Arknights’ profound strategies took a year for me to fully understand

Two people control the cat and rabbit of Rhodes Island falling from the sky.

Image: Hypergryph

When I first started writing about Arknights Last year, I finished 3/4 of its main plot. For all intents and purposes, I consider myself an expert at this gacha tower defense game, it’s basically like real-time chess with anime catgirls. Months later, I realized that I was very wrong. It is not chess. Although the emphasis is on tactical strategy, real Arknights meant to be played extremely fast.

One reason this takes a while to realize is that proficiency in Arknights inherently time consuming, no matter how skilled you are with existing strategy games. That’s because the rarest gacha characters have a pretty low drop rate, and even if I’m lucky to land a rare one, it can take weeks of resource farming to reach their full potential. And you’ll want to, because each character’s unique unlockable skills give them a completely different role in the party composition. Until I figure out what their most unique niche is, I’m playing a game of careful planning. But the real fun comes from quick improvisation.

I started playing with lower rarity characters for one simple reason: Investing in rarer characters is more expensive. Since the characters are starting to have less (and simpler) skills, they also make it impossible for me to adapt to the popular strategies I’ve seen on Youtube.

But these three and four star characters (whom I affectionately call an intern) is a kind person. In fact, the three-star Kroos can deal more damage than the four-star characters in her class. But in Arknightsdamage per second no everything. Can a character hit multiple enemies at once? Can they organize multiple lanes? Do they have a cooldown to kill an elite enemy, retreat, and then do it again? Are they cheap to use, or will I have to wait for the deployment points to reproduce? These are not questions that I have to answer in the beginning.

Despite finishing four chapters in my first few months, I didn’t really understand the meta, so I mostly just stuck with my favorite trainees. I’ve been planning around the maps carefully, but I really only have one strategy: Block all exit points with bulky defenses, protect them with healers and cover. Surround them with snipers. It seems like a completely stupid plan! That is, until the harder bosses arrive. I try to prevent them with slow chars and fast re-implementation. My snipers worked overtime to keep up with the rate at which enemies penetrated my defenses. I ignored it for a very long time because Cuora is one of the best defenders in the game. I grew up relying on her to hold my entire strategy.

Then one day, I failed to use the strategy guide. It’s brutal. I don’t have the exact expert character the streamer is using and I paid dearly for that. My best girl, Cuora let me down. Or is it her? I’ve always pursued a heavily defensive strategy, rather than a nimble approach that focuses on shooting down most of the enemies before they can reach her.

There is a big split in the gacha community as to why they should invest in certain characters. Some invest in their favorite personalities, while others pay attention to what’s “current” in the gameplay meta. While keeping an eye on discussions around usability, I assume each character is interchangeable in their prototype, save for the power difference in their rarity . This is a mentality encouraged by older gacha games, such as the launch version of Fire icon herowhere the characters are no more complicated than the stat sticks that you will use to defeat your enemies.

Arknights map of a snowy multiplayer battlefield.

Screenshots: Hypergryph

I was also held back by the way the gacha community approached Arknights. In almost every game of this genre, the communities keep a level list of which characters are the best in their particular niche, which is important for planning a high spend. Granted to any character. I would go to the websites to research which characters are worth investing in and which are not. As a result, I overlooked a lot of units with expert roles.

Arknights is a strategy game where large units cannot make up for a mediocre tactician. It’s going to take a lot of resources, but I can’t really figure out what the nooks and crannies of these characters are unless I invest weeks in materials into each one. So I stopped playing the main campaign for a few months and focused on honing. While previously New events will often fascinate me, I was finally able to go in the blind. Not because I know the enemy or the map. That’s because I know my characters’ strengths and weaknesses well enough to know exactly what to do with them. Even if the map shows an unexpected mob or an inconvenient intruder, I will neutralize the surprises with my aggressive confidence tactics. I am no longer a suppressed general trying to hold down a fortress in a battle of attrition, but a warmer one who creates opportunities for themselves to disrupt an enemy attack.

As the slugs that caused the freeze crawled toward my base, I sent Lappland to gag them before they hit my choke point. More enemies coming with heavy armor? Silverash can penetrate their defenses, even if there is a wall in the way. If my guardian doesn’t deal enough damage, then I turn on Warfarin’s skill to transform her from a pure healer into a sacrificial attack buffer. The game is so balanced that even the “weaker” units have their own roles to play, such as being cheap enough to deploy early.

When I really know what I’m doing, I go into a flow state, where I play the map at twice the speed. Finally, I understood why the most popular critique of its most powerful attack character was “Surtr makes the game too easy.” No tactics are involved if your attacker is simply clearing the enemy from the map. I also recently removed Surtr from my team, or switched to her weaker second skill. Time and failure have made me a better strategist than a novice who has been trying to get her for months.

Who knows what kind of player I will be next year? Arknights’ profound strategies took a year for me to fully understand

Curtis Crabtree

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