The Carnage was persistent, I’ll give him that.
I was in the corner of the metropolitan half of Springfield, near beacon A. The enemy had spawned in the farm area, and quickly moved to capture both the center beacon and the one in the corner by the dam. The battle was not going our way.
Still, I rained Hydra missiles every chance I could on the distant foe, and with four of them on my Doc, that was a lot of missiles. The Doc’s Quick Draw cooldown synchs decently well with the reload time of the Hydra, but I’d attracted the up-close-and-personal attention of a Thunder Carnage, and he was letting me have it with both barrels.
I moved away, he followed. I moved back the other way, he gave chase, pelting me with the Thunders all the while. I pulled back, seeking a tactical withdrawal towards the beacon, but the Carnage rounded a corner. We were nose to nose.
He fired again. Then rotated his torso back and forth. A virtual shaking of the head. This Carnage, you see, wasn’t on the enemy team. He was a Blue. He was unhappy with me. And he was right.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? A hotly-contested stramash on the ground where battles are fought over inches, beacons tightly held by the skin-teeth of gritty pilots, and every hand is needed. Only to look back and see someone camping, plinking away as if that’s going to make any difference at all.
And there I was, doing exactly the thing I’d once derided.
Now in my defense, the Hydra Doc was new. I’d been running it with Tulumbas and having a blast, but after taking the pulse of the Forum, I decided to go all in and embrace the inner troll. But in that match, in that moment, I’d gotten so caught up in playing with my new toy that I’d completely forgotten the fundamentals.
Campers don’t take ground. And ground was what we needed. I looked at the Carnage for a moment, felt a flash of embarassment, then ejected into my Lancelot and trundled towards the melee. We lost, but it was a useful reminder.
It’s taken me some playing time to really understand what the Hydra Doc is for, and even as I write this I do so with an imperfect understanding. But compared to yesterday, I know how not to run it, and I have some thoughts on where it’s most successful.
First, though, I want to discuss the gameplay aspect a bit. It’s a fun setup, and has the potential to be really rewarding.
To begin with, for those of you who have never fired a Hydra (a population which, until yesterday. included me), they’re wonderfully flexible. Each contains six missiles, and there’s a slight delay in firing between each one. Because this is a weapon designed to annoy, I stagger the fires for maximum screen shake. That sounds harder than it actually is. To do that, you simply fire off the first missile manually, then hold down the red button. Voila! A steady stream of missiles rather than the Noah’s Ark two-by-two.
Once you’ve sent a dozen frustrations at the enemy, the Doc lets you Quick Draw to immediately send a dozen more. Judging by how frequently I’ve become a priority target, I have to say this is a very effective way to get someone’s attention.
One unfortunate player yesterday took a couple of volleys from me on Springfield, and immediately began advancing on me, heedless of danger. I hit him with a third full volley, and a teammate meched him out. Once he respawned, I pounded him some more, only to see the exact same thing happen- him come after me, only to fall just short of being able to lay a finger on me. If he finished that match without his phone lying in a thousand pieces on the floor in front of him, he is a paragon of self-control.
All too often, though, the Hydra Doc would rattle and annoy, but not have a lot of impact on the shape of the battle. That’s a problem it has to overcome if it’s going to be a contributing member of the team. There are three lessons I’ve learned about the build that I’ll share, for those looking to play a similar role.
The Hydra missiles don’t do tons of damage- that’s the tradeoff for having a 600m-range guided projectile. But while you’re not able to project a lot of force widely, you can be a very useful stiletto. A good Hydra Doc pilot should constantly be scanning the battlefield, looking for enemies that are on the verge of death. Time and again I had the honor of being the one to give them that final nudge into the afterlife.
A bot with a sliver of health can kill just as quickly as one with full health, so don’t let them get the chance.
You can almost give Natasha campers a pass for growing roots into the ground- they are, after all, piloting one of the more sluggish bots in the game. That’s not the Doc, which can get to be as fast as a Stalker.
A level 1 Stalker, mind you, but a Stalker nonetheless.
This speed lets you get around the battlefield fairly well. I actually found as I grew more experienced with the bot that I played it like a beacon capper. You can’t scrap for beacons or defend them, but if your opponent has left one exposed, don’t hesitate to go after it. At the very worst, they move to intercept, you back off the beacon, then harass and annoy with ordnance. You must do more than just act like an artillery statue, or your choice of bot and build is actually going to hurt your team’s chances of winning.
Like any kid with a new toy, I couldn’t wait to play with the Hydra Doc. I ran him out as my first pick for a number of games, until realizing that that was a mistake. As mentioned above, the Doc has very little force projection capability. He’s not a presence on the battlefield, he’s usually an invisible nuisance. That means your team is going to have one bot less as they try to establish positional control on the battlefield.
In addition, think about point #1 above. Hunting the wounded is a good way to make an impact, but when the game begins there are no wounded to hunt. Then consider point #2, about mobility. Beacons are typically contested most early in the game, then often ignored or taken for granted later as a team responds to battlefield conditions.
All this points to leaving the Hydra Doc on the bench until later in the game. You’ll often have more wounded opponents, and vulnerable beacons, later on in the match. I now use the Hydra Doc to secure advantage. If we’re up three beacons to two with a decent lead, then he makes an excellent relief pitcher. Even if I can’t find wounded enemies or vulnerable beacons, being able to harass and distract can keep the enemy’s focus on me rather than on recapturing the advantage.
This is what I’ve discerned thus far. I love the Hydra Doc, though I’m undecided right now whether I like it more than the Tulumbas Doc, which does offer direct force projection and midrange support. Alas, unless I lose another six pounds, I’m going to have to go with one or the other.
We’ll know soon enough.
Today’s shout out goes to the hilariously-named ActionMFjaxon, of The Wild Rovers clan [WSKY]. We spawned on the dam bridge in Springfield, and with an Aphid Destrier to my left to pick up the dam beacon, I turned right and headed for the city beacon.
That’s when I ran smack into this guy, with not one, but two Anciles on his Natasha. The build, the name, the clan tag, I couldn’t stop laughing- there was no way I wasn’t gonna follow this guy to the gates of hell.
Which is about as far as we got. He made a beeline for center beacon, and like the small dog in a Kibbles & Bits commercial I dutifully tagged along. We waded in, but so did the enemy. When I left the protective shell to pounce on an enemy we’d flushed out, I left myself open to a counterattack and soon fell. I watched the beacon for a little while, and when it went Red, I knew my friend had fallen.
Here’s to you, ActionMFjaxon!