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TacticalWiki Fixer Upper: Alien Gameplay

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  • TacticalWiki Fixer Upper: Alien Gameplay

    Same as the other article, this one was written for B5 and will require some updating. I'll gladly help anyone with re-structuring if they need it.

    Alien game play in NS has always been poor compared to marine play. While marines can often simply rush into a room and cut every alien down, itís rare that aliens can simply charge in and wipe out every marine. Despite this, many people attempt to do just that, and when enough of the alien team has this mentality, it usually results in a loss. The alien team has some great strengths that when utilized fully are difficult to beat, yet many players are either totally unaware of them or believe them to be not as good as what they currently do. This mentality is the cause of most marine victories, not aliens being ďweakerĒ.

    Aliens rely on speed and stealth to win. If you arenít using one of these, you should be using the other. Running at a marine down a long hallway will do nothing but let you spend some time in the spawn queue, give that marine a kill, and give the commander more res to spend trying to wipe out your team. There is a time in the game when skulks need to use sheer numbers to wear down marines, and there is a time they shouldnít. Most of the game aliens donít need to just throw themselves at marines. That is exactly what marines want. Unless in an ambush position or the marine is somehow unaware of where the skulk is, skulks should not be attacking. The only exception to this is a skulk baiting for another alien, in which case dying is acceptable. However, itís possible to bait and survive. Gorges are a great example of this, as they can take a lot of fire and still survive while a skulk takes down the marine. Using speed or stealth are the main ways individual aliens can attack marines and have a chance of winning.

    Teamwork is Key
    Contrary to popular belief, aliens are not solo hunters. While they may not need to move in groups, the alien team needs great coordination and communication to pull off attacks on multiple marines. Marines usually move in groups that donít do much besides follow the leader, while aliens tend to be spread out over an area by themselves. There are a few ways to attack marines in a skulk group, and all of them are fairly different in how they function. The main two methods of attack in groups are file attacks and mass attacks.

    File attacks are a type of attack also known in military circles as ďHoganís AlleyĒ. This is a method of setting ambushes so that every time the enemy hits a trap, their natural reaction to the trap results in hitting another trap. A long hallway with multiple ambush points is a good example. Skulks wait along the ambush spots and hit the marines as they go, and there is even a skulk behind where the marines started. As they move down the hallway, they get attacked one by one as they pass by, and even if they retreat a skulk is waiting. This is great against very well armed marines that are highly skilled and disciplined, as itís impossible to really prevent an ambush (besides simply avoiding the area, something not possible given the size of most NS maps) and one can only anticipate it and react as it happens. The whittling effect of this will break down larger marine squads.

    The other major type of attack would be the mass attack. This is the one most commonly seen in NS, being a large group of aliens that attack en masse in hopes of overwhelming resistance. This is usually a hit or miss affair, hit being all the marines die and miss being all the aliens die, thus itís very risky given the range of marine weapons. There are variations to this, the main one being someone baits the marines into the trap, and then all the skulks jump out when the marines push after the bait. Despite being the far riskier tactic, this is still the most commonly used.

    Itís impossible to emphasize how important it is for other aliens to communicate with the skulks on the team and tell them whatís going on. While a quick glance at the map will tell a player what RTs are most likely enemy and where current contact with marines is happening, teammates can give more accurate information on whatís going down around the map. Good communication will allow skulks to be where they need to be, when they need to be there. When RTs are weak, someone needs to tell the skulks which one and any marines nearby. When marines are pushing out of base, the skulks should know, that way they can parasite and/or go hit base. This type of communication is highly important and will win aliens the game. A constant recon and hit and run on marine start will cripple marines if itís not dealt with. At the least, it will slow them down until fades can arrive, which will further hurt the marine team thatís already behind. Telling skulks what is going on will allow them to make a good decision on what to spend their time doing.

    The Units
    Skulks are the main RT killers at any given point in a round. No other alien can kill a RT faster than a skulk, excepting the onos. This means the skulkís time is most efficiently spent chewing on towers, while the fade and lerk are busy delaying marines. Every individual alien needs to look at what theyíre playing and decide what they can best spend their time doing and do just that. Aliens that arenít using their time wisely are screwing their teammates. Skulks in the early game are simply delaying the marines until the fades can appear, not trying to push them back. When the marines arenít up to par, itís entirely possible to beat them with only skulks, but assuming a 1:1 skill ratio, itís better to simply delay the marines. A lerk can also play a pivotal role, weakening marines so theyíre a 2 bite wonder for a skulk to finish off.

    Lerks are one of the more underutilized classes, being they donít get to destroy marines single handedly by the average player like the fade or onos can. However, the lerk is a formidable fast hit and run unit that can not only weaken the entire marine team with a few well placed spore clouds, it can absolutely dominate small marines groups on its own. Lacking heavy weapons, marines are pretty much helpless against lerks that strip their armor as they retreat, then wait for the right time and start picking off damaged marines. The entire alien style of play revolves around constant harassment and whittling down the marine team. If you play this way, you will have a great advantage that is hard to counter. Lerks exemplify this trait even more so than the fade when used to their maximum ability. Using its mobility and group-weakening abilities, the lerk is the ultimate delaying unit, and it can slow down the entire marine team by itself. Itís also a financial equalizer, costing the commander hundreds in res for medpacks over time. This can limit the effectiveness of the early marine game expansion, and when combined with skulks attacking RTs it will set the marine team back several minutes. Now the fade enters the game.

    Fades are the main unit that actually gets kills on the alien side of the house. It is very fast and does high damage per attack, resulting in multiple kills per attack run. Just like the lerk, the fade emphasizes fast hit and run tactics, nailing a marine and getting out of harmís way before its armor is stripped off. While durable, the fade is by no means invincible, and will even die to a pair of LMGs if it doesnít pay attention and choose the time to attack wisely. Shotguns and HMGs both shred fades in a heartbeat, so staying still is never a good idea. The good fade is constantly moving to find more marines, and rarely spends time on structures outside of marine start. The fade cannot kill RTs faster than a skulk, so node duty should fall on skulks while the fade pushes back the marines trying to save them. Another aspect of fading that is often overlooked is the ability to constantly harass marines and the commander. Fades donít need to kill marines to do their job per se, all they need to do until the end game is delay marines from reaching where they need to go until itís too late for the marine team to do anything.

    A fade that does nothing but hit marine start will slow down marines, annoy and frustrate the commander, and will waste marine resources. A prime marine base target is the advanced armory, as it has low health and is worth quite a bit in terms of resources and more importantly, time. The obs and arms lab are also easy targets that die fairly quickly. Given 1-2 skulks, a fade can drop most marine structures in under 10 seconds, well before most commanders can react and save the structure. This type of base harassment will force marines to stay behind, and the comm will probably spend res on base defenses, further slowing down the team. A fade can easily crack most defenses, and the constant fade presence near base will unnerve most commanders and distract marines. Simply kill or attack any marines at base, then work on a structure when theyíre gone. The weaker structures are easy targets, as are any buildings you can get behind to get cover. The marine start RT is a common target as well; even skulks can kill the marine start RT on most maps if they simply focus on it.

    Gorges are the class that is often misused and underappreciated until the flow of resources dries up. The gorge isnít exactly a marine slaying machine, but it can do some damage by itself. Spit isnít the easiest weapon to aim, but at close range it can be quite accurate and deadly to a solo marine. At long range, spit can be used to simply soften up marines and generally annoy them. Cargo on ns_tanith is a place that many large battles occur, and early game the first marine rush is often met with spit flying at them from the Fusion Hive hallways and skulks hiding in the rafters above. Often the gorge will actually kill someone because of the cramped elbow hallway that leads from Central Access into Cargo causing marines to bunch up.

    The onos is the hardest alien to critique and find a place for. Yet in NS3.0, the onosí place is actually very simple to understand. While it can no longer stand up to incredible marine firepower like it did in 2.x, the onos is still an incredible damage absorber, and it can level any group of structures in short order. The onos is best used at hive 1 to simply take out structures and run away before any marines get there. A hive1 onos is usually only a last resort to a lockdown situation, as itís not very useful due to its low speed. At hive2 the onos can actively attack marines using stomp to move around as it needs to. The hive2 onos is a brutal assault unit that can deal incredible damage, yet it still shouldnít stay exposed to fire for long. Like the fade and lerk, careful planning of escape routes should keep the onos out of trouble. Focus on hit and run base attacks that take out expensive or weak structures. The onos can take out any marine structure short of the comm chair or proto lab in a very short period of time, so it can kill the advanced armory or arms lab before the commander can react to the attack. Wait for opportune times, like when marines phase to attack a hive or when a fade is keeping them busy at another location. This type of constant harassment all over the map will stress the logistical capabilities of the commander and the patience of the marines. The onos is a great base breaker when itís used intelligently, but it takes time to run from a fight. Using stomp is really the best way to attack and retreat, simply remember that at hive1 you lack this ability (which is why it sucks compared to hive2).

    Against marines, the onos has to really play smart in order to be effective and not get stuck in a kill zone. In most rooms, the onos has to really think about how to attack marines and not get itself into a no-win situation. Stomp doesnít affect marines at higher or lower altitudes, so marines on crates or up/down ramps wonít be touched. Marines can also flank around the door, falling in behind the onos and blocking the doorway it entered through. Situations like this are real and happen, so pay attention and know the terrain. Stomp is the main weapon to allow the onos time to move around freely, otherwise it starts taking fire the moment it comes around the corner. Using stomp, the onos can move into a room and kill all the marines there while taking little damage. Other aliens can also make use of stomp to move in. The onos itself has a hard time killing spread out marines, but with stomp it is a great support unit for skulks or fades moving about. This is where most people are weak when using the onos, using it as a support rather than the main attack unit. The onos simply doesnít have the stamina in battle the fade has, so it really should stick to a support role unless nothing else is available. Due to the extreme size of the onos, try to keep the lane clear itís moving in otherwise itís simply a very large expensive target. Often gorges try to heal it and end up killing it by blocking the hallway.

    Offensive Chamber Uses
    While spit is more of a nuisance weapon, the ability to drop offensive chambers is quite deadly. Marines typically get their armor worn away over time and suddenly die to a pair of bites from a skulk or two fade swipes. OCs are one of those weapons that quickly weather away armor. A few well placed OCs wonít defend an area, but theyíll delay marines until help arrives. If placed properly, theyíll also deny easy access to certain areas, and prevent fast emplacement of phase gates preceding an attack. They have to be well placed in order to be effective however. The main places to put OCs are places marines canít easily attack them without taking damage, places that are natural alien choke points (the entrance to Cargo from Central Access on Tanith is a great spot), or places that marines will most likely go (the hallways from Cargo into Fusion Hive on Tanith). The best places are areas that marines have to be in but canít spend time attacking the OCs.

    A hive rush is a time OCs in the hive can make or break the game, whittling away armor as aliens scuttle about trying to kill marines. They are also one of the main defenses against jetpackers, as they can hit marines in midair if they move in a predictable pattern and do some good damage if placed in an entrance the jetpacker has to go through. OC walls are generally too expensive to be effective, and theyíll most likely get sieged down. A comm wonít waste res on sieging a couple of OCs, however theyíll most likely do some damage to the marines passing by them. This is what you want, a draining effect on the marineís overall health level. When this is done well it will take off a good bit of every marineís armor before they actually meet an alien. The simple knowledge of OCs in an area will cause many marines to simply avoid the area all together, which makes it similar to a minefield. Use OCs to persuade marines to leave one avenue alone and use another, and concentrate more of the aliens there. This is forcing the marines to move right into the Kill Zone, which gives the aliens ready an advantage.

    The OC isnít the only thing in the fattyís arsenal. Gorges can be very effective at keeping aliens healed as they move forward, speeding up fade return time and returning skulks to full health before they head out after another resource tower. Remember the gorge isnít super at defending itself, so it needs to watch the map and push up only when the area IN FRONT of where it is moving to is secure, not when the place itís going to is secure. Often aliens see the next room is clear, move up, and get caught unprepared when marines storm into the room. Remember also that marines can appear from more than simply the obvious direction. Often the most dangerous marine is the one that comes from the unexpected angle, getting a free LOS on an alien and killing it before itís possible to react.

    The 3 upgrade chambers have abilities of their own, and when properly placed can be of use to the aliens at the front instead of sitting in the hive room being of little use besides the upgrades they give. Sensory chambers obviously are mostly used outside the hive room to give cloaking cover, yet the other two have uses as well. The well placed group of defense chambers (places out of reach of marines are usually the only safe places, such as vents) can help a lerk heal in the field, and movement chambers can be a quick escape for a wounded fade. Keep in mind the uses of the chambers as a gorge, and donít be afraid to drop a chamber somewhere that it can be of use. Just keep in mind how useful it will be versus the 10 res it costs to drop that chamber, and how risky it is for the gorge.

    Scouting Ė Please Use It
    Scouting is something that most public server players donít even know exists in the game of NS. On the marine team scouting is mostly done by the commander, while on aliens it can be any number of things. While sensory chambers in Beta6 can reveal nearby marines, active scouting is normally done by lerks or skulks. The parasite ability makes the skulk a scout above the rest, being able to permanently mark a marine so the team can see it. The lerk relies on its speed and agility to be a scout, being able to move around almost any map at a speed thatís unmatched by anything short of phase gating marines. While skulks are definitely great scouts early game, by the mid-game most actual scouting should be by the lerk, as skulks are busy attacking towers by that point. The lerk typically flies ahead of the fade, gassing marines it finds and relaying the spot to the fade. Lerks can also scout on their own, being great hive lookouts when itís impossible for the alien team to cover all the approaches to the hive areas. Hive2 skulks are also excellent scouts, using leap and bunnyhopping to cover the map fast and still be able to attack RTs.

    The object of the scout is not to find marines then attack them directly, it is to gather information and know where theyíre going and why. This is something many skulks donít do, they feel compelled to attack every marine they see, even when they really shouldnít be. This is something that tells the good skulk from the bad. Itís often necessary to not attack marines, simply telling the team their location and letting them pass by instead. Parasiting a marine is nearly as good as killing a marine, as it gives away his position and puts the commanderís plan for that marine at risk, which is often worse than actually killing the marine so he can spawn back in, un-parasited. Once scouts have done their job and the cavalry is on the way to deal with any marines spotted, the scout should move on. Keep in mind the skulkís other main job is attacking RTs, something that can be integrated in with scouting. A skulk can find marines building a RT, then call in a fade and work on the RT once the fade has arrived. Often this is how RTs are taken down, calling a fade to clear the area while the skulk does the grunt work. Lerks usually just scout ahead of the fade for marines pushing out, and then fall back while sporing them to weaken their armor.

    The main focus on alien game play should be on delaying the marines until a suitable game-ender is available. Strangling the marines of resources by denying them skulk deaths as RFK and attacking their RTs will slow their tech progress, while at the same time you get tech because the marines are playing defensive instead of attacking your economy. The thing that catches most aliens teams is they either focus entirely on the marine RTs or entirely on their own, and donít delegate roles to every alien player so that everything is covered. Realizing the need for everyone to know what theyíre doing and communicate what is going on with the team is what sets apart novice players from veterans. Once you get this type of game play going on, the marines have to really pull together to defend their assets and attack yours. The key is using the alien advantages and playing the marine weaknesses against them so that youíre constantly pushing up the tech tree while they donít gain as fast. The key to slowing the marine team down is blunting their initial expansion, attacking that expansion in the mid game while simultaneously hitting marine start constantly in order to take down key structures, while also preventing them from reaching any hives that are built or building. Remember that while doing one of the things listed above might result in victory, itís not a given. The commander can ignore your base assault and relocate into one of the hives, or ignore the lack of resources and rush down a hive. Simply being prepared and having excellent scouting will prevent any surprises.



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