The Masochist’s Guide to Alpha
A tongue-in-cheek overview of the current most difficult game mode.
Made by Marloe
Congratulations, you’ve toughed it out, beaten the zombie queen and are have anticipated being able to select “Alpha Company” after seeing it on the storyline selection screen. That’s wonderful. You join the NOTD channel and somehow, after several days of no response or being politely ignored, you manage to convince seven brave fools to join you. If you have absolutely no idea what’s in store for you, you are totally fucked. Okay, that’s perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. You’re probably fucked regardless of what you know.
First Things First: New Classes
You will notice, first off, that there are two shiny and new classes available in Alpha: The FO and the Flamethrower, which replace the Assault and the Demolitions, respectively. You may have a cursory understanding of their usefulness from randoming them (as it is more frequent these days that players reach 10,000 experience and 1700 rating before attempting alpha once, much less repeatedly) in EC and Apollo Security, which has likely given you a skewed impression of their effectiveness and play-style. Picking them with this dim understanding will likely cause your run to fail, but do it anyway; it’s not like you’d win if you picked a class you knew.
Oh, but do it quickly and and step away, because some 10-15 seconds in a few agrons and a bunch of ghouls will spawn and pick off anyone who’s hesitant about picking a class. This is to accentuate alpha’s “in media res” beginning, but has the additional effect of causing early wipes when new/slow players manage to get themselves killed.
Second Things Second: Click Clicklings
If you’ve played EC –nm, you’ve probably wiped to Tartarus spawning oversized banelings. They are called “clicklings” and feature quite prominently in Alpha’s opening holdout. They have enough health to ignore most traditional weapons, but die when clicked six times in a row. Within a minute or so of picking classes, these will be spawning on you along with the zombie waves, often from two or three different directions. If one of two of you is ignorant of this, it’s rather likely that they will get too close and find themselves unable to easily kite and click the clickling themselves. If the whole team cooperates AND stays within the mini marines/flamethrowers from the Apollo Sec team that come to aid you, however, you should be fine. Oh yeah, sometimes an invisible boss called Hephaestus will spawn and kill you if you have no means to detect him, so you should be prepared to deal with that.
Third Things Third: Moving Together
Shortly after holding the wave, you will receive a mission to meet up with medics and reinforcements stationed at the armory (in the top right). Moving together here is fairly important, as the odd Devourer or Cloaked Muta will pick of careless stragglers quite easily. I recommend moving out straight east across the bottom of the map, then north through the scrapyard (picking up armor and flamers/snipers) You will miss out on exciting items near the airlock, but you will be able to get them later (provided you survive). Make sure to pick up the Flamethrowers and sniper rifles, you NEED to be efficient with your ammo.
Fourth Things Fourth: The Flying Hugs
Upon reaching the armory, you will find MORE mini marines as well as several corpsmen. These will trigger a short holdout sequence, after which you will be tasked to locate “Charlie” a friendly infestor hidden somewhere on the map. It it also at this point that a bunch of random bullshit spines spawn, so in order to avoid them causing an unwanted distraction you will want to clear the map somewhat thoroughly. If you head west across the top of the map and turn south to explore the now unlocked airlock, you have a reasonable chance of finding the gear that you need (specifically the RA, a few heavy weapons, and some ammo mods) if this amount of stuff satisfies you, proceed to festor alley to pick off festors and locate Charlie (you know how I said he was hidden? He hides there. Every Time). Once located, you and your team need to book it the hell away, as Charlie flips out and screams, calling both agrons and the first boss, Demeter, to his location.
Demeter: The First Boss
Demeter is a really oversized infestor with some interesting abilities, first of which is the ability to spawn “flying hugs,” which literally seek you out and stun you if they contact you. These used to be a lot more troublesome to deal with when only the combat knife could take them off (combat knife damage scaling with rank) but now almost any damage (including focus fire) will keep you from harm. Second is Demeter’s ability to spawn agrons (each time you hear her “scream” she summons 2-3 agrons and 1 hugger), and third is her “Stare” which will stun all players within her line of sight. The easiest way to block the “Stare” is to gather together on high ground (either at the armory or at the fort) and the rest of the abilities are contained by good positioning and CC (stay together, nuke the crap out of approaches, stun/slow demeter to prevent her from getting vision. Once dead, you will need to make a stand against a wave of Devourers spawning all around you, and a wave of immortals combined with a few Slashers/infested marines ALSO spawning all around you. Hold this off, and you’re almost at the second half of the difficulty. Hit Seth on your way into the laboratory (you will need the ammo), sweep apollo as quickly as possible, and then move into the lab to fight Cronus.
Cronus: The Second Boss
Cronus is a scientist apparently infected with the “zombie virus” which in his specific case gives him a nasty case of elephantiasis and frikkin’ laser beams. He will chase you around the new, improved, larger, but inexplicably more cramped laboratory (rather than the occasional pillar you have three somewhat tighter lanes to move around in) And if you have no idea what his abilities are he will totally run you out of ammo. You see, Cronus spawns creep. Not just creep that slows you down, but creep that will totally negate all damage dealt to him as long as he’s on it. Whoever is “tanking” him (usually a flamer, though anyone can do it as flamer’s lack of a taunt means the aggro is all positioning) needs to be continuously kiting him off of this creep. He will also periodically spawn a hugger, which can lock a player down long enough for him to kill them. Finally, every so often Cronus will stop, “prepare for destruction” (you-have-no-chance-to-survive-make-your-time) and unleash his laser beam attack. This fires in five directions, rotates, and appears to do stacking damage (getting hit once by it is fine, but getting hit multiple times hurts like hell) so the team should dodge these. He’s more vulnerable while using this attack, so saving your nuke abilities for this moment and dropping them while he’s stationary may be wise.
Tanaka is a Dirty Motherfucker.
After killing Cronus, Tanaka will spew some bullshit about needing to check on things and holding the lab. This forces a brand new mission that requires you to split your team or your attention and hold the lab WHILE protecting his dumb ass. The best technique for this is probably a high-quality mobility recon + sub marksman combo to escape Tanaka and pull the zombies towards the rest of the team. Put whoever is wearing an RA out in front, and concentrate your CC and dps towards holding the lab. Be aware that if a hugger spawns in lab and your recon/sub mm are not cloaked, they will be too far away for you to save, as Tanaka randomly explores the far corners of the lab with little regard to surroundings. Once this sequence completes, the little bastard will flood the lab with gas, scattering the team and messing up their vision.
This is the first part of alpha that actually trips people up (my opinion – the stuff up to this part is actually rather easy once you know the “how” and can execute it) and used to be the only reason to avoid this story. Tanaka has run off to one of three locations, and you need to track him down. Apollo has been filled with zombies, however, and the team is randomly split up along with having their camera significantly messed with. Here you need some prior knowledge, some good team execution, and some good individual execution. Usually, I pause the game here, as where people spawn CAN affect your strategy. If you have a medic (and you should, and he should be nano) send him to Easy Company Start. If you mob recon or sub mm survived the Tanaka sequence, send one of them to the Helipad (it’s north of the eggs mission, where you find the shotgun in Easy Company) and have the rest of the team proceed back to Alpha Start. You should all exit through the west gate of apollo, and try to make sure everyone can make it out.
Then the hybrid scare mongrel boss Cerberus will spawn, and chase after you. The medic should stay at EC, as Cerberus seems to target medics first, and unless the medic is wearing an RA (and possibly even if he is) Cerberus will stun and kill them. With an RA on your flamethrower, moving around and eating medkits is the way to deal with Cerb. He switches between an invulnerable and vulnerable state, so pound on him when he’s vulnerable and kite him when not.
Once dead you have the option of letting Tanaka get away with his bullshit (A) or blowing his head off (B). If you kill him, you will be assigned the mission of destroying various Compliance Nexuses around the map. Do so as a group, as soon as you finish, a significant number of Stranglers will lock down players on their own. If you let him live, you need to deal with a quick hold outside scrapyard (you run in, trigger a download, run out and hold) No palpable advantage to either, as honestly at this point you’ll desperately need ammo and will have to scout the map for it. If you do pick A, the best choice is to start the download all together as a team, hold it (possibly letting your mobcon go to scout) and finish scouting before FINISHING the download. If B, you can kinda scout the whole map again as a group while you kill Nexuses. When that mission is chosen and finished, you will have the option to save the civilians by moving them to a dropship in the airlock.
The Civilian Airship mission
I have often ignored this mission as ammo supplies are tight, the game has been going on nearly two hours, and this mission can feel a little broken when you attempt it (some of the bug included some really, really, nasty shit). If you do start it, you will be put in control of some civilians, but as they spawn a shit ton of immortals will also pop out. Remember that stranglers are still spawning and move as a group while bursting down the immortals and running the civilians. I believe if you rescue them all you can get a Legion of Merit medal, though a passive spawn in Agrons in –nm would make this… difficult to get level 3. After you either accept this mission or wait it out, after a while IVAX will spawn.
Big rock candy dirtbag has a model that looks like the Odin from the campaign. He has one ability that knocks out your energy, minimap, and all mechanicals (EMP Shockwave) and three weapon modes, each a unique flavor of buttfuckery. The first are short range cannons, which do enough damage to two shot most players (135, iirc) not wearing a Kinetic armor. They also slow, guaranteeing that in this mode any player he catches up will die. They have six range, so the intention is either to have your flamer “tank” him by being closest during this mode, or slowly kite him with the flamer attempting to play reargaurd. A nano medic’s Nano Strength and Nano Sear are almost required to deal with this attack. The second is Long Range Missles, which do 35 damage 5 times for the modest total of 175 damage. Per Shot. These have a minimum range of 19, and a maximum range of 100 (if he can see you, he can hit you). Fear of the two of these promote a short range kite, where the whole team attempts to stay on screen of him with the flamer closest. However, Ivax’s third ability is “Remote Detonators” which has a 25% chance of placing a level 1 (6 radius, 3 second detonation time, 125 damage) satchel on each player. This seems to function regardless of how close or far away each player is (be assured that if you are between 6 and 19 range he will place satchels on you, and is INCREDIBLY good at picking off players that think they are in the “safe range.” Together this makes a trifecta that makes surviving him a crapshoot. Imagine this unlucky scenario. Ivax starts in short range cannons, causing the team to kite away from him in a compact line. Ivax immediately switches to Detonators and places a detonator underneath the four players in front. The team scatters, but the flamer tank (only one with KA) is unable to get away (he started running toward ivax, triggering a satchel underneath himself) and dies. The two squishier dps classes that had been in front just BARELY manage to run out, but they go beyond 19 range and both get oneshotted as Ivax switches to long-range missles. Now absent a tank for shortrange missles and major dps for anything else, the team is likely wiped. This can and will happen. Congratulations, you just blew two hours to get wiped by a demo skill. If, by a stroke of fate, you set up for Ivax, avoid the satchels, and burst him down cleanly, you have a shot at Alpha’s final boss, Perses]. Most try to stay in Apollo to fight him, as it buys you a decent amount of time to nuke/napalm the absolutely RIDICULOUS agron spawn that accompanies Perses
Perses, flies, stuns, and controls your movement with his “fire wave” an AOE attack that can only be avoided by standing on certain locations (marked with blue domes that shrink in size) Cynical teams can win alpha by finding the Shiva, designating Perses, and just running away until the stationary fire wave sets up a game ending Shiva hit. If you do fight him heads up. Hope that you have an FO/Op Commando alive and able to nuke apollo’s scrapyard entrance during the fight, something close to two dozen agrons are heading your way from the south. I suppose the Shiva’s radiation might also do the trick, but if you have it, most teams would use it on Perses to just win. Fight Perses is weird, because your whole team needs to be able to tank his damage. If you have high rating and no endurance, you are almost guaranteed to die (you can kit and bandage, but Perses will stay alive long enough to kill you at least once). Defeat him and congratulations. You beat Alpha (though probably in normal). You are likely a better player than 90% of the NOTD population (at least, of those that still play) and definitely a luckier one. It has been made this easy through the bitching of yours truly, where the bitching of one player in particular (I’m looking at you, Niteshade) has made it as hard as it’s ever been. I’m not going to comment on whether these changes are for better or for worse. You can play it yourself and decide.