Atlantica Online: Surviving Your First Boss Fight
MMORPG.com Atlantica Online Correspondent Matt Plourde writes this guide to surviving a boss fight in the new turn-based MMORPG from NDoors.
Unlike mainstream MMORPGs, Atlantica Online's combat system does not boil down to hot key and aggro management. Instead, you must plan for success with your party formation, and then you execute your attack strategy on the grid-based battle board. While not all battles are as dynamic and interesting as PvP and Shadow Dungeon (difficult group zone) fights, combat is easy to learn and fun to watch.
Before we dive into the nuts & bolts of Atlantica's combat, I want to spend a moment on geography and zones. As I mentioned in my preview article - Atlantica Online takes place on earth. In addition to typical terrain & architecture you'd expect to find in China, Europe, Southeast Asia, etc - Atlantica offers some fantastic locations such as an underwater palace! When your party is transported to your battle instance, the terrain there reflects the landscape of the outside world. So, if you were underwater, then your fight will happen on the ocean's floor. In a ruin? Expect typical dungeon floors and walls. A few games (like Final Fantasy Tactics and Civilization 4) have built-in systems for interacting with different terrain types, but Atlantica does not go that far. Adding another layer of tactical depth could have been interesting with the varying landscapes, but like most games - terrain serves as a colorful backdrop and nothing more.
Beyond the physical terrain, you can expect to fight appropriate legendary creatures from each region (mummies in Egypt, eastern dragons in China, etc). Of course, not all of Atlantica's enemies are so recognizable. While traveling through China, you may come across otters with sharp blades tied to their backs. Yes - otters. While this was amusing for the amount of time the visual image took to register in my brain, these enemies are neither interesting nor fun. As a new player, you will fight terrifying ghost-angels, evil fairies, tainted unicorns, and charred skeletons right out of the gate - then, you get some deer and otters. What? Really?
As appropriate as the terrain and (most of) the creatures are to mythological Earth, some of the zones feel unfinished. Head to the island of Taiwan, for example, and you will find a city and no enemies. That's right, a whole screen load and no mobs. Hopefully, the emptiness of some of the world zones is a product of open beta and not present in the retail release.
Another weakness of the enemies layout is their actual formations - most of the time, you are fighting a whole enemy party of archers or melee creatures. Some more variety within each enemy party would provide more challenge and variety to the PvE encounters - give some of those skeletons some ranged weapons! Ogre Battle 64 (the sole reason I still own a Nintendo64) is almost the same type of game, yet OB64's enemy units always had a good mix of magic, melee, and ranged characters.
Well, whether you're fighting crazed otters or ancient mummies, let's get some basics down.
Just like the Ogre Battle games, you create your "formation" of characters on a 9x9 battle grid. You have a front line, a middle line, and a back line (much like soccer, but Atlantica fights never end in boring ties). Most enemies will have to beat-down your front line before they can attack the juicy center of your formation. So, a sound strategy is to keep that front line beefed up with tough mercenaries (and never your main character).
Characters gain action points at the start of their turn and different actions (magic, potions, scrolls, moving, etc) require different amounts of action points. Regardless of action point totals, you can only act with one character in the first round of combat and a maximum of 5 characters during any later round of combat. When you have more than 5 mercenaries, you can choose which 5 to act with each turn by "Guarding" with other characters (the game activates 5 random characters). Guarding and acting with the proper characters each round can sway a tough PvE or PvP fight in your favor.
Your choices of main character and mercenaries greatly influence how you fight your battles. Since the main character behaves in almost exactly the same as a mercenary of the same weapon type, there is no need to differentiate for the purposes of this article. All characters have a weapon type and one special ability to start. Using the special ability in combat is as easy as a right-click, but it requires mana and cannot be used every round. This is by no means a complete roster, but the following list covers all mercenaries available at the start of the game.
Swordsman: This mercenary wields a sword & shield and belongs on the front lines, as they have a very high defense. Though swords hit for a good amount of damage, they can only target one exposed enemy character (cannot target characters behind other characters). A swordsman's special ability is called "Flame Sword" and it deals high damage to 1 target (especially if that target has a low magic defense).
Spearman: The spearman's melee attack strikes an exposed enemy and 1 enemy directly behind the target. While not as tough as the swordsman, the spearman can hold his own on the front lines during the early levels. "Lightning Spear" strikes enemies in the same fashion as the spearman's basic attack, but it also drains action points from the targets.
Viking / Axe: Vikings are not available until level 20, but your main character may wield an axe. Axe characters attack 1 exposed enemy and both enemies on either side of the target in the same row. So, you could attack your enemy's entire front row! The first special ability available with axe characters is "Freezing Axe" which stuns an enemy character for a round or two (stunned characters cannot act).
Archer: With their deadly bows, archers deal high damage to any one target in the enemy formation - they can attack the back row right from the start if they wish! Archers also have the ability to "Silence", which limits an enemy character to basic attacks only (no magic) for a round or two.
Gunner: Equipped with a rifle, gunners attack all three characters in an enemy column (1 character in each row, if present). While they deal less damage than a spearman, a rifle attack does damage one additional enemy.
Artilleryman / Cannon: Like the Viking, you cannot obtain an artilleryman mercenary until later in the game - however, your main character may wield a cannon. Cannons deal damage in a "cross" pattern centered on your main target. So, against a full enemy formation, the cannon may strike up to 5 enemies - the entire middle row and the middle character in both the back and front rows. The Artilleryman's special ability deals some damage and reveals the current hit points of an entire enemy row for a few rounds.
Shaman / Staff: Luckily, if you do not choose staff as your main character weapon - you are allowed to recruit a shaman at level 10 (reaching level 10 is fast and easy). A staff can only attack exposed enemies, and it doesn't deal high damage. However, a staff user is defined by their unique magical abilities. A shaman can heal your party members. Other staff-users (such as the monk) have different abilities.
Once you have recruited your mercenaries, you can setup your default formation by accessing the "My Info" interface menu. Using the Inventory screen, you may equip, upgrade, and setup quickslots for all mercenaries. Be sure to use the Spirit Equipment Boxes to acquire equipment - especially weapons. Loot is gained primarily from these equipment boxes, so it may feel a tad unfamiliar at first. Rare drops and item customization are big parts of today's MMOGs, so Atlantica's loot system may fall short of your expectations.
After a few quests and battles, you will be asked to fight a few minor bosses. Keep in mind - if you defeat the boss, all of his buddies run away. The same goes for your party as well - if your main character dies, the fight is over (which is why you should not deploy your main character on the front line). The minor boss fights should provide some challenge for your young party, so try to practice moving your heavily wounded characters behind full-health characters and focus on one enemy at a time. An enemy with one hit point is just as dangerous as an enemy with full health - so pick off the wounded (This is a great lesson I learned in my formative years - thank you computer games!).
Eventually, you must dispatch a very nasty fairy - from Hell. Try to use scrolls of vortex and keep the boss silenced with your archer. The hell fairy's magic attack is downright brutal, so you want to avoid that as much as possible. After a scroll of vortex (or two), the chaff should be clear and you can focus your attacks on the boss. If all goes well, you should be able to leave the Forest of Spirits in one piece.
Unfortunately, you cannot form a party with other players to defeat the hell fairy or most of the other bosses in Atlantica. The encounter is somewhat static, and it is balanced for one party only. This is another disappointment is an otherwise excellent system - as grouping with your friends (or strangers) is a bag of fun. A simple scaling system (based on party size) for these boss encounters would be a welcome addition.
As you gain levels you will unlock more advanced tactics and options. I plan to cover some of these topics in the coming weeks as I discuss party composition, PvP, Shadow Dungeons, crafting, enchanting, and more. In the meantime - sharpen your swords, open your treasure boxes, and rain some death down upon those evil fairies... and otter.