My gripes with insane difficulty Aggrandise

#1
Hello fellow ant fans,

I am a long time player of this game, reaching almost 400 hours played. I want to share with you my frustrations with this game as I think I have clocked enough hours to say I understand this game. Let me say up front that I only play levels on Insane difficulty and only try hard when I can't beat insane. So far this has only happened on 3.2 Frontline pre-patch. It has taken me over 200 hours to try and beat that level pre-patch. There was even someone on Youtube who beat it (fucking lucky I tell you that) who also claimed it was a 'perfectly balanced level'. I have copied his build for over 20 hours, improving it even and gotten wildly different results each run, to the point where I beat down the army ants all day but the meter just went over what I just killed at the end of the day or to the point where I had to kill 18 adult mantises on a single day next to trying to beat down the army ants. (The night before that 18 mantisses I had killed over 8 adult grasshoppers and the 3 small whip spiders and 30+ other strong insects). My build, speed and strategy reached the point where I could take that on and still have food surplus. That level was fucking rng and that guy who beat it was fucking lucky.

After the patch the level was a joke with the optimizations I had in place for trying to beat the impossible level it was before. 200 hours wasted over something I beat in 50 mins now easily. I had given Slug Disco the benefit of the doubt with the design of 3.2 Frontline before, where I thought that on insane difficulty, the army ants are too weak to fight an emerging Atta colony and the insects shout 'VIVA LA RESISTANCE' and ironically murder the army ants, who actually murder these insects on industrial scale in real life. Now you have released Aggrandize. I like the concept of this map. However, this map design + the design of Frontline 3.2 (pre-patch) tells me that the developer doesn't tests his levels on Insane, or atleast has tested + beaten it. Now I have reached the lovely trio of whip spiders over 10 times the last couple of days (hail corona), testing different builds, optimizing the food path. It has gotten to the point where the two small whip spiders (which I kill before the boss + 2 adds), I can take down in 1 go, without losing too many ants.

So I just ended my best insane run in total loss again last night. This is my setup before I attacked the big boss + 2 whip spiders last night:
-2x 7 unit of trap jaws lvl 1
-1x 4 unit of trap jaws lvl 1
-1x 7 wood ants lvl 3
-1x7 wood ants lvl 1
-1x2 wood ants lvl 1
-2x7 black ants lvl 1
-2x2 black ants lvl 1
-1x7 + 1x1 worker lvl1 on top of that i had 3 workers on nest duty all the time.

I started the engagement with 410 food and had about 2 engagement chances. I used the soldiers, split into left and right flank groups, to pin down the adds and have the workers come from behind the spiders to throw their attacks into the opposite direction. My dps team of trapjaws and mortars tried to focus on the main target. However, with the 3 whip spiders moving into random directions and shoving my ants, I could never get proper damage on the proper targets, resulting in the boss spider at 50% hp, one small spider at 40% hp and one small whip spider on 60%hp. Mind you, it takes about 60-70 minutes to get to this point, as the rest of the level has to be properly managed and baited in order to reach an optimal path where every room/kill is profit. In this run I was able to kill all but the funnel web spiders, the 3 large wolfspiders and 5 medium wolfspiders in one engagement. I was not able to pull out singular wolfspiders with my bait worker and 2 of them did go to town on my army but on the second try I was able to pull them 1 by 1. However, in the end both the funnel web spiders and the wolfspiders were a profit nonetheless.

Before I start spending another hour getting to this point (the process is not fun anymore, it's fucking tedious) to test whether or not I should've made more food storage and trade in all those extra units of 2x2 black ants, 1x2 wood ants and 1x4 trap jaws into 500 food and just ram into the spiders another 2 times will actually make the change (this is also less dps and targets to hit so the trade-off will most likely be somewhat equal). So can anyone confirm this level is doable on Insane and I am just a bad player? (prefer hearing from the developer, who has surely tested and beaten his own game before releasing it to the public)

Because getting to this point there is some problems that shows when you make units. When you make a group of 2, both will go to the pheromone marker. Once you make a group of 3, there is always one of them in the base. Untill you reach a groupsize of 7, there is always 1 in base. Raising that group size to 8 will cause 2 of them to stay in base, effectively making a group size of 3 and 8 a negative investment on aggrandize. However, starting a new group instead of raising it to 8 will restart this cycle, rendering your 3rd soldier useless yet again. So I tend to open 2/2 groups in the start so I have effective combat troops (the 3rd is useless), then only make up to 4, so atleast there is +1 in my combat group.
Next to that, soldiers will stay at their first ordered pheromone marker, despite their sisters fighting and dying 3 tiles next to them. I have had situations where in the start (which is the most important part) of Aggrandise where I had soldiers in base and waiting on the pheromone marker before the actual fight, effectively halving my actual and paid for, combat strength. Right now I just use my Baitboy worker (I know they are females) to pull enemies into my army where possible, so atleast fighting strength is optimal despite these mechanics.

For example this happened several times:
Let's say I open with 3 trap jaws, 5 soldiers and 5 wood ants and together with the 7 starting workers I charge into a room. But before I click into that room I want to gather my forces, so I can move as one. Out of these troops, 1 trap jaw, 1 soldier, 1 wood ant and 1 worker will stay in base and not join the move to the pheromone marker. Then when the troops gather at this pheromone marker, 1 soldier and 1 worker start walking back to base for some reason immediatly (patrolling?! I didnt order that). I make the call to move forward and gather at a spot where I can engage and the 3rd trapjaw joined. At this point, only 3 trapjaws, 2 soldiers, 2 wood ants and 4 workers engage the actual fight. During the click of moving forward, one wood ant decided to move back to base and one decided to stay on the previous pheromone marker, together with a black ant. How do you expect me to beat this level when this kind of BS occurs? It means I have just made 3 soldiers and 2 wood ant that are useless. Then when the first ants die, these other ants will slowly trickle into your battle. And I have tried to make only groups of 2/2 to beat this mechanic, but some still stay in base and some will still stay at the pheromone marker, just watching their sisters fall in combat and not giving a flying f.

I tried uploading screenshots, but they are too large.

PS: What's up with the healing, at this point it takes almost 10 minutes to heal a badly injured trapjaw so what's the point. Add badly injured units into the mix with the healthy ones staying in base, you risk losing your entire wood ant back line because your soldiers +trapjaws just fought battles and they die rapidly and there is no way to quickly heal them (no special tiles, no aura around queen, no added regeneration if you are high on food, no nursery task healing injured ants). But I also can't select the wounded and order them to be sacrificed without sacrificing the entire unit that is added to them. Because I'd rather sacrifice them than risk losing more units than necessary for a particular engagement.
 
#2
I agree with a lot of this. I have about 300 hours on this game and the newest levels have been really broken on Insane. Except for the formicarium challenges on Insane, those are a joke.
 

Buffalo981

Queen
Extremely Helpful Person
#3
I agree with a lot of this. I have about 300 hours on this game and the newest levels have been really broken on Insane. Except for the formicarium challenges on Insane, those are a joke.
I would say 3.1 is fine on insane actually, it's been beaten by killing the enemy queen and outpacing the enemy, and most people who can beat other levels on insane can beat 3.1 on insane after some trial. I agree that 3.2 insane did used to be broken (not fun at all because you can't step out without getting eaten by a billion things), but do you really still think that it's that bad after the update?

I do fully agree about aggrandise, I haven't gotten through it on hard. I'm not holding 'extra levels' up to the same standard as the formicarium campaign levels, though. Let's remember that (as far as I know) one dev pretty much worked on them himself, on the side, while his main focus was free play mode and achievements. They're not meant to be as big and polished as the campaign levels, but I think they're more "experimental", (for example, I think there's a level called tug of war being developed where you spawn ants against an enemy colony and you can't build) and just trying fun ideas that would never actually happen in the campaign, and at the same time providing a bit of extra content for players who are waiting for the 4th formicarium tier.
 
#5
I would say 3.1 is fine on insane actually, it's been beaten by killing the enemy queen and outpacing the enemy, and most people who can beat other levels on insane can beat 3.1 on insane after some trial. I agree that 3.2 insane did used to be broken (not fun at all because you can't step out without getting eaten by a billion things), but do you really still think that it's that bad after the update?

I do fully agree about aggrandise, I haven't gotten through it on hard. I'm not holding 'extra levels' up to the same standard as the formicarium campaign levels, though. Let's remember that (as far as I know) one dev pretty much worked on them himself, on the side, while his main focus was free play mode and achievements. They're not meant to be as big and polished as the campaign levels, but I think they're more "experimental", (for example, I think there's a level called tug of war being developed where you spawn ants against an enemy colony and you can't build) and just trying fun ideas that would never actually happen in the campaign, and at the same time providing a bit of extra content for players who are waiting for the 4th formicarium tier.
Yes, I agree that 3.1 is fine. There are several strategies to taking this level down and I am looking forward to beating it with the phorid flies. 3.2 after the patch is really easy and I don't expect difficulties by adding phorid flies. It's just the discrepancy between trying to beat an almost impossible level and then after the patch it's really easy in comparison.

I do look at the extra levels with the same critical eye as any mission that is released, because it's work from the same person who made the missions. In the case of aggrandise, we are offered a puzzle of some sort and of course, it would be nice if it's actually possible to solve the puzzle. I have beaten aggrandise on hard difficulty just now and the results are so completely different from the Insane run. I was able to gain an army of 4x7 lvl 1 trapjaws, 4x7 lvl 1 soldiers, 4x 7 lvl 1 mortar and 1x7 lvl 3 mortar with 900 food banked before the final fight. It took me less than a minute to kill both the boss and add, with 700 food still banked at the end of the fight. I did the exact same run as my best insane run which I described in my first post, but I didn't care about properly pulling packs like I would do on insane. Total runtime was 89 minutes to beat it on hard by basically steamrolling the map. I suspect that my insane runs have taken longer to fail as there is no time indication if you give up.

Now I suspect that the secret achievement is beating aggrandise on Insane and I cannot get it now. I got all other achievements on day 1 of patch release. Also, I am playing on GoG and it wasn't fun to hear that steam player can already play the new stuff for over half a year when I am still bumping my head into 3.2 frontlines pre-patch this february.

about aggrandise I think they will need to rebalance it since last update changed the trapjaw cost, the level was supposed to be balanced for 60 food worth trap jaws and they are now 90
That is quite the balance difference indeed. If trapjaws were to cost 60 for their stats, they are simply OP. However, I have tested in battle arena how soldiers vs trapjaws of equal costs work, and the soldiers win. I have tested with soldier and mortar only in aggrandise but you will take many more losses so trapjaws are necessary for an optimal run though.

On a more positive note, the freeplay changes are most welcome and the victory conditions turn it into somewhat of a skirmish mode. I have done a couple different victory condition runs on insane. It's evident that the genestealer colony is much stronger (do the points you spend through royal jelly get applied?) than any of the regular colonies. Especially leafcutter colony on insane is incredibly difficult and the game tends to slam so many monsters down my base which are not worth any food right before ending the victory condition so you can see the problem. I still have to win on insane as a leafcutter colony.
Right now there are other ants on the map which are triggered by fish. However, I think you can add ants to contest other landmarks and/or to clean up kills on the map to apply somewhat of a skirmish feeling without having to add an incredibly difficult A.I. You could even add a competing leafcutter foraging trail to compete with leaves. Maybe through this system you could add the possibility of choosing nest invasions/attack waves from other specific ant species instead of insects. This way you don't have to program a.i. behaviour but still add the feeling of having competing ant colonies (of different species). Bonus points if you have these trails come from the other nest sites on which you as a player can spawn. This way, the other ant colonies also forage for the natural resources on the map and inevitably clashes for resources will happen, because the greatest threat to an ant colony, is usually other ants.

edit: I would love for slavemaker invasions in freeplay, because of my favourite campaign level Subjugation.
 
Last edited:
#6
Yes, I agree that 3.1 is fine. There are several strategies to taking this level down and I am looking forward to beating it with the phorid flies. 3.2 after the patch is really easy and I don't expect difficulties by adding phorid flies. It's just the discrepancy between trying to beat an almost impossible level and then after the patch it's really easy in comparison.

I do look at the extra levels with the same critical eye as any mission that is released, because it's work from the same person who made the missions. In the case of aggrandise, we are offered a puzzle of some sort and of course, it would be nice if it's actually possible to solve the puzzle. I have beaten aggrandise on hard difficulty just now and the results are so completely different from the Insane run. I was able to gain an army of 4x7 lvl 1 trapjaws, 4x7 lvl 1 soldiers, 4x 7 lvl 1 mortar and 1x7 lvl 3 mortar with 900 food banked before the final fight. It took me less than a minute to kill both the boss and add, with 700 food still banked at the end of the fight. I did the exact same run as my best insane run which I described in my first post, but I didn't care about properly pulling packs like I would do on insane. Total runtime was 89 minutes to beat it on hard by basically steamrolling the map. I suspect that my insane runs have taken longer to fail as there is no time indication if you give up.

Now I suspect that the secret achievement is beating aggrandise on Insane and I cannot get it now. I got all other achievements on day 1 of patch release. Also, I am playing on GoG and it wasn't fun to hear that steam player can already play the new stuff for over half a year when I am still bumping my head into 3.2 frontlines pre-patch this february.



That is quite the balance difference indeed. If trapjaws were to cost 60 for their stats, they are simply OP. However, I have tested in battle arena how soldiers vs trapjaws of equal costs work, and the soldiers win. I have tested with soldier and mortar only in aggrandise but you will take many more losses so trapjaws are necessary for an optimal run though.

On a more positive note, the freeplay changes are most welcome and the victory conditions turn it into somewhat of a skirmish mode. I have done a couple different victory condition runs on insane. It's evident that the genestealer colony is much stronger (do the points you spend through royal jelly get applied?) than any of the regular colonies. Especially leafcutter colony on insane is incredibly difficult and the game tends to slam so many monsters down my base which are not worth any food right before ending the victory condition so you can see the problem. I still have to win on insane as a leafcutter colony.
Right now there are other ants on the map which are triggered by fish. However, I think you can add ants to contest other landmarks and/or to clean up kills on the map to apply somewhat of a skirmish feeling without having to add an incredibly difficult A.I. You could even add a competing leafcutter foraging trail to compete with leaves. Maybe through this system you could add the possibility of choosing nest invasions/attack waves from other specific ant species instead of insects. This way you don't have to program a.i. behaviour but still add the feeling of having competing ant colonies (of different species). Bonus points if you have these trails come from the other nest sites on which you as a player can spawn. This way, the other ant colonies also forage for the natural resources on the map and inevitably clashes for resources will happen, because the greatest threat to an ant colony, is usually other ants.

edit: I would love for slavemaker invasions in freeplay, because of my favourite campaign level Subjugation.
I just want to turn into the Doomslayer and fight Army Ants in freeplay with my Ereptors.
 
#7
I just want to turn into the Doomslayer and fight Army Ants in freeplay with my Ereptors.
I could definitely see that happen in freeplay too. Maybe it can be triggered when there is a lot of alive insects and/or lots of unclaimed food on the map. Or maybe when the player reaches a large number of units aswell (delicious larvae).

Unrelated though: is that a crematogaster scutellaris on your picture? Do you own colonies yourself too?
 

Buffalo981

Queen
Extremely Helpful Person
#8
Now I suspect that the secret achievement is beating aggrandise on Insane and I cannot get it now. I got all other achievements on day 1 of patch release. Also, I am playing on GoG and it wasn't fun to hear that steam player can already play the new stuff for over half a year when I am still bumping my head into 3.2 frontlines pre-patch this february.
btw the secret achievement is winning the hungry spider level, luckily not aggrandise insane lol.
 
#9
[QUOTE="Unrelated though: is that a crematogaster scutellaris on your picture? Do you own colonies yourself too?[/QUOTE]
I believe it is S. Invertica or M. Ruba. I don't remember which one I used, I did keep ants but my currant colony died. I'm saving for new gear for F. Fusca.
 
#10
btw the secret achievement is winning the hungry spider level, luckily not aggrandise insane lol.
I have played this game over almost 2 year and never seen that level before. Quick google search tells me to play on full moons. Cheers!

[QUOTE="Unrelated though: is that a crematogaster scutellaris on your picture? Do you own colonies yourself too?
I believe it is S. Invertica or M. Ruba. I don't remember which one I used, I did keep ants but my currant colony died. I'm saving for new gear for F. Fusca.[/QUOTE]

Yes, I believe it's an S. Invicta in that case, due to the aggressive stance and the long stinger. It would be nice to keep a colony of them due to their explosiveness in colony size. However, I will not bring this invasive species to the Netherlands. The only confirmed live colony of S. Invicta in northern europe is in the Netherlands already, probably due to a hobbyist not handling his colonies well or the import of goods through Rotterdam.

F. Fusca will start flying halfway into May untill the end of summer so keep an eye out in the coming months. They are used to walking long distances (I have observed worker trails stretching about 50 metres from the nest in the forest) so make sure you make a setup with plenty of walking distance (e.g. use more connector cable from nest to arena or make more arena's).
Here's a link about the nuptial flights in my country, maybe it can help you too: https://www.nlmieren.nl/websitepages/nuptialflights.html

Edit: Back on topic, I just beat a 15k score victory condition insane diff as leaf cutters. Despite having 0 army capabilities and ending the round with 0 combat score I managed to win by holding back resources and only burst into score at the end. I had an adult mantis, beach tiger beetle and other strong creatures in my base but I won by walking past them and getting the last score by gathering resources. Domination and survival insane still not possible to beat on insane leafcutters so far. Had more success with playing black ants so far. Also confirmed that genestealer colony uses the special abilities unlocked by royal jelly in the campaign. I had way more difficulty beating insane domination and score as regular black ants than as with my genestealer black ant colony.
 
Last edited:

Buffalo981

Queen
Extremely Helpful Person
#11
Hello fellow ant fans,

Now you have released Aggrandize. I like the concept of this map. However, this map design + the design of Frontline 3.2 (pre-patch) tells me that the developer doesn't tests his levels on Insane, or atleast has tested + beaten it. Now I have reached the lovely trio of whip spiders over 10 times the last couple of days (hail corona), testing different builds, optimizing the food path. It has gotten to the point where the two small whip spiders (which I kill before the boss + 2 adds), I can take down in 1 go, without losing too many ants.

So I just ended my best insane run in total loss again last night. This is my setup before I attacked the big boss + 2 whip spiders last night:
-2x 7 unit of trap jaws lvl 1
-1x 4 unit of trap jaws lvl 1
-1x 7 wood ants lvl 3
-1x7 wood ants lvl 1
-1x2 wood ants lvl 1
-2x7 black ants lvl 1
-2x2 black ants lvl 1
-1x7 + 1x1 worker lvl1 on top of that i had 3 workers on nest duty all the time.

I started the engagement with 410 food and had about 2 engagement chances. I used the soldiers, split into left and right flank groups, to pin down the adds and have the workers come from behind the spiders to throw their attacks into the opposite direction. My dps team of trapjaws and mortars tried to focus on the main target. However, with the 3 whip spiders moving into random directions and shoving my ants, I could never get proper damage on the proper targets, resulting in the boss spider at 50% hp, one small spider at 40% hp and one small whip spider on 60%hp. Mind you, it takes about 60-70 minutes to get to this point, as the rest of the level has to be properly managed and baited in order to reach an optimal path where every room/kill is profit. In this run I was able to kill all but the funnel web spiders, the 3 large wolfspiders and 5 medium wolfspiders in one engagement. I was not able to pull out singular wolfspiders with my bait worker and 2 of them did go to town on my army but on the second try I was able to pull them 1 by 1. However, in the end both the funnel web spiders and the wolfspiders were a profit nonetheless.

Before I start spending another hour getting to this point (the process is not fun anymore, it's fucking tedious) to test whether or not I should've made more food storage and trade in all those extra units of 2x2 black ants, 1x2 wood ants and 1x4 trap jaws into 500 food and just ram into the spiders another 2 times will actually make the change (this is also less dps and targets to hit so the trade-off will most likely be somewhat equal). So can anyone confirm this level is doable on Insane and I am just a bad player? (prefer hearing from the developer, who has surely tested and beaten his own game before releasing it to the public)
If you're still interested in this:


This level is crazy long, took 2 50 min videos to record.
 
#12
If you're still interested in this:


This level is crazy long, took 2 50 min videos to record.
Congratulations!

I have not done insane yet so will give it a go after watching you.

I have a few questions after watching, probably obvious answers.

1.) how profitable is killing the beetle larva - vs leaving them there and massing your groups on top of them so they don't attach, and let workers cart the fish away? I always used blockers on the beach levels for challenge, maybe i should have just been trying to kill them. In this time is less of a factor though - so don't know for 2.1 etc.

2.) Why were the other groups of mobs at the end left. I haven't done the food match - so simply curious.

3.) I couldn't help but notice you changed your strategy considerably from the original post. Why the larger groups now? Also why 29 wood ants instead of 30 - seemed deliberate so curious about the logic behind it.

Also a couple of play style queries.
1st I learned a clever trick from watching you watching you not have next workers by simply sending workers with no trail back to base and they act as nest workers. Didn't know that was a thing. Awesome.

2nd you often sent everyone back to nest, then released their markers, is there reason for that?

Finally i appreciated the lack of any commentary - so refreshing. I often end up screaming at commentators who are like... i wonder what this is.. hmm maybe if you clicked the little icon the developers put over there on the right you wouldnt be putting your refuse pile in the middle of your nurseries.... Gah!!!

All the same - thanks heaps for the video. Looking forward to giving this a go, and also the full moon is nearly here since i started playing. Yay!

Edit: I just realised two different posters - i could go back and edit the post to not sound like an idiot - i would rather leave the impression that i am a derb and also lazy. haha. sorry not sorry.
 

Buffalo981

Queen
Extremely Helpful Person
#13
Congratulations!

I have not done insane yet so will give it a go after watching you.

I have a few questions after watching, probably obvious answers.

1.) how profitable is killing the beetle larva - vs leaving them there and massing your groups on top of them so they don't attach, and let workers cart the fish away? I always used blockers on the beach levels for challenge, maybe i should have just been trying to kill them. In this time is less of a factor though - so don't know for 2.1 etc.

2.) Why were the other groups of mobs at the end left. I haven't done the food match - so simply curious.

3.) I couldn't help but notice you changed your strategy considerably from the original post. Why the larger groups now? Also why 29 wood ants instead of 30 - seemed deliberate so curious about the logic behind it.

Also a couple of play style queries.
1st I learned a clever trick from watching you watching you not have next workers by simply sending workers with no trail back to base and they act as nest workers. Didn't know that was a thing. Awesome.

2nd you often sent everyone back to nest, then released their markers, is there reason for that?

Finally i appreciated the lack of any commentary - so refreshing. I often end up screaming at commentators who are like... i wonder what this is.. hmm maybe if you clicked the little icon the developers put over there on the right you wouldnt be putting your refuse pile in the middle of your nurseries.... Gah!!!
.
1. To be honest, not sure how profitable killing the beetle larvae is, but it works.

2. In my experience it's not worth fighting the adult wolf spiders, since it is rare to profit food off of them. I knew from a previous run that 29 wood ants, 19 trap jaws, and 29 workers + 800 food were enough to kill the huge whip-spider, so there was no reason to go after the other enemies.

3. I sent everyone back to nest to save time. If I were to just place a new pheromone near the next enemy group, as you know, the old pheromone group would become grey and some ants would annoyingly linger there. But if you place a new pheromone down and then delete it, the old one is instantly removed. It is useful especially for getting workers instantly back to the queen to replenish brood. There isn't much of a reason to bring the whole army back though, it's just to regroup, I guess, before going after the next target.

Thanks, I doubt my commentary would be any good anyways. If you want additional details with this level, check out the Eotu steam guides, and good luck!
 

HofNerd

Colony
Extremely Helpful Person
#14
If I were to just place a new pheromone near the next enemy group, as you know, the old pheromone group would become grey and some ants would annoyingly linger there.
With the small number of ants the player has early in the mission this can be very dangerous. (As having 3 ants out of 10 lingering while trying to attack can cost you the fight, especially when mixing soldiers with workers.)
 
Top