Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 08, 2023
Some Phantom Brigade Tips

So I have been spending my time between playing Phantom Brigade and watching other people play the game on Twitch / YouTube. And it is interesting to see how different people mess up different aspects of the game, me included. That is in part because this is an indie game, and while first 2 or so hours you need to capture the first province act as a sort of tutorial, there are a lot of things that are easily missed, or not very well explained.

The main thing I didn't play very well was that I am not using shields as much as I should, and I don't time the use of the shield well. In the planning phase of each 5-second turn, you can click on the enemy mechs and tanks, and you will see exactly when they are shooting, and who is their target. Thus you can use that information to raise your shield exactly when, and only when, you actually need it. That works extremely well against bullets; missiles are a different issue, as they can take quite a while to arrive over long distances, and once they are in the air you can't track at what time their impact will be. I found that Dash works better against missiles than shield, but that also has to be timed well.

One weak point of Phantom Brigade is that the system that tells you how hard a fight is isn't doing a particularly good job. That starts in the tutorial, at the mission where the home guard joins you the first time. That mission is easier as it says, because it just compares the strength of the enemy forces to the strength of the only 2 mechs you can bring, without counting the 2 home guard mechs you also control. Obviously having control over 4 mechs makes it a lot easier, but you aren't told that very well. Note that there are a number of missions where you are limited to how many mechs you can bring, and there is no advance notification of that either, which is annoying. Nevertheless, having more mechs than you can field in combat isn't a bad idea, as it allows you to bring a fresh mech if you have several fights in short sequence without time to repair.

After combat, you get into a salvage phase. What many people overlook is that on the left side of each item on the list there is a little greyed out section if that item was destroyed in combat. Destroyed items cost more salvage points to recover. That might still be worth it, if the item is particularly valuable to you; but if you have limited salvage points and are just scrapping a bunch of items for supplies, taking all the non-destroyed items first means you get those supplies at half the cost of scrapping destroyed items. Note that if one of your mechs got destroyed, you need to pay salvage points to recover his parts, making the fight a lot less profitable.

Your mechs repair at a quite good rate between fights, using a commodity called Liquid Fix. What that means is that you need to plan your expeditions into enemy territory around that Liquid Fix, as the only way to get it back is to return to a friendly base and rest there for 10 hours. That gets your Liquid Fix up to 100. Supplies are the main currency of the game, with uncommon and rare components being secondary currencies. All upgrades to your tech tree are paid with these currencies, and you can build more mechs and mech parts with these currencies in the workshop. Don't forget that you can scrap old parts in your inventory to get more supplies and components.

Your workshop has a not very well explained level, which will be level of the mech parts you produce. Note that it is quite likely that your workshop can produce relatively high level parts. Once you unlocked the technology and gather the components, your workshop can also make uncommon (green) and rare (blue) parts, which means that sometimes the best mech part available to you might be from your workshop. Your workshop level goes up when you conquer locations and provinces, but there are some hidden numbers in that system.

Now I played the conquest of the second province in a very particular way, which has its advantages and disadvantages: I took it extremely slow. I constantly attacked, retreated to my base, resupplied, and then started that cycle over. That increases hostility, which increases the level of the enemies. I tried resting for a few days to lower hostility, but while that works, it is very, very slow. In the end I used scan jammers to lower the level of the enemy, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to finally capture the second province. On the positive side, this strategy made me a ton of supplies and components, so I upgrades my tech tree a lot, and built a lot of nice mech parts. The only problem is that you need to find recipes before you can make weapons, so I am a bit limited by the types of weapons I have the recipes for. Not sure yet if those recipes are random or scripted.

Assembling mechs has quite a lot of depth to it. There are light, medium, and heavy parts. The lighter the part, the less armor you have on it, but the better heat dissipation is. Also your torso contains a reactor, which has an overall power value, and the ratio between that power and your overall weight determines your speed. It is very possible to build a very heavy tank mech, which turns out to be somewhat useless because it is too slow to actually get into short range with the enemies. And you need to check the heat produced by your primary attack; it is possible to build mechs which overheat every time they just fire their main weapon once, which will damage yourself. It is also possible to build mechs that are so well cooled that they can fire their weapons continuously without overheating. Basic armor only has "integrity", which can only go down during a fight; advanced armor can have both "integrity" and "barrier", which is armor that regenerates. Personally I am not a big fan of barrier armor, as I usually don't want to hide my mech for a couple of rounds to regenerate barrier.

So what I have noticed from watching various streams is that the first couple of hours to play through the first province are pretty much identical for everybody, which is probably how it should be for a tutorial. But after that, different people play this game in quite different ways. Some are extremely good in combat, others are better at the management / building part of the game. And depending on the strategy that people choose, the game develops in quite different directions. I find that commendable.

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