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Arknights: Firewatch in-depth gameplay analysis

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Introduction

Hello again! This is a Christmas special (kinda) for my most favorite operator to use in Arknight: Firewatch. Her kit called out to me when I first saw her back on 23/1/2020 (sorry Americans), roughly a week after launch. It was then that I knew she would be someone that I’ll stay with for a long time, beginning with her E1 coming 2 days later, the 25th; and her E2, as my first E2 of the game, 2 weeks later, on 6/2. I also finished M6 her on 22/3, max level on 10/4, and max potential on 6/6 during that Mostima launch banner because she’s a rateup there (noob me wasn’t the smartest). Ever since I got her, she has been present in my main team, for every single map where Snipers aren’t banned.

Anyway, enough reminiscing. Firewatch is what I consider an amazing cheat for the advanced tactics player. Employed correctly, and you can safely ignore most of the mechanics in the game, at least around her general area. And here I am, with my 2 years of experiences with her, presenting this post to you.

Overview

Firewatch (FW) is the first design for Deadeye Sniper and accidentally being the best version due to a powerful mechanic that she owns. She can use a really long duration Invisibility on a relatively short cooldown, or to deploy a few nukes to wipe a large mass of enemies, either spread out for area coverage, or clumped together for massive localised damage. With a large range and nearly uninterruptible damage, Firewatch is here to cover the battlefield for you.

Stats

Offensive stats

Deadeye Snipers have the highest base ATK in the game (Iris and Indigo who?). For that amazing ATK though, their attack rate is shafted in compensation. With 2.7 seconds per attack, they are one of the slowest attack rates in the game, slower than most others except for Stalkers, Charged Casters, Medics, and Splash Snipers+Casters.

Defensive stats

Because of their ATK stat and range (which I’ll show you soon), their defensive stats are a bit shafted for compensation, in comparison with other Snipers. Both their HP and DEF are on the lower end, although, as I’ve said multiple times, the difference between most of them isn’t too drastic, aside from a few exceptions.

For FW in particular though, there is one thing that would leverage this and end up making her easier to survive in harsh conditions than most other units.

Cost

Unlike most other ST snipers, she has a much higher DP cost, even having 1 higher DP than 6* Schwarz. Start from 19 at base, and up to 21 at E1.

Range, Trait, Talent

Range

Deadeye Sniper’s range is massive, and it’s in fact one of the main reasons why I love them.

range
Deadeye's range at base (left), and E1 (right)

The range on the side is far more important than it seems, and it offers so much flexibility in deployment, as they can cover much further on the side while also covering the front range as good as a typical AA Sniper. This range also lets them not get shafted by tile restriction as much. They can cover multiple lanes with that wide range, though their slow attack rate hampers that a little bit, or they can cover a large area of the map. I consider this is the archetype’s biggest selling point (but not necessary for FW). Firewatch also has something that allows her to properly assist multiple lanes at once, though it’s not that much better.

Trait

Prioritises lowest DEF enemy first

This is the biggest reason people don’t like the Deadeye sniper. Aside from recognizable enemies like slugs, dogs, or basic enemies, there is no easy distinction to know who’s the lowest DEF in range unless it’s absolutely obvious like a Defender with a really small guy next to him. It needs either an extremely good memorization, or just knowing through experiences (which, if you’re reading this to learn about FW, I guess you won’t have them yet).

Typically, bigger looking enemies tend to have higher DEF than smaller one, so you can start with that. Ranged enemies tend to have lower DEF as well. But even then it’s also not guaranteed, as exceptions always exist. Bottom line is, it’s usually unpredictable, even occasionally for me who had been sticking with them for so long.

But it’s not all bad. It also prevents them from ever being distracted from what they want to shoot at. There’s a typical strat that the map would spawn ranged enemies following behind a defender which would usually lead to most units to aim at the defender instead of the ranged one, even when both are blocked. These snipers however, can snipe out the ranged enemies even from afar. In the end, they’ll also snipe out all the weaker mobs around those defenders, effectively isolating them out, and letting other units not be distracted by trash mobs as well.

It also overrides any taunt. Shieldguards, Patriot, and Toddifons cannot override this trait at all, which also means they can still do what the previous paragraph was saying in these cases as well. And it is why I said they can’t be distracted to shoot at what they want to, but not what you want them to. This phrase isn’t important to this guide, but will be to a future guide regarding another unit with this trait.

DEF debuff does affect this trait, so if you want, you can selectively reduce some enemies’ DEF to make them become a higher priority.

All in all, a very hard trait to utilise, but also hard to be tricked by the game’s mechanics. It’s mainly why this archetype isn’t popular with the players, along with their slow attack rate.

Talent

Assassin

Available at E1 – When attacking a ranged enemy, increases ATK to 120%.

At E2 the bonus increases to 140%.

Potential 5 increases that by +5%.

This talent is an ATK Multiplier, which means it is calculated before DEF, and stacks multiplicative with other ATK Boosts and other ATK Multipliers. This of course included both of her skills which I’ll talk about later.

What’s more powerful about this talent though, is that most threats in this game are ranged: Arts drone Mk2, imperial drone and strikers, most non-basic casters, grudgebearers, javelin throwers,… you get the point. Most bosses in this game are also classified as ranged, despite having a separate melee attack or even melee phase. The few bosses that aren’t ranged at all are Crownslayer, Hammer Knight, Jetpack man, and depending on how you view it, the Gopnik Bear too.

There are always dangerous pure-melee enemies for sure, like Avengers or Shaman, but they can also be kited with slows, bind, and such, something that isn’t as effective against ranged enemies.

Ranged enemies in general also have less DEF than others of the same type. Basic casters have less DEF than basic mobs, armored casters have less than armored mobs, and so on. Just like I mention in her trait though, there are always exceptions, so you can’t expect her to snipe only ranged enemies all the time, though I think you already knew that. The point is, when she does attack them, she’ll inflict a lot of hurt, especially when we factor in her skills later on.

Skills

RIIC Skills

RIIC skills – Clue search α: Increase clue search speed by 10%

At E2 it becomes Clue search β and the speed increases to 20%.

Not much to say about this, though remember that rarity, promotion, and the level of the reception room do affect clue search speed. So FW with the E2 version of the skill would give 45% clue search speed by herself.

Here’s a detail link if needed, but it covers more than what FW can do.

First skill: Camouflage

Stats at level 7

Gain invisible and +40% ATK, 35 seconds duration, 0 initial SP, 24 SP cost

Auto Recovery, manual activation.

Masteries

M3 gives +70% ATK50s duration, 20 SP cost.

Yea I don’t know why the mastery gain is this big either.

Advanced Details

This is one of the highest uptimes for a non-unlimited skill, tied with Kal’tsit S2M3.

Invisible is its own topic, of which I will shorten it by providing this detailed video (I don’t really recommend listening to it though), and a summary down here:

Basically, Invisible is an armor class that prevents enemies from targeting the owner. But at the same time, Invisible was also coded to also avoid AoE attack, which is already present in the invisible enemies that you have seen since Chapter 3.

Which means, aside from Environment True Damage (Poison haze, Volcano in OF, Originium Altar in Chapter 7, Heat pump around chapter 4 and CC#0,…), and tile-removing skills like Frostnova, nothing can damage an Invisible unit (unless an attack is already coming their way). With the fact that this skill lasts up to 50 seconds, that’s a very long time that FW can survive against anything that isn’t an environmental hazard.

Like with Schwarz, Provence, and other of the +% ATK skill that I have mentioned before, if you use this skill when a projectile is midair, that projectile will get the ATK boost. The reverse will also be true and a midair shot when the skill expires will lose its ATK.

Possible usages

This is one of the best skills in the game, carried mainly on the back of the “Invisible” mechanic.

Of course not solely, because the rest of FW also complement this very well.

Invisible just simply ignores way too many game mechanics. Most notably, against area attack enemies or forced targeted enemies. Spider and shaman’s explosion on death can no longer hit her. Faust and his ballistae can’t hit her. FrostNova’s massive AoE attack (and at chap 6, it deals more damage to Cold allies) can’t hit her. Patriot can’t throw his spear at her, even if she’s the furthest ranged unit from him. Talulah cannot target the burn DoT and her huge firewave cannot hurt FW at all. Withered Knight cannot target her nor hit her with the explosion arrows. Bombtails cannot drop the bomb on her and the explosion doesn’t hurt her. Gramophone can’t target her and won’t be able to kill her from full HP during the 20SP charge as well, guaranteeing at least 80 seconds of uninterrupting capture. Sanity damage can’t affect her, so she can’t be stunned by the 2 annoying mobs that I think you all knew what I’m implying. Emperor’s Blade can’t force retreat her (but she will at least get the -ASPD debuff). Grudgebearers can’t target her. And many more…

This easily makes Firewatch one of the safest units to counterfire against them. She doesn’t do absurd DPS, but combining with her talent (as said, most bosses and dangerous enemies are ranged), she can inflict quite significant damage. And, in the end, any DPS is better than 0. It also lasts 50 seconds, which is a really long time.

As mentioned in the Details section, there are still things that can affect FW while invisible so it’s not pure invincibility like Specter, Surtr, Blaze, or Mudrock. It’s just 1 step down from that. Again, the only things that can kill her is Environmental True Damage, something that affects everyone equally, and Tile-removing effect, something that also kills invincibility. I think that’s enough to tell you how powerful the effect really is.

You may ask why would that matter if FW has a large range which means she can already stay far away from reach? One, you can put different units faraway while putting FW close and have 2 or more safe units. Two, map layout might just not allow that. You may also ask why not just deploy in order and manipulate aggro away? Well half of the examples I gave have been AoE attacks or multi-target so deployment order might not matter. And the more AoE something is, the more annoying it also tends to be, like remember that moving rocks or that crazy wiggling flowers in Under Tides? Or Skullshatterer back when we all are a noob and get smashed in 3-8 (kinda)? It was the first map that showed me the usefulness of Invisibility btw

Second skill: Tactical Transceiver

Stats at level 7

Immediately drops 2 bombs to random enemies in range (prioritise enemy’s location), dealing 240% physical damage in an area. 20 initial SP, 50 SP cost.

Auto Recovery, manual activation

Masteries

M1 gives 3 bombs, 260% damage

M3 gives 300% damage, 30 initial SP

Advanced Details

The 3 bombs each take 1 tile. They cannot overlap, so no 2 bombs can land on the same tile.

The radius for the bomb’s explosion is 1.2 tiles.

The skill has a windup. The animation is FW uses a radio to call in airstrikes and ends when she puts her hands back on her crossbow. If FW is interrupted during this windup (stunned, frozen, retreat,…), the skill is cancelled, and all SP is gone.

However, after the windup is finished, the bombs take roughly 1 second to land on their determined spot. If FW is interrupted during this phase, the bombs land immediately. FW will only start gaining SP again after the bombs landed.

Her own talent does work with this skill, turning the 300% damage to 420%. It’s an AoE and prioritises enemies too, so it’s quite easy to hit ranged enemies for that condition.

Unconfirmed details

I never managed to confirm this, but I heard that if there are 2 enemies in the same tile, FW will usually drop 2 bombs there, 1 on the tile, another 1 close by it. It’s not a true priority (like W S2), but just “more likely”. While I did see that more often than it should, I personally think it’s bogus and most observations are biased, but I thought to just let you guys know. You know, in case you want to test it out for yourself. However, I can confirm that FW likes to drop the free bombs on allies as well (ok this one is kinda a joke but it did happen frequent enough to me).

Possible usages

This is one of the strongest large-area-wave-clearing skills (mainly because there’s not that many skills of this type), but hampered mostly by the 50 SP cost, which is not absurd, but not in any sense short either. That means, it’s reserved mostly to delete a flood wave, especially if it also includes a bunch of tough mobs as well. Think of the final drone rush in East Armory (RIP I’ll miss this map a lot), FW can lessen the threat of the wave quite well.

But that’s not the only thing you can do with this skill.

Each bomb does a lot of damage in an area, so if they landed next to each other, the enemies in those 2 tiles will take double the damage. This is fairly easy to do, especially with a blocker. Landing 3 bombs close together will triple the damage in the middle area and is a little bit harder. This will deal massive localised damage so it’s great against a tougher enemy who’s fighting your blocker, and there is a different enemy approaching.

Lot of people might think the randomness of this skill is bad, but in reality, the skill already prioritises enemies’ location. And it’s limited to tiles, not enemies. So there are rarely cases where it will be truly random. If there are multiple enemies in 1 tile so that you can’t stack the bomb because it is indeed random without enemies, you simply missed the window where you could have use it. If there are more than 3 tiles of enemies, you can either time it for when they move a bit and size down to 3 tiles, or just yeet and thin out the wave without worrying about the RNG. Overall, timing is still important, especially when you have to take account of the 50SP cost.

Given FW’s large range, she can then use this to assist up to 3 different lanes at once… occasionally.

You can also abuse the radius of the bomb to reach enemies outside of her range, extending her large range further and allowing a much easier time and opportunity to preemptive strike.

edgerange
Doesn't even need enemy to stand still, just aim as they are walking in

If an enemy starts to leak past your blocker, you can actually take advantage of that, because that means they are on a new tile, right next to another tile that the enemies are currently on, since they are blocked by that blocker. I think you know what’s needed to fix that. Even better if there’s an enemy approaching from the tile behind as well to make it an easy 3 tiles line up.

enemyconga

You can also use it to thin out the final wave in Annihilation maps. Those elites and defenders tend to stand still for a good while and they also spread out just nice and evenly as well.

Modules

HP +80. ATK +60. Gain 1 SP if the attack did not kill the target.

Now that the module is out. I have turn around on this module a little bit. First, the other module is worse than I thought. Second, the increased SP gain is more noticeable than I expected. Now in practice it's still not 0.37 SP/s, but the increase rate does speed up her skill rotation a lot. For S2, it's a big improvement. For S1, it reduce her already small downtime to even smaller.

Before, I thought of this module as "well okay but at least it gives stats". Now it's "holy sh*t thank the Lord". Again, mostly because the damage module is worse than I thought. The damage module then barely affect her skills because it's not like the enemies should be far away from her, especially her S1. (I have use her S2 to reach enemies outside of her range a lot, so there's that. But since only the true distance matter, again, it's not as nice on the side range).

Not to mention, ever since I posted this guide saying ""slightly"" negative feeling about the module, I repeatedly encounter situations where the extra SP would have been great. This is either because I frequently push the limit of my skill rotation (probably subconsciously) or because having a large margin of error when using a skill is by itself a great thing. And being able to use S1 faster is always a good thing as well. Basically, all the small arguments I used to defend it still applied and is working really hard to make the module looks good.

Previous statement (made on 25/12/2021)

NOTE: These are all conjectures as this module isn’t available in EN yet. Check back after roughly a week or 2 after it is released, maybe I’ll have an update after actually trying it. Who knows, it might actually flip completely.

Firewatch got (half) shafted with the module just because HG want her to drop bombs more often smh. This effect basically grants her an additional 1SP every 2.7s, or worse. It’s basically a little bit better than Ptilopsis E2 talent (1SP / 2.7s = 0.37 SP/s), but that also means that FW is not killing anything, which doesn’t necessarily happen all the time. It does stack with Ptilopsis though. The stats in general are great, but mostly only the +ATK.

For her S1, it means that she can be invisible sooner, so FW can actually be deployed really close to danger… right? Well not quite, because if there are ranged enemies around that you really need to get the skill back ASAP, the increased rate won’t be enough; she is not that tanky even with the +80 HP. So it’s only good for when she can already survive and just basically needs it to come back up faster before the actual dangerous stuff comes, but it still requires enemies to be around. That window of time is a bit too specific for this module to matter, because the original SP cost of this skill is already low enough. It’s better than nothing at least. But I’d rather have the damage module that the other Deadeye Sniper have though, which is up to 15% extra damage (after DEF) to faraway enemies.

For her S2, the large SP cost does make this module matters more and so Firewatch can drop nukes more often. I still don’t recommend just dropping it because you can though, so you’ll still have to carefully time the drop. It’s just that now with this module you can have a bigger margin of error when dropping the nuke, as a mistimed use won’t hurt you as bad as before. The thing is, I’d still much prefer the damage module over this for S2 as well. For one, it’d affect both skills greatly, and two, I feel like nukes with more damage is better than more nukes. Again, do note that this is conjecture as of now, the module is not available for me yet.

Closing Thoughts

Firewatch is one of the few characters in this game that allows you to ignore (annoying) game mechanics or ignore a large wave. She’s amazing to be deployed in a blind run and a couple moment later realising that “oh, this is not a safe spot”, to be intentionally deployed in dangerous location with/without a bit of support, to just avoid putting more strain on your medics or allies, or to support and wipe/weaken a particular dangerous wave. She’s also amazing in the IS game mode as well because of that (there’s no real reason for me to mention it here but IS#2 HYPE!).

S1 is a great skill that is often overshadowed by her S2 (funny I said the opposite for Meteorite). Like I said, it can help you ignore enemy’s mechanic, keep FW alive where most others would have crumbled, and allow you to cover a large area of the battlefield. It’s also the skill I recommend investing in first.

S2 is also a great skill, but it is often overshadowed by its own meme that the community created (which I am guilty of as well). It really requires proper timing and/or set up, so it sometimes feels more trouble than it’s worth. M1 is enough for the 3rd bombs, but M3 is okay too for moar damage, as well as gaining an okay helidrop potential. I’d suggest looking at this skill past the “tactical nuke” meme, then it’ll be more versatile than you’d think.

FW is mostly a supportive operator, in the sense that none of what she can do can ever single handedly clear a stage, but her kit will relieve a large amount of pressure on you or her team. Whether she can let herself ignore mechanics, or delete/weaken a large group of enemies or a couple chonky guys, she will only provide help rather than directly solving the problem. I said all that, but she can solo FakeNova in Hard Mode IS#1 easily (IS#2 HYPE!).

Other Deadeye Snipers focus on long range and/or damage but having restrictive conditions on it. FW’s main restrictions are mostly her own Trait and SP cost (for S2), which are the standard restrictions of other Deadeyes too.

While having less overall damage than others (except Ambriel), it’s almost guaranteed. She will be uninterrupted for a long time to deal her damage, unless it’s a very specific hazard; or she can dump her entire damage load very quickly and finish. She is also the only one of them to have an actual AoE attack, which removes the weakness of unpredictable fire from her trait. I might tell you more about my overall ranking of the 4 of them when Fartooth is out and I get to test her. But for now, along with its flexibility, I will consider FW better than Fartooth (for now at least). I wasn’t lying when I said it’s mostly Invisibility that carried Firewatch. That mechanic is so good that new units can only get an inferior version of it, which is called Camouflage, where they can’t be targeted but still can be hit by AoE (something that should have been the norm). Her nukes are also great in the proper conditions too (though I guess that goes for almost anything).

Check out this 3 Snipers clear 5-10 featuring amazing use of FW’s invisibility and Archetto’s shield (that I stole wheeze).

Outro

So for those that actually use Firewatch, how do you find her? I have been using her in every single stage ever since I got her (unless I physically can’t), and it was absolutely amazing. You may find a bit of my biases here and there, but I don’t think it’s that bad… right?

Anyway, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

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Random pleb Arknights guide writer on reddit

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