Now that Protocol Assimilation, otherwise known as SF Capture, has dropped on the Chinese Client, plenty of questions are swirling about this new system. How does it work? What can we expect from it? Is it pay to win? Can we Oath Ringleaders? Having played around with the new system for a while, these are some of my first impressions, and a quick overview of how things work.
How does it work?
Protocol Assimilation adds a new base room, a new set of Combat Simulations, and a whole new type of Echelon, the Coalition Echelon, which is how SF units are deployed in battle. This means yet more things to spend batteries on, although the returns hold up well. To come with the Coalition Echelons, 4 new Echelons slots (and 4 more Dorms), were added, with a complementary addition to battery income.
‘Capturing’ SF units amounts to a slightly more targeted Gacha, with a layer of RNG, which will be discussed in detail later on.
This system unlocks upon Clearing story Chapter 7-6.
Alright that’s fine, but what can I do with these new units?
SF units are fielded in a new Echelon type, called Coalition Echelons. Unlike traditional T-Doll based Echelons, Coalition Echelons can contain more than 5 Dolls, maxing out at 8 Units + a Leader. Leaders can be any unit, but are recommended to be Ringleaders to take advantage of Tile Buffs, although at the current time Tile Buffs appear somewhat weak.
If deploying a Ringleader, they can be fitted with Chips from this Screen. Chips confer a variety of bonuses, including buffs when in range of Allies, when out of range of Allies, increased Night Vision, Debuffs to enemies, and more. The possibilities are quite varied.
Once units are placed in an Echelon, formations can be adjusted in the same way as usual.
In battle, Coalition Echelons are deployed like any other, and function the same way. Ringleaders have Strategy level Skills that can be used. In the case of Scarecrow she can deploy a Dummy that gives vision, blocks, and tile, and captures the tile it is standing on at the end of the turn, as well as Damaging enemies that walk into it.
This is the screen in which most of the action happens with this new system. This can be a little overwhelming, so let’s break things down.
The upper right corner shows saved up EMP, or Capture Charges. The recharge rate on these is determined by your Facility levels, capping at 1 every 12 hours, or 14 per week. This sounds fairly slow, which we will talk about in-depth later on. Any ‘Extra’ Charges will be displayed here as well. Facilities will be covered in detail later in this discussion as well.
This little guy is a refresh on the Capture options. Available once every 3 days.
This bar shows how many SF units you’ve captured from the current Area. Each area appears to have 100 possible units to capture. AS you can see, I have 51 out of a possible 100 remaining. Also shown here is the time remaining in a given sector.
The scrollable bar at the bottom of the screen shows all of the possible units that can be captured in a given area, as well as how many of each are present, and how many are remaining. As you can see, I haven’t captured any Brutes, but I have pulled in 9 Rippers, 4 Dragoons, and 3 Aegis.
This is the button to open the screen for a system that allows you to guarantee capture units. More on this later.
Finally, there are the units currently scouted for potential capture displayed in the center of the screen. These are chosen at random out of the pool of remaining units.
So how do I capture them?
Luckily, this is the ‘easy’ part. Click on the unit you wish to capture and you’ll be presented with a screen that indicates the chance of success. Confirm you wish to attempt and watch a short clip, before finding out if you were successful.
Capture is assured for 1★ units, 50% chance for 2★, and 25% chance for Ringleaders, who are 3★. This is somewhat annoying, but targeting 1★ units initially will position you well and let you move on to targetting 2★s. On a failed capture, an amount of resources is rewarded. Failing to capture Scarecrow, for instance, gave me 300 Assimilation Reports. Other Failures have given a few Batteries or some Data.
Regardless of success or failure, the units available for capture are reset.
Cooperative Capture is the companion gacha system to regular capture and allows you to pull between 1 and 10 units from the remaining pool. This is done by spending Cooperation Contracts, the Red Ticket Item shown on the right. Each Contract is 1 capture.
At the bottom left, you can see a simple breakdown of the remaining units that can be captured by rarity. After deploying a Cooperative Capture, watch a nifty cutscene, and then see your results. Cooperative Capture does not cycle the units available to capture in the normal manner and does not prefer units shown as available to capture when selecting from the available pool. This is 100% RNG, and while you are assured at the units at hand, this is fundamentally another Gacha system, which means you can get all 1★s, or all 2★ and the Ringleader at any given time. Obviously, shrinking the pool helps with this to an extent, but this system is at its core a gacha.
New Combat Sims
Protocol Assimilation comes with 4 new resources to manage. A new type of Combat Report, 2 new kinds of Data, and Petri Dishes? All of these are earned from 3 new Combat Simulations, which put a bit of a different twist on things.
Unlike previous Simulations, these give you a limited selection of dolls to build an Echelon to face a specified enemy. Rewards are based on how fast you clear the challenge when compared to a target time. The Dolls and Enemy cycle weekly.
In this case, the enemy is 10 Manticores, and our target time is 23 Seconds. The button on the lower left auto generates a formation, while the right button lets you adjust the formation. If you want to design your own squad, click on the Doll image cards and adjust as normal. This serves as an interesting challenge and adds only a little bit of work to the daily routine. The faster you clear the Drill, the more rewards you receive, up to 20% extra.
All three Sims are open at all times, but each day one of them is given a 3x Reward Bonus, which I would highly recommend targeting to maximize income. Other than that, these behave as traditional Combat Sims, with Extra Energy, and the same recharge Rate.
Before moving on, we need to talk about Growth Factors. Growth Factors are the final RNG element of this new system.
Each SF unit will have an icon on their Unit card, Ringleaders helpfully avoid this, that marks their Growth Factor. Growth Factors are XS, S, M, L, and XL, with XL being the highest. The exact degree that these impact your units is not known to me at this time, but official information indicates these affect Maxed stats. Those wishing to maximize their potential should aim for XL units as a result.
Growth Factors can be swapped between units using one of the new Base Facilities, more on that in the facilities section below. Keep in mind doing so is very expensive and a major commitment of resources so mind your Growth Factors from the outset.
Dummy Linking and Rarity Up
Unlike traditional Dolls, SF units do not need to meet a level requirement to Dummy Link. Instead, any units can be linked at any level. Ringleaders are the exception, they cannot be Dummy Linked. The game will warn you when performing the first link if you want to link a high Growth Factor unit to a lower one. For instance, if attempting to combine a XL Growth Factor Unit with a M growth Factor unit, the game will helpfully yell at you that this is a bad idea. Beyond that, a single copy of a unit is needed for each Link level. Maxing out Dummy Links improves repair time by a significant amount, along with the usual benefits of increased HP, Link Protection, and will fully repair the unit.
The second means of growth for SF units is Ether Development, which will look familiar to anyone who played other Gacha games with a Limit Break system.
Ether Development does require a level threshold per Star. 10, 30, 70, and 90, for each Star. If you meet the level threshold, you will then need to spend the strangely named Petri Dishes to unlock each star. The stats and maxed stats for each unit will be shown, and the stats after the improvement will be shown with the green bars. In the case of our Jaeger, it has a Damage of 69 at the moment, and will have 75 Damage after being Developed, with a max of 86.
Petri Dish costs by rarity are not known at this time.
The other benefit of Ether Development is that it will unlock Skills for some Dolls. All SF units appear to unlock a Skill at Rarity 4, with 2★ and higher Dolls starting with a Skill when Captured. Skills are leveled up using the Data types from the new Sims.
Coalition Echelons gain XP the same way as traditional Echelons, either by taking part in battles, or by being given Reports, named Assault Growth Long Term Storage Disks, which are earned from the left Sim under Assimilation Drills. The function as traditional Combat Reports, aside from their exclusivity to Coalition Echelons.
These Disks award 3000 XP per Disk, and SF units appear to follow a different leveling curve than traditional Dolls, one that accelerates early leveling and then catches up and exceeds the standard leveling curve by level 90.
In combat, Coalition Echelons do not receive Multiplied XP based upon Dummy Links, which does slow down leveling, although the increased leveling speed through the early levels does make up for this. Weekly, you will be able to get about 180 Disks from Drills.
Coalition Echelons are not efficient to level via Combat, as they cannot be Corpse Dragged, and require 360 Ammo and Rations to fight. Thus, Disks will be the primary source of XP, and those are best earned every 3rd day from Sims. Sunday’s may be an all Sim 3x day, much like regular Sim’s are all open, but that is speculation at the moment. Disks can also be gained by spending Kernels in the shop. Earned by retiring SF units, Dark Star Kernels can be traded for Disks at a rate of 375 for 50. Dark Star Kernels come from retiring 1★ units, at a rate of 100/unit. 15 Super Star Kernels can be exchanged for 50 Disks as well. Any Prowlers or Brutes you are forced to pick up are good candidates for this. This will slightly increase Disk income over time, but should not be relied upon.
For players not concerned about being supremely resource efficient, using a Coalition Echelon for Intelligence quests will give a steady drip of XP while waiting for Disks to arrive. At 360 Ammo and Rations a deployment this isn’t a great use of resources, but will trickle in XP for those who want it. For anyone else, leveling Coalition Echelons is not a speedy process, although you are still likely to outpace your Petri Dish income with your leveling.
New Base Room
Protocol Assimilation brings two new facilities to upgrade, The Pulse Reactor, and the Tactical Chip Development Terminal.
The Pulse Reactor governs how many Electronic Pulses, or Capture chances you can store, and how fast they are recharged. At max level, you can store 14 charges, and they recharge approximately one every 12 Hours.
The Tactical Chip Development Terminal is upgraded to unlock new Chips for Ringleaders.
Each level unlocks new chips to be researched. Each Chip costs 1000 Batteries to research and an amount of time. Chip bonuses include an SF Echelon PEQ, increased night vision, buffs when close to, or far away from enemies, and more.
The final Facility, the Binary Fusion Impeller, does not need to be upgraded and is used to move Links, levels, and Skill levels between SF units. This prevents wasted investment should you invest in a unit with a lower Growth Factor, and then pull one with a higher Growth Factor. This Costs Transfer Material, apparently 50 per operation. Transfer material is obtained by spending currency obtained when retiring SF units, and is rather expensive at 1850 Dark Star Kernels for 50, or 75 Super Star Kernels. Bear in mind that this requires retiring either nineteen 1★ units or eight 2★, putting it well out of reach during the first and possibly even second Sectors.
Alright, now that we’ve gotten all the technical stuff out of the way, time for some opinions.
What uses do these new Echelons and Units have?
As fielding, a Coalition Echelon requires a chunky 360 Rations and Ammo, regardless of how many units are deployed, you’ll want to be more strategic about their use. With that said, the variety of Chips that can be equipped give you plenty of toys to play with when you do. For night maps, extra vision is invaluable, and Scarecrow's dummy can be used to save an AP while gaining map vision and map control. Possibilities, at the moment, are largely limited by what MICA allows us to do going forwards.
Is it Pay to Win?
This is a trickier question and one that, in my opinion, will depend on how you want to play the game. However, everyone should be aware that, unless changes are made, in order to clear out an entire Sector, Gems must be spent. As this is being written, MICA is making changes to the system, so
Do you need to do this? As far as I can tell, as a casual, or semi-serious player, no. The Tutorial/Beginner quests give a significant number of free pulls, free extra Sim energy for the new Sims, and Resources in general. The free Tutorial Capture gives a Scarecrow, who if you wish, you will be able to level to 90 and fully Rarity up on day 1. Or, you can spread your resources around and level up more evenly. Regardless of which Strategy you employ, it seems quite possible to acquire 100% functional and effective Coalition Echelons as a free to play player.
Shown above are the results almost 100% free to play messing about with the system. Not shown are 3 more units fully, or almost fully linked. Granted, these units are not all XL growth factors, nor has my spread of resources been optimal. However, this team has been able to hack and slash it’s way past every challenge I put before it (except White Nyto). Tests have included Story bosses, Event Bosses, and general enemies in recent and upcoming story maps. For context, this squad performs comparable to a well leveled AR/SMG Echelon against the Black Nyto Bosses from the end of Continuum Turbulence, despite having no Skill Levels, and messy uneven leveling. For a longer battle benchmark, Agent from Singularity Chapter 3 was a general success although the Melee’s went down hard, shocking no one.
For clarity, my acquisitions have been free to play with the exception of 3 100% pulls, which were bought to test if these pulls use the units shown as capture options first, or if they pull randomly from the pool. Disappointingly, they randomly select from the pool.
However, for the extremely hardcore player, or those looking to stay on the bleeding edge of Rankings, and other competitive events, there is a convincing argument for the system being extremely pay to win. Cleaning out a Sector is physically impossible without spending money, and for those hunting down XL growth factor units or multiple Ringleaders, Gems are the only solution at this time, and those who are able or willing to spend will have a leg up on those who do not. Unlike HOC or Fairy systems, where Gems will give a leg up but ultimately the gap will close over time, in this case, for the purposes of top-end play, the gap between a completely free to play player, and one who spends will start out as large, and potentially only grow, depending on how lucky a free to play player is, although they will always lag behind those who are not free to play.
Given the new options opened up by Coalition Echelons, there is potential to change the high-end Meta of GFL completely, or not at all, depending on MICA’s design choices. Without an active major event, it is impossible to say for certain how any of this will pan out. Traditional maps limit Coalition Echelons to 4, and previously the 10 Echelon limit was the maximum for deployable Echelons. With 4 Additional echelons, it is difficult to speculate as to what will follow.
Tl;dr Pay to Win?
Yes, if you want to stay on the bleeding edge, no for the casual or semi-casual player.
Can I Oath SF?
All SF units have an Affection Bar and can be stuffed full of Cheesecake just like regular Dolls, but at this time, I have yet to figure out how to Oath them, not for lack of trying. The lines exist, so either MICA is trolling, or some hidden requirement needs to be fulfilled.
Is it fun?
Absolutely. Coalition Echelons fun to use, and theorycrafting has kept me busy since launch on CN. Beating up other Ringleaders with Scarecrow/SF units is cheerfully hilarious, and they will carve up most enemy units along the way. Hydras and Gundams remain the field of more dedicated units (at least, for now), but otherwise, Coalition squads will hold their own in combat.
Granted, the slow progression is a real downer, but it has not dampened my enjoyment of the new system.
What should I Capture First?
As per SaltyEmp#4632, your general priority for captures should be as follows:
Prowlers, Guards, and Brutes can largely be skipped. Jaegers, Dragoons, Aegis, Scouts, Strikers, and Vespids are all good pickups. Once you have captured 5 of each useful 1★ unit, focus on cleaning out the 2★ pool instead, again, skipping Brutes. 5 Units will let you have a single fully linked unit of each relevant type, and thus is a good point to start shifting your priorities.
Particular attention should be paid to Dragoons and Aegis.
Dragoons Skills are outrageous, as freshly captured they sport a Shield equal to a percentage of Max health, 9% at base, that, while active, gives bonuses to Damage, RoF and Move speed. Their second Skill appears to be a Damage and Accuracy Debuff. 5% and 15% respectively at base, and only increasing with Skill levels.
Aegis come with a Shield Skill, Armor, and Evasion. Image SAT 8, but with about five times the Evasion. Fun, right? Now add a second Skill at Rarity 4★ which gives Self Damage reduction while in Defense Mode, and Damage Reduction to units in the same column, and Aegis's become a truly fearsome frontline tank.
Jaegers are not quite as effective as allied units as they are enemies but still pack a punch, with a passable RoF, and Damage. Oh, and a Skill that, every 5 Regular attacks, acts as a small bamboo shot, deals heavily increased Damage and bypassing Armor and on a Guaranteed hit. As with more than 50 RoF, this means the Skillshot will go off at Second 6 of a fight, putting Jaeger's well ahead of the typical burst shot curve. They also retain the backline targetting of traditional RFs.
Scouts serve as Evasion tanks, but in a more supporting roll, thanks to a Skill that Marks units, and adds flat Damage, base 6, to Marked targets when they are attacked, while also decreasing Evasion for marked targets, 30% at base. The exact mechanics of the flat extra Damage are unclear if it applies to every Dummy Link's attack or just the general Unit. Regardless, this has the potential to be very potent.
Rippers, one top of having comparable Evasion to a well equipped SMG, can deal acceptable chip Damage thanks to above average base Damage, and solid RoF. Their Skill gives an Evasion boost to self in Defense Mod, 80% at base, or a Damage boost in not Defense Mode, 50% at base. Sadly, this has an ICD and a duration, so we aren’t going to be running about with a frontline of C-MS type Dolls. All of this on top of appearing to benefit from Aegis Shielding when in the same column turns Rippers into a surprisingly durable Frontline threat
Vespids also fill a support Role, buffing the RoF and Accuracy of ‘Long Range’ Units, along with dealing good Damage with regular attacks. Presumably this Skill applies to Jaegers, and if so, they will make a potent combo, letting Jaeger’s get followup Skillshots quicker.
Strikers fill the same role as they do when enemies, laying down withering fire. Their Skill appears to increase their Damage for a short window at the start of Battle. This boost appears to be 50% for each attack at base, for 3 seconds. Good for quick fights, bad for drawn out engagements.
Guards can be skipped, as they serve as a flatly weaker version of an Aegis, sporting better Evasion, and slightly more HP, but lacking the Armor, and needing to Ether Development to 4★ to get their Skill, they fail to stand out compared to their armored counterpart. I do not have Prowlers or Brutes at this time, but a quick guess would be that Brutes, as a pure Melee DPS lack the survivability or Damage output to justify their usage, and Prowlers, do about as well as their enemy counterparts.
Massive thanks to Bolwic#0117 for help with SF Skill Translations.
TL:DR My Thoughts
- Outside of the initial burst of captures and resource income from Tutorial/Beginner quests, progression is a big slow.
- More Resources to manage.
- Capture rates are a bit annoying at times, doubly so for Ringleaders
- I still can’t figure out how to Oath Scarecrow
- Baseline power level is high, and the maxed out power level appears to border on obscene.
- Useful new additions to the game, including extra night vision, buffs and debuffs.
- Tutorial and new career quests set you up well as a casual player.
- A quick tap will skip the Ringleader Skill cut in.
- Coalition Echelons are great fun to smack things in the face with.