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Author Topic: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS] [Outdated]  (Read 16552 times)

zxc

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zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS] [Outdated]
« on: September 11, 2015, 02:55:15 AM »

zxc’s Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
Version 0.1.3 (Last updated 2015-09-18)

Very out of date! Needs a complete rewrite due to recent large patches. Some of this is still usable however.

1. Introduction
1.1 Why stealth?
1.2 Playstyle
2. Maps
2.1 Scrapyard (-11)
2.2 Materials (-10 to -8)
2.3 Factory (-7 to -4)
2.4 Research (-3 to -2)
2.5 Access (-1)
3. Exploration
3.1 Locating exits
3.2 Secret doors
4. Enemies
4.1 Recyclers
4.2 Haulers
4.3 Watchers
4.4 Grunts
4.5 Sentries
4.5.1 Sentry kiting
4.6 Swarmers
4.7 Hunters
4.8 Programmers
4.8.1 Destroying them
4.8.2 Losing them with ECM suites
4.8.3 Outrunning them without contact
5. Evolutions
6. Energy, heat and mass management
7. Items
7.1 Power sources
7.2 Propulsion items
7.3 Utilities
7.4 Weapons
8. Upcoming
9. Change log

Introduction

Why stealth?

I have always loved stealth games. Cogmind has one of the best implementations of stealth gameplay that I've seen. It's a tense and highly satisfying way of playing the game. Stealth wins are also currently the most reliable way of winning in Cogmind. I am fast approaching a point where I can win every game with a stealth approach, and in this guide we’ll explore some of my methods.

Playstyle

The idea is to utilise flight propulsion to outrun all enemies in the game, and thereby avoid trouble. Flight is especially well-suited to stealth because enemies will only spot you when it’s their turn to act; the faster you are, the less likely an enemy will immediately spot you the first turn you move into their view, and the more moves you can make in full view of an enemy before they spot you. Various utilities allow for locating enemies from a safe distance to avoid them.

Maps

Scrapyard (-11)

I suggest a standard start ie. equipping legs, the heaviest engine, the strongest weapons, and carrying in inventory the spare weapon and engine. Kill some civilian robots if you like, for a terrain scanner or a small storage unit. These will get replaced soon enough so you don’t need to bother with them.

Materials (-10 to -8)

Treat the start like any other run. The enemies are not too difficult, and can often be dispatched with your weaponry, but avoid fighting where possible. The first priority is to locate some flight units (swarmers have them) and a launcher (for dealing with swarmers and destroying walls). The second priority is to locate the second tier of sensors and signal interpreters or better, which can be dropped by Watchers. Signal interpreters identify adjacent exits, so you can always avoid the branches if you wish. Seek out all Haulers for the chance of great prototypes. These early floors are probably the only ones where you can find the Imp. Flight Unit prototypes, which are phenomenal and easily the best low-level prototype in the game.

Factory (-7 to -4)

Factory is where stealth really gets interesting. Aim for Adv. Sensor Arrays and Adv. Signal Interpreters, which in combination will allow you to detect Hunters from a good distance and let you avoid them. Programmers will be the biggest pain from here until the end of the game. Factory is where maps become truly massive, and hacking for the location of exits becomes much more important. Try to explore the map systematically if you don’t yet know the locations of exits.

Research (-3 to -2)

Research is similar to Factory, except that the map contains more chokepoints and fewer loops. This necessitates carving new paths with launchers at times. Be sure to always maintain a high count of matter. Hacking the locations of exits is even more important here.

Access (-1)

Warning: Below are some large spoilers for what you will find in Access and how to escape. Please consider carefully before opening! I encourage you to wing it and avoid consulting this part until you have won once or unless you are really stuck.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Exploration

Locating exits

Exits are generally found along the main paths. They are almost never located inside rooms (very rarely will you find an exit in a room - treasure it!). Hacking terminals with Level Access (or Access(Main) with a manual hack) shows the locations of exits to the next floor if successful, but is one of the hardest hacks to pull off. Avoid exploring deeply into rooms when you don’t need new items and only wish to find an exit. I like to travel along hallways and step into doorways just to see into a room without losing any time. Sentries sitting in hallways are often positioned on top of exits, so at times you may want to get vision of the Sentry in order to see if it is standing on an exit.

Secret doors

Secret doors are a good way to avoid and escape from enemies. It is far less likely you’ll find a secret door along the outer edge of a map. They tend to connect adjacent rooms together by a short 1x passageway. With practise, you’ll learn to spot likely areas for secret doors. Watching enemy robot movement with sensors is also a great way of spotting secret doors - in particular, civilian robots and Watchers like to use them. The Local Emergency Access hack displays secret doors in the region, and is a relatively easy hack which I like to make use of.

Enemies

Recyclers

The high tier R-10 Processors are a fantastic source of matter (100-160), but they call for reinforcements when attacked, so ensure you are in relative safety before attacking them.

Haulers

Juicy sources of items including prototypes. They are often escorted, but sometimes you can lure the escorts away with your speed and separate them enough to safely destroy one. Like Recyclers, they tend to summon reinforcements, so try to target them when they are highly isolated.

Watchers

The existence of Watchers is in fact a net positive for us. They come equipped with almost everything you need for a stealth build: sensors, signal interpreters, transmission jammers, visual processing units, and light power sources. Watchers with transmission jammers will disable your sensors when nearby, which alerts you to their presence even if you don’t have a signal interpreter. Like most enemies, Watchers follow patrol paths, and will only send a distress call when they first spot you and when other enemies are close enough to the Watcher to help out.

Grunts

Higher tier Grunts are surprisingly damaging, and should be avoided. They often travel in groups, which can be spotted moving along patrol paths slowly with a sensor.

Sentries

Sentries are very slow but they inflict a great deal of damage. They are always found standing guard inside large rooms with items, at chokepoints in wide hallways, or on top of exits. Sensors are especially important for detecting sentries hidden inside a room, which are a nasty surprise. Their slow speed makes them extremely easy to kite.

Sentry kiting

Sentries often stand on top of exits, preventing your progress, or guard juicy items you’d like to steal and terminals you want to access. First, get their attention. This often means standing at range and allowing them to spot you and fire a shot at you. You can use civilian robots to block their fire, or attack a Watcher or Hauler/Recycler nearby to cause a distress call to get the sentry’s attention without taking damage. Second, lure the sentry in a loop around a terrain feature. This includes rooms with two doors and machines inside rooms. Third, use your enormous speed advantage to escape via the other end and leave the sentry far behind. I routinely do this to access exits guarded by a sentry.

Luring the sentry into a doorway and flying diagonally over them works in a pinch as well (best used with ~10 movespeed).



Swarmers

Swarmers are always found traveling in large groups along patrol paths. They are extremely fast and can often keep up with you, but explosive launchers dispatch them quite easily. They are quite a pain to lose with speed, so avoid them best you can. If you need another flight unit, Swarmers will drop a low tier one for you, if you want to risk taking damage.

Hunters

Hunters are one of the worst enemies you will face. They tend to travel in groups of two along patrol paths. Their innate cloaking hides them from your sensors unless you have an Adv. Signal Interpreter. Their regular speed means you can escape them quite easily, but that won’t stop them from taking shots at you through walls. They can also sometimes spot you and shoot before they are in your visual range, so you know what’s up when you get hit by a bullet with no enemies on your screen. When they lose you, they launch drones to search for you; try to leave that section of the map entirely.

Programmers

Programmers are most likely the worst enemy you will face. They move fast, patrol in groups of two, and fire electromagnetic weapons which cause system corruption. Most importantly, in Factory onwards there will be times where two programmers are released in pursuit of you, shown as a white text notification in the message log. These programmers will have perfect tracking of you until both of them spot you, when their perfect tracking disappears and they become like regular, fast enemies. There is (to my knowledge) no way to avoid the programmer attack mechanism, which serves as something of a food clock, so don’t waste too much time in Factory onwards.

I see three ways of dealing with programmers sent for you.

Destroying them

This is the approach I go with the least, as can result in the most damage taken, but recently I tried this and found that early programmers were not so difficult to destroy with a melee weapon. Severing or destroying their weapons makes them retreat and is as good as killing them.

Losing them with ECM suites

This approach usually results in a small amount of damage taken. The key thing to note is that the perfect tracking of programmers sent for you can’t be thrown off by ECM suites. You need to let all programmers in the group spot you first (with the ! icon in your hud). Arrange for this to occur in a safe region of the map with many loops (beware dead-ends). Once they’ve all spotted you, outrun them and break LOS, and turn on all ECM suites you have. Energy usage can be a severe problem, because not only must you maintain the ECM suites, but you must keep moving to prevent LOS contact with the programmers, which would reset the process. If you need to pause for a moment to regain some energy, turn off all propulsion and energy upkeep utilities (except ECM suites) until you are ready to move again.

Outrunning them without contact

This approach can avoid all damage entirely, but is risky when you don’t know the location of the exit as you might just get into a messier, less controlled instance of the previous approach. The idea is to constantly stay on the move and to keep exploring in order to exit the map before the programmers even catch you. Having extremely fast move speed helps (10 delay or better), as does knowing the locations of exits. Using launchers to create new paths and shortcuts is also of importance. Contact with other enemies is sometimes unavoidable with this approach, and is the essential risk you take, along with the possibility of dead-ends. I am more inclined to take this approach when I know the location of the exit, or I have armour equipped but no ECM suites.

Evolutions

  • 2-3 power slots
  • 2-3 propulsion slots
  • Maximum utility slots
  • 2 weapon slots

Ideally you want to maximise the number of utility slots you have. This allows for the most flexibility. Focus on utility slots until energy starts to become an issue, then go with an additional power slot. Utility slots can perform the roles of power and propulsion, as you can amplify your energy sources and expand your carrying capacity. Making use of more propulsion slots will often result in the need for additional power slots.

Energy, heat and mass management

Energy, heat and mass are all interconnected in Cogmind. Flight propulsion requires energy; energy is produced by power sources, which also produce heat and increase mass. This translates into a careful balancing of equipped items, and the entire system can be compromised by item destruction from traps, enemy weapons, or prototype malfunctions. Supporting greater mass by using more propulsion slots results in an inefficient feedback loop where you need more energy income and heat dissipation to support the propulsion. You can break this cycle by using carrying capacity utilities (Weight Redist. System line of items), which are far more efficient for increasing mass capacity than more flight units. A slight negative balance of energy and/or heat while moving is usually fine, and can later be solved by finding better items. Given a choice between heat generation and energy loss, I would say that heat generation is the lesser of two evils.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 11:15:31 PM by zxc »
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2015, 02:55:26 AM »

Items

Power sources

The Lgt. versions have less mass for the same energy supply. In general, I go for Lgt. versions unless I have enough mass support for the regular versions, because the most important factors are energy supply and mass. The energy supply : mass ratio worsens as you get higher tier items, but naturally the energy : slot usage ratio improves. Satisfactory power sources can always be looted from Watchers.

Propulsion items

The simple Flight Units are fantastic for a good while, and you can support one with no power source. Imp. Flight Units are amazing because with just three of them you can reach 10 delay move speed, which is astonishingly fast. On top of that, their energy and heat upkeep is extremely low, making them the ideal propulsion for us. Later flight units have better integrity and mass support, but are often a little slower and a lot less energy/heat efficient in general.

If you have unused propulsion slots, equip treads or other propulsion items and disable them. Propulsion items have no mass, making them useful as makeshift armour pieces to soak up  damage.

Losing all your propulsion is not usually the end of the game. Dropping and unequipping items until you have three mass or less lets you hover at 50 delay, which is enough to outrun many enemies until you find some gear. The key is to avoid Swarmers and Programmers, who can catch up to you and wipe you out. Narrow 1x hallways are useful for limiting the damage you take, but you can get blocked by civilian robots.

Utilities

Sensor Arrays

Sensors are the bread and butter of this setup. You can actually get very far without them, but they eliminate a lot of randomness and allow you to avoid nasty situations. The first tier sensors aren't worth bothering with; the Imp. Sensor Arrays are useful, while Adv. Sensor Arrays and better are significantly useful. Without a signal interpreter, you can still detect the presence of stationary sentries, slow roaming patrols, and programmers rapidly closing in on your location.

Signal Interpreters

The other key item. Imp. Signal Interpreters allow you to identify nearby robots in combination with a sensor array. Adv. Signal Interpreters allow you to spot Hunters with your sensors, which is incredibly helpful. Exp. Signal Interpreters increase energy efficiency compared with Adv. Signal Interpreters. All tiers allow you to identify adjacent exits when equipped, which is very useful as you generally don't want to spend time in the branches; later in development, Cogmind will have more branches complete and Signal Interpreters will become even more useful.

Support Utilities

Support utilities such as Weight Redist. Systems increase your mass support. Note that they have no mass themselves, making them free to equip and keep turned off if you have the slots. They are the key to supporting your power sources and utilities on flight propulsion. The high tier support utilities are extraordinary items, allowing you to support heavy power sources, force fields, batteries, heavy armour and launchers all on their own. Support utilities are the main reason why I don't encourage upgrading more than the starting number of propulsion slots, and more than one additional power slot.

ECM Suites

ECM suites make enemies that are tracking you out of LOS lose your trail sooner. Their energy upkeep is very high, often forcing you to keep them turned off until you actually need the ability. Their effects do stack, but it's unclear whether it's in a multiplicative or additive way. Regular power sources and batteries, which increase your energy capacity significantly, combine well with ECM suites, allowing you to run them for a longer period on an energy deficit and stay on the move. I find ECM suites most useful for losing hunters and programmers; but note that programmer dispatch teams have perfect tracking that will ignore ECM effects until all of the programmers in the team spot you once.

Optical Arrays

Optical arrays increase your LOS range. The Adv. Sensor Arrays already alert you to enemies past your LOS, so these aren't a vital utility to have. Nevertheless they can come in handy: they allow you to spot exits from a further distance; or spot Hunters when you don't have an Adv. Signal Interpreter; or spot useful items and terrain features from further away. Naturally they are more useful in open areas such as main corridors than they are in rooms.

Transmission Jammers

Transmission jammers block hostile distress calls made within a certain radius. Use them to block the distress calls of Watchers, as they allow you to weave through Watchers without fear. Their energy upkeep is quite high, so you may need to keep them off until needed. Watchers only seem to give a distress call when they first spot you, and when other enemy robots are nearby; knowing this, you should be able to get by without transmission jammers, but there are certain situations where they are certainly indispensable.

Power Amplifiers

Power amplifying utilities increase your energy supply in a highly mass-efficient manner. This makes them combine well with our strategy of flight propulsion and utility item stacking.

Heat Management Utilities

Heat sinks increase heat dissipation at the expense of some energy. You probably won't need any unless you are using some heavy duty power sources and high tier propulsion, in which case one heat sink may be necessary.

Terrain Scanners

Terrain scanners gradually reveal the map around you within a certain radius. While useful, they require another utility to increase the density of scans to be more effective, and usually other utilities are in more pressing need.

Armour and Dodging Utilities

Armour absorbs damage that would otherwise be inflicted on other parts. Very useful to be sure, but due to its mass it's often more of a luxury item than a necessity. Armour is usually most useful before switching to flight, and later on when you have enough support utilities and slots. Dodging utilities like Cloaking Devices and Maneuvering Thrusters perform a similar role to armour, and are also nice but non-essential.

Hacking Utilities

A variety of hacking utilities exist which improve your ability to hack machines and robots. The most useful would be the Hacking Suites, which provide an increase in the success rates of direct hacks, and Deep Network Scanners, which do the same for indirect hacks. Ideally you want to either stack one type or the other, but more often you will have to make do with what you find. As all hacking utilities have no mass, it's a good idea to simply equip any that you find if you have the slots free, unless you have a severe matter shortage.

Force Fields

Force fields block damage in exchange for energy loss. They are excellent utilities when you have the energy capacity to support them properly.

Batteries (and Energy Wells)

Batteries increase your energy capacity when equipped, and can store energy when placed in your inventory. They are a highly mass-efficient way of increasing your energy capacity and therefore pair extremely well with force fields. Even without force fields, the extra energy comes in tremendously useful when running energy deficits due to ECM suites and when your power sources get blown off.

Matter Containers

Like batteries, matter containers increase your matter capacity when equipped, and can store matter when placed in your inventory. If you maintain your matter reserves at near full all the time, then keeping one in your inventory is not a high priority; however, they are useful for fabricating.

Weapons

Melee weapons are useful for destroying Watchers, Haulers and Recyclers without expending matter. They have low mass and good damage output for a single item. I rely on melee weapons to maintain my store of matter, as running out prevents both launcher use and item switching.

Launchers are of vital importance for creating new paths to avoid enemy-filled chokepoints and for escaping enemies in pursuit. They are also useful in dealing with Swarmers, which are vulnerable to explosive damage; take care that you don’t stand near walls which the launcher can hit, damaging you. A Mini Grenade Launcher is ideal early on, with its low mass of one.

Upcoming

  • Hacking information
  • Datajacks
  • Traps
  • Misc tactics
  • Screenshots
  • FAQ

Change log

[0.1.3] - 2015-09-18
Added utility section and minor corrections throughout.
[0.1.2] - 2015-09-13
Added some screenshots.
[0.1.1] - 2015-09-12
Added spoiler tags and warning.
[0.1] - 2015-09-11
Initial guide.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2015, 02:56:30 AM by zxc »
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zxc

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  • 1st place in the Best Escapes category during Alpha Challenge 2015 1st place in the High Scores category during Alpha Challenge 2015 Shared a Confirmed Combat Win Shared a Confirmed Stealth Win Kyzrati Patron Bug Hunter Participated in the Alpha Challenge 2015 Achievement leader in at least one category during Alpha Challenge 2015 Wiki Contributor Weekly Seed Participant
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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2015, 02:57:12 AM »

Hopefully this can be of some help during the tournament. :)

This guide will evolve over time as I learn the game further and as the game changes. Let me know what is missing, or if anyone has questions/corrections.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2015, 03:12:38 AM by zxc »
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Happylisk

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2015, 06:39:25 AM »

Thanks so much for doing this zxc.  It's really helpful.  Interesting that melee plays a big role here.  Makes me wonder if there's a niche for a stealth speed build that also includes a high tier piercing weapon for skewering enemies. 
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2015, 06:44:35 AM »

I wouldn't say that melee plays a big role, it's just my preference. I only really destroy watchers for parts and civilian robots for matter. You can do the same thing with a shooty weapon but honestly melee is cooler, a bit lighter I think, and might be more effective if you only have one weapon slot to spare. I definitely don't try to kill hostile robots with this build.

Also, there's a whole lot more to come, as I've left out the utility section which is going to be a large part of the guide.
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stylesuxx

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2015, 07:25:33 AM »

Holy smokes,
thanks for this guide. Looking forward for the updates.

Greetz,
Chris
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Shobalk

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2015, 10:22:22 AM »

Excellent guide!  Next up the guid that details how you can obtain a freaking 18k score  ;D
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2015, 10:23:46 AM »

Excellent guide!  Next up the guid that details how you can obtain a freaking 18k score  ;D

You'll never get that with a stealth build ;D
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Adraius

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2015, 03:24:56 PM »

I love you.  Seriously, thanks a ton.  The biggest revelation for me was simply not to bother with stealth until you get past the first couple levels and can assemble all the parts to make it work.  I look forward to giving this a go.
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2015, 05:49:04 AM »

Thanks for the kind words guys. I've added a few screenshots and added a few bits here and there. Still need to do the utility section.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 06:17:01 AM by zxc »
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sve9

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2015, 11:45:09 AM »

How do you store the utilities as you gather them? Do you use storage utilities or just put everything in the slots as you find them?
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2015, 10:21:34 PM »

How do you store the utilities as you gather them? Do you use storage utilities or just put everything in the slots as you find them?

For the most part they get equipped immediately. Storage utilities are very heavy and not worth it I think. Most of the utilities we want are low 0-3 mass anyway. Other heavier ones like armour, forcefields and HCP storage containers are more luxuries than essentials. Sometimes, when you don't have the space/support, you need to make tough choices on what to keep. An important part of our gear is the mass support line of utilities, like Adv. Weight Redist. Systems. You can equip as many of those as you want and keep them turned off until you need them, as they have no mass.

Carrying backups of items like sensors is generally not possible because we're stretched for inventory space.

The most irreplaceable items are good ECM suites and prototype support utilities, I think. As well as a good launcher.
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2015, 03:05:59 AM »

Updated the guide with utility info. I haven't included info on every utility item because many just aren't relevant to us. I think I covered all the relevant utilities.

Had to spread it out over two posts now. Thinking that maybe three posts won't be enough later on... we'll see.

Next up is hacking info, datajacks and traps. Feel free to ask more questions - I am not fully sure of what needs to go in the guide, so more ideas are helpful. Recording a full video run-through of a game is an idea I haven't ruled out. At the very least I will be getting a lot more screenshots. Before the end of the Alpha Challenge I'm going to do another run that will utilitise a different method than I recommend in the guide in order to get a faster turn-count win, and I'll see what I learn from that.
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Goncyn

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2015, 09:19:21 AM »

I would find a more procedural write-up of the early stealth game really helpful. Getting started with combat is intuitive to me -- grab treads, equip stuff, shoot robots -- but I am really struggling with how you are supposed to deal with the extremely low support stat of flight units. I equip two of them so I can support 8 mass, but an Ion Engine doesn't even generate enough energy to power both. I just don't really grok how to get to a point where I can move FASTx3 and still equip anything.
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zxc

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Re: zxc's Guide to Stealth Wins in Cogmind [SPOILERS]
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2015, 09:25:29 AM »

I would find a more procedural write-up of the early stealth game really helpful. Getting started with combat is intuitive to me -- grab treads, equip stuff, shoot robots -- but I am really struggling with how you are supposed to deal with the extremely low support stat of flight units. I equip two of them so I can support 8 mass, but an Ion Engine doesn't even generate enough energy to power both. I just don't really grok how to get to a point where I can move FASTx3 and still equip anything.

I'll see what I can do about some screenshots and a write-up of a new run that I'll do. However, regarding the energy upkeep - a Lgt. Ion Engine should definitely be enough to support two Flight Units. You can support one without any engine at all. Do you have other utilities which are using up your energy? Also, a negative energy balance while moving is fine, so long as it's not too severe - it just means you'll have to rest sometimes to replenish your energy.

To actually equip stuff, you really need support utilities. Something like Adv. Weight Redist. Systems. With a couple of those, you can support a second engine easily, as well as a bunch of other goodies.

Edit: Check out one of my earliest runs, which I made a screenshot album of http://imgur.com/a/jcnw1
« Last Edit: September 18, 2015, 09:44:10 AM by zxc »
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