Applying actual tactics to video games.
First, I want to clear something up. Tactics and strategy are not the same thing. They’re often interchanged, but there’s a fine difference between the two.
Strategy is the overall plan of action to fulfill a long term objective. Russia’s scorched-earth policy during Germany’s Operation Barbarosa, or The United States’ Operation Rolling Thunder during the Vietnam War are good examples of what strategy is. Tactics, on the other hand, are plans made to accomplish a short term goal, like capturing a location or defeating armored units.
There! Do not confuse the two anymore. I swear, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.
Where was I? Oh, right. We were going to talk about guerrilla warfare tactics in video games. You’ve likely heard of this term before, but there’s more to it than running around in old fatigues in the jungle. As for its role in gaming, it’s more common than you might think. Since there’s an interest in providing a higher level of challenge, players are often pitted against powerful enemies, and heavily outnumbered as well. You’d be surprised how well guerrilla warfare tactics translate into video games, and equally surprised to know that you’ve been using them for some time.
Hit-And-Run Tactics And Ambushes
Hit-and-run tactics are commonly used against foes in video games that feature stealth and bullet-sponges, but that isn’t the only way that they’re useful. Often, when faced with odds that are not in your favor, it’s best to attack from stealth, and retreat to a safe distance before your position has been revealed. This works not only in traditional combat, like during a tactical withdrawal, but also for mechanized artillery units or armored units practicing “shoot-and-scoot” tactics.
Shoot-and-scoot tactics are something that you’ll commonly find yourself practicing when taking part in boss fights. The larger, powerful enemies you chip away at to get to the epic loot force you to attack and move before retaliation comes your way. So the next time you’re trying to whittle down a guardian in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or beating your head against a boss in Bloodborne, just remember: shoot-and-scoot.
You attack, inflicting as much damage as possible without giving away your position, then retreat to a (preferably planned) fallback location. The idea being, once you attack, you assume that the enemy will have a general idea where the attack came from, so you head somewhere they won’t be looking. Shoot-and-scoot tactics work well in this situation, because you can continue this process in order to wreak havoc.
Hit-and-run tactics work very well in games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, as well as Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Even The Elder Scrolls and Hitman titles touch on this a bit.
This method differs from traditional ambushes. Ambushes are usually carried out in order to eliminate a target or targets quickly, with the element of surprise being the primary force multiplier.
Ah, force multiplier. It’s a term used to describe the level of effectiveness of a unit versus an enemy. Think of it this way: if an infantry unit is going up against an enemy infantry unit, they are more-or-less evenly matched. So in this case, we’ll attach a score of 1 to each unit. However, if you were to supply your unit with body armor, their relative effectiveness would increase, since body armor would increase your unit’s resistance to harm. So they’d have a higher relative effectiveness of, let’s say, 1.5 compared to 1. It’s a fun thing to think about!
Since that diversion is out of the way, let’s get back to the discussion at hand. We were talking about ambushes? Yeah.
As I was saying, ambushes have a more complete objective. For instance, ambushing a tank column generally has an end goal of neutralizing the whole or majority of the tank column. Ambushes aren’t as simple as just surprising the enemy however. There are a number of ways to effectively carry out an ambush. One common method of carrying out an ambush involves setting up a linear attack formation on one side of the path an enemy will be traveling along and boxing the enemy in with explosives or suppressing fire.
In the case of attacking a vehicle convoy, you attack the lead and rear vehicle to create a killbox, then focusing on any targets in the center. The lead and rear vehicles block in the rest of the convoy, and the rest of the convoy is held down in the ambush. As far as military tactics used in games, this is probably one of the easiest to carry out, and it works remarkably well.
Ambushes can work well in just about any game, but notable examples would be Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Far Cry 2, 3, and 4.
Subtle Nuances Of Guerrilla Warfare
Guerrilla warfare can also be considered as a strategy, not just as a tactical option. A much smaller force can utilize irregular tactics as a means to conduct a war.
While most large military forces supply themselves with a chain of logistical support, guerrilla forces often improvise their supply chain. By that, I mean they steal from their enemies. This has much to do with the reasons why said guerrilla forces are utilizing those tactics in the first place; they’re often smaller, more poorly supplied armies. Why attempt to sustain a supply chain when you can just take what you need?
So that’s what armies utilizing these methods do. When they capture an enemy position, they strip it of useful items. The equipment of the enemy becomes their equipment. As the larger force’s strength wavers through personnel and supply losses, their opposing force grows exponentially stronger. Weapons don’t care who uses them after all, unless you’re living in the world of Metal Gear Solid IV or Judge Dredd.
Unconventional equipment procurement takes place in any game that allows you to do things like pick up enemy weapons, but takes a larger role in ones that allow you to outfit your allies with said weapons. Weirdly enough, Halo is a good example of this.
Of course, if the smaller force can’t take what the larger one has, sabotage is an option. Why let your enemy use something against you? If you can’t have it, nobody should, right?
That’s what Commander Shepard can do in the lead-up to Archangel’s recruitment. Before committing to assaulting Archangel’s compound, Shepard can weaken the mercenaries a little with a little light sabotage. The YMIR Mech’s IFF (Identify Friend-Foe) system can be tampered with, which causes it to attack its allies instead. Similarly, Shepard can also impede Sergeant Cathka’s repair efforts on the A-61 Mantis Gunship with a simple application of a sparky, stabby thingy.
But Wait, There’s More
There really is more to it than just this, but it’d be near-impossible to list every connection of video games to real world tactics. The fundamentals of guerrilla warfare strategies and tactics are simple enough, but the details are where it matters.
What’s your goal? What’s the risk involved in accomplishing your goal? Should you capture or destroy? How? These are the questions you need to ask when tackling in-game objectives.
The question I have for you is: Are there any examples from games that you’re interested in learning more about?
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