Arknights’ Deep Strategies Took Me A Year To Fully Understand
When I first started writing about Arcknights, Last year I completed three-quarters of the main storyline. For all intents and purposes, I considered myself a bit of an expert on this gacha tower defense game, thinking of it as real-time chess with anime catgirls. Many months later, I realize that I was very, very wrong. This is not chess. Despite the emphasis on tactical strategy, the real Arcknights are designed for incredibly fast play.
One of the reasons it took some time to figure this out is because mastery in Arcknights is inherently limited in time, no matter how experienced you already are in existing strategy games. This is because the rarest gacha characters have a pretty low drop rate, and even if I’m lucky enough to get a rare one, it can take weeks of mining to fully unlock their skills. And you’ll want to because each character’s unique unlockable skills give them completely different roles as part of a team. Until I figured out what their most unique niche was, I played the game of careful planning. But the real pleasure came from quick improvisation.
I started playing less rare characters for one simple reason: Rare characters are worth investing more in. Because the starting characters had fewer (and simpler) skills, they also prevented me from adapting the popular strategies I saw on youtube.
But these three- and four-star characters (whom I affectionately call interns) are decent. In fact, a three-star Kroos can deal more damage than four-star characters of her class. But in Arcknights damage per second all. Can a character hit multiple enemies at the same time? Can they hold multiple tracks? Do they have a cooldown to kill an elite enemy, retreat, and then do it again? Are they cheap to use, or do I have to wait for deploy points to be restored? These were not questions that I had to answer in the early stages.
Even though I got through four-story chapters in the first few months, I didn’t quite understand the meta, so I mostly stuck with my favorite interns. I planned the maps carefully, but I really only had one strategy: block all exit points with bulky defenders, protect them with healers, and surround them with snipers. It seemed like an absolutely foolproof plan! That is until more difficult bosses arrive. I tried my best to stop them with slow and fast redeployable characters. My snipers were working overtime to keep up with how quickly the enemy was breaking through my defenses. I got away with it for a very long time because Cuora is one of the stockiest defenders in the game. I used to rely on her to control my entire strategy.
Then one day I failed using the strategy guide. It was devastating. I didn’t have the exact specialist character that the streamer was using, and I paid dearly for it. My best girl Quora let me down. Or is she? I’ve always followed a heavily defensive strategy rather than a flexible approach that focused on taking out most of the enemies before they could get to her.
There is significant disagreement within the gacha communities over why they should invest in certain characters. Some invest in their favorite characters, while others owe it to what’s “current” in the gameplay meta. While I’ve been focusing on the usability discussion, I’ve assumed that each character is interchangeable within their arche type, except for differences in the strength of their rarity. This was facilitated by old gacha games like starter build Fire Emblem Heroes where the characters were no more complex than the stat sticks you would use to defeat your enemies.
I was also held back by the way the gacha community approached Arcknights. In almost every game in this genre, communities maintain tier lists of the best characters in their particular niche, which is important for planning which characters to spend premium currency on. I went to websites to find out which characters were worth the investment and which weren’t. As a result, I overlooked a lot of units with special roles.
Arcknights it’s a strategy game where great units can’t make up for a mediocre tactician. It would require a ton of resources, but I couldn’t really get to know what these characters’ niches are if I didn’t invest weeks of materials into each one. So, I stopped playing the main campaign for a few months and focused on grinding. While before new events often confused me. Finally, I could go blind. It wasn’t because I knew the enemies or the maps. It was because I knew enough of my character’s strengths and weaknesses to know exactly what to do with them. Even if an unexpected horde or an inconvenient infiltrator appears on the map, I neutralize the surprises with my confidently aggressive tactics. I was no longer a beleaguered general trying to hold a fort in a battle of attrition, but a Warmaster who created his own capabilities to break the onslaught of enemies.
When the freeze-inducing slugs crawl towards my base, I send Lapland to silence them before they get caught in my suffocation. Several heavily armored enemies? SilverAsh can break through their defenses even if there is a wall in the way. If my defense wasn’t doing enough damage, I used the Warfarin skill to turn it from a pure healer into a sacrificial attack buffer. The game is so well balanced that even “weaker” units have unique roles, such as being cheap enough to deploy early.
When I really know what I’m doing, I go into a flow state when I play cards at double speed. Finally, I understood why the most common criticism of his most powerful offensive character was: “Surtr makes the game too easy.” There is no tactic if your intruder simply removes enemies from the map. Lately, I’ve also been removing Surtr from my team or switching to her weaker second ability. Time and setbacks have made me a better strategist than a rookie who spent months trying to get her.