Cogmind Heavy Combat Guide
A Combat Robot's Guide to Robot Combat
★ ★ ★ Become an unstoppable dreadnought ★ ★ ★
Contains minor spoilers. This guide is intended for Beta 11+. Last updated November 2022.
New to Cogmind? Check out the New Player Guide first.
This guide is for people that want to play Cogmind with a "heavy combat build". A combat-first approach is definitely the hard way to play Cogmind. Being an awesome tank is what new players gravitate towards but are ultimately broken by.
If you want to play a heavy combat build, it is because either you have grown bored of easy stealth wins, or because you have a deep seated desire to destroy robots. Either way, understand that you are choosing the difficult but glorious path to victory.
This guide will discuss:
- Combat tactics.
- How to defend yourself for longevity.
- Weapon selection and support utilities.
- Map progression strategies.
- How to handle high security and sterilization.
Top Tips for Combat Bots
Lots and lots of armor
Wear armor and you will survive. Hoard armor in inventory. Steal armor from sentries and Behemoths. Fab armor when you can. Covet regenerative armor when you see it. Running out of armor is a death sentence.
Layer Your Defenses
Use them all at once
Understand the 7 layers of defense and use them all. Equipping armor, shields, and resistance utilities at the same time has a synergistic effect and turns you into a dreadnought that can shrug off waves of enemies.
Find Branch Exits
Your #1 priority on new floors
Finding caves exits should be the first thing you do when entering a new Factory floor. Diving into caves clears your alert so you don't die of alert-spiral. Use
Index(Terminals) to find hacking targets, and
Access(Branch) to find the exits themselves.
Understand Volley Time
More weapons is not always better
You get a discount for firing more weapons in a volley. However, it takes more time overall. The first and second weapon are the most expensive. Everything after that is relatively cheap. There are times when you may choose to fire only one weapon in order to save time or avoid overkill. Overkilling a single enemy leaves you vulnerable to return fire from other enemies as they take their turns.
- 1 weapon: 200 TU
- 2 weapons: 300 TU
- 3 weapons: 325 TU
- 4 weapons: 350 TU
- 5 weapons: 375 TU
- 6+ weapons: 400 TU
The ideal heavy combat storage
Huge storage is the largest single-slot storage type that a heavy bot can reasonably carry. It will be unwieldy for the first few floors, but you grow into it once you reach Factory. Huge storage allows you to carry backups for all of your important systems plus extra room for things you may use later in the game. Make a special effort to find or hack the schematic for Huge storage before you leave Materials. You may never see it again afterwards.
Always Carry Launchers
Your crowd control solution
Always keep at least two launchers in inventory for when you encounter swarmers or larger groups of enemies. Launchers can quickly take out more enemies than direct-fire weapons can. Use both launchers at once to prevent enemies from getting a chance to return fire (because they are dead!).
It's Okay To Be Slow
"Speed is an irrelevant stat" - MTF
Speed only matters when you are trying to run away, a thing that a heavy combat build cannot do, so stop pretending like it matters. If you're moving on overweight treads, you must necessarily fight every encounter. Be prepared to fight, not to run. If you need to run, treads are not for you.
Hack for advantage
Obtaining robot analyses from terminals via direct hacks or from
Analysis(classname) gives you a direct bonus on to-hit and damage rolls against those specific bots. Concentrate on the ones you are most likely to encounter:
watcher. Second-tier bots you can try for include,
behemoth. You can also analyze non-combat bots to make it easier to one-shot them:
Reposition yourself to funnel enemies through tight corridors or doorways. Enemies will block each other, allowing you to fight them one at a time. This reduces the damage you take and can even make some enemies forget about you as they wander off. The most basic tip is to position yourself inside a doorway and one tile to either side.
Make terrain work for you
Funneling enemies through doorways and corridors is much better than standing out in the open like a fool and getting shot by everything at once. If you find yourself in such a bad situation, take the time to move to a better position. You will take some hits, but it will be less damage overall after you take control of the situation. Look for rooms with single doors you can duck into, or make your own door with a melee weapon.
Launcher Max Range
Stand and deliver
Launcher projectiles always explode when they hit the launcher's max range, regardless of whether a robot gets hit. Fire shots at max range right when enemies come into that range. It will not matter if you hit or miss, it will always explode and always cause damage. It also prevents shots that are dodged by small enemies from careening sideways and hurting yourself.
Serve juice before the party starts
If you are fighting with energy weapons or are trying to power shields in a protracted fight, drop a full battery on the ground at your location. You will draw power off the battery each turn. This prevents you from losing power too fast. Remember to pick it back up when you are done!
AKA "Floor Storage"
Hack a recycling unit with
Trojan(Mask) and optionally
Trojan(Reject). `Mask` blocks recyclers from picking up items in the area around the recycler, while `Reject` causes items dumped into the recycler to dump onto the floor instead. This creates a safe zone from grabby recyclers. When `Reject` is active, it makes recyclers work for you by bringing other items to the local area. Use the two together to create a giant loot pile that you can come back to later.
Make Your Shots Count
Accuracy is better than more weapons
Instead of piling on more weapons, make the weapons you are firing actually hit their targets. If you shoot three weapons with an average accuracy of 65% (statistically normal), this means you are wasting time and resources on every third shot. Improve your accuracy by: equipping targeting computers or a weapon mount, negating kinetic recoil by wearing treads, using siege mode on treads, pausing 2 turns before firing, having analysis on the enemy bot, maintaining low temperature, and using high-precision weapons with built-in accuracy bonuses.
Out-range the enemy
If you can out-range your opponents, they cannot fire back at you without taking time to reposition. Kinetic cannons and some kinetic guns have very long range compared to other standard issue weapons. If you are equipped with FarCom or good sensors and vision utilities, you can take several clean shots at enemies that can neither see you nor shoot at you. Pairs well with siege mode and/or targeting utilities.
Know When To Quit
Be gone before you fall apart
Identifying an exit should be your first priority, but afterwards, have a plan to leave fast if your build is falling apart. This means not straying too far from exits. Some players keep a set of flight units in inventory in case they need to cut losses and leave extremely fast.
Take it Easy in Research
Alert-spirals end runs
Unlike caves, Research branches do not give you any opportunity to clear alert. Making a scene in Research will carry over from map to map, making the problem continually worse. When entering Research, combat bots need to utilize full infowar to avoid combat for as long as possible. The R17 and Warlord events can create a valuable distraction that can keep your alert down while you try to find exits. Returning the SGEMP to Zhirov can make Access much easier in case you did stir up the hornets nest.
Be Your Own Drone
Carry wings for scouting missions
(Advanced experimental strategy) Carry flight units in your inventory so that you can transform into a high-speed drone for scouting and looting. If you build a recycler fort (see previous tip) you can drop literally your entire build inside a Masked zone, put on wings, and fly around the map. Hack machines, collect items, then return to put your combat gear back on.
Defense: The Main Priority
No build is invincible. Being a slow combat bot means you're going to get shot at a lot. Therefore, the most important aspect of combat survivability is defense. You must understand and use the 7 layers of defense (in order):
- Critical Hits
Tough builds will use most or all of these layers at once. Each layer defends the one below it. Using them in combination makes you a tough nut to crack.
The best way to reduce damage is simply to avoid combat when possible. Even as a combat-oriented bot, you will need to choose the fights you can win and avoid fights that are likely to cause continued trouble. This means:
- Use sensors to steer around hostiles.
Enumerate(patrols)shows the locations of regular patrols.
- Dig through walls in small rooms instead of wandering down high-traffic corridors.
- Do not fight near garrisons. Find them with
Index(Garrisons)and shut them down.
- Do not needlessly bother green bots.
- Do not bother Heavies and Behemoths (unless you need the loot).
- Find an exit with
Access(Main)and get off the floor quickly.
- Use a transmission jammer to avoid waking up the whole neighborhood.
- Purge alert at terminals with
"Best block: no be there." - Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid: Part II
If you do get into a fight, the best way to avoid damage is to avoid the damage. Things that help you avoid taking shots:
- Actively moving.
- Getting the enemy to move.
- Being at long range (6 tiles or more).
- Overheating or corrupting your enemy.
- Equipping phase shifters (any build) or reactional control systems (flight, hover, or legs only).
- Get the enemy to shoot at something other than you (drones and allies).
On a heavy combat build, it can be difficult to utilize many of these. However, you can try the following:
- Use late-game phase shifters. You can double them up too!
- Bait the enemy into approaching you instead of rushing out to engage the enemy. This gives you a targeting bonus while the enemy loses theirs.
- Fire at targets out of their own firing range. They will not be able to fire back. Kinetic cannons have the longest standard range of any weapon, with kinetic guns coming in second.
- Engage enemies at long range using targetting computers. This gives you an advantage in targetting while reducing theirs.
Certain utilities provide raw damage resistance for specific types of damage. These utilities reduce the incoming damage before any armor or shields are calculated. This is very good. These utilities includes thermal shields, reflective plating, reactive plating, damper plating, EM disruption fields, etc.
Statistically, the most common type of bot you will encounter is a Grunt, which exclusively uses thermal weapons. Therefore thermal resistance should play a key part in your defensive strategy, especially later in the game.
The second most common damage type is kinetic, which is used by Sentries, Swarmers, Heavies, and Hunters. Be on the lookout for good quality reactive plating to reduce the kinetic damage.
Combat builds can mostly ignore resistance utilities for the first half of the game and just use armor. After that the stakes go up, but you will finally have the slots to dedicate to resistance.
Shields and Hardlight Generators reduce all types of damage in exchange for energy. Damage is reduced before it hits your parts, so wearing a shield of any type will save you tons of integrity over time. Many players don't use shields because they don't see an immediate effect. It is not going to give you magic invincibility. However, the benefit of shields is when you are fighting hordes of hostiles. Shaving off a few points of damage from each and every incoming shot adds up over time.
Which shield should you use?
Shields and Force Fields: These exchange a lot of damage for a lot of energy. The exchange rate is pretty bad. These are useful when you arer getting into light skirmishes or when you are handling bots one at a time. The danger when using shields is that your energy can be depleted by too many hits which can leave you defenseless and unable to move, shoot, or even attach parts. Turn shields off before you get to this point. Shields are especially dangerous when using thermal weapons because you need energy to shoot with.
Hardlight Generators: These use constant energy to do modest damage reduction. They are most valuable in the early game, against low-level enemies, and when fighting against mobs of grunts. Getting hit too much won't drain your energy as with shields. Hardlight generators make a good high-security assault defense, or anytime you plan on getting bombed by multiple ARCs at once and need to be able to tank the hits.
Armor is the most important part of a combat build. Get it. Wear it. Love it.
What damage remains after getting reduced by resistance and shields will next hit your parts according to their coverage. Armor is a big chunk of metal with high coverage that soaks up hits so your good parts won't take damage. That is all it does. The more armor you wear, the less likely your other parts will take damage. Do you want your other parts to get damaged? No? Then wear armor.
On a per-slot basis, armor usually has the most integrity (hit points) of any of your parts. Therefore it is the best thing you can do to improve longevity.
How much armor should you wear? That depends on how long you want to live! In the heat of battle, literally half of your slots may be armor. Armor can be swapped out for sensory utilities when not in combat however.
Armor should be hoarded in the early game. Always keep a healthy stock of armor in inventory. Use a silly amount of armor and you can defeat an army of robots.
Damage that misses armor will hit either your parts or your core. To improve survivability of the build, you want to wear parts that have the most integrity that you can get. This includes:
- Treads, especially armored treads.
- Kinetic cannons
- Rnf. engines (found on Duelists and Behemoths)
You can also reduce the chance of parts getting hit by going with smaller, low-coverage parts, including:
- Lgt. Engines (although not recommended due to low power)
- Mni Cannons
7. Critical Hits
Critical hits generally are not enough to worry about, except when engaging certain enemies while wearing certain sensitive parts. Generally this means engaging Hunters or Heavies while wearing hackware. It can also come into play when fighting endgame bosses.
The only defense against critical hits is a graphene brace which blocks 100% of crits. Put this on if you're in a situation where losing a part to blast or destroy crits would ruin your day.
Assuming you have your defense situation covered, choice of weapons is a secondary issue. It mostly comes down to playstyle. Whichever you choose, you want to lean in hard and make the best of it. Approaches you might consider include:
- Gun stacks
- Critical hits
Thermal / EM Weapons
Thermal weapons are consistently good in moderation. Firing 10 thermal cannons at once will fry your build, of course. Having 2 or 3 thermal weapons delivers consistent output, overheats enemies, and never runs out of ammo.
The downsides to thermal weapons are many: they need a lot of cooling, require a lot of power, and have lower integrity than kinetic weapons.
Thermal guns make good mixins with other guns. This helps balance the strain of power and heat dissipation with the other weapons.
If you can manage the heat and power issues then go for thermal cannons, especially on a build with only 2-3 weapon slots. They deliver very high damage, have more integrity than guns, and have a chance to insta-kill enemies with meltdowns. The high heat also screws up enemy targeting. Pair your thermal cannons with particle chargers (increases raw damage) and/or quantum capacitors (halves firing time for a single weapon), especially in the late game. A rack of particle-charged Nova cannons makes you a robo-wrecking ball.
With a thermal build, always get the best cooling systems possible. Don't settle for regular heat sinks. Cooling systems get more done and take up fewer slots.
EM cannons are used for taking out targets that die faster to corruption than to raw damage: Hunters and Heavies. If you use EM weapons, use as many as possible and do not mix them with non-EM weapons. You are trying to corrupt the target, not destroy it with damage.
Kinetics are the stalwart backbone of your arsenal. They are cheap, plentiful, and easily replaced. Because of their reduced demand on power and heat, kinetics have a few advantages you can use:
- Stacking: Kinetics stack with high weapons slots. This means you can happily fire a half dozen kinetic guns and obliterate everything.
- Range: Kinetic guns have an average range of 18, cannons have 20-22. If you want to play the role of a sniper, kinetic cannons are for you.
- Continuous Delivery: Kinetics can keep firing in a protracted battle without having to relocate, cool down, or recharge power.
Kinetic cannons generally do the most raw damage for most of the game. They also pair well with treads (which reduces recoil) and are just lovely in siege mode (which negates recoil completely). If you don't care about part salvage and only want to make robots dead, kinetic cannons are your friend. Of all weapons, they also have the most part integrity and will last longer and you need less backups in inventory.
Kinetic users should keep a matter pod and a tractor beam at all times. Cannon users need to top up with a tractor beam after every battle (not during battle). Matter pods can be used in combat by simply dropping them on the ground. Cogmind will absorb matter from it automatically. Just remember to pick it back up!
"Gun stacking" means equipping nothing but guns into a high number of weapon slots. This build has a few advantages:
- Cheap. You don't need the best guns, you just need a lot of them.
- Gun Slinging. If your volley has nothing but guns (i.e. no cannons), then shots automatically retarget in mid-volley if the original target is destroyed. This mean you can potentially shoot 3 guns and destroy 3 bots in a single volley.
The downside is that you spend your evolutions on weapon slots instead of other more important things. It also produces a lot of inventory churn as cheap guns constantly get destroyed.
Certain weapons have unusually high critical hit chances. Specifically: "Hyp." weapons, force rifles, and bore cannons. These weapons are excellent at disabling and occasionally destroying bots outright. The downside is that they generally do less overall damage compared to a "regular" weapon.
In order to make critical hit weapons noticeably critical, you can do two things:
- Equip many of them at once and play the averages.
- Improve the odds with utilities: target analyzer (improves critical hit chance) and core analyzer (improves chance of hitting core directly)
Early game critical weapons tend to be lackluster. However, a late game build with a rack of Hyp. Railguns will shred a lot of bots.
Launchers are best used against groups of enemies fighting out in the open.
Always keep 2+ launchers in inventory for dealing with escalating combat situations. Feel free to fire both at once. When handling large groups, you want to do as much damage as possible as fast as possible. You can switch to conventional weapons afterwards to pick off the stragglers.
Launchers play a special role in high-security and sterilizing situations. If you are in a very bad situation, sometimes the best option is to hunker down and lob explosives at incoming assault squads. More on that later.
Launchers are messy. The best way to use them is in a long, wide hallway where a misfire or a missed shot won't hurt yourself. Launcher projectiles automatically explode when they hit "max range". This means if your missiles travel 18 spaces, you can count out 18 spaces to the corner that incoming ARCs will be coming around and fire on sighting them. All missiles will explode and always hit. Launchers cannot be dodged. If you're in a high-security situation, look for a long hallway to position yourself in, equip your launchers, and get ready!
For most of the early and mid game, explosive launchers outcompete EM-based launchers. EM launchers start to hold their own later on. However, any launcher is better than no launcher. Get yourself some launchers!
Map Progression Strategy
Always Take BranchesIf you have the choice of exits, choose a branch exit. There may be times when you do not have enough core to survive a trip through the caves, or must take any exit you come across when under fire. However, its almost always to your advantage to take a branch exit for several reasons:
Caves and Mines clear your alert level. Even if you left the main complex under high security, you will return in low security. This total alert purge is the main reason to take branch exits. Combat bots tend to generate a lot of alert, and this is the easiest way to get rid of it entirely. Note that Research branches (T, Q, and S7) give you a mild alert drop, but not a full purge. Be careful about making a big mess in Research because the alert you generate will stick with you for several floors.
Branches are where the goodies are. All of the game's more interesting characters and items are in branch areas. While they are not all compatible, they almost always offer something good.
Caves and Mines have valuable intel. Derelict logs and outpost terminals carry very useful intel that will make your return to the complex easier. This includes map data, exits, machine and terminal locations, guard positions, and loot stockpiles.
Branch Pros and Cons
Storage: Storage has a lot of decent, but not amazing, combat gear. You can easily skip storage (and Recycling) because it imparts no permanent advantages, just loot caches.
Exiles (FarCom): Get FarCom if you are planning for a regular Surface Exit win (a "w0") and do not need to enter Research branches. You get a free toy from the toybox and permanent free sensors. No downsides here! FarCom also pairs well with RIF.
Data Miner (Ally): Getting Data Miner onboard as an ally is a very big help for high-security situations. Data Miner will randomly recall assault squads which means you don't need to fight as much.
Data Conduit: Widely regarded as "Cogmind Hard Mode". This gives you valuable map intel (although no exits), schematics, and enemy robot analysis. Combat bots will immediately benefit from the combat advantages of having robot analysis. The tradeoff is that you will be dogged by Trackers and Combat Programmers for the rest of the game. The good news is that heavy combat bots are in the best position to destroy them and take their loot. They are devestating to flight players. Take Data Conduit if you want to visit the secret Lab or want to loot Trackers.
Zion (Imprint): Taking imprint somewhat hobbles your ability to get exit locations and intel from terminals. The tradeoff is that it makes the late game easier in Command. If you are not going to Command, you may find it easier to skip imprinting. However, Zion still has lots of free stuff to offer non-imprinters: R4-N1A's Claymores, allies, A8's friends, weapons, MegaWrench, schematics, and many different unique items only found here.
Zion Deep Caves (ZDC): Many regard golem as being an excellent mid-game combat build unto itself. It tends to lag conventional loadouts in the lategame. If you are struggling to get through factory, try snagging a golem unit from ZDC.
Extension: Extension is very good for combat builds, mostly because of the salvage loot you get from Cetus Guards: Centrium Treads, Centrium Armor, Variable Charge Guns, and Advanced KE Penetrators. Subsequent visits to Hub and destroying one or more hubs will gain you permanant hacking bonus for the rest of the game. This should appeal to any build, but especially hack-challenged combat bots. Lightning bots that respond to hub explosions can also be farmed for their amazing EMDS weapon. There's also a chance to meet Revision 17 in Cetus.
Revision 17 (Cetus): Meet R17 in Cetus. If you activate the Cetus machine (which manufactures enhanced grunts) and if R17 stays alive when you leave the map, it will spawn the R17++ event in Research -3. This event provides a huge distraction for the enemies, allowing you to loot the map and find exits while R17 blows up everything for you. If you have the opportunity, always go for the R17 event.
Warlord: Meeting Warlord is a huge combat advantage for several reasons: 1) Vortex Lab weapons, 2) Warlord's personal loot stash, 3) combat loot from the fight at the gates can get you heavy cannons, spiked treads, rnf. engines, adv phase shifters, helical railguns, heavy armor, etc., 4) Warlord will raid Research in -2 and provide you cover while you look for exits and collect even more loot, 5) Warlord can raid Command if you can open the seals. Always visit Warlord! (unless you have RIF)
Zhirov: Visiting Zhirov gives you a number of small advantages which will appeal to players going into the extended game: Full map intel in Access for completing the SGEMP side quest (which helps you make it to Command faster), a teleport (required for post-Command), a free alien upgrade, and a few pieces of high-end gear in his treasure stash.
RIF: Getting one or more RIF installations inside a Garrison allows you to hack enemy robots with a datajack and couplers. This usually locks players into an exclusive parasitic style of play where you are constantly turning enemies against themselves. RIF opens up the wonderful world of garrison-diving, but it shuts you out of Zion and Warlord. (Note: Beta 12 features new combat-oriented goodies in garrisons which may appeal more towards non-RIF builds).
Armory: Armory is straight-up dangerous if you don't know the secret. Only go here if you know the magic carpet ride shortcut, or you are extremely heavily armed and armored. Most players only visit Armory as a means to find the hidden Lab. However, it has some of the best standard-issue combat gear in the game. Combat players will love it (if they survive).
Lab: Lab is a redacted secret we won't discuss too much here, but it's value is somewhat divisive. It can be a good alternative to Research branches, and it can also be a total whiff.
Testing and Quarantine: These two research branches are where most of the best end-game and extended game gear is stored. Combat bots should always visit these locations. Be especially on the lookout for SHELL and regen armor, the Potential Cannon, Perforator, Sigix swords, and other super weapons.
S7: Also a redacted secret area we won't discuss much. If you plan to eat the Core Reset Matrix (CRM) and you think you have enough core to survive S7, it can provide an overwhelming combat advantage in several ways. It's a no-brainer if you can survive it. This area lends itself to a fast infowar build. Heavy combat players will have difficulty, but it can be done.
DSFs: DSFs have lots of goodies a combat bot would want and could easily take. The downside is that it immediately exits to the next higher map. This means you must skip that level's other branch options. This is usually not the right thing to do but should be considered if you have FarCom in Research (helps you dodge accidental suicide plunges into Testing and Quarentine), or if your build has been demolished and you need to start from scratch fast.
Defense: Focus on armor and high integrity parts (rnf. engines, cannons, treads). Use a hardlight generator if available. Core Shielding might at actually be useful when you have very little core to spare.
Offense: Imp. Light Cannons and Adv. Beam Cannons are easy to find, can one-shot grunts and sentries, and have decent integrity. Don't leave Materials without launchers. Skip EM launchers and grenades. Try to find Hvy Rocket Launchers or Lrn. Missile Launchers instead.
Defense: Start adding resistance armor, especially for kinetic and thermal. You should be using hardlight or shields fulltime at this point. Liberal use of siege mode helps reduce damage.
Offense: Antimatter Cannons are amazing and can be frequently found in standard haulers. Other off-the-shelf weapons to look for include Hvy Gauss Cannons, Phase Cannons, Hvy Plasma Cannons. Hvy Mass Drivers from Heavy bots can also carry your build. Neutron Cannons can be found from enhanced grunts and have the side effect of blowing up engines. You should be able to find good targetting computers and particle accelerators for thermal weapons at this point. Visit Warlord for lots of cool weapons. Armory and DSFs can also stock great weapons.
Defense: SHELL + Hvy Regen Armor + shield generator is an amazing combo. Try to get thermal barrier or thermal shielding to cut down exposure to grunts. Look for armored treads. These have significantly more integrity than regular treads, at the expense of being a bit slow.
Offense: Regular weapons to equip include Enh. Nova Cannon, Hvy. Hardcell Cannon, and Linear Accelerator. However, the big money is on super-weapons found in Quarantine and Testing branches: Potential Cannon, Perforator, Null Cannon, Omega Cannon, Hyp. Multirail etc. These are excellent options for the end game and extended game.
Alert, High Security, and Sterilization
Alert Levels & Assaults
Shooting everything has consequences. Destroying robots, walls, machines, and other critical infrastructure all raise the ambient "alert" level. When alert gets above 400, it triggers assaults. These are squads of bots carried inside of an Armored Robot Carrier (ARC). Depending on how high your alert level is, you may get one or multiple ARCs sent to your exact position. You cannot hide. Higher alert will also earn you a deadlier mix of robots and more frequent assault dispatches.
High Security ("High-Sec")
Continuing to destroy all of these dispatches will crank alert even higher until eventually you reach high security (after Alert Level 5). At this point, the complex shuts all the machines down, escorts non-combat bots to the nearest exit, posts groups of containment sentries at every exit, and sends out ARCs to your position 2 or 3 at a time. If you trigger high-sec, you basically have two choices: leave immediately, or fight to the death.
Eventually, the complex gives up fighting you and triggers sterilization. After destroying a certain number of hostile robots, the complex will evacuate all robots from the floor and literally burn it down with you inside. After an initial countdown, sterilization begins to raise ambient heat levels slowly over time. This causes items on the floor to melt and machines to randomly explode. Eventually the heat will overwhelm your cooling ability and kill you from unescapable heat damage.
Sterilization triggers after a certain number of combat bots are destroyed:
- Depth -10 to -8: 50 bots
- Depth -7 and up: ~120 bots (somewhat random)
Sterilization is independent from your alert level. It's entirely possible to trigger sterilization with low security. However, most heavy combat bots are probably going to see sterilization kick in after serious, entrenched, messy fighting.
Sterilization gives you a brief moment to smash and grab. After destroying the last waves of combat bots, you can strap on as much cooling as you can and run around the map grabbing anything you like. Lighter-mass parts melt quickly, however you can plan to find heavy stuff a good combat bots wants: treads, armor, cannons, heavy engines. After you swipe what you can, GET OUT!
Fighting Through High-Sec
During high-sec combat, you're going to be fighting a dozen robots at a time using launchers. Here's how to make it work.
Preparation: Put on your toughest gear with the most integrity. You won't have time to micro-manage beat up parts. Put backups in inventory and extras on the floor nearby. Drop any utilities that are not actively helping you kill robots: hackware, sensors, infowar, and other frou-frou junk. (Vision utilities might still be useful). Pick a good spot to fight from. Get into siege mode.
Offense: Launchers don't take up a lot of slots. You can fight an army with just two weapon slots of missile launchers if your positioning and defense are good. Fire a stack of launchers all at once. This gives you a discount on firing time and does as much damage as possible before enemies get a turn. You need an absolute minimum of two launchers. Plan to carry several more. If you run out of launchers, it's game over. Explosive launchers are generally better than EM launchers due to their longer range and easier resource consumption. They do not depend on engines or energy. However, if you have energy to spare, a stack of EM launchers will quickly corrupt a dozen bots at a time. Exploding engines are the icing on the cake.
Offensive Support: Missiles will burn up a lot of matter quickly, so you need take several matter pods and the best tractor beam you can get. Use matter pods during combat by dropping them on the floor. Use tractor beams between combats to refill. Treasure a long-range tractor beam. They are not too hard to find or hack for in the early game. You will also want a weapon cycler, or even a launcher-loader (somewhat rare). These utilities let you dish out mega-damage before the enemy has time to fire back. Carry batteries if you want to use EM launchers.
Defense: You need to wear your full defensive regalia: tons of armor, hardlight generator (or shields if you can power them), resistance armor, and phase shifter if you have room and power for it. Carry gobs of armor in inventory. You are going to get shot a lot. You want the heaviest armor you can find. Don't waste slots on low-integrity, low-coverage junk. If you run out of armor, you need to leave immediately; your build is about to fail.
Defensive Support: Carry backups of all vital equipment. Use siege mode on heavy treads. Siege mode reduces damage that you take to propulsion and directs more damage to your armor (which you have tons of, right?). You will want to be using Huge Storage or better in order to carry everything you need to last through the fighting. You may also want to carry a battery in case your hardlight or shields need some juice. Just drop the battery on the ground and you will automatically extract the energy.
If you get a breather in between squads, whip out your tractor beam and suck up all the matter you can. Grab any armor or launcher stashes you might have tucked behind you as backups. Don't stray too far from your "pitcher's mound". Getting caught out of position when reinforcements arrive is a costly mistake.
Most of your fighting will be with launchers. However, you may want an extra regular weapon to mop up stragglers. Continuing to fire missiles at single enemies is a waste.
Sterilization as a Sport
There are rare occasions when digging your treads in and sterilizing the entire floor is a good tactical decision. Most of the time, however, sterilizing is something that happens intentionally as a way to assert dominance over the enemy. It is the sport of combat bots.
There is a kind of recipe for sterilizating floors. You don't survive by being tough or lucky; you need a plan. When entering a new main map area:
Find a branch exit ASAP. Smart players will stock up on hackware while spelunking caves in order to blow it all at once on
Access(Branch)at the first terminal they find. Failing that, you can take another few swings by hacking
Trojan(Botnet)if you don't have any hacking power. Once you locate a branch exit, use infowar to take the path of least resistance towards the exit, usually around the edges of the map. Poke around for good loot on the way.
Scout the exit area. After you arrive at a branch exit, you can relax a bit and explore nearby. Take note of good loot piles, recycler machines, repair stations, fabricators, and anything else that might assist you. Now is the time to use these machines. They go offline after the party starts.
Designate a killing floor. You want to look for a good space near the exit to use explosive launchers. The ideal location is at the end of a long, wide hallway. This way you can hurl missiles at incoming ARCs without the risk of hitting yourself. Large, protected corners can also work. Do not choose a location that is at a junction or that has multiple paths of ingress. We want all bots to come to us from one direction. Do not use launchers in tight spaces. Long hallways allow missiles to explode at maximum range (14-16) whether they hit opponents or not. Once high-security starts, you won't have much opportunity to move, so you may want to lure and kill a few recyclers behind your killing floor so that you have a matter pile to draw from when combat starts.
Build a recycler fort. If you have a choice of exits, choose an exit near a recycling unit. This allows you to build a fort! Hack the recycler with
Trojan(Reject). Masking the machine will prevent recycler bots from picking up items anywhere in the designated area around the machine. The Reject hack will cause items deposited by recycler bots to get dumped on the floor instead of into the machine. Using these two together, you can do a neat trick: pick up and put down any nearby items you want to use as grab-and-go backups when you need to leave. Recyclers will come over, take the items you touched, and cart them over to your recycling unit safe-zone. This creates an ever-growing loot pile you can raid later. Recycler bots are now doing good work for you as your allies!
Start being a brat. Showtime! Start shooting green bots and exploding walls. This lures in engineers. Shooting engineers causes them to call in reinforcements. Killing reinforcements raises alert. Raising alert sends in assaults. Destroying assaults triggers high-sec. Killing everything triggers sterilization.
Smash and grab. After sterilization triggers, there may still be squads en route to your position, so stand your ground until it's safe to move. After that, attach as much cooling as you have and do a lap around the local area to pick up anything you need. You can take whatever you like unopposed. Dive into the exit before you burn up. Keep your guard up, though: machines wil be exploding all around you. A slow bot on treads should have enough time to walk the length of a Factory map and back again before it gets too hot.
Baby Cogmind's First Sterilization
Materials levels -9 and -8 can be sterilized with very little effort: just kill any 50 hostiles. It's a great place to practice your fighting craft, purposeful hacking, scouting, and base setup. Give it a try! (-10 is theoretically sterilizable but virtually impossible to get enough hostiles to shoot at).
If you are learning how to sterilize, set a goal of sterilizing -7/Factory. This is the map you can be the best prepared for in advance and is the first "real" challenge.
Continuous Sterilization: The Cogmind Triple-Crown
There are a handful of Cogmind ultra-geeks that attempt to sterilize every floor as a challenge. It is extremely difficult, but it can be done. Player MTF first started this sport with a record-breaking "sterilizer run" on Beta 10 (scoresheet). leiavoia followed with another proof-of-concept sterilizer run on Beta 12 (scoresheet, YouTube).
Strategy Notes for Continuous Sterilization
Sterilizing every map requires special route planning. Below are a few key concepts to keep in mind.
- Caves clear alert. After sterilizing any Factory map, you can exit to Caves and come out the other end alert-free, ready to sterilize the next map.
- FarCom is excellent. Generally regarded as a beginner's crutch, FarCom from Exiles has a special place in the sterilization game. Normally it "locks you out" of Research branches because having FarCom triggers maximum security if you enter these branches. If your intention is to sterilize anyway, maximum security doesn't matter and you may freely enter, destroy, and loot these levels like the maniac you are.
- Be Your Own Drone. Parking your combat gear at a masked Recycling Unit and exploring the rest of the map on flight allows you to exploit maps to their fullest potential. This means hacking for schematics, fabricating items, repairing used gear, and hauling good found items back to your base. After doing everything you can, find a good spot and sterilize. You can then go back to your recycler fort, refit, and head to the exit with a brand new build. The trick here is to prepare a new build for post-sterilization by stockpiling as much as possible before sterilization starts.
- Research is a special curse. Because Research has no Caves branch, there is no way to clear alert after you reach Research levels. Therefore, -3 is the last level where you can do any safe hacking and fabrication work before all out war happens. You will need to adopt an alternative plan:
- Take Armory and Lab. Lab clears alert. You can sterilize Armory (or not) and pass through the secret lab to have a full alert reset on -2/Research. Taking Armory on -3 means that you would be passing up Quarantine or Testing, however.
- Warlord / R17 Events. If either of these events spawn on -2 or -3, they prevent sterilization mechanisms from working, and also give you a way to get through the level with a good distraction covering you. Some would consider this "cheating", while other would call it fun. This is probably the way to go if you are attempting a continuous sterilization run for the first time.
- Full Rambo. You can sterilize -3, -2, and -1 (Access) in continuous high-security, optionally also sterilizing Q, T, S7, and Armory, if possible. Doing this requires that you have a near bulletproof build that can withstand 500-1000 high-end combat bots making a heavy effort to destroy you. Once you begin this gauntlet, you cannot stop. There is simply no way to reduce alert back to manageable levels.
MVP (Most Valuable Parts)
There are a few specific parts that can greatly help your quest of conflagration:
- Lrn. Missile Launcher. You can hack for this as early as -7. This is an excellent missile throughout Factory levels because it can pound bad guys from outside of their own firing range. Used in a long hallway with vision utilities, you are untouchable.
- Neutron Missiles. These missiles have zero falloff, wide range, blow up engines, and occasionally even shut down bots. They don't have the highest damage, but they hit every bot in the radius equally hard. They are immensely powerful. The schematic can be hacked on -5 on a Level 3 terminal, but you are more likely to get them on -4. They are extremely rare to find on the floor.
- Tri-Rail Accelerator. This is the ideal companion weapon to a launcher when sterilizing. The launcher does the heavy lifting while the cannon mops up the stragglers. Easy to hack and fab in the mid game. Also frequently found in regular haulers.
- Heavy Reactive Armor. This armor has a built-in 40% kinetic resistance besides being generally good armor. Most of the "real" damage you may receive in the late game comes from kinetic weapons equipped on Hunters, Strikers, and Executioners. Blocking 40% of that is a big deal.
- SHELL / Regenerative Armor. These can sometimes be found in Testing. Self-regenerating armor is a sterilizer's dream come true.
- Exp. Force Field. Exp FF can be obtained by core-stripping Fortress. It can also be hacked for on -3 if you have amazing hackware. You need good shielding to compliment your armor, so you might as well get the good stuff.
- Mobile Refinery. Occasionally found in Zion. This device creates matter by vacuuming debris off the floor. If you are shooting everything with missiles, there is going to be a lot of debris to make use of.
- Lrn. Tractor Beam. You won't get far without this. If this tool ever breaks, it's game over. Bring two, and try not to use them in combat.
- Matter Pods. They hold matter, a thing you will need very much of. Bring one or two. Bigger is better.
- Launcher Loader. This lets you fire a launcher once every turn (as opposed to every other turn, normally). This means you can smash bad guys so fast that they never get in range to do any damage.
- Matter Filter. Helps you consume less matter so that you can fire missiles with little regard to matter consumption. Use this if you can't find matter pods but can spare a slot in combat.
- Adv./Exp. Weapon Cycler. Helps you shoot faster. Use this instead of a Launcher Loader if slots are at a premium. The faster you shoot down incoming bots, the less damage you take and less need you have for armor.
- Cargo / Humpback Storage. These meme-items provide legit use cases when sterilizing. They allow you to carry silly levels of backup items as well as multiple different builds (flighthacker, combat tank) for different situations.