In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, my long-standing alliance with Suzanne Fielding of the American Reclamation Cooperation very swiftly and unexpectedly crumpled to dust over the course of a handful of turns. It was a frankly upsetting experience, and it took me a little while to adjust to what from my perspective was the fastest face-heel turn in recorded history. Well, Terra Atlantean history, anyway. And then, just as I was getting ready to consolidate my armies back in my home territory and mope… I discovered that Hutama had been massing a fleet and a small army right outside the city of Maeva. The city, you’ll remember, he originally ‘gave’ me to end our earlier war. And while I don’t want to be overly skeptical, right now, I can only assume he’s experiencing some serious gifter’s remorse.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that last episode was not a good day. And prospects for today are… not particularly rose-coloured either.
I stare at the Polystralian fleet for a few seconds. One, two, three. I’ll be honest: this does not look good. Then I end my turn. All my soldiers have moved already and all my cities are happily producing away, so it’s not like there’s any way I can react to this, anyway. And who knows? Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Maybe these ships and soldiers parked on my doorstep are just a coincidence, and Hutama has absolutely no rotten inten-
The videophone rings. Ring ring, ring ring. Ring ring, ring ring. Hutama. Sigh.
I answer the call with as much enforced joviality as I can muster. “Hutama! Good to see you, my friend. Hey, is that a new suit? Looking sharp! You did end up hiring that tailor I recommended, then?”
Hutama tugs at his suit, uncomfortably, suddenly quite self-conscious. “Yeah, er… Thanks for that, I guess. That guy was pretty good, yeah, and the suit’s okay… after we managed to remove all those micro-explosives from the inner lining. Your idea?”
“Haha! I just figured that if I didn’t hide any traps in it, you’d never believe it was on the level anyway.” Hutama smiles weakly at that. “But enough about fashion. What can I help you with?”
Gameface. Here it comes, then. “Well, it’s like this. I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet… but I’ve been-”
“Amassing your forces near Maeva?” I interrupt. “Yeah, I’ve seen that. Was wondering what was up with that, actually? Fleet exercise? Running out of room on your coastline? There’s a giant alien sea monster set to emerge from the ocean floor at this very spot, and you figured you’d save us all the effort of fighting it?”
“No. No, it’s just… giving you that city was a mistake, okay? I didn’t want to do it, I shouldn’t have done it, and I regret doing it. You were just… so much more powerful than we were! And I couldn’t think of any other way to stop your anger.” He pauses. “But now…”
“Now you see that you could’ve also bought me off with Energy and resources, and you’re regretting that trade even more?” Nod. “And now I just lost one of my two closest allies, so you figure my power must be a local nadir?” Nod. “And now you figure that the military you’ve undoubtedly been building ever since that day should be more than capable of holding back mine? Is that about it?” Nod.
I sigh. “Hutama, why don’t we just… skip to the end game, here. Tell us all how you really feel.”
Welp. Guess I called that one correctly. No sooner do we stop talking than Hutama’s forces launch a volley of attacks at Maeva’s defenses. And with that, it’s once more into the breach for me. And Samatar, who — as always — is still at my side.
Maeva… doesn’t last long. It’s a small city, with little in the way of defensive buildings, and entirely cut off from the rest of my empire. I do have one Educator artillery unit stationed there, and the city itself does some damage in retaliation fire… but Hutama has the twin benefits of careful planning and a powerful alpha strike. The city falls in two turns.
As much as I’d like to be flippant about all of this, the reality of the situation is that it’s not good. Hutama’s sizable fleet and land army form a serious threat to the eastern side of my empire. I do have an army, and the technological, Affinity-level advantage is mine. But my army is scattered across the map, almost half of it still hanging out in Vadim Kozlov’s lands. And, crucially, I have almost no naval presence. Even if I get my land units in the direct area, they’d be shot down and sunk by Polystralian Cruisers before I can even make them count.
No, this just will not do. Hutama planned this thing long in advance, so I’ll need to be equally careful and calculating to leave this war with any kind of empire worth boasting about.
Hutama has the soldiers and the firepower, but you know what I’ve always put to good use? Allies. I already have Samatar, but… I doubt he’ll be of much use, let’s put it like that. Marshmallow and all that. But even though Samatar is the only guy I’m in an Alliance with, that doesn’t mean I can’t convince other players to help me out.
I call Suzanne, who seems to have found religion since the last time we spoke.
Suzanne isn’t particularly interested in joining this war against Hutama for free. Suzanne is interested in joining, however, for the promise of fat stacks of Energy and Strategic Resources. Petroleum, Titanium, Geothermal Energy… I have to stop her from getting her grubby hands on almost all Firaxite I own. It’s a rough deal for me, an immediate exchange of resources for only the promise of a war declaration, and she damn well knows it… but then again, I guess that’s Suzanne for ya.
None of the other colony leaders can be convinced to go to war, sadly. Kavitha doesn’t seem to be interested in conflict, and even if she would be, I don’t think I have enough resources left to make another major bribe. Same for Daoming. Rejinaldo is friends with Hutama, so he’s right out. I even try Vadim, but he just laughs.
And that, as they say, is that. In a roundabout way, this war has once again become me, Samatar and Suzanne against the world. And much like my previous fight with Hutama, I’m fully expecting neither of them to actually contribute… but hey, at the very least, they’ll give that bastard a few sleepless nights.
Time to rev up my own war machine, then.
Initially, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot I can do, short-term. I could refocus all my city production towards military units… but even in Le Coeur, my capital and highest-Production city, building a relatively simple CNDR will take me seven turns. And I just don’t have that kind of time, because… oh, shit, Hutama’s already making his move on Gran Éxito!
No, if I have to wait for a full army to be constructed, there’s no way I’ll get out of this conflict unscathed.
…but then again, why would I have to wait?
For colony leaders with more money than time, Beyond Earth offers an alternative to building units through accumulating Production: flat-out buying them for a lump sum of Energy. I’ve used this functionality once or twice before, mostly to quickly get Workers of Production-enhancing buildings up in new cities. I never really considered using Energy to jump-start an army, because I’ve never had access to the kind of Energy supplies you’d need to get a significant fighting force going. Buying one Soldier and then throwing that guy out is basically equivalent to throwing your Energy into a pit, you know what I’m saying?
But a combination of that Energy scare I experienced earlier, my city conquests, and some luck with early Espionage efforts have changed that situation. I’m currently sitting on a stockpile of over five thousand points of Energy. And that kind of money is definitely enough to bankroll a small functional army.
My navy is shit. No, that’s not even fair enough: my navy is nonexistent. And it’s high time to rectify that. I spend almost seven hundred Energy on a Cruiser in Prospérité. Then I buy another one in Le Coeur. And then a third one in Gran Éxito, for city defense.
Over several turns, I bring my two Needlejets West-to-East, from Nhiet Tinh all the way to Aintza. Then, because a single city can hold three airplanes at any one time, I buy a third Needlejet outright. Air superiority: check. I buy another Needlejet in Gran Éxito, too, just for security’s sake.
Whether it’s my newly-formed army or my allies doing what they do best, I don’t know, but Hutama seems to be taking his sweet time getting anything done. Even his ‘attack’ on Gran Éxito is moving forward pretty sluggishly. I use this unexpected windfall of time for three things. One, I start getting my army back to the Franco-Iberian mainland.
Two, I do some more of that Espionage that I do. I swipe another Technology from Vadim Kozlov, Alien Genetics, which gets me… a Purity level? Yay.
I order agent Tabora, now well-entrenched in Khrabrost, to attempt the 3-Intrigue operation of recruiting defectors to our cause. While Khrabrost is currently well over 4 Intrigue, the only 4-Intrigue operation currently in existence involves de-orbiting satellites. And why would I care about that? Satellites, man. Maybe if Khrabrost ever reaches 5 Intrigue… but we’ll see that happen when it happens.
Agent Tabora also provides a more detailed report on the goings-on in Khrabrost. And Jesus Christ, that city produces a ton of shit. High Energy, high Production, high Food, high Science, high Culture… positive ten Health? Holy hell, Vadim, you’re gonna have to let me in on your secret someday.
And three, and probably most importantly, I research. My advantage in every conflict I’ve fought so far has always been my technological superiority, as expressed by my Supremacy level. And while I’m no longer the absolute world leader in tech levels — Vadim’s Purity level seems to have surpassed me — I still hold an advantage over Hutama in this area. And if an advantage is worth having, it’s worth expanding upon. Playing fair is for suckers.
My current study into Protogenetics was primarily intended to get me an easy Supremacy level. Instead, I get two. Man, I love it when that happens.
Hitting Supremacy level 11 gets me not one, not two, but three new unit upgrades. Remember all those Cruisers I just bought, for low low Cruiser prices? Yeah, those have just officially been upgraded into Arbiters. more powerful gunships with a higher movement allowance that — in my case — can take a lot more hits before sinking.
As sea gets better, so does air: the classic Needlejet design gets a much-needed Supreme Overhaul, emerging from the labs rechristened the Herald. And while it doesn’t directly remind me of a Halo Ghost, I maintain that all Supremacy vehicles wouldn’t be out of place in a Covenant army.
And last, but definitely not least… Supremacy level 11 sees my Disciples, themselves already robotically-upgraded Soldiers and Marines, climb in power again, reaching their final Tier-4 power plateau as Apostles. Aside from doubling their current strength, this upgrade also provides them with a handy perk that heals adjacent units.
At this point, every unit type I have has seen at least one cool Supremacy upgrade. Cool robots, each and every one of them. Every soldier, every tank, every plane and every boat I have now sports the cool angular yellow-and-black of the Supremacy Affinity…
…except for one. There’s one unit type, in fact, that I haven’t gotten around to upgrading yet… not because I don’t have the requisite level, but because I haven’t unlocked it yet. I’ve been so busy hunting for Supremacy level points along the tech web, I never stopped to consider that I missed a fairly vital early-game technology. Hell, if I hadn’t seen these units in Vadim’s employ while scouting there, I might never have known they even existed.
Let’s see, where is… I’m leafing through the tech web, checking every technology individually. Is this it? No. Is this it? No. Is this is?… Ah, there it is. Fabrication, the technology is called. I can’t believe I skipped over that one for so long.
Luckily, with my incredible scientific prowess, researching Fabrication is only a short five-turn endeavor. And after using those five turns to defend Gran Éxito from invasion, using only one Arbiter gunship and the city’s defense batteries to hold off three advanced tanks and a Cruiser…
…and figuring out that the Cruiser/Arbiter I bought in Prospérité is locked inside its own little sea, meaning I can’t possible get it to the conflict and it’s been a giant waste of Energy…
…I finish the research, spend the Energy, and welcome to my army the last non-Affinity-specific unit type:
The humble aircraft carrier.
The Carrier serves as a mobile aircraft base, ferrying up to two planes to and fro. And yes, for someone as reliant on air support as I am, playing on this map, not getting the Carrier earlier was a pretty major oversight. But as you can see, one that’s been rectified now.
Unlike other non-Affinity-specific units, the Carrier only has one tier of (Affinity-related) upgrades. And given that my tech level is high enough to reach that upgrade, I transform my Carrier into the Shepherd as soon as I build my first one. The Shepherd has an ‘interesting’ perk set: the first perk, which increases the operational range of aircraft stationed on it, makes it uniquely more useful and suited to its role… while the second perk, which upgrades its aircraft storage capacity from two to three, makes it so that two Shepherds can now fulfill the role of three Shepherds. One’s a powerful upgrade, the other means you need one less boat to do the exact same thing.
With the immediate threat to Gran Éxito passed, I start consolidating my forces in the small inland see between Aintza and Hutama’s city of Rahi. One Arbiter, two Arbiters… two Apostles, a CNDR, an Overseer… I have four Heralds and only one Shepherd, so I use the last of my vast Energy supplies to buy a second Shepherd at Gran Éxito. The troops are mobilizing quite nicely, if I do say so myself.
It’s at this point that Hutama calls me.
“Hey, yobbo. What’s up? I hope you’re not too upset about me taking my city back.” He smirks at me.
“Oh, don’t worry about that.” I flash him my coldest, most teeth-bearing smile. I can tell it unnerves him a little. “I’ll get over that in a little while, just you wait. What is it you want?”
“Well,” he starts, oblivious to my subtext, “I think at this juncture I’ve basically made my point, yah? I’ve taken back my city, there wasn’t anything you could do about it, it’s clear to everyone that my army’s the best and I could crush you like a bug whenever I want.” Gloat gloat. “I’m not really a big fan of war, though, so I figured this’d be a good time to call it quits for now. And because I’m not a harsh guy, I’ll allow you to surrender under these relatively mild circumstances.”
I laugh. I can’t help myself, laughing a deep, honest laugh. Hutama seems unsure about how to react to me, alternating between anxiety and relief… until I compose myself again and start talking.
“Oh, Hutama. You self-aggrandizing bastard, you. Under what unbelievable circumstances would you believe there’s even a snowball’s chance in hell that I’d agree to those terms?”
Silence on the line. “If you really wanted an end to this conflict, Hutama, why wouldn’t you just offer me a straight-up peace treaty? At least there’s a chance that I’d accept that.”
I shake my head. “Oh, no no no, Hutama, that’s not how it’s going to be either. You have no idea what you’ve set in motion, have you? My soldiers have gone through so many design iterations since you fired your first shot. Our Prime CNDR units improve on their combat AI routines with every single battle. And we’re installing new firmware into our infantry-based EXECUTOR fire-support platforms as we speak.”
“No, Hutama,” I shake my head, “I don’t think I’ll accept this ‘peace proposal’ of yours just yet. I think I’ll take some time to think about it, and then maybe deliver a new proposal to you… in person. In Freeland. How would you feel about that, Hutama? Would you open your gates to us if I take my army to visit your capital?”
No trace of relief or joviality left on Hutama’s face. “You’ll have my entire army to fight through to get there, yobbo.”
“Oh, I’m counting on it. See you around!” I drop the connection before he can respond.