Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kongai: Card Get (5/23/08)

I know, I know. I'm horribly late this week but for posterity's sake alone, I'm going to talk about the challenge I missed because of my vacation anyway. The challenge was to play the venerable Drone Wars. And the rward is the Necronomic Tomes.

The Necronomicon is a black-bordered item which all the black-borded characters can use. I've talked about it a bit before when running through Ambrosia's item choices but I'll go into a bit more detail again. It really is one of the best Necro items. Although that's like saying it's the best way to fall and break your arm in three places because those items are underwhelming to say the least.

When lugging around the textbooks it gives a character a 30% chance to proc a 10 hit point life drain. To me, the Necronomic Tomes are the Necros answer to the General's Insignia. A 10dmg, 30proc works out to +3 damage on average on all their attacks. Which pales in comparison to the General's especially when you take the restrictions that I haven't mentioned yet into consideration. But, in many ways, can be better for you because it also heals you for 3 health each time it procs, too. It's a 6 hit point swing, on average. Better yet, it's not happening on average, it's happening on the semi-regular proc of +10 for you and -10 for them. That's enough to turn lethal or to pull you out of the fire when it happens.

The drawbacks are that you can't count on it happening. While the General's Insignia is a constant, passive bonus that you're always going to get the Necronomic Tomes provide a random bonus that will or won't happen. Over the long haul, you'll average close to that +3/-3 but in specific instance you could be well above or below that mark and there's nothing you can do to affect it.

It's basic probabilty here. The more you use Tomes, the more likely it is to proc. As you pile up trial up trial the odds that it won't have procced at least once become vanishingly small. But, at the same time the chance that it's going to proc more than once in a row become increasingly small as well. Landing it once is a 30% chance, landing it twice is 9% chance and so on.

But those are over time. Just as when you have a coin to flip - you have a chance to get all heads in a row before you start but each time you flip you only have 50% odds to continue your streak. And a proc rate of 30% means that more likely than not, you're going to be disappointed because the Tomes won't go off.

But, hey, you rolls the dice, you takes your chances, and that's what you're signing up for with the Tomes. A more troubling restriction is that it only affects your Dark magic attacks. Which means two things. First, it doesn't work on skills that aren't Dark. So, if you're Constantine or Cain and you like relying on Pilebunker or Tackle then your item isn't going to be doing anything for you. Note, though, that this restriction is apparently being lifted in the next patch when the Necronomic Tomes will work with any attack, period.

Second, it only works on attacks. If you're Constantine again this means that when you Hypnotic there's not a 30% chance you'll steal some health there's absolutely no chance. Even on skills like Blood Burn or Bleeding Ritual that are debuffs and not necessarily "attacks" you won't gain any benefit from your item (I can't say I've tested this exclusively but I have run about 20 trialsof standing there and Bleeding off with my Thorn and that's enough to make the odds that I wouldn't see a proc on the order of 1x10^-12. I think. I've never actually taken a probability course. I just sort of work these things out myself.). And that won't be changing with the next patch.

At the moment, then, the Necro Tomes are best on characters that have a lot of attacks and a lot of those that are dark magic. You, under no circumstances, want to put it on Voss because she only has one dark attack and you're probably never going to use it. Constantine and Cain are likewise bad choices because their bars are a mix of dark and physical attacks. Attacks you will be using and there's a certain logic to adding a boost to your multi-hit Voidstreams instead of, say, packing the General's to buff up your single-hit physical attacks but I'd rather grab somethign that would help me all the time myself. So, really, it's best for Le Morte and Ambrosia who have very dark heavy bars. Putting it on Le Morte means he's going to be stealing even more health but you can put on a General's and get just as much if not even more of a boost to his single-hit steals. With Ambroisa, though, it helps out her single-hit drain almost as much as General's and adds that nice proc onto her Spectral. But the problem is it doesn't do anything for the Bleeding Ritual you'll probably wind up using more than anything.

With the new patch that changes everything, meaning it makes a lot more sense for Voss and Cain and the rest. So, yes, I like that change and I'd say pick it up and be happy with it because it's about as good as the Necro items get.

To obtain it, though, you'll need to play Drone Wars. A lot. Unlike last week's challenge which could only have been shorter if you'd only had to load up a game and fiddle with the options menu, this challenge is one that requires a bit of tiem invested.

Drone Wars is a game that's neen around for a while. And it's is a lot like StarCraft with everything that makes StarCraft so enjoyable removed. It's a resource managing, overhead RTS but that doesn't really translate well into Flash, if you ask me. The controls which are at the heart of making any RTS flow well are a bit of a muddle that makes it hard to look around the map and order your teams around - I was constantly having to cancel move that I didn't want to make while trying to select something else, for example. That could be just me and the fact that I'm used to having a right mouse button to click, though.

There's both a single player Tutorial mode that will take your through several scenarios teaching you how to use the game. And a Survival mode that will see you trying to fend off wave after wave of opponents. You'll have to play both if you want to get the card. That'll probably take you an hour or more. And that's if you don't have to restart at all because you messed up. To get the card you'll have to complete all the tutorials and then earn a set number of points in Survival. You get some for each technology you research and again for each wave you survive. So to get the card you only have to play through the first 11 or so waves, depending on how much you invest in research.

I didn't have much trouble with the Single-player campaign and, really, with the Survival waves either. I could have done much better if you'd been able to manage your resources instead of getting a lump sum at the end of each wave. That makes it hard because you have to balance repairs and upgrades and building new ships but I cruised past the card requirements and was well on my way towards the Hard Badge (Which requires you to jus play that Survival mode longer, basically.) until I glitched. One of the enemy ships I destroyed didn't quite fade away and remained on screen as a ghostly image. I couldn't attack it at all but it prevented the next stages from starting. Frustrating since I was on the next to last wave from getting enough points to get that badge but I had more than enough to quit out and pick up my new card.

If you're having trouble I'd advice you to invest in three things: Repair Ships, Hull Plating, and Cruisers, just like the challenge suggests. Repair Ships will, well, repair things and let you survive longer. It costs resources to repair but it's worth it. Hull Plating increases the hit points of all your ships (Or, at least, the ones built after you upgrade. You start off with several hundred gold or whatever the resource is so use a good chunk of that on the upgrades first.) and that makes them more likely to survive. Although it's more valuable to have them deal more damage and finish off their opponents faster so they don't take as
much damage in the first place the armor upgrades are cheaper than the weapon ones and the resources to build new ships are going to be few and far between; you want each precious ship you build to last as long as possible. Finally, you want Cruisers because not only do they cost exactly what you get for surviving each wave, they deal the most damage with the highest rate of fire. A group of massed Cruisers can finish off a Silo ship before it even gets a chance to launch a missle.

What I did was to build up, starting with a full plating upgrade and then building a single Fighter - the cheaper unit. Then I alternated between turns upgrading, turns building a repair ship and a control ship, and turns building new Cruisers until I had several strike groups I could use to interdict the enemy before it got too close to my base. It's not hard, it just takes a while.

And while the Necronomic Tomes aren't the best item ever, they're worth it.

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