MISSIONFORCE: CYBERSTORM FAQ AND GUIDE v1.1 By TheLastBrunnenG (aka LETHE, I ran the now-dead Mecha Ware giant robot gaming website) - INTRODUCTION - BIODERMS - WEAPONS - HERCS - EQUIPMENT - MISSIONS - CHEATING - FAQ HISTORY - FAQ TO-DO LIST - THANKS INRODUCTION The Earthsiege / Starsiege universe meets turn-based hex- map tactical combat in this excellent title. It gave Earthsiege fans a taste of BattleTech-style combat instead of the first-person sims Sierra had focused the brand on. Gamers almost universally preferred this to the sequel, Cyberstorm 2: Corporate Wars, which tried to introduce real-time combat rather unsuccessfully and lacked whatever plot focus the original had; it also eliminated the hex- based map in favor of a more "open" RTS-like map. Speaking of Cyberstorm's plot, on behalf of the Unitech Mining Corporation, it's your job to boot the Cybrids from a number of mineral-rich systems. There are monetary rewards for meeting objectives and killing Glitches (Cybrids, the soulless mechanical enemy, also known as 'Brids). You do have to take occasional detours for routine mining duty to build up the credits to buy new HERCs (HERCs are your robots / mechs / etc., there are no tanks) and better weapons. Of course, nothing's routine when the Cybrids are involved... The ultimate goal is weighty enough: assault a Cybrid homeworld. You do advance through the ranks and gain access to ever-better technologies, but your pilots aren't humans - they're Bioderms, pseudo-clones that die within a few years. You'll get access to more skilled (and longer-lived) 'Derms as you advance in rank. Graphics are excellent and the Zoom feature really shows off the terrain detail. Sound effects are adequate, and despite what some reviewers thought, there is music, both ambient background music (looped) and a handful of great redbook CD audio tracks - not as many as a MechWarrior 2 game, so they do get repetitive, but they're good. [Since the entire game can be installed to and played from the hard drive, my suspicion is these reviewers played pirated or "borrowed" copies.] Unit customization is excellent, very similar to Starsiege's limited weapon mounts and chassis specialization. Pilots can also be trained in various skills. The Instant Action mode works well. The Campaign isn't really a Campaign as such, since it's almost completely open-ended - the only scripted missions are the single "Elite Military" missions at the end of every System, but before fighting those you can choose from an unlimited number of unscripted missions of various types like Mine Ore, Defend an Installation, Reconnaissance, Secure the Area, and Quick Assault. The game was released in patched and unpatched versions; there are no major bugs to speak of, but the patch does make the gameplay more challenging and more convenient at the same time. BIODERMS HERCS are useless without pilots, but the pilots you have available are more like bipedal plasma-jelly AIs than anything human: you can train them, and they do gain experience in combat, but in an average game they will die of old age, not enemy fire. Useless Bioderms (there aren't many) can be "recycled" for credits, but their screams echo rather gruesomely. Occasionally when you rise in rank you are given a special Bioderm. It counts toward your total allotment, but they're almost always better than anything you currently have. Guard these special pilots well; they tend to live longer than the base models and that's always your major concern. It's almost not worth training any of the basic ones (Model 001 and Model 010) - just save your money and buy a better one when the current one "expires". Each of the special Bioderms tends to have an area of expertise energy weapons, piloting, etc., so make sure you allocate them properly. As special Bioderms you'll eventually get some real gems like Tola, Kaesar (cheat: rename any Bioderm "Kurosh" without the quotes, they turn into Kaesar!), Tarsus (put him in a Giant early on), and Ma Yuan, plus Maia the Missile Baby (Stick him/her in a Reaper with triple Hunter- Killer Plus missile packs) and Mentor, The Brain In A Jar (don't ask). Make sure to read all the briefings and news reports when you attain a new rank. They do a good job of filling in the plot and they give great insights into Bioderms' personalities. Yes, as a special Bioderm you'll also get Boto. Yes, Boto is a monkey. A genetically altered chimpanzee, actually. He has good piloting skills and learns quickly - train him 2-3 times in Piloting then stick him in a stripped-down Shadow or an equipped-for-evasion Sensei; he makes a fair scout or raider, if you can stop laughing long enough to use him. How to make a Boto Bomb: stick Boto in a Sensei or Shadow with a self-destruct device or a HOG Missile and charge a line of Nihilus or Turrets. What a hideous sound... Want to hear it again? Add the "Boto Bombs Anyone?" cheat code to your CSTORM.INI file (without quotes, and add it under the [SometimesHandyOptions] section), and every Derm can be bought, including Boto. Over and over and over WEAPONS There are two main factors you have to consider when equipping your HERCs with new weapons: balancing weapon energy requirements vs. reactor output, and balancing weapon effects vs. shields with weapon effects vs. armor. --Balance: Energy Use Each weapon uses X amount of energy per shot. Your HERC's reactor stores some energy and generates a little more each round to replace used energy. If you use your stored energy for firing, you won't have any left over for shield regeneration or movement. Meaning, keep in mind that "most expensive weapon" doesn't always mean "best suited for this chassis". For example, the Giant is meant to be a ballistic-weapon support platform, firing cannons and other physical / kinetic guns with very low energy usage. A Giant packing 2 SHPGs, 2 MPGs, and 2 90mm ACs (great guns but total energy hogs) will only be able to fire a full broadside for one round; the next few rounds will be spent recharging, since its reactor can't keep up. Add up the Energy Cost to Fire listed for each weapon you mount, and make sure to double/triple/etc. that number for weapons with multiple shots. If the total Energy Cost to Fire for all weapons (fired the max number of times per round) is greater than your Reactor Rating, you've got a problem, or at least a one-shot wonder. --Balance: Shields vs Armor The Earthsiege/Starsiege universe is almost unique in that its HERCs have not only armor but shields as well. Energy- based weapons (lasers, plasma, beams) wreck shields while kinetic weapons (bullets, shells, explosives) chew through armor. Sometimes the AI will react to incoming fire (in the patched version, this takes place during any Opportunity Fire) by rotating its shields to face the incoming shots. Luckily, every HERC in the game carries a balanced mix of energy and kinetic weapon hardpoints. The Reaper in particular has the loveable hardpoint #6, which can accept the best lasers or the best missiles in the game - I usually finish most of the game using a horde of Reapers mounting 3 HK+ missiles and 3 SP1200 Pulse lasers. The cardinal rule is the same as in any other Earthsiege Universe title: drop their shields first and only then fire armor-eating weapons, since even a tiny amount of shielding will protect the unit underneath from almost all physical damage. Note that later in the game you'll get more and more weapons that do both - plasma guns, neutron weapons, 90mm Autocannons, particle guns, and more. Most of these are bad ideas, since 2 specialized weapons will usually outperform 4 do-everything weapons. Example: Target A has 200 shields and 200 armor, so you'll need 400 total points of damage to kill it. Attacker One has two EMP Beamers (200+ shield damage each) and two HK Missiles (200+ armor damage each); Attacker Two has four Particle Beam Weapons (PBWs, 100 shield/100 armor damage each). Attacker Two uses 2 PBWs to drop Target A's shields and the other 2 to destroy its armor. That assumes all 4 PBWs hit - if any of them miss, then Target A lives to fire back. Attacker One uses 1 EMP Beamer to drop Target A's shields and 1 HK Missile to kill it. It could actually kill a pair of Target A if all its weapons hit, and if one misses, it always has a backup. These half-and-half weapons do come in handy if you need an extra armor-defeater or shield-dropper and don't have an appropriate weapon slot open, i.e., you have a Demon with 4 energy hardpoints but only 2 missile hardpoints - you may need to do more armor damage than 2 missiles can provide, and a Demon has no cannon slots, so you might consider packing a PBW, Neutron Beam, Heavy Plasma, or the like for some extra anti-armor punch. All this changes, of course, when Compression Blasters and Pulse Lasers appear - they perform all direct-fire roles exceptionally well, and can reliably kill unshielded opponents even without ballistic and missile support (though dedicated armor-defeaters come in handy against Cybrids with massive armor, like the Nihilus). There are also two special weapon types you might like to know about: --Penetrating Damage Penetrating damage skips the shield entirely and directly damages the HERC underneath. Most cannons and missiles do at least some penetrating damage (though not the half-and- half versions), and there are weapons that are purely Penetrating, like the ELF series and the Thermal Needler. The "pure" penetrators are great on their own. ELFs work best on fast movers - try an Ogre built for speed and mounting a rack of Chain ELFs and Auto ELFs. Needlers need large numbers of firing platforms, such as a squad of Juggernauts or Reapers, to be effective. ELFs can kill Cybrids that get too close to your lines, but needlers can take too long to kill a heavily-armored Cybrid at range. Other weapons like Autocannons (ACs), Devastators, HEAPs, and most missiles do at least some damage to the armor even if shields are intact. They do enough Penetrating damage that a few shots can usually kill an opponent in the orange or red even if their shields are intact. Some tiny opponents like a fully-shielded Verminus or an early- generation Specter can be killed outright by Penetrating damage. Don't get carried away with penetrating damage; take the Giant as an example. Since it carries no true energy weapons, the Giant is almost helpless against shielded opponents without some kind of backup. The half-and-half weapons it can mount like 100mm Chain ACs, Electroflechette cannons, and Particle Guns do minimal shield damage and are meant to help out, not fight on their own. It can support other units and kill the occasional Verminus, but don't think for a second that it can take on a Hades or Nihilus by itself while counting on a lucky penetrating shot. --Area Effect There are a number of area-effect weapons in Cyberstorm of two types, Mortars and Missiles. Energy Mortars are very useful little items, and the represent the only real reason to bring Giants into the later missions. A Giant mounting 4 Fusion or Plasma mortars can take down the shields of a group of enemies from a considerable distance, and with the Patch can use them with wonderful effectiveness during Opportunity Fire. The Fusion and Plasma mortars are by far the most useful of the bunch, since the other mortars suffer the same problem as the area-effect missiles: damage isn't guaranteed to be applied to a dropped shield. ELF Mortars are an exception and are quite nice when combined with Thermal Needlers, but the units that can mount them would do better to mount Needlers instead. As mentioned before, area-effect missiles like the Saturation and Katyusha are theoretically nice but they rely on having a large number of enemies grouped closely together, each with multiple shields down. This happens so rarely that you're always much better off taking standard missiles like HKs, SGs, etc. HERCS Balance your force on each and every mission. The same force should suffice for every mission type (mining, defense, elite military, etc.) with only minor modifications. Remember that you are allowed a limited number of HERCs at any one time, so think carefully how you want to play. I tend to keep a single dedicated scout of the best type available (Shadow or Sensei), fully upgraded and with an appropriate pilot. Once I'm allowed 15-20 units I may take two scouts. With EMP Beamers and good missiles, they can certainly contribute to a firefight while scouting. I also keep one or two dedicated ballistic-support Giants around for the first half of the game. With HPG guns mounted, they can be effective longer in the game but their smaller reactors can't keep up with increasing energy requirements of non-ballistic weapons. By the time they can mount 120mm and 90mm ACs and Dragon guns, they can't keep up with the front-line Reapers and Demons in terms of speed or shielding. I know, I know, the argument goes "the Giant is a support unit, it should always be behind the front lines anyway". Unfortunately the Cybrids know tactics as well and they're happy to target weakly-shielded support units all day long. I might keep one around if Tarsus is still alive. Remoras and Ogres are decent units before the first Elite Military mission, but they have limited upgrade options and are quickly outclassed by Demons and later, Reapers. The Ogre can be outfitted for ridiculous speed, and with a load of Chain ELF units it's a great melee fighter, but its shields are so weak that it can't stand even a round of fire later in the game. It's too expensive to be disposable. Demons will form the core of your forces for much of the middle game. They're an all-around balanced unit with no glaring flaws. With only two missile slots you may want to vary their loadouts some with 4 energy and 2 missile, some dropping a laser for an EMP Beamer, some dropping a laser for a Particle Beam or Neutron Beam for versatility. Otherwise you may end up with enemy units unshielded but otherwise relatively undamaged. Demons remain useful later in the game, as long as they let Reapers or Juggernauts lead the charge. Reapers will fill out your forces for the entire late game, unless you save up to buy 20-30 Juggernauts. Reapers are a blessed unit they have 3 dedicated energy slots, 2 dedicated missile slots, and one slot that can hold either. When HPGs are the mainstay energy weapon, Reapers generally mount 4/2 energy/missile. Once Pulse Lasers become available, half the Reapers can switch to 3/3 energy/missile. Occasionally I still mount a few with an EMP Beamer or Fusion Annihilator for fun. Juggernauts are in some ways inferior to Reapers, but they have three major bonuses. First, they can mount two ELFs on the shoulders. I never fire these, leaving them available to take out pesky Verminus units during Opportunity fire. Second, they're survivable. With the heaviest armor and shielding in the game, they can survive ludicrous amounts or punishment. They're not invincible, but with shield modulators and shield amps they're nearly so. Lastly, they're the only units that can carry super-weapons like the ATN Autocannon. Juggernauts are also slow, huge targets that draw fire like magnets. For the record, all of the "special" HERCs that are available (Shadow Ghost, Annihilator Juggernaut, etc.) suck. Once they're available you can build a better machine yourself by refitting a stock unit. EQUIPMENT Since there's no weight limit in Cyberstorm, have fun here. I recommend 4 basic items in all HERCs: 1. the best available nanorepair; 2. the best available jammer; 3. an overdrive unit; and 4. either an antigravity unit or a shield amplifier. At least one HERC needs an extractor if it's a mining mission, of course - usually a high-capacity one rather than a high-efficiency or low-energy one. See the CHEATS section below for some not-really-cheating options on not bothering with mining equipment. Note that planetary conditions may dictate what you can carry: on high-gravity (200%+) worlds, for instance, Antigravity and Overdrive are both requirements for Juggernauts and occasionally Reapers. I once took several stock Annihilators (off-the-shelf Juggernauts) to the Cybrid Homeworld just to fill up my ranks and was stunned to see them completely immobile, unable to move thanks to the high gravity. Nanorepair can keep your units active in the field long after they would otherwise have been rendered useless due to damage, and jammers reduce the enemy's chance to hit. Jammers can be stacked for additional protection, if you like. MISSIONS The missions in Cyberstorm are randomly generated so no real walkthroughs exist, just general strategies. Available missions in the HERC Command Center are split evenly between Mining and Military missions, though you'll have to defend yourself if you go prospecting and you can certainly mine any available ore while hunting Glitches. Keep in mind that you can continue on a map after the battle is done - kill all the Cybrids on any map and you can hang around to do some mining. In each system the final mission is a dreadfully hard one referred to as an Elite Military Mission, and completing it takes you to the next system. These tips, though, should make each basic type much simpler. --Training This is a simple exercise in using sensors, using cover, and coordinating shield-damaging weapons vs. armor-damaging weapons. Any HERC should do, though first-timers may want to take a Remora instead of a Shadow just in case. Somewhere on the battlefield is a single Mark 1 Cybrid Light Turret. Sweep the area looking for it; when you find it, duck for high cover or at least crouch and focus your shields. Then rush in, fire energy weapons first, and finish it off with cannons or missiles. Note that if you use a cheat code to randomize the available missions, you could end up with Training being an option even late in the game, which makes for some quick and easy money. If you know what you're doing, though, don't take this one; your Bioderms only last a few years, and the month this takes won't net any real useful money. --Mine Ore Mining is an unfortunately necessary chore, so be prepared to do plenty of it. If you're in a hurry, bring at least enough Extractor capacity to meet mission objectives and let Unitech automine the rest (they'll keep a hefty percentage). Late in the game, if you don't want to bother with constant mining missions, you may consider adding the $100000 cheat code or the Mine All Ore code - with the latter, at least you have to fight your way through. Since mining missions don't help advance your rank and the time they take can leave Bioderms dead of old age, try to take mining missions that provide the most money in the least time: 1 month / 15000 credits is a better deal than 2 months / 20000 credits. If you kill all the Cybrids on a mining map, Unitech will offer to automine the ore for you. This is the only way to complete a mining mission without packing any Extractors, and actually is an option if you're the non-cheating type later on. --Defend an Installation You'll be given 1-3 installations (well shielded) to guard against waves of incoming Cybrids. You can either eliminate all the attackers or defend the buildings for a set number of turns, usually 10-20. 'Brids will approach along a front of roughly 60-90 degrees, so on Turn 1 just sit still, Crouch if you want, and wait. When the attackers start approaching you can mass your forces in that direction, and you can even go scouting for them to take them out before they get in firing range of the facilities. Leave 1 or 2 units on the opposite corners of the structures in case the Glitches try an end run. Defend missions are much, much easier earlier in the game, since weapon ranges are shorter. Later on, when long-range Heavy Compression Blasters and much-improved sensors are the rule, your facilities are in almost immediate danger, and you may not be able to kill the Brids in time. --Reconnaissance Here you must simply approach within a set distance (1-3 hexes) of a Cybrid installation and escape. You can of course take a massive force and wipe out everything but your target then just waltz up to it, but you can get some easy promotions early on with a Shadow equipped for speed and survival - dash up to the target then haul HERC in the other direction before the defenders can organize. The greatest threat here is usually the inconveniently placed turrets, so make sure your fast mover loads enough shields to survive 1-2 rounds of fire. If you try this mission later in the campaigns, treat it like a base assault and kill everything except the non-turret structures. --Secure the Area This is a simple seek-and-destroy mission. Sweep the area, wiping out Cybrids as you go. They tend to cluster, so don't advance beyond your support line and don't spread your forces out too thinly - keep your scouts scouting. These missions almost always end up in an exchange of firing lines, a brutal melee. --Quick Assault Oh, these are fun! In an unpatched game, the Quick Assault is a slaughter - you're dropped with no escape in the middle of a horde of Cybrids, with every unit facing a different direction. By "slaughter" I mean "you'll slaughter the Brids", since only the patched version has true Opportunity Fire. Typically every unit will be within 1-2 hexes of every other. Try to fire on units that are facing the attacker so that all the fire can be concentrated on a single shield - otherwise the defender may turn to face you after a few shots, presenting an untouched shield arc. Make sure to kill the Cybrids that are in your midst before targeting those away from the main formation. In the patched version, this mission is much different - attacked Cybrids will quickly fire back on any attacker, and even worse, any moving unit will be pounded from all sides by Opportunity Fire. Just sit where you are and kill what you can without moving. --Destroy a Cybrid Base Consider this practice for the Elite missions, and the same advice applies: Scouts are an absolute necessity here, since the enemy will almost always fire everything at max range; if you can't see them, be prepared to sustain heavy losses while charging into the dark. Always lead with your heaviest units, keep the scouts close, crouch when you stop, focus your shields whenever possible, and combine fire to take down as many enemies as possible as quickly as possible. Stay in a tight formation and don't spread into more than 2 groups. Be aware that Cybrid buildings affect Cybrid forces on the map! Command Centers increase Cybrid hit probabilities, Manufacturing centers can build additional Verminus units each round, etc. Do yourself a favor, destroy them all, and fast. --Elite Military These missions are semi-scripted; the starting positions are fixed and the enemy forces are predetermined, though their responses aren't and the viewing angle can change between replays (just rotate the viewing field). The 1.1 Patch makes the first Elite Military Mission a little easier but makes the others harder. Scouts are again an absolute necessity here, since the enemy will almost always fire everything at max range; if you can't see them, be prepared to sustain heavy losses while charging into the dark. Always lead with your heaviest units (Demons or Reapers early on, Juggernauts later), keep the scouts close, crouch when you stop, focus your shields whenever possible, and combine fire to take down as many enemies as possible as quickly as possible. Essentially, you're using all the skills you've perfected in all the other missions. CHEATING There are no built-in cheat codes, but the Patch actually supplies several very useful options - after applying it, check your new /DOC/ folder for CHEAT.TXT. Open up the file CSTORM.INI (in your base Cyberstorm directory) with Notepad, then cut-and-paste your choice of phrases from CHEAT.TXT into CSTORM.INI at the bottom underneath [SometimesHandyOptions]. Now restart the game and you'll have several new menu options in combat and/or at the HERC Base. The game can be made tons and tons more convenient by adding in all the non-cheat options. I personally get tired of fighting mining mission after mining mission late in the game, when my force is so overwhelming that the pathetic Cybrid presence at the mining sites just can't reasonably oppose me even on high difficulty. Plus, there's the bother of refitting 15 or 20 HERCs with extractors, then undoing it all over again when I need a combat mission. Once I reach that point, I add in the "I Need More Wheat" code just to save tedium, frustration, and time by getting free the 100000 credits a mining mission with tons of Brids would provide. That, or add the Mine All Ore cheat code ("Mine Your Own Business") and fight the mission like normal; that way you still have to kill Brids but don't have to refit 20 HERCs with 3-4 extractors each and then back again every time. Also, the "I Don't Like Those" code is nice when you've fought 6 Secure the Area missions in a row and all the HERC Command Center lists is 4 more - you legitimately want to fight a mission, just not the same one over and over, and this code randomizes the available missions for you. FAQ HISTORY V1.2 - 27 April 2005 Removed Sierra's technical FAQ. V1.1 - 22 March 2005 Minor editing after I rescued this from my original website's Fortunecity graveyard. I don't update much, do I? Also, I just discovered that Cyberstorm does not work under Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Bummer! V1.0 - 27 February 2002 - The first version. This is the second FAQ I've written entirely on my own (though I rewrote a few for the early BattleTech and MechWarrior games), and it's the first in a series I plan for Mecha / Giant Robot games that never got their own guides and FAQs - the first was for Starsiege. FAQ TO-DO LIST - Find out how high rank-wise you can rise in each system without fighting the Elite Military mission. THANKS -Paul "Rot, you spoo-slurping fanhead!" Petersen for loving giant robots almost as much as I do.