Sweet.

In the few days I've had membership I've wondered why it took me so long to get it. No more boring E collecting is the most obvious benefit, but there are others. For example jumping between planets is now almost a joy. If I want to nip back to Gemini, swap my ship and have a blast on Technatoria, it takes one or two minutes. Previously that trip could take seven  minutes or more, unless I wanted to spend all my E in hyperjumps.

Grinding is easier as you don't have to keep leaving your spot to fuel up. Another gain is that it's free to kill something. Before, when I passed a solo Mender I'd be tempted to blast it but might have wanted to save power. Now as long as I'm not against the clock I can indulge myself and see if I strike gold.

Basically I get more fun time in the game, and I suppose a slight advantage against other players. Nothing as significant as a Blueprint (BP) or firepower booster but I do have more staying power. The non-game benefit is a warm feeling knowing that I've contributed financially to PG, helping preserve its existence and adding to Splitscreen's honest profit.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

'Back To Mizar'

The preceding story mission was: 'Testing Aggro'

The following story mission is: 'Gaining Entry'

Like most travelling missions, there's not much to say about this one. In orbit around Terasa, Layla Hornblower tells Natassia that the modified aggro beacon has passed testing and is ready to be used in Mizar. Say goodbye to the Antares system and fly back to Baumar.

Once in Baumarian orbit Natassia tells you that Layla put a special feature in the device to make the task easier with more powerful Mantis. If you want to know what that is then take the next mission.

With some story missions it's really difficult to make an interesting post.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'Saving Tobias Planck'

Tally Ho!
The preceding story mission was: 'Operation Smuggler Shut Down'

The following story mission is: 'Alerting Colonials'

A significant mission, which is fittingly both challenging and dramatic.

This was my first story mission in The Penguin, my AnIn-2000 Speed Stun. I'd taken it for a few white mission spins so I was familiar with it.

Bill Darius relays orders from the Colonials, which are to locate the scientist Tobias Planck. This boffin is believed to have information on a Mantis build up on Aurora. You meet with Bill on the surface of Lyris and head for one of Planck's research buildings, which he built for research into the planet's beautiful giant mushrooms.

Sure enough Tobias is there, at first afraid that you and Bill are pirates, which is understandable. After he learns that you've been sent by Ivanova he relaxes and starts to fill you in. He believes that the Mantis have repaired the Vega star gate and are massing on Aurora. General Victory of the Colonial forces keeps ignoring him but Tobias has detailed research at a nearby lab. You have to escort him there, keeping local Marauders off his back if you encounter any.

As you approach the lab you see another honking big Mantis mothership hanging in the air. The lab's been trashed and Planck's colleagues captured. Charge! You of course attack the mothership and the tasty looking Mantis muscle around it. That's when tragedy strikes.

The mothership targets Bill, giving him just enough time to send you one last poignant message. Then his ship explodes, with no pod in sight. That's right, cuddly uncle Bill is dead.

There's no time for tears. Tobias sounds the retreat and it's time for operation 'Save-Ass'. Hit the Afterburner and disengage, then flee to orbit as soon as you can. Don't bother looking for Planck or Bill, just punch it. I managed to maintain my 100% record of completing Vega story missions, but I was on my last legs and left a trail of flames as I went up, up and away.

In orbit Tobias says that you must take the news of the Mantis breaking the truce and attacking Lyris to the Colonial Guard on Axiom.

A good mission, where success is defined as escaping with your life, your mentor killed and the planet overrun. Poor Bill.
Mourning Angel by Shane Willis

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Storm, Tank, Engineer or Shock?

Right then. You've just completed the story mission 'Operation Smuggler Shut Down' and have been conscripted into the Colonial Forces. Major Ivanova has given you Blueprints (BPs) for four types of Colonial military ships.

If you are at least level 10 and have 445 cryonite crystals, it's time to make the biggest decision of your Pirate Galaxy career so far. Buying and equipping one of these ships will be expensive and you are likely to be flying it for the rest of the Vega system storyline. Now don't panic, because whichever one you choose you can win through. Plus you will be buying a bigger and more powerful ship in the next system and you can chose a different class then if you like. However making the wrong choice might lead to enough frustration to make you give up on PG altogether. We don't want that do we?

The website The Hitchiker's Guide to Pirate Galaxy, and this page of the Pirate Galaxy Wiki have all the technical details of the ships. I won't be repeating them here. I'll be talking about their relative merits and otherwise, hopefully helping players to make the most enjoyable and satisfying choice for them.

AnIn-2000 Storm
When you absolutely, positively, got to kill every Mantis critter in the zone, accept no substitutes.

This is the kill-wagon, specialising via offensive weaponry in the quick destruction of your targets. I put this one first because many players won't bother reading any further after seeing 'kill-wagon' or 'offensive'. In addition to the generic Blaster, Collector, Repair Droid and Afterburner, this chap is equipped with Rockets and an Aim Computer.

Rockets are slow to cool down, slow to reach their target, but when they do...oh baby! They deliver more damage than a Blaster (per shot but not per second due to the fire rate) and also generate splash damage, so nearby targets take damage too. These are great for firing into clusters of Mantis, and there is a sadistic pleasure in watching one chasing down a fleeing enemy.

Aim Computers give your Blaster and Rockets a better chance of both hitting and doing critical damage. You switch it on as you prepare to attack and enjoy the benefits while it functions. Visually unimpressive but tactically effective.

The Storm has decent armour, but without a shield it's not that durable. Kill 'em all before they kill you. Often you can destroy two or three Mantis before they've even powered up their own equipment. The best ship for the 'kill' white missions.

A fairly simple one to pilot and explosive fun. Very popular, i.e. common, so you won't stand out, or be in great demand as a squad or clan member. A safe choice and in many peoples' opinion the best for the Vega system.

AnIn-2000 Space Tank
The name says it all. Sit cosy in your armoured shell as you methodically disassemble the enemies swarming all over you.

The strategy of this Tank when flown solo is to rely on its defensive abilities while hitting the enemy with the blaster. It has a shield like the AnIn-1450 and has armour which is streets ahead of other player ships. It also has a Taunt fitted, which is an acquired taste.

The Taunt is targeted at an Non Player Character (NPC), and forces it to attack you. The first thought of course is 'why?' Well it is useful in drawing attacks away from squad-mates, or story mission NPCs which you need to protect. It's also good for 'fishing'. This is where you sit on the edge of a large group of enemies and Taunt one towards you so that you can engage it one on one. I have been told that if you Taunt a squad-mate during a fight it allows them to orbit immediately without having to break contact with the enemy. I haven't tried that one so don't take my word for it. [Update My old mate Lool is a bit of a Taunt aficionado and has given me some info. Taunt does not allow your squad mates to break to orbit when you're in a fight. However if you are in PvP you can use it on your opponent to stop them orbiting. So let's say you're both Red and are having a scrap. You get your opponent on the ropes, so he/she wisely/cravenly uses the After Burner (AB) to get away. Normally after a few seconds of avoiding battle they will be out of combat mode and able to orbit. However if you've Taunted them then they are stuck in combat mode and can't make it into the wide blue yonder. Your own AB should be cooled down now so you can close with them again. Useful. It makes game sense of a sort too, as the Taunted pilot could be considered to enraged to flee to orbit, even if they are trying to keep their distance from you. ]

If you play mostly solo then this may be the ship for you. It can protect, fight and escape, plus it needs emergency repairs less often. Works well in a squad as an anvil, holding the enemy in place while the others hammer it. Very common again, but there's good reason why it's popular. This was the ship I chose for my first run through the Vega system all those years ago.

If you're a cool, calm and collected player and don't crave the excitement and fireworks of the Storm or Shock then put a Tank in your hangar.

AnIn-2000 Light Engineer
The nice ship for nice pilots.

Engineers exist to help other ships. On their own they are weak, having the weakest armour and weakest fire power. If you play solo, choose this ship only if you like a challenge.

The Engineer's unique equipment is the Repair Target (does what it says in the tin) and the Protector. Repair Target can be used on squad mates, buddies and NPC ships. Protector is a shield that can be used on yourself or a buddy, recharges quicker than a standard shield and works against stuns. The Protector is useful in solo play but the repair target will not work on yourself so is useless unless you are accompanied.

Pilot one of these and you will be everyone's mate. You'll find a spot in every squad and clan, and playing the medic roll in a team can be the best fun in the game. I would strongly advise you not to chose this ship to travel through the Vega storyline alone. I would recommend that the Engineer is your second ship.

AnIn-2000 Speed Stun
The Penguin
Wanna stand out? Get a Shock.

For some reason Shock ships are the rarest in the game. I've only just chosen one myself, The Penguin, after  'Operation Smuggler Shut Down' to try out through the Vega storyline.

The Vega Shock has a Speed Actuator and Stun Charge in addition to the generic equipment. The Speed Actuator can be used on yourself or another ship, and makes everything faster. The ship flies faster and all equipment cools down quicker. This doesn't sound that glam, but think about it. Your rate of fire increases so you hit more often, you can repair quicker and flee sooner. Nice. The Stun Charge does just the opposite, slowing the target's flight and recharge speed. Imagine stunning your enemy then speeding yourself up. Devastating.

The Shock has only slightly tougher armour than the Engineer with no Shield or Protector so you will have to make full use of its fleetness of foot. It does quite well in the offensive field though, just better than the tank but still far behind the Storm.

As I said, this is an uncommon ship but it can bring a lot to a squad or clan. It will take a bit of skill to pilot this to its full capability so good for a challenge. Go on, take the path less travelled.

Monday, June 20, 2011

'Testing Aggro'

The preceding story mission was: 'Dangerous Modifications'

The following story mission is: 'Back to Mizar'

This is an enjoyable mission. Different from your usual objectives, challenging and justified by some tech gobbledy-gook that would sit nicely in an episode of Start Trek:TNG or Doctor Who.

Your first task is to rendezvous again with Layla Hornblower at the Carl Sagan lab. This is a royal pain in the backside, flying from one corner of the planet to the other. Not dangerous, just tedious. Still you may come across an Antares level pilot in need of help, so if you do, be nice and help them out.

At the Carl Sagan, Layla has a modified aggro beacon which you need to collect. Inside the beacon is your new Mantis-tech fusion core. It's cased in a material that 'leaches properties from one medium to another'. Once Mantis start to fire upon it then it will copy the energy signature to the core. If this works for any longer than 60 seconds then the atmospherics will contaminate the core. To try and increase the chance of you capturing the correct energy signature it needs to be attacked by three classes of Mantis to three different levels of intensity. You see? I can picture Geordi La Forge reciting this to Picard, or Amy Pond scowling as the 11th Doctor rattles it off, waving his sonic screwdriver around. 

The outcome of all this techno-babble is that you have to take the aggro-beacon to three locations, and allow the mantis that appear there to deliver certain amounts of damage to the beacon within a 60 second window. Brilliant. 

Once you reach the first location the beacon is automatically deposited. Layla then tells you that the beacon must receive at least 50% damage but no more than 65%. A few seconds later a group of level 20 Avengers arrive and start to fire on the aggro-beacon. The mission panel (activated by the CTRL key) shows the 60 second timer running down and if you select the beacon you can see the damage it's taking accumulate. You have to judge how long to let the Avengers fire before you blow them up to stop the damage. I was in my tank so I let them have a taste of my aggro-bomb which damaged them all but left them firing. Then when I saw the damage was approaching 50% I started to cull the Avengers. 

After this you collect the beacon and go to the second and third locations where Rocketeers and then Marauders attack. The amount of damage required changes but the tolerances are quite wide. After you calibrate yourself you'll soon be through the mission. The first time I took this I failed on the Avengers, the second time on the Rocketeers. Third time was the charm and I completed. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

'Operation Smuggler Shut Down'

Busy, busy, busy
The preceding story mission was: 'Traitor Eradication'

The following story mission is: 'Saving Tobias Planck'

After the disappointing 'Traitor Eradication' this is a good one. Bill Darius is sure that Jake Rattenbury will deliver the intel to the Mantis ASAP so you need to stop him. However to take on him and the remaining smugglers you need more fire power. He invites you to rendezvous with him and someone who wants to help.

On arrival at the rendezvous you discover that this someone is Major Ivanova in her repaired ship. Miss Bossy Boots then says that you and Bill are now conscripts in the Colonial forces. She's still miffed that you blew up her ship but she might forgive you in time. Now you and Bill need to follow her and some of her Guards to the smuggler HQ. The plan is to arrest Jake and the smugglers.

At this point the Major gives you four new Blueprints (BPS) for Colonial military ships. Namely the AnIn-2000 War Hawk (Storm), AnIn-2000 Space Tank (Tank), AnIn-2000 Light Engineer (Engineer) and the AnIn-2000 Speed Stun (Shock). Now I suppose you could go to orbit to buy and equip one of these before you continue with the mission but I just went ahead in my AnIn-1300 and completed first time.

As you approach the HQ you will see a honking big ship hanging over the building with lots of Mantis swarming about attacking the smugglers. You get the order to attack the mothership so dive in and have fun. Now things get hairy and you might struggle to keep up with what's going on while keeping yourself in one piece.

The Mantis start to fire on the smugglers' escape pods (Jake Rattenbury is amongst them) in order to kill the occupants. You have to collect the pods, both to save their lives and allow some healthy interrogation afterwards. Once you've got a few Ivanaova will tell you to scan her ship to initate the prisoner transfer. The mothership will have done a runner by now, and once the prisoners are transferred the major heads for orbit, then Axiom, to start the interrogation. Bill encourages you to follow him to orbit, but I stayed behind to collect all of the cryonite lying around and help the Colonial Guards against the local Sentinels who strayed into the fight.

This is a testing mission and might pod you due to all the ships flying about and constant instructions that need to be read. Good fun and significant in both story and your future as a pilot. Now you have to decide which AnIn-2000 ship to go for.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Steel Legions revisited

I recently received via email a code to claim 50 gold coins in Steel Legions. This incentive, plus the gentle nudging of Pbhuh, took me back for a look see. I enjoyed the game on my first visit so I didn't need too much persuasion.
The new airship pays a visit

There have been a few graphical changes. For example there's now weather and a cool airship docking regularly at the Command Centre. Game-wise you can now wander further afield while you wait for your mission which keeps the action ticking along.

Other than that I didn't notice anything different, but the game was even more fun this time. I managed to fathom the effects of terrain this time which adds another tactical dimension to the battles. For example hiding in a wood makes you harder to hit but slows you down. I particularly like how being in a crater or up on a rise is handled. Being in a crater absorbs some damage from enemy fire, so get down there when you can. The drawback is that you lose range and visibility. To reflect this the altitude of the camera drops so you have a smaller field of view. Conversely, go up on a hill and the viewpoint moves higher so you can see further and your range increases. The bad news is that you're easier to hit.

The missions I was assigned were more varied this time, but that could be because I was at a higher level and so could take on tougher opponents. There's capture a hill, destroy an enemy mine, stop a delivery of platinum and kill the NPC boss. The atmosphere is a lot friendlier in the chat than Pirate Galaxy (PG), at least for now. Maybe it's just the smaller numbers of Beta players, or perhaps the game is so frenetic that players don't have the time to scream 'noob' all the time. Maybe it's because we're all 'noobs' together.

Monday, June 6, 2011

'Dangerous Modifications'

The preceding story mission was: 'Finding Beryllium'

Layla Hornblower - Don't snicker,
it's the name of a famous literary sailor.
The following story mission is: 'Testing Aggro'

After your latest trip to Commerce Central (CC) you now have a functioning fusion drive core matching the schematics you got on Baumar. The next task is to give it a Mantis fusion signature. Pick this mission up in CC's orbit.

Tobias Planck tells you to go to Terasa in the Antares system and there find Layla Hornblower. Layla is a bit of a weapons genius and might be able to find a way to make Isaak Handal's plan feasible.

Fly to the Gemini stargate, from there jump to the Antares system, and then fly to Terasa. On the surface you learn that Layla is at the Carl Sagan lab so you have a bit of a journey in front of you. Fly to the lab while puny local Mantis throw themselves at you, creating a glorious but grisly firework display.

Once there you will find Layla in her ship The Quantum Defender (she knows that means 'The smallest possible  defender' right?). Once you get close enough she is obviously briefed by someone. Her first reaction is that Tobias is nuts, but does have an idea on how it might be done. It will take some time she says, actually as long as it takes you to fly to orbit and select the next mission.

Simple to complete. Again no real challenge but it's really just about getting you from A to B. I certainly enjoyed my visit back to Terasa, so I hope you do too.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

'Traitor Eradication'

The preceding story mission was: 'Spying On Bill'

The following story mission is: 'Operation Smuggler Shut Down'

In orbit around Lyris, Jake tells you that now he knows the truth, Bill Darius must be 'dealt with'. Your task is to escort Bill on what appears to be a simple smuggling job. Jake sends Bill the coordinates of a ship he has to deliver to. However the ship is booby trapped with two bombs, one for Bill's ship, the other set to blow seconds later to destroy his escape pod. Fiendish.

Once you reach the ship Bill figures out what's going on and tells you that Jake is a traitor, selling secrets to the Mantis. He tells you to blow up the ship, which you do easily, then he flees to orbit saying Jake is bound to have a backup plan so it's not safe to hang around. Don't worry, it is safe. I hung around for ages and nothing happened. Once in orbit Bill says that the intel Jake was selling would allow the Mantis to take the Vega system in short order. Bill teamed up with Major Ivanova to stop him.

Well that's the mission, and I didn't like it. Why? There's no choice and no challenge.

There is no threat other than the usual local Mantis. You can't be too close to the booby trapped ship when it blows and Jake doesn't have a plan B in case you cross over to the light side.

That would be fine if you could make a decision somewhere. But you go where you're told, shoot what you're told and believe what you're told. You can't refuse to go along with Jake's plan at the start and open fire on him. You can't blast Bill once he realises it's a trap so you can be top smuggler. Just about all of PG's story missions are like that of course, but most have tactical options and a risk of failure and destruction.

It's a bit like watching a pantomime. You can boo, you can hiss, you can even shout 'He's behind you,' but you can't change the story. I like to be swept along in the narrative as much as anyone, but that's what books, films and telly are for. Games should either be a challenge or let you guide your own adventure.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Antares Afterburner

After pontificating in this blog so often about how dull it must be to grind for Rares, I recently found myself doing exactly that.

Antares Afterburner. Phwooar!
In my journey through the Mizar story missions I found myself back at Terasa in the Antares system. I decided to take a break and pick on the local Harvesters. The Aggrobomb is still a novelty for me so I wanted to try it out on a swarm of Interceptors. I found a good spot free of other pilots and bagged three Harvesters in quick succession. Naturally the enraged Interceptors were soon around me and pouring on the Blaster fire, until I triggered the Aggrobomb. After the explosion there only remained silence, and two golden Blueprints (BPs) like earrings on the Terasa surface. 'Crikey!' I thought to myself, 'That was easy.'

After hoovering the Rares up I found that I only needed another 6 BPs to get the Antares Afterburner. Well that was it, I was culling Harvesters and Interceptors. Of course it wasn't as easy to get the remaining 6 BPs and it took me a while over a few on line sessions. An added incentive to stick with it was the fact that I was close to the 'No Longer Poor' Achievement and I was raking in serious crystal as I murdered the Mantis.

So before long I had the required 10,000 crystals (which gives me 165 points and #1,035 in the Hall of Fame) and was the proud owner of an Antares Afterburner. Of course I didn't have a ship to put it in but that hardly matters does it?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Finding Beryllium'

Hello Sara.
Looking good after your spell in a Mantis space-cage
The preceding story mission was: 'Finding a Way Through'

The following story mission is: 'Dangerous Modifications'

A nice mission, not really dangerous but it provides a pleasantly nostalgic return to Commerce Central (CC).

Tobias Planck has had a little think about the schematics you recovered in 'Finding a Way Through'. His theory is that it's a fusion drive emitting a signature identifying you as friendly in the eyes of the Molikar Mantis Long Range Guns (LRGs). (Molikar Mantis, Molikar Mantis, Molikar Mantis). Tobias doesn't know much about Fusion tech and asks if you know an engineer who does, if so then you should fly to them.

Well there was one obvious candidate, so I made my way to CC in the Gemini system. As soon I reached the surface Tobias went all fan-boy over the prospect of meeting Isaak Handal and begged me to do the introductions. Isaak was in the usual place and he was happy to help. First of all I had to find some Beryllium so he could build me a new fusion drive core.

Isaak and Tobias both came along to help so I was prepared to protect them but needn't have worried. They both have ships tough enough to look after themselves, and the Mantis are strictly local to CC so were no threat. As always I enjoyed returning  in a better ship to a planet that used to pod me regularly and blowing the Mantis apart with one shot.

The mission follows the usual scavenging pattern, go to the marked area and find a canister of Beryllium. There are plenty of Mantis hanging around but they are easy meat. I took my time and kept stopping for energy which didn't upset Isaak or Tobias at all.

The last collection was deep into CC so rather than travel all the way back through the maze I went to orbit. As I did so I thought it might not have been the cleverest thing as Isaak and Tobias might have sat around and waited for me to come back. However it turned out all right once I got back to Sara as she'd done half the work. Isaak completes the job, but the fusion drive still doesn't have the signature required. His only idea is to get a load of Mantis to shoot at the core and transfer their energy signature to it. Natassia promises to think about it and get back to you.

After this you don't travel back to Baumar, stay in orbit and select 'Dangerous Modifications' from there.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

'Spying on Bill'

Stealthy as a Pixie, Serig darted from mushroom to toadstool
The preceding story mission was: 'Deliver Mine Intel'

The following story mission is: 'Traitor Eradication'

This is a poor mission, but at least it does start to wrap up the traitor arc which is becoming a bit stale by this point.

Jake Rattenbury is becoming suspicious of Bill Darius and wants you to find out what he gets up to between smuggling jobs. On the surface on Lyris you are tasked with following Bill, but keeping your range to him between 200 and 1,000. That bit I liked as we haven't had to do that before. This was a little tricky when Bill turns a corner and so got closer as he passed on the other side of a ridge. I suspect the mission is a little tolerant though, because I did go outside of the tolerance once or twice with no ill-effects.

After a little while Bill stopped moving so I stayed at the desired range. However nothing seemed to happen so I eventually crept closer. Bill then went to orbit and I thought I saw another ship orbiting too. Jake then cut in and ranted that Bill was hanging with Major Ivanova who was thought to be destroyed. Bill is obviously working for the Colonials and Jake wants to make him pay.

The fact that I never saw Bill and Ivanova together and had to have Jake tell me what happened is just annoying. It may well be realistic but it does lack drama. It would have been better if you had been given an a rendezvous point by Jake from an intercepted message. Then you could have hidden in a sensor blind spot or powered down ship perhaps.

Not very challenging and not very dramatic. Maybe things are about to hot up though.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Echo Bazaar

In my post a little while back about Steel Legions (SL), I concluded that SL would probably be my 'bit on the side' but not a threat to my long standing relationship with Pirate Galaxy (PG). Since then I haven't played SL, but I have become infatuated with a completely different game, Echo Bazaar.

My latest obsession

Echo Bazaar (EB) is a card based browser Role Playing Game (RPG) and I love it. It's free to play in the same way as PG is, so you can spend money to get advantages or bypass some restrictions. The scenario is that you have moved to Fallen London, a Victorian-esque city deep beneath the earth. You make your way through life in whichever manner you choose, using your four skills of Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive or Shadowy. You can be a soldier of fortune, a detective, a schmoozer, a thief, or all of them and more.

You move through Fallen London and find opportunities for profit, either fixed for that location or through a random card that you are dealt. As you use your skills they increase, unlocking more opportunites, harder tasks and greater rewards. Every so often story cards appear which, if you choose to play them, open up a mini storyline. You can also select an Ambition, which is personal story arc through your adventures.

My Ambition is to find and take revenge on my wife's murderer, which I use to guide my play. For example I now need to gain access to the University to continue my vendetta, which requires that I either bribe my way in with jade and Moonpearls, or become a scholar of the Correspondance which is a whispered rumour of a myth. Now I am taking up any opportunity to earn jade or pearls and ignoring more profitable options.

So far in my adventures I have gone insane twice, died once but wrested back my life, seduced an artists model, an heiress and a vicar's sister, had my home invaded by sentient rats, become marked by the Eater-of-Chains and am growing a sinister looking plant in my lodgings.

EB is played through either your Twitter or Facebook account which is used to attarct more players and spread the word. Having friends help you is one way to gain an advantage in the game so if you can convince a friend to join you then you should do so. Your number of moves per day is limited which makes it even more addictive.

Echo Bazaar is an excellent game in which you can guide your own destiny and write your own legend. It takes little more than 15 minutes a day to play but rewards careful thought and a love of story. Give it a go and you won't regret it, you'll still have time for PG.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

'Finding a Way Through'

The preceding story mission was: 'Possible Weakness'

The following Story Mission is: 'Finding Beryllium'

This is the opening episode in a multi-mission story. Be prepared to leave Mizar once again and revisit past haunts, in order to gain the keys to a new playground.

Natassia is still worried about that drip Rosebud. She suspects that Vicius has him prisoner on Molikar. This is a problem as you can't get to the surface of Molikar without being blown out of the sky by the Mantis' suspected Long Range Guns (LRGs). Ethan Copernicus believes that there may be a way to get some information that gives you access to Molikar. Natassia sends you down to the surface to meet with him.

Once you find Ethan at his usual place in Jogan he fills you in on his theory. Although all human ships get wasted as soon as they approach the surface of Molikar, the Mantis can come and go. The Harvesters in particular are always back and forth as they deliver the Cryonite collected on Baumar. If you can bring down a Harvester then you may be able to find some clues amongst the wreckage.

So off you go to kill a Harvester or two. From here on this mission is just a version of the 'Loot Standard Collector' white missions. You attack a Harvester and deal with the Interceptor escort plus other meddling Mantis who join in the fun. When I did this mission the first Harvester I destroyed dropped Intel, but you may have to wreck more than one.

Once you've collected a piece of Intel you are given the order to go to orbit for analysis. Natassia then tells you that the Intel is schematics for a modified fusion drive. Tobias Planck is going to have a think about how he can take advantage of this knowledge. Come back later and she's sure he'll have a plan.

Like I said a white mission with a bit of story built in, but challenging enough to keep you focused.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

'Deliver Mine Intel'

The Anarchy - Cool name, ugly pilot

The preceding story mission was: ‘To Lyris’

The following story mission is: ‘Spying on Bill’

Time for a quick recap I think. Jake Rattenbury, the head of the smugglers, has been selling intelligence on Colonial mining operations to a mysterious pilot. The buyer has refused to pay until more is forthcoming. You recently escorted Bill Darius on Kalabesh, as he collected more intel and then took it to the orbit of Lyris. This is where we rejoin the story.

You have to meet Bill on the surface of Lyris and protect him as he leads you to the new location of the smuggler HQ. As you travel Bill confides that he is feeling uncomfortable about these missions and becoming suspicious. Well you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to come to that conclusion but at least it suggests that Uncle Bill is one of the good guys.

You may have a little trouble with the delinquent Mantis hanging about on the street corners, but there’s no ambush. You’ll soon meet up with Jake who takes the intel and comments that one more piece should make the buyer pay up. He also tells you to get to orbit and take the next mission as it needs your urgent attention. 

Blogging the story missions separately like this does make them sound a bit inconsequential but they are meant to be played more in sequence. For example you would probably play the four missions from ‘To Kalabesh’ to ‘Deliver Mine Intel’ in one go, which would take you to a new planet and move the story along a fair bit.

This might be a good place in the story to take a break from the yellow missions and score a few whites. Lyris is your oyster.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Killing Bunnies

So what do you think of the Pirate Galaxy Easter/Birthday event? Did it leave you cold or drain your gold? 

It was certainly a big one and has generated a lot of noise. The forum has lots of posts for and against. Of course there are those who complained that it's too hard. There are players who bleat about putting in the least effort to gain any benefit. Presumably they want to be handed a super-armoured, fully rare-d up kill machine with a unique paint job for just being logged on for over an hour. That is as long as nobody else gets one that is. Others complain it's just a scheme to entice players to buy boosters, earning Splitscreen some cash. Hello! Commercial enterprise, people. I've already had my say on that here so I won't repeat myself.

Lool's Antares Tank

There has been many others who have posted on the best tactics to beat the bunnies. Squadding up is of course a good idea but, like me, lots of players want to do it solo. There's been descriptions of strafing techniques, what boosters and ships to use etc. When players have a lively debate and show off pictures of their new trophy ships then you've got to call it a success. Lool is just one of those exhibitionists and sent me a few pictures of the rare ships won through the missions.

The Mizar Rare Rabbit Evildoer

Lool seems to have a taste for loud paint jobs. Take a look at the new Phoenix starter ship, decked out in lovely hearts.

How sweet

As for me, I did fly back to Gemini and have a crack at the Bunny Bashing mission on Commerce Central (CC) but got podded in record time. The posts on the forum suggested that if I wanted to beat this mission it would take hours, and at the end I'd get just one part of the required Blueprint (BP). Having a tasty new Rare Gemini ship would be nice, but I'm in Mizar now and I'd still have to pay for the blinking thing anyway. I did get offers of help in getting the BPs but I wasn't tempted. 
The Easter event must have worked for either the players, Splitscreen, or both because SS extended it by 48 hours. Though not to my taste, I think a pat on the back for this event is warranted. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

'Possible Weakness'

$mineral.type1.nam? I'll just call it antimantisite.
The preceding Story Mission was: 'Energy Depletion'

The following Story Mission is: 'Finding a Way Through'

The arms race with the Mantis takes a new turn in this mission. Tobias Planck has made an interesting discovery about Mantis behaviour. You must fly down to Baumar and meet him in Jogan. When you get there you discover that Tobias is still wearing daft glasses. More importantly he's got a lead on a rare mineral found on Baumar that may affect Mantis technology and act as a repellant. If you can find some of this mineral and bring it to him then he may be able to create an anti-Mantis device. Cool. 

Although...hang on...aren't all of our ships equipped with technology stolen from Mantis victims? Okay the ship Blueprints (BPs) are definitely human made, as the descriptions of the ships are explicit in this. But all of my Blasters, Shields etc. are built from looted Mantis technology. How come this new antimantisite doesn't affect our ships? Explain that one then Splitscreen. Maybe humans pinch the design from the BPs but use their own materials and manufacturing techniques that make them immune to antimantisite. Maybe it's just the Mantis core ship systems that are affected. Maybe, once again, I'm sounding like a nerd. Okay let's just move on shall we?

Tobias fits your ship with an antimantisite detector and you have to fly around and find some. Now these are scattered far and wide across the surface of Baumar so expect to be frustrated. You'll need a reasonably long time slot to complete this one. I started it once but had to stop as life got in the way and I had to log off after 40% complete.

You will cruise around for a while, and then Tobias will pop up to tell you that there must be some of the mineral nearby. Check your map and you will see that you are now on the edge of a marked area. The antimantisite will be somewhere near the centre. Engage shields (if you have them), find and collect the mineral while being pounded by the Mantis, then Afterburn out of there. You can go back to Jogan where Tobias will take the mineral off you or you can keep searching. You are told that if you get podded while carrying the mineral it may be destroyed. The first time I tried this mission I was blown up carrying the first piece of antimantisite but the mineral survived. I simply flew back to Baumar and carried on.

You have to collect 5 pieces of mineral before Tobias says that's enough and knocks up the Mantis repellers. One is installed at Jogan and you have to deliver the other four to the remaining outposts. You can collect and deliver one at a time, or do as I did and collect them all together and tour the outposts.

After I collected and delivered the first mineral which took me to 10% completed I was worried that I'd have to find 10 and I was was already planning a moaning post about this particular story mission. However 5 is a reasonable task, plus the delivery which is quite easy. Not a bad mission at all as long as you have the time. A Tank is definitely the best ship for this mission as you take heavy fire while finding and collecting the mineral.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

'To Lyris'

The orbital views get better and better
The preceding story mission was: 'Secondary Intel'

The following story mission is: 'Deliver Mine Intel'

Another simple travelling mission, though this one does reveal more than most. In orbit around Kalabesh Bill Darius, referring to the previous story mission 'Secondary Intel', says that you are not done yet and that there is more intelligence to be collected on Lyris. He tells you to explore the route to Colossus first, and then to Lyris. Colossus costs 30 crystals and takes a couple of minutes. When you get there you'll find that you won't be able to enter the atmosphere. The planet has high pressures in its atmosphere so you can only land when conditions allow, in other words when Splitscreen arranges a special tournament or other event. There is however a star base here, unlike at Lyris.

Exploring the route from here to Lyris costs 10 crystals and takes twenty seconds or so. Now, you don't have to explore to Colossus and can go straight to Lyris, but the hangar around Colossus is the nearest from there so it's worth having access to it.

As soon as you reach Lyris the mission is done. This gives you access to a whole new list of white missions and once you enter the atmosphere the Sentinel Slayer achievement is unlocked. Get in there and fill your boots.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Steel Legions

A few days ago, on a bank holiday morning, I was tempted to give Steel Legions (SL) a go. My resistance was not due to any forebodings about the quality or concept of the game. What worried me was that I might really love it and start a new boy-meets-game, passion-filled affair. It would be difficult to maintain a blog on Pirate Galaxy (PG) if I never played it, or begrudged every minute that it kept me from my new, exciting and adventurous mistress.

If it wasn't for Cryonite Cove (CC), the apple-of-my-eye, I'd have no qualms about ditching PG as soon as a saucy new waste of time became available. But I have responsibilities, obligations. I couldn't just abandon CC, leave it orphaned and unloved. It wouldn't be CCs fault that PG and I had been torn apart by my eye for a pretty game and taste for exotic role-play. Dare I open Pandora's box and risk the future of my darling child?

Ah what the hell. It's only a bit of fun, nobody'll get hurt.

I downloaded the client from the SL website and fired it up. First of all there is a very cool loading screen with a battered tank giving it large with a machine gun. It made me all nostalgic for my BattleTech and Mechwarrior gaming past, which is probably not what Splitscreen intended but there you go.

I was able to log in using my existing Splitscreen account so I was soon able to bagsy 'Serig' as my screen name. There is a server choice but only the Europe server is available at the moment. The next thing that happened was I had the chance to join the Golden Territories faction straight away and get a bonus of 50 gold. I wanted to consider all options and not be rushed, so declined and looked at all the possible Empires.

Pictures of the four Empires are laid out in a line for you to select. I've read through the website and know that there is background to each Empire. As the richest faction, the Golden Territories, had offered me 50 Gold to join them, I deduced that each faction must have a benefit. For example the Phoenix Empire is described as having a rational way of life and being a culture of thinkers, so perhaps you get some advantage in tactical or technological skills. I clicked on the first Empire, which was the Pandora Rebels, expecting to get an explanation on their background and the benefits of joining them. However I found that I had now, apparently irrevocably, joined the Pandora Rebels. There was no 'Are you sure?' message, just 'bam!' you're a Rebel. Bugger! I have no problem with the Rebels, cool name, bull's head for a flag, but I felt as I'd been press-ganged. Anyway the deed was done.

I found myself at a Player Factory in a dinky little tank with the engine turning over. The graphics are very nice, as in PG much better than you'd expect a browser game to be. They are of a different style to PG, more animation less realism perhaps. No bad thing. As you try clicking here and there a series of hints pop up which explain how to move, how to fire, how to upgrade your tank etc. It doesn't take long before you're able to get into the action. There are things which don't get explained, for example there are little icons under your health bar which are still a mystery to me.

A big blue arrow kindly shows you the way to the nearest HQ for your Empire. When you arrive you can ask to be assigned a mission. Then you wait while the game decides what to do with you and a timer counts down. The first two missions I had were against Marauders, NPC unaligned tanks. You simply have to kill so many in a set time limit. Sound familiar? As you kill the Marauders you pick up items that you can use to upgrade or repair your tank. Before long I was in the workshop beefing my gun-wagon up, though there's no visible difference just yet. Again this was easy enough but I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing. I know my armour was getting tougher but by how much? Did that cost as much as upgrading my weapons? I then found out that I could hire crew members, all of who look extremely cool. There is a description as to what they offer you but I still found the details of the mechanics of it all hazy.

The tank-on-tank action is great fun with nice explosions, fire and smoke. I managed to complete these first missions easily enough and this is definitely a game you can get into straight away. The best was yet to come though. My next mission turned out to be me plus another Pandora Rebel versus two players from the Golden Territories. The objective was to defend a flag for a set time limit. For player versus player (PVP) action, SL knocks PG into a cocked hat. The game arranges it all for you so there's no awkward or annoying "Who wants to PVP?" messages or hanging around until someone has the time to come and give you a match. Plus you are matched up evenly. I was level 1, my partner was level 3 and we were fighting two level 2 players. This mission was even more enjoyable, even though we lost and the Golden Territories took the hill.

There is a tactical map which gives you a wider view of the world and command centres give you a picture of the world map. This suggests that as you progress you can lead armies and conquer territories, or at least that this is coming soon. If the idea is that as you win a battle against an enemy Empire then the world and tactical map changes and your faction advances, then I'm sold. That will add depth and a campaign feel to the game which would keep me coming back.

So first impressions of Steel Legions. Very easy to get into, great for fighting and blowing things up, top drawer set up for PVP and the promise of more depth and long term objectives to come. Negatives? Well the initial Empire selection process annoyed me greatly with no supporting information or second chance, and the detailed mechanics of how to play the game beyond the basic point and click combat system aren't entirely clear to me yet. To be fair I haven't played for very long and if I fully understood everything this quickly then it would be a very simple game. I will be playing again and am looking forward to it. If you like Pirate Galaxy then give Steel Legions a go, you may never look back.

Is Steel Legions now my latest obsession, tearing me and Pirate Galaxy apart? N0. At least for now Steel Legions will be my bit on the side, but at the end of the day I'll still be going home to Pirate Galaxy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

'Energy Depletion'

Shields, don't fail me now
The preceding Story Mission was: 'Help Fighters'

The following Story Mission is: 'Possible Weakness'

This Pirate Galaxy story mission, though not as good as the preceding 'Help Fighters', is still an enjoyable one. Natassia kicks things off as usual, telling you that the Baumarians' energy reserves are running low. You are dispatched to their central base of Jogan to see if you can help.

At Jogan, Ethan explains that the E-scouts introduced in the last mission are Missing In Action (MIA). They regularly call in their position so the Baumarians have a good idea where they are. You are given an area to search and have to retrieve the E-scouts.

As soon as you reach the edge of the search area you get a transmission from one of the scouts saying that  he's in his pod but is still under attack. (The Mantis are such bounders aren't they?) You should activate your large map at this point (use the spacebar). You will see a red dot which is the location of the E-scouts pod. You have 3 minutes to find the pod, collect it, and Afterburn (AB) out of the marked area. If you take too long, or get destroyed carrying one or more of the pods then the mission is failed.

You collect three pilots and then have to get back to Jogan. I was podded very close to home the first time I tried this but completed it at the second attempt.

A nice mission which I enjoyed. Not too difficult but I was in a Tank which has to be the best ship for this mission. The Mantis come thick and fast when you approach the pods so you'd struggle to survive in a frailer craft.

Friday, April 22, 2011

'Secondary Intel'

Come back Uncle Bill
The preceding story mission was: 'To Kalabesh'

The following story mission is: 'To Lyris'

A very simple and easy mission this one. I was still in my AnIn-1400 and got through it with no problems. 

Darius has been given the job to collect some intel concerning the Vega mine complex from Cassius Rock, who runs the mines on Kalabesh. Darius has a new ship so you have meet up with and escort him. Jake Rattenbury has a snarky dig about making sure you protect Bill properly this time. 

All you have to do is fly to meet Uncle Bill then escort him to collect the intel. Once he's got it he goes to orbit, and the job is done. The only hindrance are the level 8 Colonial Guards who try to pod Bill. All you have to do is fire at them so they focus on you, but stay on Bill's tail. Give the Guards enough damage and they'll back off. Like I said, simple and easy, which unfortunately also means nothing special. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 20th 2011 Update

On Wednesday 20th April there was an update to Pirate Galaxy (PG). It was a big one, in fact the biggest since Draconis. For all the details see the official word here. There were a few bugs that required a hot fix on 22nd April, though none of them affected me. Hotfix details here.

A number two shaped candle (snigger)
The first change you notice is the loading screen. If that doesn't make you smile then there's no hope for you. You may detect an Easter theme, and the game has plans for special events. For more details on that click here. You will also note that the pirate bunny skull (three words you rarely see together) is topped by a cup cake with a number two candle. Yes PG is in it's terrible twos. Expect temper tantrums and breath-holding over the next twelve months. Happy Birthday PG. Have I really been playing one game for two years? Yes, and that's a good endorsement.

Reading through the changelog I see that Cryonite Cove has slain another bug. In 'Hostage Negotiation' I was misdirected via the starmap to Kalabesh rather than Aurora due to an undone Tutorial mission. That annoyance is no more. Thank you 'anonymous reader who has some clout at Splitscreen'. One bug still exists that annoys me regularly though. I can't see my position in the Hall Of Fame. The circular 'jump to your position' button doesn't work and if I keep paging back down the ladder the game crashes at around position 975. Splitscreen must have half-a-dozen crash reports from me for that.

Right then. A significant change is the introduction of new white missions. Wahey! I love white missions me. First is 'Defend the Energy Collector'. In these missions a new type of allied ship collects energy from an energy field and you have to protect it from Mantis attack until it's full. This is good fun and a great addition to the game. An assortment of Mantis types land to attack your charge while a timer counts down. Good to have another use for the Taunt, and Engineers will be in their element too.

This is going to be hard work
Second, there is 'Cryonite Harvest', a squadron mission. This is very much like the destroy harvesters white missions but without a time limit. The one I initiated wanted me to blow up 5 of the blighters which would take yonks on my own, so I aborted it. All of these new white missions are going to make the 'clear all white missions in a system' achievements even harder to get. I'd be very unhappy if I was two whites from the achievement the day before they put all of these in the game. Luckily I managed to get all of Gemini's white missions a month or so ago. It was a nice surprise to also get 5 points for the 'Gemini Finalizer' achievement at the same time for doing all story missions and all whites. I wonder if I'd get a surprise achievement for getting all the Blueprints too.

A different meaning to 'Pod Race'
The third new type of white mission are the races. Brilliant. Totally different to anything else in PG, though I remember a time trial mission in the old Vega system just after you got an Afterburner. First you have to get to the start point, and sit there while Mantis blast you. There's a count down and then you have to race, against NPCs or your fellow squad members, through various check points. This is difficult and exciting, especially as stun equipped Mantis can really throw a spanner in the works. As you take the mission you are told the best time to beat and the pilot who set it. Wonderful. I can see players becoming specialist racers before you know it. I tried one race and came last by a mile. I don't know if you have to come first to beat the mission but I'm sure I'll find out.

There's a lot to try out in the new 'Terrible Twos' PG, and we haven't even spoken about Log Files yet. It's still early, but I'd have to say nice job Splitscreen, nice job.