Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Star Wars: Empire At War - Imperial Ground Units

Star Wars: Empire at War - Imperial Ground Units
This is a hint / guide for Star Wars: Empire at War. The index of all our guides for Empire at War is here.

The basic concept of any military unit, whether in Empire at War or in real life, is to project firepower. Each type of unit enables some other more vulnerable unit to project more firepower further. For example, infantry protect armor from being swarmed, so that armor can advance and protect artillery so they can deploy, so that buildings and infrastructure can be maintained to build star bases and ships.

Even so, I like to run ground battles with no unit losses (unless they are "free" units that are from, for example, captured facilities), so you won't see tips like "use your Speeder to find turrets and call down a bombing run" as you are likely to lose that Speeder.
That said, you can sometimes lose just part of a unit and still have a whole unit after the battle. Other times, the post-battle summary will not show that you have lost any units, but if you lost most of them (e.g., two out of three SPMA-Ts), you will find that the unit is actually destroyed. Bacta Healing Stations and Vehicle Repair Stations will not resurrect any wholly destroyed individuals of a squad.

For land invasions, bring a wide variety of units and put them in orbit. Send down the unit you want on the ground first (usually Darth Vader for the Imperial Campaign). You can still access (through Reinforcement points) all the units in space, so having a wide variety of units gives you flexibility during the mission.

Stormtrooper Platoon
Your basic infantry, and in general, they all work the same way:
  • You need them to capture contest Reinforcement Points and Building Pads, and to capture and hold Abandoned buildings.
  • When a unit comes under ranged weapons fire, the health bar shows the health of the current individual in the unit. When that bar is depleted, one individual dies. Weapons fire that does not have an area effect will kill one individual at a time. This is one of the reasons that infantry make such good cannon fodder: They actually take a tedious amount of time to kill.
  • Infantry are vulnerable to being walked over or run over and any individuals caught by this generally instantly die. Even units that walk into tracked vehicles (but not Walkers) that could crush them will be considered crushed. However, the Rebellion has mostly repulsor lift vehicles and cannot use this tactic. Late in the game, they will have tracked vehicles, but these are very slow-moving. (That said, infantry have done idiot things like walk INTO a T4-B Heavy Tank, thereby killing themselves).
  • They cannot run and shoot at the same time. If they are charged, they may break and run to avoid being trampled. Generally they have more maneuverability than vehicles (which have to take time to turn) but can be rendered temporarily harmless this way if you to stop them from firing for a while (e.g., to retreat another injured unit).
  • Because they must basically be killed by attrition, and can toggle their Take Cover ability to further improve their survivability, they are good for tying up enemy units if you are willing to accept losses due to attrition (e.g., If you are getting free Stormtroopers from AT-ATs anyway). If so, you can then either call down bombing runs or then call in your armor and artillery.
  • All infantry controlled by the AI tend to race for the round dugouts ringed by sandbags. While in their radius, units heal continuously. This is a great way to have them sit still to be walked over by your AT-ST.
Scout Trooper (on 74-Z Speeder Bike)
  • Another micromanagement-required unit to use except as a sacrifice piece to target a bombing run. They do move very very quickly, can go over water, and can potentially scout and flee before getting killed. However, a few lucky hits will kill them, Anti-Vehicle Turrets can always hit them no matter how fast they are going, and you only get two per squad (although the rider will dismount when their speeder is destroyed).
  • They can drop thermal detonators, but the time delay makes these somewhat tricky to use against even slow moving infantry. It does, however, generally force them to move. The blast radius looks small, but can flatten a lot of infantry (especially human natives). Dismounted Scout Troopers cannot drop thermal detonators.
  • Although produced from Barracks, Scout Troopers do not count as Infantry -- They cannot capture Abandoned Buildings, Reinforcement Points, or Building Pads.

TIE Mauler (TIE ap-1)
I personally don't like to use them because of the micromanagement required.
  • They are less armored than the AT-STs and therefore may require more retreating of individual vehicles, which in turn can cause a lot of battlefield traffic jams.
  • They do not fire when moving. Heavier mechanized units are typically able to do this.
  • They move quite quickly and therefore are good for charging infantry to stop them from firing (because they are fleeing) and running them over. But they are still hard to turn so you may want to plot a path that takes them farther out and turn them in relative safety before coming back for another pass. This is obviously not always possible as you may well be moving them ahead into more enemy units.
  • Their special ability causes an individual to explode. This is theoretically useful if you are probably going to lose the unit anyway, but in practice it is hard to time well because the countdown takes a long time, and in the meantime, if they are destroyed by gunfire or other damage, the self-destruct will not take effect.
  • The AI has an annoying habit of using the self-destruct ability very frequently. The burst is quite powerful -- it can bring down a T2-B Repulsor Tank's shield immediately.

AT-ST Walker (All Terrain Scout Transport)
  • Even into the late game, AT-ST Walkers will do most of your fighting (unless you solo with Vader for land conquests, which is very doable), but they are remarkably fragile against even Anti-Infantry Turrets. You might be fast enough to pull one back, but in general the slow turning process means you will probably lose it as soon as an Anti-Infantry or Anti-Vehicle Turret turns its attention on it.
  • They can take a few hits from PLEX Troopers, but you will likely want to pull the targeted unit back immediately so that the troopers eventually pick another Walker. This way, you distribute damage and all your Walkers survive.
  • They move slowly enough that infantry can sometimes run away from being squashed unless you commit to a long, uninterrupted run and the infantry you are after don't take too many turns. So you need to be cautious about chasing infantry lest you move them into trouble and can't maneuver them away. Even so, infantry tend to flee from a charge and can't fire on the run, so this is a possible counter to a PLEX Trooper ambush.
  • Their Barrage Area ability is great against infantry because it can hit many units at once. Typically, infantry go down one individual at a time when they come under fire.
  • Their Barrage Area ability is also strong against vehicles, which are large and take lots of hits. A single AT-ST can do a lot of damage against a whole squad of T2-B tanks, even when they start out with shields up.
  • AT-STs can actually be better than TIE Maulers for stomping infantry because one or two groups can present a wide front that's hard to avoid.
  • If you use basic right-click to attack, the front units will stop as soon as they are in range -- this means second rank units will be forced to walk around them, which in turn means they have to half-turn first. It can therefore take a long time for the rear rank to be in position to Barrage (they cannot move while using this ability).
  • They are also prone to traffic jams, especially when you are turning one individual around. This happens even in small groups because of the game's pathfinding.
  • Despite their drawbacks, they are your most heavily armored unit in the early game and therefore have the staying power to make up the bulk of your land forces if you aim to have your land invasion force pull through with no losses. Even in the later game when Repulsor Tanks are available, the are still a comparable unit and can be deployed in the rare instances when environmental conditions prohibit the use of hover vehicles.

2-M Saber-class Repulsor Tank

Repulsor Tanks are anti-armor pieces with more overall durability on the field if properly managed. They are "repulsor" because of the repulsorlift mechanism that lets them float.
  • Even in the late game when Repulsor Tanks are avalable, AT-ST Walkers are comparable and superior for taking down infantry and lightly armored targets because of their ability to squash infantry and their Barrage ability.
  • What Repulsor Tanks do have over AT-ST Walkers is superior movement and regenerating shields. The shields mean that if you can swap in and out two units, you can let each team regenerate their shields before re-entering. With AT-STs, you have to head all the way back to a Vehicle Repair Station.
  • Their Boost Weapon Power ability can increase firepower, but it reduces their shield regeneration, and therefore is best used early when shields are at maximum. Shield regeneration is pretty slow anyway, so it's not like you're missing out.
  • The shields are ignored by the rockets from PLEX Troopers -- so against PLEX Troopers, AT-ST Walkers still have a lot more durability.
  • Charging infantry with a Repulsor Tank does not necessarily cause them to break as they would when charged by walkers or tracked vehicles -- probably because you can't squash infantry with a hover tank.
  • Charging artillery that needs to deploy tends to make them undeploy and flee. Because Repulsors, like AT-ST Walkers, can move and shoot at the same time, you can sometimes neutralize artillery in this way.
  • Repulsor Tanks cannot go over cliffs or mountains, but they can go offshore onto water. On maps with a lot of water, like Bestine, you can regroup offshore until the shields regenerate, or scout for enemy fortifications from unexpected directions and call for bombing runs.

SPMA-T (Self-Propelled Medium Artillery)
  • Against the AI, these are very useful because AI units typically do not change their behavior when barraged: Static units will just continue to stand there. You can further take advantage of this if you can see the entire land map (which is revealed to you when you destroy all enemy structures and any units that exited the structure).
  • Because of the minimum range, you will probably want to have these hang back very far for safety. Enemy artillery can be somewhat neutralized by charging them because they un-deploy and flee until they are out of minimum range.
  • Later on, when you get AT-ATs, you can use the free Stormtroopers to scout targets for you and engage them so they stay put to be bombarded. More likely, however, you will be using the AT-AT to soak enemy artillery fire.
  • Because of how awkwardly they move and turn, SPMA-Ts are best used deployed. Move them to cover forward units and deploy them, then leave them alone to automatically fire. If you use right-click to target for them, they might undeploy just to move a few steps ahead to be in range (or worse, start turning in order to move those few steps). Once Deployed, they can fire in any direction without having to turn.
  • There is typically a half-second or more delay between firing and the shots landing. Typically this means a forward-moving squad of infantry will probably only be half-hit by a barrage from a single SPMA-T.

AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport)

During the Imperial Campaign, you get to play with one of these in Mission 7 (A New Weapon of War) and you can quickly discover the many weaknesses and drawbacks:
  • There seems to be some sort of bug or delay when you choose a target for it. You can try to pause the game and right-click at the target you want repeatedly in order to get the AT-AT to fire at the correct one.
  • They turn very, very, slowly. Try not to have to double back for anything and be careful of charging infantry since you are committing yourself to a new position for quite some time. They also have an irritating tendency to start turning even when there isn't any need to.
  • They need a lot of room even to move forward. Other units often give way to them, but they are just as likely to sit still until those units move out of the way.
  • When a target is inside minimum range, it will not automatically adjust its position. Therefore, if infantry or a vehicle gets into that range, the AT-AT is helpless. Deploy stormtroopers ahead of the AT-AT to engage the enemy instead of simply using the Defend command. Have SPMA-Ts behind the AT-AT to help clear units clustered too close to the AT-AT.
  • When deploying Stormtroopers, the AT-AT cannot move or fire. Afterwards, watch for it to start turning on its own.
  • An AT-AT has an expanded visual radius (which can be further expanded by having a Field Commander). This is far enough to see turrets before they fire, and an AT-AT can safely take them out from a distance.

Around the time you get the AT-AT, you will probably be contending with a lot of Rebellion MPTL-2a Mobile Proton Torpedo Launchers. Take point with the AT-AT's free Stormtroopers and the AT-AT itself. Draw fire and return fire. Don't try to reposition your SPMA-Ts to counterfire as it will probably be too late and your AT-AT will take too much damage. Instead, clear them quickly with the AT-AT (it will probably take three volleys) and let the SPMA-Ts clear any other units that move too close to the AT-AT. If you group your SPMA-Ts in threes or more, they can kill the sturdy T4-B Heavy Tanks more efficiently than the AT-AT.

AT-AA Walker (All Terrain Anti-Aircraft)

In the late game, the Rebellion will almost always build both Airspeeders (great for scouting too) and Mobile Proton Torpedo Launchers, both of which can be AT-AT killers. You need the AT-AA Walker to protect your AT-ATs as they can't always be near a Building Pad with an Anti-Aircraft Turret.

The flak cannons on the AT-AA are highly inaccurate and quite weak, but have various advantages: They fire quite frequently, they have a wide burst area effect (so they can hit whole squads of infantry), infantry seem to run from it, they out-range turrets, and very slightly out-range Turbolasers. Against buildings and turrets, their accuracy goes up a lot. In the absence of anything else, you could use a group of AT-AAs to provide close-range cover fire for AT-ATs they are following anyway.

Their Missile Jamming field is 100% effective in deflecting rockets away, making them go around its radius. However, the effective radius is tight and quite hard to use. I find that trying to position them to cover an AT-AT is more liable to cause me to lose the unit to other types of fire or to artillery while trying to move the AT-AA out of the way during the field's cool-down period. Using it also causes the AT-AA to stop moving, and you cannot prematurely turn it off. It is probably best used to protect itself while escorting an AT-AT taking point against artillery.

Field Commander
On the ground, Field Commanders are like infantry and can capture Reinforcement Points, Building Pads, and abandoned buildings. They just need to be present on the ground in order to impart bonuses (wider visual range, 25% more health).
You will probably want to park them somewhere safe and toggle the Take Cover ability that all infantry have. However, their Elite Guard has a strong attack that can drop enemy infantry individuals as quickly as Rebel Infiltrators.

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