Hello everyone and welcome back to another Cantata Alpha Perspectives! We’ll be picking up where the previous post left off, exploring the next few sections of the Alpha Demo Map, paying particular attention to unit control and the role of terrain. As mentioned before, we want this series to help guide alpha testers through some of the main questions and mentalities we think are important for shaping the game at this stage. When we last left off, the player had (hopefully) established a successful if nascent base and supply network, and was just beginning to proceed toward the safety of the distant Machine base. The path ahead is fraught with danger, however. Human gunners seem to have entrenched themselves along the path, and the terrain risks slowing the approach to their positions.
From this section of the crash site, our Drone hero faces a sluggish advance into hostile firing lines. Taking a less impeded path through the center seems to offer a faster approach.
All good things come with a price however, and the direct route exposes our ally to the fire of the Human gunner. While we are in position to attack one of the gunners with the brave, central Drone, one attack from a Drone will not be enough to destroy this threat. An attack is an attack however, and the player will need to fight their way out eventually! Since the player Drone cannot assist in the attack from this position, the best course of action may be to take cover in the nearby forest, where the Humans will be unable to fire on our intrepid hero.
Note here the displayed movement and vision costs of the terrain. As explained in Cantata 101: Terrain, tiles with higher vision cost are more difficult to peer into, while those with higher movement cost are more difficult to traverse. You can inspect the costs of each tile along an intended route simply by raising the tooltip over each tile. Our central Drone was a truly courageous soul, and has sacrificed itself for the greater good. We should not allow its actions to have been in vain; a second attack will be enough to obtain vengeance.
Attacking has meant exposing our hero from the relative safety of the forest however, and it now risks meeting the same fate as its comrade without reinforcements, fortunately, Machine Walkers are relatively simple to produce and have more than enough firepower to defeat a single Human gunner – if it can obtain a clean line of sight to the target. Additionally, while Drones may not be the most powerful units, they are relatively mobile, and in this instance can serve as perfect spotters for the Walkers.
One shot from a Walker is enough to defeat these weak gunners, but our destination still lies a great distance out, and who knows what dangers might lurk along the way. More reinforcements will certainly be required, along with caution on the approach. In the dark unknown, one misstep could leave you caught flatfooted in the Humans’ crosshairs. Creative use of terrain can offer solutions to this dilemma though, as Vashti helpfully suggests. Mistbulbs are one example of the interactable flora and fauna of Cantata which can shape player decision-making as much as any other factor.
When attacked, they release a large cloud of spores which can obscure vision, providing a potential screen for tactical maneuvering.
This obfuscation can of course be used both to advance toward enemy units which are either more heavily fortified or possess a longer range than your own, as well as to retreat from a disastrous engagement. Additionally, more psychologically-minded players might find Mistbulbs useful in unnerving their opponents, casting shadows in all the most disturbing places. While advancing, it may be tempting to strike at every Mistbulb you see, but such a strategy would come with the risk of blinding yourself to threats down the road. If you have the ability to do so, it may be prudent to scout first, and burst Mistbulbs second, gaining the benefits of scouting while still securing your own advance.
In this instance, scouting further ahead reveals another entrenched Gunner position, with a Mistbulb right in the middle. If we could burst it, we would be able to separate them from each other’s line of sight, but reaching it would be difficult. One potential solution to this problem would be to leapfrog Mistbulb bursts, detonating the ones closer to the player so as to secure a safe line of travel toward the critical one between the two Gunners.
With the approach obscured, it becomes far simpler for our Drone to access the critical Mistbulb and pop it.
As spores fill the air, the player would be able to complete the approach toward the Gunners in relative safety, advancing the Drone forward through the spores to provide the field of vision to the Walkers so they can make their shots. And thus, the area is secured.
As you can see, terrain and vision play a vital role in both the strategy and the world-building of Cantata. Ultimately, we want them to be components of gameplay that the player actively thinks about – and shapes. Through terrain objects like Mistbulbs, creative movement and certain actions, the player will be able to shape not just their field of vision, but their opponents’ and even the geography of the land itself. Thus, as you play through the Demo Map and other testing components, we want you to think about how terrain and vision feel. Do movement and vision costs feel appropriately conveyed? Does line of sight act as you would expect, and do the differences between terrains feel as though they offer meaningful choices? These are the sorts of questions we’re relying on testers to answer, but they’re not the only ones. We’ll offer a few more guiding insights in the next Cantata Alpha Perspectives as we finish the journey of our Heroic Drone!