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Alien Commanding: Basics

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  • Alien Commanding: Basics

    So, I had the chance to try this out last night. Commanded a couple of games for the aliens. One we won by a landslide, another we were setup to win, but were pushed back by exosuits with welders. The few others were small games. Anyways, I think I can offer a bit of advice for starting commanders. This is really just enough to get you in the chair.... hive as it were and not make a fool out of yourself.

    Start off by "using" the hive to end up in a command view much like the Marine Commander a la your typical RTS. Now, alien structures once built by gorges are now solely the domain of the commander. I'm going to focus on individual structures for my explanation. I will also ignore the basic of the basic stuff like Res Nodes for the time being and assume you have played NS1. This will change when I have more time and experience with alien commanding.

    1. The basic structures:
    A. Cysts are the arteries of the alien infestation (Inf for posterity). No structure can be built off the Inf. You start off with little Inf and must spread it via Cysts which are in the basic structures list of the build GUI. They are weak taking only one magazine of Marine LMG ammo to kill, so try to hide them the best you can and have aliens support them. Also, cysts must stay connected so make sure to quickly add more cysts to replace broken Inf lines.

    B. Hives are now used to not only "link" with a particular upgrade path (Shift/Movement, Crag/Defense, Shade/Cloaking) but are also used to upgrade lifeforms with new abilities. To do this, you must click on a hive and upgrade said hive to one of the upgrade paths. You then also have the option from a hive to upgrade to abilities like Leap, Bile Bomb, etc. NOTE: Upgrading to an ability path doesn't grant that ability. Namely, upgrading a hive to a Shift hive does not give Adrenaline and/or Celerity.

    C. Upgrade Structures are found under the advanced structure tabs. There are two type for each upgrade path: essentially splitting up what, say, a Defense Chamber would do in NS1 into 2 separate structures. Building a "Crag" only heals units near the Crag. In order to give access to the Carapace upgrade, you must first build a "Shell" and pick an upgrade ability after it's done building by clicking on the Shell and selecting the ability. This is of course only done after upgrading a hive to an upgrade path. Crags and the like also have abilities that can be used by clicking on the structure, so check them out.

    D. Egg dropping is stupidly easy once you figure it out, but difficult if you haven't done it. Literally click on any available egg in a hive (or one dropped via a Shift Structure) and select the advanced lifeform for it. Any player can then "use" the egg to quickly evolve into that lifeform.

    A basic commander strat I've stolen from other players on the TG server is as such:
    1. Send skulks out to determine where the marine are and start spreading cysts out in all directions. Once the weakest marine presence is found, expand harder towards that area.
    2. Pick up whatever resource node is on the way to your desired next hive.
    3. Spread infestation into the hive. At this point, you should have a general idea of how well or poorly your team is doing against the Marines. If they are holding their own, get the Hive up ASAP after (or before if you have the res) getting whatever Res Node is in the hive area. If your team is having issues, get your original hive upgraded first, and get them whatever ability will help the most. Your two easiest choices are Shift> Celerity or Crag>Carapace. I find Carapace is better if your skulks just aren't that good or they are good at ambushing and don't need the speed boost. Celerity seems to be more a "middle-ground" evolution and is also helpful on letting your team cover ground on large maps. I usually just ask what people want and they almost always want Celerity.
    4. One the hive is building, focus less on Infestation spreading and more on solidifying your position. Namely, only spread directly to whatever hive you want to take next. Whips aren't a terrible idea for Hive defense, but they should be used as a stall and aren't cheap. I try and get leap as soon as I can once the hive is built.
    5.From there, it's just about spreading infestation and keeping up with the upgrades or rebuilding what you lose. You obviously want that third+ hive, but don't spread yourself too thin in doing so. See how the game is flowing and consider more whips or even dropping a fade egg if you have someone on the team who is good with it. I've considered trying out Drifter usage (a commander controlled AI unit), but I have no idea about their cost effectiveness.

    Other things to consider is "healing stations" backed up by 1-2 whips. I find 2-3 crags offer about the best healing ratio for the cost. Just make sure you always inform your team about those stations and that they protect them.

    NOTE: Input is welcome and this post is pretty "off-the-cuff." I hope to bang out something much more comprehensive but still focusing on the basics soon.
    Last edited by TheFeniX; 11-08-2012, 02:44 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

    Thanks for this FeniX. While the Marine Commander is a bit more straightforward, the Alien Commander is quite new and it's good to read this. Thanks for the info, I hope to give Alien commanding a try soon.


    • #3
      Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

      I would suggest using Shade over Shift as commanding from the Alien side.

      Shade upgrades are cheaper than Shift and Crag upgrades. Both Camo and Silence are 10 resources each compared to everything else at 15. This makes it ideal for early game resource wise; it's benefits to skulk are better than celerity by far.

      The reason for Shades and not Shift: Unless the commander is using advanced strategies such as egg spawning for early game, Shifts provide almost no combat benefit to skulks. Adrenaline does nothing while Celerity only provides movement speed bonuses out of combat. The only benefit celerity gives to Skulks is the ability to close in on the target. The game however provides Skulks to do this through both Shade upgrades, and without any ugprades as well.

      Silence and Camo

      Silence allows a skulk to move at full speed and attack without making any noise. This is as good as it sounds. Marines won't know you're there as long as you dont run at them in on the ground level. It also allows you the ability to hear marines while attacking or moving as you make no noise (though the structure or marine might cry for help).

      Camo allows you to move around almost invisible like. It takes about 4 seconds to go invisible, in which the game will lock your movement speed at cloaking maximum. You can hold shift down to stay at that speed regardless. Camo will render you completely invisible while not moving. This means little movements also go undetected, but walking around will create a outline that is difficult to see at a distance. Camo allows you to sneakily walk up to marines that are busy doing something: Attacking your RT, building a power node, getting baited by another skulk, and so on. A skulk that uses camo properly can survive and kill repeatedly, and pick off marines from the pack.

      Another thing, most marines rely on sound to prepare for a skulk. If you hold shift to walk, marines wont hear you coming. Essentially this is a mix of camo and silence without the upgrades of either. Used properly you can engage marines in the same way as above. Celerity makes noise, and noise means guns pointed in your direction. As soon as a bullet grazes you, your speed is lost. Celerity is simply worse than camo or silence.


      • #4
        Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

        A few other starting tips:
        1. "Rupture" mature cysts by clicking on them and using the ability to obscure marine vision. Works pretty well from what I've seen if a couple of shotgunners are punishing your hive.

        2. Bonewall, under the "Assit" tab of the GUI, is a great 2 hive ability that can stall marines pushing an area or even trap retreating marines. Works pretty well against jetpackers in narrow corridors giving your units time to close the distance.

        As for Avs comments, I've considered trying out Shade because it is a great early game ability, but loses potency in late-game besides the cloaking effect of Shades. I also tend to favor Shift because if I'm forced to get upgrades before the 2nd hive, I can spread cysts into an area and get a Shift up to drop a bunch of reinforcing eggs. When I logged last night, I decided the next few games I command, I will likely try Shade first (or not, can't have people knowing all my strats). But Shift upgrades aren't nearly what they were in NS1. I'd much rather have Carapace and Silence with almost any lifeform. Even non-celerity Onos aren't that slow if you manage your charge energy and cooldown.

        Drifters are also extremely good for scouting. You build them at the hive and since they are invisible while cloaked, you can pepper the map with them for scouting purposes in early game.


        • #5
          Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

          As a skulk, I love silence first, then carapace. The element of surprise is extremely powerful and even against a group of 2-3 marines, you can sneak up on (at full speed) and kill the back dude before the others know what's going on.

          I think I've only ever seen drifters 3 times.


          • #6
            Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

            Celerity for skulk is extremely important for being in the right place at the right time, not necessarily in combat itself but to get ready for combat. It also benefits every other life from, from gorges to onos throughout the game, while giving the option to drop a clutch of eggs near a hive location the enemy holds.

            Shades are ok, and I like silence, but if the teams fails to grab a 3rd hive I would rather have shift + anything else to take that third hive.

            Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.


            • #7
              Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

              Shade doesn't lose potency late game because marines don't have motion tracking. The only time it loses potency is when there are too many marines in an area for you to use cloaking or silence to hit and run. Everything else is coordination. The early game is about map control and shades give you the most advantage over everything else. If you're losing, its probably because people don't understand the cloaking mechanic and the map design to utilize it.

              Saving Shade for last is like icing on the cake. If you control 3 hives you probably don't need it anymore and you should sink resources into more Onos instead of building shades so that you can end the game and start a new one. This is actually a problem I have with the game itself, the upgrade paths for aliens are very linear, just like NS1. You should always go shade, crag, then shift last until Fades are buffed to where they can control the map just as well as cloaked skulks.

              As for celerity being important for skulks, I disagree. Any player can be in the right place by reading their map and communicating with their commander. The only time celerity really plays into a Skulk getting to a destination is cross map. And if the marines are attacking your hive and you are on the other side of the map, you should be destroying all their structures on that half instead of returning home. Cloaking gets you into combat position a hundred times better by teaching you how to ambush properly.


              • #8
                Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

                Personally, I have only found celerity useful if I need to cover long distances quickly. In combat, besides retreating as Onos or spamming spores as Lerk, I'd rather take Adren if Adren wasn't so damn worthless. I think we're going to run into the same problem we did back in NS1: Shade/Sensory "feels" useless but has a lot of power-behind it if players get over the whole D/M or M/D standard and use the abilities. Back when I was commanding, my only real counter to Sens first was dual-obs to pump early motion tracking and a two-hive lockdown. Letting the 2nd hive go up put me in a much worse situation as commander than if they went Defense and Movement.

                Shift feels worthless lately as you can't move to a hive being attacked. Skulks have never really needed celerity because you shouldn't be running on the ground much and cele actually makes it harder to circle-strafe and bite marines. Adren is just worthless unless you're in a pure support role and even then, your energy is only going to give you one more stomp, or a few more bile bombs before you're in the same position as the guy who took celerity.

                That said, Shift is literally the only mobility aliens have in this game right now. Marines crawl like cockroaches all over the map which, personally, should be the alien's job. Unfortunately, the only real mobility is dropping skulks eggs in a given area so they can get chewed into cat-food when they spawn. Assaulting a lock-down as aliens is stupidly boring.

                Remember when a gorge would rush a hive location, drop it, have a friendly attack the building hive and everyone would MC over to that hive for hilarious shenanigans as Marines dropped bricks? Yea, I miss that.

                EDIT: So, what's the better upgrade? I'm thinking if you're going this strat:
                1. Upgrade to Shade Hive immediately
                2. Expand and get 1 res node while it upgrades.
                3. Drop a Veil: Upgrade Immediately to Silence.
                4. Get 3rd Res Node
                5. Save for 2nd Hive
                6. Drop Hive (if res allows, get a Shade up first).
                7. Drop 2nd Veil: Upgrade to Cammo

                My problem with Cammo first is the lack of mobility. In early game, skulks need to be out on the field finding where the marines are moving to and chewing their structures down. Silence gives them ambush capabilities if they use corners and walls/ceilings correctly. By the time the game is established and mobility is less of a concern, Cammo will allow for more static ambushing.

                Any thoughts?


                • #9
                  Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

                  If the marines move in groups, spread out ambush skulks won't be able to discourage the marine movement, or respond to marine movements as a group if they are hiding in static locations. Celerity allows multiple skulks to group up to ambush as a group.

                  Ambushing without silence/cloaking is easy as most maps have a ton of dark nooks and crannies. If I understand correctly, the game even gives a visual cue that you are in darkness (it looks like waves of color moving from the outside to inside of your mouth). Being able to get to the right position with a few seconds to spare is much greater than being able to ambush in bright light.

                  That said, they three options are a lot closer in strength than they were in NS1 and shade first can be fun and effective.

                  Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.


                  • #10
                    Re: Alien Commanding: Basics

                    Originally posted by Avs View Post
                    If you're losing, its probably because people don't understand the cloaking mechanic and the map design to utilize it.
                    I never understood the cloaking mechanic until this thread. Gonna have to play around with it now...
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