In the last episode of Jarenth Plays Beyond Earth, General Vadim Kozlov made his move for the end game. Like I always knew he would. He timed it perfectly, too, waiting until I was just about to launch my final attack on Hutama. Did he think I’d be too consumed by bloodlust to even pay attention to him, perhaps? “I’ll let the world burn if Hutama burns with it”, that sort of thing? It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected of me, I’ll be the first to grant that… but no. Under absolutely no circumstances will I just sit back and let Vadim Kozlov snatch up the victory. Not after everything that happened. Not now, not ever.
Last episode was, to put it bluntly, a mad dash to get my forces to Slavic Federation lands before Vadim achieved his final victory. I contracted Suzanne to run early interference, but knowing Beyond Earth’s AI, I have absolutely no illusions that she’ll actually fight this war to its necessary conclusion. No, thwarting Vadim will be entirely up to me. And now that, after about a dozen turns, my warships have finally made landfall, it’s probably no exaggeration to say that this conflict will be nothing less than the final battle ever to be fought over the future of Terra Atlantea.
I look at the units arrayed before me, my ships and Vadim’s and Suzanne. And briefly, ever-so-briefly, I’m gripped by a fit of manic laughter. Oh, but if you want to talk about fate… look at the colours on display! The units and the factions. Here I am, Franco-Iberia, the bluish-grey faction, fielding units of bluish grey with a yellow dash. Opposing me is the Slavic Federation, the yellow-red faction, sporting units of red and brownish yellow. And standing at my side is blue ARC, whose blue-green units neatly round out the colour wheel. Each of us with our eventual destiny colour-coded into our civilization’s heart. It was always going to end like this, wasn’t it?
The amusement fades. This is it, then. Am I really ready to fight this final war? I’m not actually at war with Vadim Kozlov yet: I only bribed Suzanne to throw down the gauntlet against him, with no consequences for my own standing. Once I do declare war, though, there’s no turning back.
Am I ready? My ships have made their journey here, but all my soldiers and assorted ground units are still in transit. Maybe I should wait for a bit? I only get one chance at a surprise attack alpha strike.
But on the other hand… as I mentioned last episode, and counter to my pessimistic expectations, I can see Suzanne has actually done some damage to Vadim’s fleet. Of his two visible ships, one is teetering on the edge of sinking. And where is that glitchy aircraft carrier I saw earlier? If Suzanne sank it, every turn I don’t press the advantage is a turn I give Vadim the opportunity to heal and rebuild.
No, I won’t wait. I shouldn’t wait. Now or never, as the saying goes.
Ring ring, ring ring. Ring ring, ring ring. Click. “Vadim Kozlov speaking.”
Hey Vadim! Remember all those warships in your territorial waters that you were complaining about? You were all like “If you’re going to declare war on me, just get it over with“, and I was all like “No, it’s just a military exercise, I’m sorry for upsetting you“, and then you were all like “Uh-huh, yeah, sure, I totally believe that“? Well, er, how should I say this? Surprise!
“So, it’s come to this. Our purity has caught the eye of a lesser humanity. Are we now to die for your low-born desires?” Geez, Vadim. Way to not make me feel bad about this anymore.
And with that, the war is on! I quickly blast Vadim’s two Destroyer vessels — they sink to one Vindicator blast each. Then, I move on to the city of Konechno, my closest possible target.
See, my reasoning is goes a little like this. As far as I can tell, Vadim has three coastal cities on this city of his landmass: Konechno, Uspekh, and glorious Khrabrost. Knowing what I know about the Emancipation Gate, though, it seems highly likely that the Exodus Gate will be placed somewhere further inland, behind the protection of the fortified cities and away from prying eyes. Taking Konechno will grant me a gateway into Slavic lands, and project an area of Franco-Iberian influence for my troops to rest and heal in. From there, I can move on to find the Exodus Gate and destroy it.
This plan proceeds at once both amazingly and awfully.
Remember how, last episode, I upgraded my Arbiter gunships to Vindicators? And how I selected the more pedestrian-seeming ‘can move after attacking’ over the more exotic ‘can carry aircraft’? With the benefit of actual combat experience I’m gaining here, let me just say: hot damn, was that ever a good choice. The hyper-mobile Vindicators are city-destroying machines.
A big issue I was anticipating in fighting naval battles here was the overlapping city defense coverage provided by Konechno, Uspekh and Khrabrost. If Vadim pulled his fleets closer to his cities, I figure, I’d have to sail my ships into city rocket death range to take them out. Or to damage the cities at all, really. But the Vindicators’ ability to retreat after firing, combined with their frankly ludicrous movement range — honestly, they can move like ten hexes, what is even up with that — means they can dart into range of whatever defensive emplacement the enemy has, fire at will, and then sail back out into the safety of open waters while flipping Vadim’s soldiers the bird. The digi-bird, yes. I had special giant holographic hands and arms installed on the Vindicator hull for exactly this purpose.
It takes me all of one turn to reduce Konechno’s defenses to nothing more than a memory.
I get Konechno’s defenses dead so quickly, in fact, that I decide to move ahead to Uspekh ahead of schedule. It’s not like Vadim has a strong land defense, either: only some of his soldiers even dare to move into ship attack range — and the ones that do get annihilated — and his fighter sorties are quickly and decisively stopped by two Shepherds’ worth of dedicated anti-air Seraph interception. And to call his naval response ‘pathetic’ would be to imply that there even is any naval response.
No, pounding Konechno’s city defenses into rubble is quick, easy, and much more fun than I’d anticipated. Take that, walls! Actually taking the city, on the other hand…
See, this is why I was planning on waiting for my soldier dudes to arrive before starting the battle. Remember that cities can only be captured be melee units. And my gunboats aren’t melee units. How could they be? They’re boats. And because none of the units I have nearby right now have any kind of melee attack, my repeatedly bombarding Konechno’s city defenses amounts to nothing more than posturing at Vadim.
Sure, he probably doesn’t like it that I’m bombarding his turf. But all the same, my endless plasma explosions right now are only sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Almost all my capture-capable melee units are currently locked in little transport boats. Slow little transport boats, meaning it’ll be a little while before they get here. Slow little transport boats don’t care about unit speed upgrades and tech levels and all that jazz, it transpires. They take their own time getting to places.
I only have two units in my standing army that manage to move a little faster. First, my armor-class Redeemer tanks arrive far ahead of the horde. They don’t actually need to be ferried in little transport boats, owing to the fact that they are sweet hover-tanks.
I only have one squad of Redeemers on-hand, meaning I’m extra careful around them: as I’ve mentioned twice before, city defense AI is pretty good at picking out melee units in situations where they’re in limited supply.
And using the Redeemer, I’m briefly able to capture Konechno with relatively little fuss!
Capturing fully operational cities is hard under the best of circumstances. Even at this tech level, where two or three volleys can bring defenses into the red, a supported city with defense batteries has no intention of going down without a fight. And any city represents a new unit spawning point for the Energy-flush player, too. I avoided most of these problems by staying out of range and attacking over water instead of land, where Vadim has no presence. And I don’t think he has the kind of Energy needed to buy units outright? But this was the exception, not the rule.
Unfortunately for me, capturing a non-operational city — say, a city that was only recently captured by enemy forces — is a hell of a lot easier. It takes a while for the city’s defensive hit points to recover, for one. As as long as the city is in civil unrest, the city produces or buys nothing and fires at nothing. For all intents and purposes, a city just captured is a lame duck. And the same capture rules that apply to the goose apply to the gander: all you need to do to reclaim a city is lower its hit points enough, and then attack with a melee unit.
Sure, I manage to take Konechno from Vadim. But capturing the city seems to cause all his heretofore-unseen melee units to come out of the woodwork… which is to say, arrive from his more inland cities. And despite a valiant coastal defense that kills a handful of Vadim’s units, he still manages to get enough of them close enough to take the city back in a few short turns. The Redeemer attempts to hold them off, but alas: the city falls, and it falls with it. If I’d remembered to take it out of the city before it was retaken, I could’ve used it for a counter-counter-assault… but I didn’t. And now Vadim has Konechno back, and my only local melee unit is no more.
Yeah, wasn’t that useful? Luckily, my brief overthrow of Konechno wasn’t entirely without merit: the sight range it afforded me revealed the location of Vadim’s gambit, the Exodus Gate.
The operational Exodus Gate is a tall, imposing structure. The basic design looks almost identical to the Emancipation Gate, which doesn’t surprise me much. What does surprise me a little is what I see right next to the Gate: a small town called ‘Earthling Settlement ’, and a unit called ‘Earthling Settler’ standing inside the Gate. What are these then, Vadim? Part of you master plan for Terra Atlantea? You bring these Settlers over, and then… something? I briefly futz around trying to figure out how this works, but I don’t really get farther then ‘these dudes are probably important to Vadim’s victory’.
(Future Jarenth’s Note: And because Present Jarenth never really figures out what the deal with these dudes *is*, I’ll give you the rundown. Basically, you can bring one Earthling Settler in from the Exodus Gate per turn. The Settler can found an Earthling Settlement, anywhere on the map where it’s legal to build a normal city — which mostly means a few hexes away from other cities — or expand an existing Earthling Settlement. The number next to it is the number of Settlers in the Settlement. Each Settlement has a population cap of six; twenty or more Settler population at any one time wins you the game.
In other words, I was right drop everything and chase after Vadim when he finished this thing. Time really *was* of the utmost essence here.)
I send some Seraphs to bomb the Exodus Gate. They take some damage, while it… doesn’t really seem to register it. Huh. I can’t blow this gate up? Maybe I need to capture the city it’s based in, instead. Or maybe… Well, whatever it takes, I won’t be able to do anything until I capture Konechno. Let’s return our attention to that venture, no?
My second slightly-faster unit arrives shortly after, shamefully too late to defend the once-captured city. It is my Supremacy super unit, the Angel death walker: while it still requires miniboat transportation to get over deep ocean, its enormous legs allow it to move over shallow ocean at its natural speed. It’s no hover-tank, but it’ll do, I guess.
Unfortunately… See, I hadn’t actually checked much about the Angel before I sent it to move out. I was in a hurry a little bit, okay? No time to read the goddamn manual when the world is at stake. Which means I only discover one crucial attribute of the Angel combat frame when I boldly walk it up to Konechno, already bombarded into a pulp again, and order it to attack.
The Angel strides up to the deep canyon right next to Konechno. Impassable terrain for most ground-based units, but the Angel’s enormous legs… you get the idea. It looks down at Konechno, scoffs robotically, and blasts the city with a withering hail of plasma fire. Then it just… stands there, for a while. Not actually walking into the zero-defense city.
Turns out that Angels are ranged units. Ranged units with a functional range of one hex. Which means they function on the front lines much the same way melee units do… except they trade an immunity for melee counterattacks — since they’re technically firing ranged-type attacks — for the ability to capture cities and other objectives.
It is, in a nutshell, almost entirely useless for me right now.
Alright, that’s unfairly harsh. The Angel — occasionally spelled ANGEL, but not consistently so — is still useful: it’s a powerful, almost unstoppable killing machine. There’s the Exodus Gate to pay a closer visit too. And Vadim still has some units roaming around in his hinterlands. Not to mention those Earthling Settlers! Let’s go see what those dudes are all about.
And then it’s back to waiting for my units to slowly, slowly make their way over to Konechno. Slowly. The Ambassador hover-tank is the first of the lot to make it, but that guy’s also a ranged unit! As for the rest… Man, it’s too bad I didn’t research a technology like this one earlier:
Turn after turn passes as I bomb Konechno and Uspekh, walk my Angel around the landscape, and have my Seraphs bomb the Earthling Settlers that keep appearing from the portal. Yeah, I’m blasting unarmed Settlers into atomic dust, what of it? And my melee units creep ever-closer, turn after turn, until finally…
Fan-fucking-finally. My second take-over of Konechno is for real: I have multiple ground units around to defend it, not to mention the Angel, and I haven’t seen any of Vadim’s soldiers around for at least a handful of turns. Either he’s holding them in reserve or he’s fresh out of troops, and I don’t really care which is which. I finally have my entryway into his territory, and I’ve already located both his Exodus Gate and the Settlers he’s apparently producing with them.
Am I winning? I don’t know. I still have no idea just how the Exodus Gate’s Settlers and Settlements feed into the Purity victory condition. But I do know this: Vadim Kozlov still has the Exodus Gate, one visible Earthling Settlement, and two major cities. And before the next episode is over, I’ll see all of these burnt to ashes and broken dreams.