In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, I daresay I kicked Hutama’s Polystralian ass from here to breakfast. Even though his impressive rise through the technological ranks allowed him to keep pace with me on a quality level, the combination of his failed assault on Gran Éxito — come for the sunk Polystralian warships, stay because we still haven’t figured out a way past the aliens — and a lack of focus in his movement and unit choices meant I was easily able to sweep past his defensive army. I took the city of Maeva back and made it mine forevermore, and I set the city of Rahi on fire as a signal that you do not mess with Franco-Iberia.
Now, my armies are stationed in the ocean strait and on the coast just outside Freeland, Hutama’s capital. Poised to slag Hutama’s final defenses, conquer and burn his capital city, and end any possible threat that the Commonwealth of the Pacific could ever pose to me in the near to far future. And man, am I looking forward to this. This should be good.
And then, just as I’m about to order the first salvoes be fired, Beyond Earth sends me a message. It’s only a small message, six words and fifteen syllables, and for some reason my brain chooses to focus on that structure first instead of on the dire content. Fifteen syllables? Hah, that’s cute. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be hard to haiku that… here, like so:
Vadim, he has completed
the Exodus Gate.
It doesn’t take long for my brain to snap back in to focus. General Vadim Kozlov has completed Exodus Gate. Oh fuck. General Vadim Kozlov has completed Exodus Gate. Oh fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. This is bad, this is real bad. This right here? Remember all those other times throughout this Let’s Play where I said things were bad, or hard, or difficult? All of those occurrences put together, the uprising in Le Coeur and Hutama’s sneak attack and the alien fights and everything I’m forgetting, aren’t as bad as this single event. General Vadim Kozlov has completed Exodus Gate.
‘Wait’, you ask ‘what’s an Exodus Gate and why is it so bad Vadim made one?’ And I’m glad you asked, strawman-reader! And I’m really glad I spent some time leafing through the victory conditions screen earlier, otherwise I might not have understood this for what it is myself. The long and the short of it is that the Exodus Gate is to the Purity victory track what my Emancipation Gate is to the Supremacy victory track. Which is to say, building it is the second-to-last step to total victory.
In other words, what this message means is that Vadim is winning.
And I fucking called it, too. Didn’t I call it? I goddamn well called it several times, ladies and gentleman in the audience: I knew this Let’s Play was going to come down to Vadim or me, deep down in my bones. I knew that Slavic bastard was gonna be trouble the moment I laid eyes on his top position in the score board. I even very specifically voiced the fear that he would steal the final victory from my incapable hands back in episode 10. And now he’s trying to do just that.
And just like that, all my previous plans go out the goddamn window. I know Vadim Kozlov is close to victory, now, closer than any of the other players, but what I don’t know is how close. There’s undoubtedly a final step to victory after building the Exodus Gate, or I’d be looking at a Game Over screen right about now. But I don’t know what that step is, or how difficult it is to complete, or what kind of time frame Vadim has to do it in. As of right now I am on the clock, except I can’t actually see the clock and I have no idea what speed it’s ticking down at. If ever a situation in this Let’s Play deserved to be likened to the Sword of Damocles tale, it would be this one.
I speed-dial Hutama. Yes, I have his number on speed dial, why do you ask? Hey, Hutama, I’m suddenly about as tired as you are about this whole war thing. How would you feel about a complete and unconditional peace agreement?
Okay, great, glad we’re on the same page again and all that, long live peace and brotherhood. Hey, Hutama, listen up: how do you feel about Vadim Kozlov?
I rapidly start calling the other faction leaders. Surely, I reason, all of them must’ve gotten this message? And assuming the other AI players are actually trying to win the game, they’d be as upset about this as I am.
No dice, though. Hutama and Rejinaldo both talk smack about my aesthetic instead of listening to my entreaties. Their refusal to get involved is almost understandable: like Vadim, both of them follow the Purity Affinity, and you could make the argument that — in-universe, in-character — the victory Vadim is trying to achieve is exactly what they would want to happen. Plus, Hutama hates me for obvious reasons, and Rejinaldo is basically Hutama’s best friend.
(Hutama actually calls me later to politely ask if I could stop deploying satellites near his lands. I’m assuming he’s referring to the Tacnet Hub satellite here? I tell him I’ll be more careful later, which seems to mollify him. What a doofus.)
No luck from Daoming and Kavitha either. Both of them are friendly enough to me, for sure, but they’re just… unwilling. And Samatar, my erstwhile best of friends, denounces my Supremacy path to the world before I can even get to him.
But as before, so again: the only leader I manage to convince of the importance of stopping Vadim Kozlov’s plans is… Suzanne. Of course it would be Suzanne. Again, she asks a hefty price for her ill-defined help… but I like to think she actually understands what’s at stake here, too. From humble beginnings, Suzanne has rapidly risen through the political ranks, currently ranking in fourth place overall — below me, Hutama, and Vadim, in that order. Which means she has a vested interest in stopping Vadim from completing his Exodus Gate victory: Suzanne is the strongest Harmony player on Terra Atlantea at this point, so if anyone is going to score a last-minute field goal for that particular Affinity, it’s going to be her.
And from there on out… it’s really a matter of running. Most of my units are several dozen turns out from the borders of Slavic Federation territory. My Arbiter- and Shepherd-fleet can make it there a little faster, but most of my land units need to make the trip in these tiny cramped transport boats. Which also means I’ll have to be wary of alien influence: as far as I can tell, any hit from anything can sink any unit transport boat at any time.
Daoming now is really a bad time.
And what fresh hell is this, then? A bunch of home assistance robots have gained sentience? And they want me to found them a new city? Robots, I appreciate your plight, I really do, but… do you guys all not understand what’s at stake here? Am I honestly the only one keeping my eye on the prize?
Alright, I’m overreacting a little. I look at my cool civilization, Fidèle building a Holosuite and Prospérité building a heavy Science-boosting Hypercore, and my very first instinct is to scrap all that stuff for more soldiers. I can’t bring anything but my A-game to the upcoming Vadim-siege, can I? I get exactly one shot at this: if Vadim defeats my armies now, there is no way in hell I’ll be able to get a second army running before he wins.
But on the other hand… even in my highest-Production cities, building soldiers the old-fashioned way takes a handful of turns at best. If I start working on more armies right now, and including the two dozen turns of travel time they’ll need to get to Slavic territories… I don’t know. They could very well be useless. And if I manage to stop Vadim, I’d prefer it if I still had a strong running civilization back home to return to.
So, no: I won’t shove everything aside for the purposes of warfare. Not just yet. Fidèle and Prospérité, you guys keep building your stuff. Robots, I’ll see if I can’t get you guys a Colonist somewhere. And I even find the time to scout out those alien ruins near Gran Éxito, which turns out to be the second step of that satellite-related Quest! That I didn’t remember even ever getting, yeah.
Between this Quest, my study into Neural Uploading, and this weird secondary effect of the ruins I dug up…
…I manage to raise my Supremacy Affinity level all the way to 16. Three levels in a single turn, how about that. And you know what that means! More cool robots for the cool robot swarm, yay!
Turns out I’m actually pretty lucky with this: at Supremacy level 15 I unlock the final Gunboat upgrade, the tier-4 Vindicator. I’m expecting these units to play something of a vital role in the upcoming assault, given that I’ll need to do another amphibious landing. So this upgrade, which jam-packs the old Arbiter hull full of bristling guns, is a welcome sight for sore eyes.
Like that other high-tier naval unit, the Shepherd, the Vindicator’s perks represent something of an interesting choice. Perk 1 allows the Vindicator to move after attacking, which seems like a solid upgrade in my book, while Perk 2 allows it to… host one aircraft unit, like a mini-carrier of sorts. And that is…
Okay, see: I can see the projected benefit in allowing your gunboats to host aircraft. Gunboats are the only offensive naval unit this game has, so any naval assault is sure to see tons of them. And if every Vindicator can carry one of your aircraft of choice, you’ve basically crowd-sourced the role of aircraft carriers entirely. And any Vindicator hosting its own dedicated air interceptor will be highly resistant to traditional air attacks.
But here’s the thing: I have aircraft carriers already. I have Shepherds, even, which uniquely boost the capabilities of any aircraft stationed on them. I have two Shepherds, which combined carry my full current Herald fleet. They’re well-defended by my Arbiters-now-Vindicators, and the improved range they bestow on my Heralds means I can safely have them hang in the back line of any engagement and still have them be 100% effective. I don’t need lesser-capable, lesser-powered pseudo-carriers in my fleet. Maybe if I’d gotten to this upgrade before ever building my first Shepherd… things could have been different. But they’re not.
And while we’re on the topic of air superiority: Supremacy level 16 also grants me access to the tier-4 fighter frame, the Seraph. And listen: the Seraph is the raddest goddamn airplane design in the entire game, and I will not be convinced otherwise.
The Seraph’s upgrades are either +1 Interception per turn, making it better at air superiority, or +1 Free Rebase per turn, giving it much higher mobility. Both are good, but I opt for the latter: If Vadim’s cities are any distance in-land, I’m going to need to be able to move these planes around quickly.
And last, but definitely not least, I get to upgrade the tier-3 Educator artillery unit into the tier-4 Ambassador. This upgrade turns it into a rad massive hover-tank, similar to its Redeemer cousin. It also comes packed with a perk that removes the need to ‘set up’ the Ambassador before attacking, meaning that — for the first time in Terra Atlantean history — I can roll an artillery unit up to within firing range and fire it in the same turn.
And with that… I’m done! I’ve upgraded every non-Affinity-unique unit to its Supremacy tier-4 destiny. Soldiers to Apostles, Rangers to Executors, Combat Rovers to Redeemers, Missile Rovers to Ambassadors, Gunboats to Vindicators, Carriers to Shepherds, and Tacjets to Seraphs. And writing it out like that, it’s interesting how much of the Supremacy unit names have a zealous religious slant to them, huh? Very missionary-evangelizing. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the theme Supremacy seems to be going for is ‘convert to us or die’. Except I do know better, and that’s actually exactly what I’m doing right now.
And speaking of subtle religious overtones: I suddenly remember that the Neural Uploading tech I just completed grants me access to Supremacy’s strongest unique unit. Each Affinity can gain four unique units from specific technologies, each of these requiring a certain Affinity level to even build. The CNDR is the ‘lowest’ Supremacy unique unit, clocking it at level 4 Supremacy. But because these unit-specific techs are in no way linear, or even linked, I decided to just jump ahead to the fourth Supremacy unit, the one requiring a whopping level 12 Supremacy commitment to create:
Building an Angel in Fidèle, my city closest to the frontline, would take no less than 26 turns. Obviously, that’s not how it’s going to be: my high Energy income and my propensity for using my spies to steal Energy from others — it’s basically like getting money for free — means I can buy one outright. I queue up a second one just in case, though.
Still a little in panic-rush mode, I order the newly constructed Angel to get its ass to the front as soon as possible, before immediately skipping to ordering the next unit around. It isn’t until a handful of turns later that I realize I’m actually pretty curious to see what this thing look like, and stop to check it out.
Turns out that Supremacy’s ultimate unique unit is a giant robotic death spider. Who’d have guessed?
Angels are hella expensive, both in Production/Energy and in Firaxite. Each Angel eats four Firaxite resources. And while I had a decent stockpile of it, my CNDRs and the Firaxite-consuming buildings I’ve been making — like the aforementioned Hypercore, which boosts Science by 50% for a small Firaxite cost — means I suddenly find myself running quite low. Luckily, most of the world leaders seem more than happy to part with their stocks of Firaxite for only a… minor incredibly sweet deal. But hey, what in the devil do I need Floatstone and Geothermal for, anyway?
And, just like that, fifteen turns pass. Each End Turn click is a little death, in and by itself: will this be the turn Vadim Kozlov wins? Will this be the turn he wins? Will this be… And so on. But either luck or time is on my side, it seems, as my Vindicator-and-Shepherd fleet makes it to Slavic territory before the game kicks me out entirely.
I can see some of Vadim’s ships have already taken battle damage. And given that Suzanne’s ships are also here… Yeah, she’s actively participating in this fight, again. Suzanne, you and I may have had our differences, but you’re easily the best military ally I’ve ever had.
Still, all of Vadim’s cities remain intact. And his navy isn’t entirely destroyed. Suzanne may have made a dent in his power, but unless I also step up my game, that’s all the result is going to be. A dent.
My land armies still have several turns of travel time before they arrive. I briefly consider waiting for them… I haven’t actually declared war on Vadim yet, so I could just hang out here and chill.
I won’t, of course. I can’t risk giving Vadim the breathing room he needs to build or upgrade any kind of functional defense force. I’m scared as hell about what kind of defense strength this guy is packing, given that he’s been my personal nemesis for most of the game. But if I don’t strike while the iron’s hot, I have no-one to blame but myself if next episode ends on ‘and then I lose’.
Time for what might very well turn out to be the final war.