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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Company of Heroes Walkthrough - Operation Market Garden - Mission 1 - Wolfheze

Company of Heroes Walkthrough - Operation Market Garden - Mission 1 - Wolfheze

Click here for the index of our Company of Heroes Mission Walkthrough Index and our gameplay paradigm.

This is a pretty easy mission on Expert Difficulty. If you are moderately careful you can easily avoid losses of entire squads. Still, there are ways to enhance your domination of the mission.
For Infantry we went with all-Defensive upgrades to enhance the survivability of these most vulnerable units and to maximize regeneration. For vehicles we went with full-Offensive upgrades because they have no regeneration.

Part 1 - Prepare Forces
The first mission objective is to crew a Flakvierling 38 20mm AA gun. You have no choice for the first gun as the map is sharply limited and there is basically nothing else you can do.
The next mission objective (see screen below) is to crew a second AA gun behind the train station.

Campaign 2 Mission 1 - delay the objective to build your forces, definitely upgrade HQ

The map is still limited, but there is actually a lot you can do. So DO NOT immediately crew it. This is your first opportunity to take a breather and prepare your forces. Also, if you do crew it, you might not be able to save the first allied 88mm Flak 36 AT/AA gun from commando attack, which will then force you to crew it.

The population Cap is 61 and you start this mission phase with 9/61. When you crew the AA gun it will be 12/61. Plus three light vehicles coming after this phase = 24/61.
Prior to clicking the unit initially designated to man the AA gun, allied units remain allies (yellow) if you click on them. THIS IS THE CRUCIAL PART: After you have selected the unit designated to man the AA gun, clicking on any allied (yellow) guns makes them blue (yours) and uses up your Population Cap.
Therefore defend the all successfully to not be forced to man them, thereby preserving your population cap.

If you want to inspect an allied unit without recruiting them, use area selection (see below).

Campaign 2 Mission 1 - use area select to view ally unit without taking it over as your own

If you have to man them, or if you accidentally click on them, things get tighter. The two 88mm Flak 36 AT/AA guns are 11 population each, and adding one allied Flakvierling 38 20mm AA is another 6 population, for a total of +28 Population. Suddenly your Population after the three vehicles that will shortly be given to you will become 52/61 -- That means you will have only three (3) Panzer Grenadier Teams, and that can makes things very tight, especially in the final phase of the mission where the enemy swarms you with jeeps.

Since the vehicles come later, you can, prior to continuing the game, fill out your Population Cap and let it be exceeded later. I recommend against this, since you will not be able to reinforce squads if they lose a man. And you will have to use infantry because of the overwhelming forces coming your way, so partial squad losses are inevitable.
  • Upgrade your HQ with Defensive Operations and upgrade the train station building into a Reinforcement Point.
  • Create 3 teams of 3 squads each of Panzer Grenadiers (total 9 teams or +27 Population for a total of 51/61 after the three vehicles arrive).
    • Delay creating any Panzer Grenadiers until you have almost the required 2295 Manpower because each team you create lowers your Manpower accumulation rate.
    • Give each squad one and only one MG42 where possible (four guns to the left of your HQ will be inaccessible until you crew the second AA gun behind the train station).
    • Later have these teams pick up a Panzerschrek. If they already have two heavy weapons, you won't be able to do this and you may be hampered in the kill-the-jeeps portion of the mission.
    • It is not necessary to upgrade them with rifles and in any case do not do so prior to deciding whether to give them 1 or 2 heavy weapons and which ones to give them. The rifle upgrade gives them two rifles and uses up both weapon slots.
  • There are machineguns and mortars on the map, but don't pick them up. Setting them up will only hamper you during this mission.
THERE IS A TIME LIMIT before you fail the objective to crew the AA gun, so do not delay. After making your three teams, queue another three and send the original Panzer Grenadier squad given to you to man the AA gun.

Part 2 - Paratroopers
Check your mission briefing screen for early warning of where the Commandoes are dropping. They will first be visible to your troops and the mission briefing screen. Only when they have basically landed will they show on your tactical map -- and that is way too late to properly intercept them. Surround them and cut them down quickly. If you do this well, you will have the luxury of time in between the drops.
In the pictures below, we show paratroopers visible from a particular angle on the screen, and visible on the mission briefing tactical map, but the same unit is not visible on the minimap.

Campaign 2 Mission 1 - commando paratrooper not visible on minimap
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Campaign 2 Mission 1 - same commando paratrooper visible on briefing map

Watch out for scripted events such as strafing runs and this building always being destroyed:

Campaign 2 Mission 1 - this building is scripted to be destroyed

Part 3 - Gliders
This is your chance to regroup.
There are three gliders and they are located on your minimap as mission objectives. Kill all defenders and destroy two out of three, then wait while you get your forces healed up and in order before destroying the last glider.

Part 4 - Jeeps
Basically follow the prompts and defend the points located as that is where the Jeeps will go. Putting heavy weapon units in buildings at the defense point or along the path (especially when they come from the right side, there are buildings along the road) will help a lot.
Panzerschreks magically appear at each of the three defense points. However, even the initial squad-carried MG42s can do good damage to jeeps, and in some ways are more reliable because if a Panzerschrek misses, there is a long reload period before it can fire again.

In the screens below, you can see our final troops at victory, and the starting troops for Mission 2.
  • One of our AA guns lost 2 of its 3 crew to a scripted plane attack run and could not be reinforced, so with the available Population Cap we produced one additional squad of Panzer Grenadiers.
  • Mission 2 reassigns the artillery pieces, setting some to neutral. Also it gives you one squad of Panzer Grenadiers.
Campaign 2 Mission 1 - final troops
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Campaign 2 Mission 1 - mission 2 starting troops
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Campaign 2 Mission 1 - plane shot down 1
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Campaign 2 Mission 1 - plane shot down 2

Beyond Divinity Unofficial Elite Hardcore Strategy Guide - Battlefield

Click here for a list of our Beyond Divinity Elite Hardcore Strategy Guide posts.

We recommend you buy Beyond Divinity from Good Old Games (GOG) as you can get more prompt support. Also, it is an older game, and GOG offers a risk-free money-back guarantee.

Battlefield

We do NOT recommend you exploit the Battlefield.
Battlefield is basically a huge exploit where you can temporarily drop out of the main game to build up your character and amass resources and skills. The main game has limited and randomized resources, and no respec for stats. So if you made unplayable choices or just have bad luck with resources, you can take a side trip to the Battlefield to level up or get more resources.

To preserve your Hardcore gameplay, we recommend you only use the Battlefield to:
  • Buy/sell stuff (faster and more convenient than waiting for local merchants to refresh their inventory)
  • Cache gear
  • Buy Holy Water if it appears in a store
If you want to exploit the Battlefields, then get the Keys as soon as possible and clear out as much of the Battlefield as you can each time.
The reason is the Battlefield monsters have a fixed level (except any Battlefield quest boss creatures). If you come here later when your level is (creature level +8) or more, you will get zero XP.
In contrast, some of the monsters in the game have a variable level.

On Hardcore difficulty, there are more creatures in the main game. One set are duplicates and have a fixed level. But the non-duplicates typically have a level that is an offset of your own.
  • For example, although the Arena Cell ghosts may be level 5 when you first encounter them. If you come back at level 10 after some Battlefield experience, you may see one still at level 5 but the other at level 11+ (see picture below).
  • Similarly, the Skeletons in the Pit Level may be Level 2, but if you enter at level 10, some will be Level 2 and others Level 7.
  • Complicating this observation is the fact that some creatures have a minimum level and some have a maximum level, so not every creature will indefinitely scale. Also, the scaling doesn't necessarily happen at every level above the expected level characters will be when they arrive at a location.
after battlefield entrance 1, hero level 10 and one ghost upgraded to level 11

Leave any Battlefield bosses until you are ready to leave Act 1 since their levels are much higher and therefore there is no hurry to kill them before you can't get XP from them.

Obviously a Battlefield exploit is to rush the game and quickly look for Battlefield Keys, then do those first and that way try to level up quickly. I recommend against it because it is "not natural" and in any case can make you too powerful for the game (already pretty easy) to be fun.

Battlefield Dungeon Quirks
    skeleton mage in inaccessible Battlefield dungeon location
  • Some enemies spawn incorrectly behind walls in the Battlefield dungeons.
    • You can try to sight them by walking near the corners. Sometimes you can see them (and they can see and shoot at you!).
    • If you can't spot and target them, you can still blindly target them with [Wizard > Elemental Attack > Focused > Missile], which can be fired at a location and which will hit the first enemy along the way.
  • Some Battlefield Dungeon maps do NOT allow seeing through open doorways.
    • This also means enemies can't cast spells or shoot at you unless they fired their arrow/spell/attack before you went through a door (whether that attack hits before or after you go through the door).
    • You can therefore lure shooters through a doorway and immediately engage them in melee on the other side.
      • This can also work on Skeleton Mages. Once they spot you, they tend to run to you. But once they are too close they back away, usually before they completely pass through the doorway. Eventually they will run out of Stamina and walk, whereupon as soon as they are through the doorway they may melee you or be too slow to walk away before you can melee back.
    • It also means that sometimes an enemy is between rooms and non-targetable, although they can attack you. Just back off a bit to force them to advance.
  • Too many enemies trying to go through a door may also mean some will look for alternate route because of the traffic jam, so watch your rear if you try to pull them through a door for a Whirlwind attack.
  • Sometimes a chest might be in a corridor but not visible because it is obscured by the south wall. Mouse over to look for containers this way.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Beyond Divinity Unofficial Elite Hardcore Strategy Guide - Act 2

Click here for a list of our Beyond Divinity Elite Hardcore Strategy Guide posts.

We recommend you buy Beyond Divinity from Good Old Games (GOG) as you can get more prompt support. Also, it is an older game, and GOG offers a risk-free money-back guarantee.

Act 2
  • Starting level:
    • Using the Battlefields but without using Wisdom, we exited Act 1 at Level 14 without using the Wisdom skill. Enemies were of a slightly higher level (e.g., Level 9 mutants, level 15 Ancient Stone Biters).
    • Without Battlefields, but having killed all the Rats, we started Act 2 at level level 11. Mutants were level 8, Ancient Stone Biters level 12.
    • Many vermin are of a fixed level, and some are fixed at level 1 so you can't get XP from them no matter what, or shortly after you are into this Act, except the irritation they cause will follow you around everywhere.
  • One of the things to watch out for throughout this act is pathfinding. Sometimes one or both characters will suddenly swing wide because there is impassable terrain and not enough width for both characters at the time their path was calculated. If you're not paying attention, this can leave one character solo in a fight or pull enemies you aren't ready for.
  • We will be shooting much more here, so again a high Agility build benefits us by giving us strong archery. Where possible we will actually melee just out of principle (saving expendable resources) and we will provide melee tactics. But honestly, many enemies are so annoying that you really just want to shoot them.
  • Unless you want to drink Mana Potions like water (any why not since you have probably over 100 if you didn't use any in Act 1), you still need strong melee or ranged attacks. We will use magic, but our paradigm is still not to use expendable resources unnecessarily, so it is in reserve.
  • Apparent barriers like large mounds of boulders are sometimes passable. However, if you engage enemies there, you risk their treasure dropping inside a rock or onto impassable areas, and impossible to pick up.
Character Development
Agility
If you haven't already, get your Agility to around 37+ to use Daggers (Agility 12 requirement + Agility 25 from Sharpening = Agility 37 requirement). Your damage rating should be respectable enough for you to stop and develop Intelligence for Mana or Strength for the Hero.

Magic
The [Wizard > Elemental Attack > Focused] and [Wizard > Elemental Attack > Spread] are no longer Mana efficient once you can use anything from [Wizard > Shaman Magic]. [Wizard > Shaman Magic > Weather Magic > Lightning Storm] is the earliest you can learn (Guide page 126) but it is weak without the Extra Duration/Extra Damage upgrade. Instead go for [Wizard > Shaman Magic > Weather Magic] from the Hermit in the Spider Forest (Guide page 98).
  • Even without these spells you can get through this Act just fine with melee and bow, so feel free to first reach the ultimate Agility target of 65 and/or develop some Strength and Constitution. If you absolutely insist, you can do some risky tactics to get through with melee only against some of the most annoying enemies to date.
  • The damage numbers are all wrong. Experiment with the spells to find out what they can really do. Except Spikes, which can be hard to place, all the spells you learn from the Hermit are good so get at least 171 Mana to cast them. Insect Swarm is also very good in case you are yourself swarmed in melee; however, it costs 308 Mana and you will want to have more than that to also Heal yourself if necessary.
Immediate Battlefield Access
If you kept the Battlefield Keys from Act 1, you can immediately access the Battlefield in Act 2. Clicking on any of them will give you back your Battlefield access skill. This is however an exploit since your Battlefield skill was taken away. But since the whole concept of the Battlefield is an exploit anyway, you might as well set up your cache now. If you are worried about possible save game screw-ups through a possibly unintentional exploit, the first key is to the far west in a prison.

"Rats"
The "rats" in this area are Tibar and Stone Biters, both of which give a lot of XP initially. Also, Stone Biters also almost always drop treasure, often a potion. Tibar can also drop loot. You will shortly after get no XP from them at all and instead just be irritated, so you may consider not attacking them at all. For loot, just rob merchants with Pickpocket. It's faster and less irritating.
For our run, we played without killing Rats, so we will continue without killing neutral non-hostile Tibar and Stone Biters.
As "rats" they use the same tactics as Rats in Act 1, only it is much more effective here because there are swarms of vermin just about everywhere.

Ancient Stone Biter
Actually pretty easy to kill if you Sneak and wait out their fire aura. They then become apparently immobile but are restored to about half health. Since they are easy to melee to begin with (if you followed our Character Generation guidelines and build, you are probably using Hunter's Knives or Daggers and have a Piercing damage rating of 100+), you can then finish them off.
The real "problem" is that they are too close to the Drunken Soldiers, who can charge in and fight -- and possibly steal your kill from you. So hug the far northern wall and lead them away first.

Mage
Unlike Skeleton Mages, they will not flee when they sight you, and instead try to Paralyze you. So try to isolate them with Sneaking and shoot them from out of their sight range. Contrary to the Guide (page 73), Sneak close and kill the Guards first if you can so you can concentrate on shooting the Mages (there will be two on Hardcore Difficulty) and backing out if you have to. Stay hidden by Sneaking!

Muro the Hunter - Traps
Although we will not be relying on Traps (because they are an expendable resource so we won't rely on you having any to use), you should consider training in traps because they are extremely useful in cheesy ways:
  • They can be set at range:
  • Even in the fog of war.
  • Behind barriers.
  • Not on impassable terrain, although you will still lose one unit of Trap Material.
  • Not when a hostile creature is nearby, so you cannot use it as a direct attack. You can however set it in the path of a creature coming toward you while it is still a range.
  • A single high-level Scorpion is probably the best trap:
    • Once summoned, the Scorpions are mobile.
    • Their poison does damage over time in addition to physical attacks.
    • As a creature it can be your distraction while you Sneak off.
    • It's repeated attacks will eventually kill several creatures, whereas a single-attack trap will probably not. Therefore, it has high utility per unit of Trap Material, and all traps cost a single unit of Trap Material.
Imp Village
  • After the lengthy initial cutscene, immediately leave the Village so you can be kidnapped and sent to the Abbey (Guide page 125). This will happen even if you try to enter the Battlefields, although you will still be able to go to the Battlefields from the Abbey. Going to the Abbey also gets you access to the powerful Lightning Storm spell as well as a permanent +60 Mana boost. Once you are out you can set up easy-access Battlefield caching to-and-from the Imp Village and environs.
  • In the Imp Village, you may want to consider getting [Wizard > Body Magic > Offensive > Paralyze] from the Plague Ghost (Guide page 90).
    • If you get it at all, go all the way and maximize level, and then duration as well. Even at level 5 it is not reliable, but it gives you a lot of safety to melee dangerous opponents when it works.
    • Overall, Lightning Storm to soften up enemies is probably the better use of Skill Points, but if you insist on Paralysis, get enough Mana between the Hero and the Deathknight to cast it twice if necessary (in case the first attempt fails).
    • Instead of trying to Paralyze the enemy, consider instead Sneaking (which is like a free-to-use Blind spell) to stay safe, and then sniping with ranged attacks or magic.
Mushroom Farmer's House (Guide page 83)
Click on the "Strange Chest" to experience a hallucination. Thereafter that piece of furniture will be locked. If unlocked with the Lockpicking skill, it will be empty.

The Hero's Wife (Guide page 89)
If you speak with her and receive this quest BEFORE you rescue the Imp Hero (Guide page 96), it will probably be bugged. After you rescue the Imp Hero and return to find him in the Imp Village, if you tell him about his wife the first time you speak with him in the Imp Village, he will run off but the cutscene won't end and you will not get player control back.
In such a case, when he speak with you, abort dialogue with the "X" button, until he starts the boast that begins, "Blood was flowing from hundred wounds...". Abort listening to the whole thing by clicking "1" to choose the dialogue option about his wife. You will then get XP for the The Hero's Wife quest and there will be a cutscene where he runs off. But this time you will regain player control.
If you let that last boast finish on its own, the game will automatically choose the dialogue option about his wife and the quest will complete, but you will not get XP.

Necromancer Task 1 - Abbey
  • Despite what the Witch says, even if you spare all the Paladins by rushing or sneaking, Achim still claims you killed all his men, and the Paladins that were hostile remain hostile after you get the Crystal. So forgo stealth.
  • look behind roof for item containers
  • Mouse-over the roof when you are at the north end of the compound to find Pits and other "containers" that may contain loot. This is the graveyard area, and a lot of it is obscured by the roof (see picture on the right for an example).
  • Skeleton warriors and arbalesters use Bone weapons in melee. The Deathknight has a natural 30 Bone Resistance, so further improve that with the Crystal Bag and have him take point.
  • Skeleton arbalesters have a respectable 21 Agility and therefore almost always hit, making them very dangerous in melee. They also swing pretty fast.
  • Paladins and Skeleton warriors using Bone Clubs can hit remarkably hard.
  • We did this right after first entering the Imp Village and before doing any quests there. We exited at level 14, which put us very far ahead of many monsters -- the Fire Area southeast of the Imp Village has the strongest monsters at level 15, while the Little Mushroom Forest to the north has the weakest at level 8 -- worth zero XP if we hit level 16. So we followed the Guide, which is probably also the intended path based on monster levels.
Little Mushroom Forest

Imp Elf (Guide page 94)
If you abort the conversation, you can decide later. But if you then pick up the mushroom, the Imp Elf becomes hostile. Before concluding this decision, you can Pickpocket him for 100 Splitting Arrows.

Spider Forest

Flamestinger (Guide page 100)
When you open the Spider Cocoon, a homing critter hops to you and explodes for well over 300 damage. If you are standing still when you open the Spider Cocoon, there will be an animation that will freeze you in place long enough for the critter to explode.
Instead, start very close to the Spider Cocoon. Click a location to run to far away and when the character is starting to move, pause the game, open the Spider Cocoon, grab the item, and the unpause the game to continue moving. The trap may not even trigger in this way.

This sort of grab-and-go is possible with any container that is close enough to you when you are running past.

Summoning Doll - Demon (Guide page 98)
When you have two Summoning Dolls, the second doll is summoned at the current location of one that is already summoned.

Mushroom Forest

Earth Elementals
  • Easier to kill than Fire Elementals, but once they start an Earthquake, you must either kill them fast to stop it, or run out of the area.
    • Damage from an Earthquake is dealt once the screen shaking stops, and the closer you are to the origin (the elemental), the more damage you take.
  • You can bait them into using their Earth Cone attack (and flee sideways to quickly get out of it, although damage is low) or Earthquake (just run away) by simply getting close, but that usually involves not Sneaking, which is still advised when engaging to not pull more Earth Elementals to you.
  • Sniping is the easier way to kill them of course.
  • If you lead them too close to Imps, the Imps will attack and either kill them for you (you get no XP) and/or be killed by them. Imps from the Village are pretty tough but not invincible.
Fire Elementals
  • Very tough to melee without some divide and conquer and lots of Sneaking to not pull too many enemies at once.
  • Their Fire Circle is pretty wide and damaging, and doesn't care about how much Evasion you have. If you watch them you can sometimes realize they are about to cast it, and have your characters flee.
  • You can let some of them spot you and chase you, then Sneak and heal before picking them off. If you are having a lot of trouble, Sneaking and sniping with bows is faster and cheaper than using area effect magic and drinking potions.
  • You can also ease your time in melee by baiting it into using its Fire Circle attack or Whirlwind Attack and move out of the way. 
  • With just ~200 Health on your characters it can be hard to melee unless you can overwhelm it quickly with powerful attacks. Some tricks to use are to cast a Heal spell before your Health bar drops too low, as the heal-over-time will absorb some incoming damage as it heals.
  • It moves slowly, so outdistancing it by running is easy to do, as is running out of melee to heal.
Invincible Imps
The Imp With Ring (Guide page 104) and the Imp Farmer (Guide page 108) cannot be killed by monsters on this map, so if they pull several Earth Elementals, either reload or stand off and shoot the weakest ones before the Imps kill them, causing you to lose any potential XP.

MORE TO COME