Little Strata-Gems

It’s funny how one little thing, no matter how silly we think it is, can mess up something really big and important–like finishing a mission or surviving through a big battle. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been in a situation where, no matter what I do, I just can’t win the fight–until I think to tweak just a teeny part of my strategy.

I was replaying The Last Story the other night when I ran into one of those situations. I was fighting the necromancer, a pretty early boss, who was level 94. He also had another ally ogre-ish thing at level 92, and a whole bunch of lower-level spawns besides. I was level 83. Syrenne, the lowest level in my group, was 63. With no way to backtrack or farm experience at a summoning circle to raise our levels, I knew this was going to be a very painful battle.

But I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I tried it out. Several times. Probably ten times, before I got so frustrated that I desperately searched for other options. Though my usual strategy and gear set-up had brought me close to defeating the necromancer–25% health left–it just wasn’t working. So without much optimism, I changed around my weapons and then took a look at my mages’ spells.

With Yurick, I’d usually been using Prominence for firepower, and I’d been getting Mirania to use Recover to heal up the group when we were taking a beating. I’d barely even looked at Reverse or Forest until now, and decided to give them a shot. Reverse would turn all magic circles to our advantage, and Forest would let me inflict the enemy mages with Long Silence, preventing them from casting spells. I hadn’t used those spells much before, but I figured they couldn’t do any worse than my original strategy.

Oh, my goodness.

It went flawlessly. The necromancer and his goons were effectively blocked out of using their magic and what had once been an impossible 10min+ battle had been reduced to a mere 5 minute skirmish. The necromancer died and I was victorious–and a little bit stunned that two skill changes had had such a big effect.

Now that I think about it, though, there are actually a lot of instances where just a little tweak in my strategy has helped me out enormously. In Guild Wars, I remember having such difficulty with a certain mission (can’t remember what), to the point where I was completely rearranging my party. I tried bringing 4 elementalists, 4 healers, 4 necromancers–trying to find the tactic that worked best. Turns out, all I needed was to add a mesmer or two to my group, and then a difficult battle was made almost laughably easy.

In Guild Wars 2, I remember trying to hold Vigil Keep against hordes of undead and having a hell of a time of it. Again and again, they came sweeping in and smashed me to smithereens. It wasn’t until I realized I could use the nearby arrow carts to help me that I managed to decimate the undead army and come out of the mission victorious.

Even in Xenoblade Chronicles, where it’s especially difficult to affect your groupmates’ actions, I realized that strategy made a difference. I could cover Sharla and Reyn with a Monado shield and throw all my skills at that stupid Xord guy, gaining the ability to make a chain attack and do massive damage. Usually, I wouldn’t have bothered with shields or chains, but that battle made me think a little differently about the importance of a sound strategy.

The fact is, I don’t typically have a strategy. I like to rush in and flail around a little bit, dishing out as much damage as I possibly can to take down whatever nasty enemies we’re facing. Sadly, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes the enemies are so tough, they can handle all my willy-nilly damage and can throw it back harder and faster–usually in the form of magic. They end up killing me before I can kill them, and it just leads to a frustrating chain of attempts and failures as I hit my head against the wall.

But when I stop and think about how to overcome the enemies’ tactics, I actually come up with pretty good success. Sometimes better success than I anticipate. Turns out, you can’t win every battle with stubbornness and brute force. Every once in a while, you have to use your head.

I guess there are a lot of things in life that follow the same principle. Strategies are everywhere–sports games, business plans, repairs–and not every strategy works for every situation. We have to deviate from the norm and find a new way to get something done–often employing the skills of someone else in our team. It makes ten minute fights into five minute ones, prevents a lot of swearing, yelling, and crying, and altogether makes life go more smoothly. So while I’ll probably still use my usual bash-and-smash tactics going into new fights, I’ll be more open to strategic adjustments after a few failures.

When has strategy saved your butt, in-game or out?

May you always have a plan B when plan A just doesn’t turn out.

-Alex

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