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?