Top 10 Survival Tips for State of Decay 2 for XBox One

State of Decay 2 Poster

A friend recently brought to my attention that my Gamer Card indicates that when you stitch together all the hours I’ve spent playing State of Decay 2, on XBox One, I’ve played for more than five days straight.  This does not surprise me. If I include the original, or the newest Heartland expansion game, it’s probably weeks.

This is probably my #1 game of 2019, as it embodies the kind of qualities that hold my rapt attention: A) It’s strategic, with an element of planning and resource management, B) it’s also action-oriented, with learnable hand-to-hand and gun combat that improves with XP, and C), it’s customizable, which is to say you can easily imagine the inner lives of characters and customize them to match it.  To play is, in its own way, to tell a story about the creation (and sometimes destruction) of a survivor community. Wrap all this in moments of nail-biting, shout-at-the-TV intensity, and you’ve got a recipe for classic zombie horror, done well.

In this storytelling sense, the game plays on two levels: what’s actually happening, mathematically, and what you imagine would be happening.   For example, idiosyncratic character details, that Ed has a background in “roofing” and that makes him more likely to be good at construction for your defensive wall. Karen, on the other hand, has traits that make her disagreeable–understandable, since her husband was killed, but she’s starting fights and damaging morale. On the plus side, Deshawn gives “good backrubs” which turn out to add  bonuses to group cohesion, a topic which is of itself a constant worry. I’ve never seen Deshawn give those backrubs, but I have to imagine them, because I know they work and the bonus is nontrivial.  Dozens of these types of micro-interactions play in any given moment, and they literally govern the survival of the community.  If Karen’s attitude doesn’t change, Karen is going to find herself exiled or euthanized, and Karen is going to die.

There is no saving in this game.  When characters die, it’s permanent.  It’s routinely unfair. Characters can die when you aren’t actively playing them, they die when you aren’t paying attention, I’m pretty sure I’ve had characters die while I wasn’t even playing.  Putting too much energy in one character is a recipe for guaranteed heartbreak. This is a game about the creation of a community, and not all of them are going to make it. In all the instances that I’ve won the game, my communities had completely turned over; none of my original community members survived until the end, and were replaced by people I’d picked up in the course of play.  There’s no predicting who makes it.

This game is high-stress.

To say this is combination is addictive is to understate the devastating impact this game has had on my life.  I’ve won, multiple times, multiple ways. I’ve also lost entire communities–been wiped out completely–only to restart a new community the same evening.  And every time a character has died, every time, I am on my feet, shouting at the television, jamming controller buttons like a lab rat releasing cocaine into the water dispenser.

I would spare you this pain.  To that end, I’ve written the guide I wished I had when I started, and ordered the rules according to descending importance.  Follow these, and your survival is as assured as it’s possible to be. Indeed, most times a character dies, it will be easy to trace your error back to which rule you broke.  With that in mind:

Rule #10: Sell to Win

Money in State of Decay takes the form of Influence, a catch-all metric that describes your relative power in the Valley.  Gain Influence by destroying enemies and performing missions. It also provides subtle benefits: a community with good amenities is going to attract more visitors, and have more opportunities to invite in new members.  Influence is spent when you create bases, outposts, buy radio support or vehicles, and via trade of items.

Influence is also a relative proxy for experience, since it’s mainly achieved via completing tasks.  However, there are certain bases that can build high value trade items, such as beer or whiskey. You should make some of this stuff whenever you can, and keep some in your trunk to sell to any traders or neighbors for influence.  

There is no other move in the game that can change your fortunes as quickly as a trunkload of sales.  Aside from dying.

Rule #9 An Ally Instead, Avoids the Undead 

Characters start out as weaklings.  Until your character is at least a little experienced with combat, they need to go in pairs.  When possible, enlist an ally from a nearby community. You should always be doing this if you have a ton of Influence.  If they die, it doesn’t affect your community as directly.   Note that you can also take two from your community and hire a neighbor for up to three, under the right circumstances.  This is ideal for clearing out plague hearts or infested zones.

Use allies wisely.  There are certain hard-to-find skills one can outsource to other communities, at no cost to your own.  The best examples of this are Auto Mechanics and Doctors. They sell repair kits, materials and meds, and as neighbors instead of roommates, won’t subtract from your resources, like food or beds.  

If you invite neighbors in and your place gets too crowded, it hurts morale.  Sometimes a character will remark on this, saying something like “I’m glad we’ve met all these new people, but do they all have to live here?”  No, they don’t.

Should you recruit them to your own community, when the time arises?  No, not unless you have an Infirmary or an Auto Repair shop in your base.  Otherwise, they are more effective in their own facility. Keep them safe, and they’ll provide bonuses to your community and specialized actions such as vehicle delivery and sniper support.  They also make valuable trading partners. And when they call–answer.

Rule #8 Train, Read, Explore

Characters advance with XP that can only be gained by exploring the valley.  Some skills, like agriculture, construction, engineering, or craftsmanship, are incredibly useful but rarely available early in the game.  It’s going to take a while to accumulate that experience. Other skills are constantly accumulated (fighting, cardio), but literally stand between your character and certain death, and need practice, quickly.

Cardio is probably the easiest to get.  If you push your character to run whenever they can, leveling up this skill is a breeze.  At the second tier of XP, I recommend Acrobatics for fighters and Marathon for scouts. 

Fighting and shooting are likewise unavoidable, so they will appreciate on their own, but they are also the skills that keep you from being euthanized by your bunkmates.  Both can be improved with the right facilities: a fitness gym or a gun range. If you can’t spare the construction plots, build only the fighting gym. When your characters are sufficiently good at fighting, replace the gym with a gun range.  Being good at guns is something you as a player can perform on the character’s behalf with controller skills, but a low fighting rating means you haven’t unlocked moves critical to any survivor’s skillset. Even pushing a zombie off is really difficult at the lower levels.  Build this facility and run the training constantly. 

When you get the option to specialize, choose swordsmanship.  Two high-level swordsmen on a mission can make short work of the average horde.  

Exploring and opening boxes is what improves your wits, Scouting, Stealth and Resourcefulness all come up here, and this also determines how quiet your Survivor will be while rifling through boxes, and reduces the frequency of search-breakage.  

Books will level up any given skill, but there is no reliable way to know which books will work for which characters, it’s usually something tangentially related to their pre-war job: someone with a green thumb might be able to use a gardening book, a bartender might be able to use a cookbook.  Accumulate these in your base and wait for someone to join who can benefit from them.  

Rule #7 Keep Close to the Car

This is exactly what it sounds like.  Repeat after me: the car is your most powerful weapon.  

You’ll need it to get yourself and your NPCs out of swarms, to range anywhere beyond your starting point.  If you can, build superior, Mad Max-style vehicles like the Vandito at every opportunity and keep them in good repair.

When I think of how my characters have died, it’s often while traveling, but fewer occurred during on-foot missions than you would expect.  What often happens is that from one minute to the next, the car we are driving is suddenly rendered useless: we hit a bloater and need to jump, we crash, we are immobilized by a juggernaut, the car catches fire or explodes, or we’re tossed from the vehicle by attackers.  So we are very suddenly wounded and battling out of a swarm that was inevitably attracted by all the noise. These are incredibly dangerous situations, often ending in character injury or death.  

By contrast, missions that begin on foot usually proceed slowly and carefully, with a lot of close calls but more sneaking than fighting.  The key difference is the sudden surprise.

Always keep a gas can and especially a toolbox in the trunk of your car.  Seek out cars with big trunks. And then never get more than 150 feet from the car unless you are foraging for more of the aforementioned gas and kit.  Conversely, if the car is near-destroyed and you don’t think it’s going to make it, abandon ship and don’t look back.

Take care of your car, because it will keep you alive.  

Rule #6 Place Your Base in the Right Place

This one was so important, I needed to make it rhyme.

Outposts offer a few critical strategic benefits.  You can access your storage box from any base, so all bases share all items.  Items created in your main base go directly into the inventory and are instantly available at any of your outposts.  This move will save your life more than any other. Build plague cures at your home base and have them available where you need them!  Trade out broken weapons for fresh ones! Get more medicine, more explosives! This is the only reason most of my characters have survived.

The downsides are that bases can’t accept rucksacks, only your home base can do that, and any actions that need to be performed in-person need to be done at the home base, such as repairing equipped weapons or receiving personalized medical attention.

As to placement: look at the map, find the strategic choke-points where you anticipate moving your campaign, and put your bases there or on whatever resource you want that base to supply (fuel, food, etc) closest to there.  As you move around the map, add forward outposts. Make sure to upgrade your command center and install radio antennae to increase the number of outposts allowed. I think the maximum is six.

Outposts are also the only place outside your base where you can switch the controlling character.  Don’t be shy about this–if someone is injured and needs time to recuperate from a head wound or gas inhalation, bench her, and swap in someone healthier.   The non-active character can heal in the background.

Rule #5 Distract, Delay, Destroy

Combat tactics in State of Decay 2 are probably lengthy enough topic to merit a separate post, but the game makes use of fireworks as tactical devices called distractors. What distractors do, is to instantly command the attention of any zombie within earshot by way of loud noises.  That means unless they are involved in direct combat with you, they’ll wander over to the distractor, e.g. a cluster of fireworks popping away on the ground. (Alas, Ferals and Juggernauts are immune to these charms.)  

This is generally very effective, but overwhelming if poorly planned.  The trick, of course, is to use the distraction to flee. This is the single best way to escape a horde attack, or at least buy yourself a moment’s time.  Hit them with a molotov while they are clustered around the distractor. I find this to be about 80% effective.

Distractors, especially paired with timed explosives, make for some interesting possibilities.  Some are extremely loud, some are extremely visible, some are silent and just emit a lot of light, which makes them useful on stealth missions. But all of them work to get you out of a jam, or set up enemies to be knocked down.

That makes distractors an absolutely essential part of your arsenal.

Rule #4 A Sample a Day, Keeps the Plague Away

I had been playing for almost a year when I finally noticed the option in the (Heartland) infirmary to “eliminate infection.”  This isn’t a cure, mind you, and won’t work if the character has a full-blown, red infection. If the infection meter is still white, however, the meter clears completely.

Now, curing a red infection costs 1 Plague Cure vial, which itself needs 3 plague samples and 1 Med to be created. Eliminating all signs of early infection, however, only costs 1 plague sample.  This is an incredible value as samples are commonly found, but meds are rare.

Given that almost every instance of combat increases the character’s infection meter, this is an essential move, and should be done every time you return to base as basic hygiene.  Use your meds to heal from actual injuries, instead.

Rule #3 Have No Fear with The Right Gear.  

There are things that you need to carry on your person, and items that should be kept in the car.  These vary based on the mission. For an assault on a plague heart, for example, I might do something like:

On your person:

  1. 3 Distractors
  2. 3 Painkillers
  3. 3 Light explosives
  4. 1 Bladed weapon
  5. 1 Ranged weapon, suppressed
  6. 1 Pistol, suppressed

In the car:

  1. Gas
  2. Toolkit
  3. Plague cure

For silent, 1-man missions or hunting trips, you can switch the rifle for a crossbow, for a foraging trip, switch to a larger backpack.

Rule #2: All Jobs Are Two-Person Jobs

As I wrote in my Tactical guide to X-Com 2, “two is one, one is none.”  You need two players for any dangerous mission the same way you need two divers in case of sharks.  Can the other diver help you? Not really, but they do offer an alternative for your enemies to eat, giving you the option to run away.  Often, you need this time to reload. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of fighting off one of Heartland’s Blood Ferals or Juggernauts with a revolver or even a crossbow, your chances of survival are extremely low without a partner.  Partners also let you to carry more.

Rule #:1 Live By Day, Die By Night 

In the world of airline safety, the safety measures in place are so effective, that for something to go wrong with the plane, it takes more than just one system failure for a crash.  At least two things need to simultaneously go wrong, a so called “error cascade” needs to take place in order to create the conditions for an emergency. This game (Heartland in particular) works very much the same way: once you become competent at understanding its basic beats, a lot of time can pass with no real danger.  You can become calm, complacent. Suddenly, an enormous horde overruns your base, a Juggernaut comes barreling in, a Feral joins him, and in your haste to escape you run into a Bloater, detonating its poison cloud. In that scenario, without swift, decisive action, 1 or more characters will certainly die.  An error has cascaded into a series of other errors, and has become a crisis.

Going out at night is your first error.  The game does a lot of good work creating a sense of dread, manipulating camera angles and deploying lonely groans from the dark.  Bloaters lie in wait on porches, in roadways, just in the bushes. Screamers stumble into headlights on the road, shrieking skyward.  Glowing red eyes pour out of the black, and the swarm is upon you.  

Anyone who plays State of Decay knows that as the classic “dread” situation, but by night it’s a lot harder to know how many enemies there are, where and how far away they are, what lies around the next corner or where safety is.  Everything becomes much more immediate and unplanned, chopping at enemy after enemy with no clear sense of where to go.

It’s often necessary to go out at night to complete some mission or another; here’s work that has to get done.  But, try to run out the clock as best you can until daylight. This should be the part of the game where you do most of your construction work and base management, leaving assaults to happen by the light of day.  Make sure to enable your base with power, one of the worst things that can happen is a siege attack by night, where you don’t know where the enemy is coming from and can’t see what you’re shooting at, and end up wasting ammunition shooting at your own people.  In Heartland you will be besieged several times by very strong groups of enemies. You will lose people at these times unless you can get to the rooftops and make an escape, or have prepared with traps and fire. Best to have this happen by day.

Be ready.

Top 10 XCOM2 Tactics for Beginners

XCOM2 title card.

I love XCOM.  I came to it via the iPad, and played XCOM: Enemy Unknown on the couch, watching TV, on a plane, basically everywhere.  It is, in my opinion, the best game available on the iPad except for the expansion, XCOM: Enemy Within, which significantly enriches its predecessor.

In the original XCOM, you manage a secret government military strike team dedicated to combating a slow alien invasion.  The game has two dimensions: tactical, turn-based combat and team/base management, where you determine what facilities to construct, how to manage your budget, garner the  support of critical allies, and balance your strategic goals against urgent missions, all against the backdrop of a ticking doomsday clock.

The drama, of course, comes from the customization, the leveling-up, and the difficulty.  As characters survive missions,  they are promoted through the ranks, given new abilities and stats.  You grow attached to them, you choose thier weapons and upgrades, their color palette, psychic or cybernetic abilities, their name, codename, even their hairstyle (or hat/helmet).  You come to rely on them, understand which are fast, which are lucky, which are good or bad shots, and which should close the deal with a sword.  You come to rely on them.  Then, in moments of high drama, they are inevitably killed, to be replaced with the next up-and-coming rookie.  This can be heart-wrenching, especially if, like me, you try to keep the number of saved games to a minimum.  (For you stalwarts, the Ironman mode disables the ability to save games entirely, but I don’t think I could take it, emotionally.)

XCOM operatives saddened by an empty chair on the ride home.
XCOM operatives saddened by an empty chair on the ride home.

So, I’ve followed it closely and was thrilled when XCOM2 became available for XBox One (not yet on iPad, of course.)   And now, XCOM2 has its own expansion  advertised on social media: War of the Chosen.

One thing that wasn’t available when I first started playing XCOM2 was a tactical guide for beginners.  I’m at best a very part-time gamer and don’t have a ton of experience with turn-based strategy, but XCOM is less about ground strategy– moving heavy units around a board, but more about small unit tactics.  So I wrote this for people like me, bearing in mind that I expect these rules to continue to be perfectly serviceable to War of the Chosen.

Obviously, this guide will make no sense if you don’t play XCOM.

Here are the Basics, for new players:

  1. Thou Shalt Protect Thyself First.

    A Ranger opts for full cover.
    A Ranger opts for full cover.

    That means the primary goal of each turn should be to make sure the character is provided with the best cover available.  That means even if you have a kill-shot lined up, take care of protecting yourself first, otherwise you’re just lining up someone else’s kill-shot.  If it takes a few turns to put down the enemy, fine.

  2. Seek the High Ground, Seek the Flank.

    An enemy heavy MEC is successfully flanked by a grenadier.
    An enemy heavy MEC is successfully flanked by a grenadier.

    Look, your odds can increase by as much as 50%.  Snipers should always be seeking high ground and should be as far away from the battle as is practical– use Spider Armor to help with this.  Everyone should always be seekeing the flank.  Seriously, the main point of the game is to flank your enemies.  That’s really it.

  3. Don’t Follow Turn Order.  One of the great features of XCOM’s turn-based combat is that anyone on the team can go first or last, there is no fixed order.  That means although Frank is set to move next, you can defer Frank, and have everyone else move first, coming back to Frank’s move last.  This is your single most important move.  Your most powerful weapon is your ability to determine when a turn is used, when a special weapon is deployed, when a movement is made, who gets the kill-shot.  Always give kill-shots to rookies, where possible, so they can level up faster.  Turn order is tyranny, and you don’t have to follow it.
  4. Watch Your Loadouts.

    Preparing to choose the best loadouts for a mission.
    Preparing to choose the best loadouts for a mission.

    Loadouts should be catered to the objectives of the mission, and anticipate the enemies you expect to find.  If you think there will be a Sectopod, a decoy will save your life.  If you anticipate Vipers or Arachnids, you will be poisoned.  Lots of robots?  Heavy armor?  Armor-piercing rounds.  Pack accordingly.

  5. Stick Together.

    A tight squad grouping as the team moves toward the action.
    A tight squad grouping as the team moves toward the action.

    When you are moving across the board, keep the group tight.  The single worst move you can make is to unintentionally reveal an enemy squad that you aren’t ready for.  This can be avoided by moving tightly (and using battle scanners!).  If you encounter enemies, stop moving.  DO NOT press on beyond that point!  Remember what the Navy SEALs say about swim buddies: two is one, one is none.”

  6. Recover friends and weapons.  An advancement in XCOM2 is that wounded or unconscious friends can be carried.  While it’s not usually useful to carry dead operatives, if it is possible in the constraints of time and distance, this is the only way to recover armor, weapons and utilities, which are otherwise lost for good.  Carried soldiers limit the amount of actions you can take, but they don’t restrict your movement.
  7. Use the element of surprise.

    A Viper and an Andromedon are caught in a trap.
    A Viper and an Andromedon are caught in a trap.

    When attacking an unsuspecting enemy, the attacking move should be the last move in the round.  All of the previous turns should be to set-up the position of your squad (ideally a mix of flanking and elevated positions) and set their moves to “overwatch.”  When the final shot is made, usually by a sniper, the enemies will run– triggering overwatch fire.  With enemy squads of three basic enemies, this will often take out as many as two enemies, sometimes all three!  Other enemy units are not necessarily notified, so if you kill all three, you are still concealed.

  8. Watch the Clock.

    A ranger sets the explosive charges to complete the mission.
    A ranger sets the explosive charges to complete the mission.

    Each game type (set the bomb, rescue/assassinate, retaliation strikes, protect the device, hack the device, etc.) have different rule constraints.  Some types have a turn clock: 10 turns to accomplish this task, or something similar.  You live and die by this clock.  You should know how you plan to move, every single turn.  However, do not let this feeling interfere in other game types: if you aren’t on the clock, take your time and position yourself as advantageously as possible.

  9. Know when to fight, know when to run.

    A grenadier opts for the better part of valor by evac'ing from the combat zone.
    A grenadier opts for the better part of valor by evac’ing from the combat zone.

    Another typical rookie move is to think every battle has to be fought.  Many battles will make obvious that this is not the case: look for time clocks or enemy reinforcements, which often signal that the point is not to win by killing all opponents– if you try, you will be killed.  In many cases, reinforcements will keep coming every three turns or so.  Get the message and complete the actual objective.  A critical point is: learn how to call for evac.  A good trick is to call for evac if a squadmate is certain to die within a few turns, such as by poison, or acid, and to just evac them.  Come back to that planted evac point when the objective has been completed.  Another good strategy is to send back wounded rookies who have been promoted but are likely to be killed.   They will keep the promotion!  Many objectives can be completed without securing the area.  While the Mission is considered a “Failure,” the Objective is considered completed, and usually that’s all that is needed.  (The Chairman will still be pleased.)

  10. Protect Your Veterans.  This is so, so important.  Rookies come and go.  Squaddies come and go.  But veterans represent a substantial investment of time and energy, they have significant battlefield advantages that Rookies can’t match, and they unlock squad bonuses in the Guerrilla Training School.  So give the rookies the shit jobs. Put them in front.  Make them prove themselves.  And do your best to get your veterans off the field alive.  You can’t do this all the time.  You can’t even do it most of the time.  But consider it a priority.

What are your best tactics? Share in the comments!

SKYRIM! 10 Rules for survival.

You are in the back of a horsedrawn cart, being pulled along a wooded road, but to where?  There are two other men– prisoners, like  you– bound at the wrist and seated in the car with you and an armored, helmeted guard.  Why?  Where are you going?  To die for the crime of opposing the empire. Wait, what empire?

The executioner draws his axe… And?  What’s that in the sky?

*

First there’s the breadth of the thing.  An unmistakable sense of place, a lush forest, individual sounds, a rolling horizon that draws nearer and further, pickable, ‘edible’ plants, fully open and free.  By the time you’ve escaped the execution, having fled the garrison to follow the road up to the mountain vista and hear the rousing strings play as the camera surrounds you, you approach at the summit to

(take it all in)

You’re hooked.  This isn’t a game.  It’s a world.

And it’s big.  If you’re like me, overcome with your newfound freedom, you just tear off and run!  You’ll pass through pine forests, birch, swamps, mountains, gorges, barrows, treefalls, snow, sun, moon (an extra planet) all the seasons (newly named), the days of the week.  You lose track of time.  (Freidas already)?  Everything somehow leads to a dramatic waterfall.

It’s also interactive.  The plants can be picked.  Animals can be hunted, meat extracted.  With some of the aforementioned plants, food can be cooked, eaten, even sold.   Alternately, the plans can be mixed to create poisons, healing potions, or other items.

Differing types of ore can be mined, and with a smelter found in any large city, converted to metal ingots you can use to hammer into armor and weapons.  These can also be sold, or worn.  And the act of creating them increases your blacksmith skill, of course.

Weapons, armor, clothing, and jewelry can be enchanted to make flaming swords, electric hammers, rings that help you draw a bow, and boots that help you carry more.  The combinations that can be achieved here are amazing, and the reason why you can spend hours just outfitting yourself to your satisfaction.

The depth and breadth of this game beats anything else I’ve ever played.  Thematically, my favorite remains the Fallout series, but this has so much of Fallout’s DNA, and has improved on so much of it, that I don’t feel bad making the comparison.

So this is my warning: you will lose days of your life in here.  Hopefully this list can make some of that time better spent.

1.  Find a companion as soon as you can.  Companions are a great advantage in combat, mainly because they provide something else for your enemies to shoot at.  Sometimes they are going to get stuck, or killed, or lost, so plan on this, and switch companions regularly.  You should also outfit them with homemade armor and weaponry that you smith yourself– this gives you the opportunity to improve your blacksmith and enchanting skills.

2. There is a bug in the game that allows companions to carry items with no weight limit so long as they pick them up off the ground. You have to ask them to do something, and then point to the item you want them to pick up and carry.  There is no upward limit using this method, but any other way will hit the weight limit.

3. Collect flowers, roots, mushrooms, etc.  Eat everything you find, early in the game; there’s plenty of it to be found later.  Eating the items gives you insights to their alchemical effects so there’s less guesswork involved in alchemy.

4.  Get into blacksmithing as soon as you can, and build everything available.  This will increase your skill.  I didn’t get into this until much later, and the benefits of good material (with good enchantments) are immense.  Improve weapons and armor at sharpening wheels and workman’s tables, respectively.  When you find the Skyforge, do as much work as you can there.

5.  Archery and poisons should form the basis of your combat strategy.  Remember: stay hidden!  Bonuses from sneak attacks can be immense.  Also, there are poisons that create vulnerabilities, which can be played off your companion’s strengths.  If your companion shoots electricity, and you have the “weakness to shock” poison, shooting your enemy with a poisoned arrow early in combat is a good strategy.

6.  By default, you can conjure 1 ally at a time.  Conjuring is one of the most effective tactical moves you can make,  because while the ally may cause limited damage, they lure enemies away.  Likewise, you will often be in the dark or poor visibility.  Conjured allies provide an excellent poor man’s radar, as they will charge any nearby enemies, often times illuminating them with fire.  Any magic items you find based around conjuring, save.

7. Hoard soul gems and watch the charge on your items.  Remember magical weapons run dry and must be recharged.  Load the gems with souls for better charge and sale price.

8. Read any book worth more than 50, as that’s a good way to tell if it contains any skill bonuses.  Then, sell it.  Spend the money to train with anyone that can teach you anything, especially smithing and magic.

9. You don’t have to explore everyplace the second you discover it, but a filled map means you can fast-travel more effectively.  So roam as long and far as you can, in order to rack-up fast-travel places.

10.  Dragons are wounded and slowed at a distance, but they are killed most effectively with heavy weapons up close.  Have your companion carry the scales, and make your way to the nearest store to sell them.

That ought to do it!  What are your best tips?

Top 15 Rules for Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - MultiplayerFull disclosure: I SUCK AT THIS GAME.  However, recently I’ve begun to improve at a, er, clip– all by following these tips, and I wish someone had calmly explained all this when I started, because these are the basics, the fundamentals. Which means you get nowhere if you aren’t following them.  Moreover, these tips really do work for any multiplayer first-person shooter, excepting the specifics around kit selection and specific weapons.

This advice only applies to ‘hardcore’ mode.  Hardcore mode basically means it is much more likely that any direct hit will kill or seriously would you.   Non-hardcore mode is, in my opinion, a noisy mess, and it takes three times the number of bullets to bring someone down.  This ruins a lot of the subtleties of the available weapon selection, and some weapons, such as pistols, don’t even work.  By contrast, hardcore mode is much more interesting.

Anyways on to the rules.

1.  Two words: Sight Lines.  IRL we have a thing called peripheral vision, which allows us to see simultaneosuly in front of us, to our left and right.  In a first-person shooter, you can see  in front of you, period.  This means you will get shot, regularly, by someone you can’t see from your left, right, or behind you.  The thing to do here is extremely simple: keep moving.  When you do stop, make in in a place where you have the maximum number of directions visible to you and the maximum number blocked to your enemy.  Corners are essentially ideal, but everyone is always looking there.  This strategy of moving from cover to cover will get you called a camper, which is what players call someone who doesn’t move.  You are moving from cover to cover, not camping, sprinting.

2.  Watch your back.  The only way to protect your back is to run or to have it against a wall.  See above.

3.  Be Still.  Crouch.  If you are not crouched, it’s because you are running.  To put it another way, you should be CROUCHED AT ALL TIMES.  Learn to be still when you are not explicitly doing something, because you can always see someone moving, no matter how far away threy are, and the sound quality of the game is excellent as far as hearing people running nearby.  Conversely, someone still can creep right up on you.

4.  You should probably slow down.

5.  Use custom classes to support your strategy of play.  You should have a favorite weapon and sidearm that you level-up with most rapidly, and set them aside in a class you can fall back to when things aren’t going your way.  Take note of challenges to level-up your weapons faster.  Focus on getting maximally good at one thing, then experiment around, like in college.

6.  Choose the right tools for the map.  Here are the general rules: Assault rifles work best on variable terrain with some close-quarter fighting and some distance fighting, and can do the work of a sniper rifle when outfitted with the right scope.  Sniper rifles are completely useless at anything but a medium to large distance, but outfit you with excellent camouflage. Shotguns and pistols work best up close, indoors or in confined spaces (alleyways and corridors).  Notice how the different shapes of the weapons obscure your view, and how quickly they can be drawn and reholstered.  Submachineguns and shotguns excel at putting a ton of lead in a small area very quickly, but shotguns also tend to wound on any but a direct hit.  Some sniper rifles and shotguns have the additional disadvantage of being pump-action or bolt-action, which can be unforgiving in a tense moment.

7.  Use traps.  Traps, like claymores and bouncing betties, do the killing for you when you aren’t even there.  Use them to up your numbers.  Augment them with advantages like Hardline Pro to get faster access to bigger and better weaponry that– you guessed it– does the killing for you.  You can be two places at once!  As you improve, learn to flush enemies into traps.  Also, don’t be afraid to pick them up and move them somewhere more effective.  And note that traps covered in smoke can’t be seen and are easily tripped.  Finally, traps, when ripped, make an audible sound– you can hear your own and your enemies’ traps when they are set off.  You can use this not only as a gauge of danger but also as crude radar– it will tell you where an enemy was– or is.

8.  Watch.  Observe your enemies’ style of play in-between matches (observer mode).  They’ll almost always show you a new place to hide, to stick a trap, or a better overall approach.  Also, it tells you where they are.

9.  If you are wondering if he saw you, he did.

10.  Grenades go where you don’t.  If there’s a bad guy in there, toss in some Semtex or a Frag.  This goes double for upstairs or downstairs areas.  Even non-lethal grenades (including, nay, especially, smoke) are almost magically effective at making an enemy flee his position.  Likewise, if you have time, they are excellent at covering your escape, especially smoke.  There is a caveat here: don’t throw them in front of you, or at an enemy who knows you are there or (this goes without saying) can see you.  You’ll still be pulling the pin out while he brings you down.

11.  Flank.  That means if the enemy sees you in one place, fall back and come around the other way, catching him off guard.  If you think this can be done inside of three seconds, you’d be shocked how often it works.  This does not work over large areas because you’ll be shot before you ever get there.

12.  Did I mention you were going too fast?  Seriously, slow down.

13.  You are most vulnerable right after you shoot someone.  Everyone heard it, the guy who was just about to shoot him saw the bullets come from somewhere, someone on the other side of the map saw the tracer fire, and two other guys just happened to be in the area anyway.  Fall back and go the other way, because you’re about to get shot.

14.  Stop holding down the trigger so hard.  If you have a problem with this, focus on one of the guns that do 3-round bursts.  If you can learn to pop off quick, small bursts manually, your accuracy will improve.

15.  Play a lot of Free-for-All first, to improve your skills and unlock weapons and equipment faster.  Your number of kills on team games will necessarily be smaller since a lot of other people will be involved, so free-for-all is the most efficient way to unlock new guns.