One of the things I enjoy doing in RTS games is setting myself increasingly difficult challenges against the Skirmish AI. It's all well and good to stomp all over a single Easy opponent, but just how far can I take the stomping?
Maybe I'm a little strange, but when you can't be bothered playing it against other humans, it adds a surprising amount of life to a game.
Ordinarily these challenges only take place in the final versions of the game. I buy a new RTS, play some or all of the singleplayer campaign and then choose my favourite faction to mess around with in Skirmish mode. There's the usual goofing off - how many turrets can I afford? how many turrets can I surround the AI's base with? - but once I have a handle on a map and a faction, I start looking for ways I could hold my own against harder and harder and more and more plentiful opponents.
With the Demigod beta winding down as launch day approaches, I decided I may as well try and push the limits of the AI before the end.
I originally started doing so a couple of weeks back. Back during the dark days when the Mage Slayer had a chance to stun enemies when you attack them. When you're using Regulus and shooting explosive bolts every half a second, most things don't really stand a chance!
Since that ever so slightly overpowered item has had the stun removed now and the absolutely last update to the beta has been pushed out, it was time to try once more to defeat a numerically superior opposing team.
Yes, I know, they're only Easy opponents. I actually tried this with the previous Beta with 5 Easy opponents and got pretty soundly trashed. Clearly I needed a bit more practice against the latest crop of AI!
After hitting the Launch Game button the match starts. Having been to this dance before, I know the following Citadel upgrade is pretty much essential.
It doesn't seem like much but without this upgrade your buildings will not repair themselves and since you have no direct means of repairing your defensive towers this is an upgrade that will keep on giving throughout the match, all for the low price of 1,000 gold.
Ordinarily at this point I'd buy one of the Favor items. Favor items, oddly enough, cost Favor points. You earn Favor points at the end of each match (and potentially other ways in the final game) and can then spend them on other items in your next match. As this was my first match in this version of the beta my favor points had been reset, again. Thus all I could afford was the "Swift Anklet" item, which grants a +15% bonus to movement speed.
Useful, particularly for "strategic withdrawal", but it's not going to win me the match.
Last but not least, I need to pick my first skill. Regulus has three skills available at Level 1.
Snipe is a single target attack with an extremely long range. It's useful both for getting the first strike on an attacking opponent but also for finishing off an opponent attempting to flee when they're low on health. As I'm outnumbered 3-to-1, I think it's not the best choice.
Regulus can also start with the ability to place land mines. These are not particularly powerful, particularly against enemy Demigods, but they can be useful in breaking up their reinforcements - the weak units spawned in at regular intervals for both sides of the battle.
The third skill Regulus can choose is the one that I want - Angelic Fury.
I forgot to grab a screenshot of the first level of this skill. I actually have all the way through to Angelic Fury V at this point in the game, but that provides a different benefit.
The skill description reads like it might be a temporary buff, or even a single shot. But it's not, it's actually a kind of transformation spell. Regulus sprouts wings from his back and begins hovering around the battlefield, rather than walking. His default attack with his crossbow is then made much more deadly, doing more damage to the target he's shooting at but also doing some damage to any enemies standing close to Regulus' target.
When you're outnumbered 3-to-1, that's a pretty useful ability!
The tradeoff is that every shot you fire while flapping around with Regulus' wings will cost you some of your mana. Mana does regenerate over time but at the start of a match it will get used up far, far quicker than it comes back. Later in the match, after purchasing some items to help, you can reduce that cost to essentially nothing.
But with the initial setup out of the way, it's time to go do something about this:
First on the scene to cause me trouble is the Unclean Beast. Up near the top of the screen you can sort of vaguely see Regulus and the enemy Torchbearer battling it out over the flag. That flag gives a 20% increase to experience points, so my reinforcements are doomed.
That will be a recurring theme for quite some time in the match. Early on it's very tough going as my opponents are all Assassin Demigods, so they're individually tough enough to slaughter my friendly troops and if two of them go after me at the same time, I can die very quickly.
However after a bit of back and forth (mostly back!) I manage to scrape together the 4,000 gold required for this item:
Narmoth's Ring. The health boost and health regen boost are both useful, but the main reason I buy it is for that 12% Life Steal. Regulus attacks from some distance away with his crossbow, but he does inevitably get hit, particularly when facing 3 opponents. Having some Life Steal available ensures he can stay in the fight longer by leeching health from his enemies.
But it's really just a stopgap until you can afford Ashkandor:
Life Steal, more weapon damage, faster attacks and a chance to do 4x the damage? Yes please!
Just don't waste too much time thinking about how giving Regulus a sword will grant all these abilities. It just does, okay?
Prior to buying Ashkandor, things were looking pretty grim. The AI had actually managed to fight its way right up to my Citadel and had taken a couple of bites out of it. Fortunately I'd bought the Fortified Structure upgrade right at the start of the match so my Citadel can repair itself after I drive off my opponents.
Now that Regulus is doing much more damage per hit, is hitting a lot more often and is having much less trouble staying alive, it's time to go on the offensive!
Right after I go rescue my citadel. Again.
Things go much more smoothly once you can consistently beat the enemy Demigods in relatively short periods of time while suffering minimal damage. With Regulus' range advantage he can often pick off melee Demigods like the Rook and Unclean Beast before they get a chance to do much of anything. And with his range increasing skill he can even shoot at the enemy's defensive towers from outside their range.
Which, as you might imagine, is pretty dang useful.
Along the way I pick up some other items that are handy to have.
Lots of nice boosts come from the All Father's Ring. You buy it from the Artifacts shop and it costs a huge amount of gold, but it's invaluable when making the final push to the citadel.
Each time a Demigod dies it has to wait out in limbo for a time, then it will automatically respawn back near its citadel. This means, particularly in a lopsided match, that it gets much harder to press forward the closer you get to the enemy citadel.
But if you've played your cards right...
... you'll emerge victorious!
Now, I'm not holding myself up here as some master Demigod player. I'm not saying "this is how you win the game". All I'm saying is this is how I played this particular game. And hopefully others will consider challenging themselves in the same way when the game is finally released!
Have other unusual ways to enjoy the game? Leave a comment and share the fun. Or craziness, whichever you prefer.