Church of Skill

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NEW CAUSTIC VALLEY PREVIEW AND REVIEW

by [EmP] heimdelight

The first half of this article was written before New Caustic was released, and the second half written the day after New Caustic was released.

  THE PREVIEW

   On Sept 20th, screenshots of the reworked map were released. Judging by the polish, it confirmed that Caustic Valley would be the third original MWO map to receive a complete redesign. Following River City and Forest Colony, the revamps aimed to better suit 12v12 gameplay with larger environments, opening up gameplay to more spacious engagements that allowed flanking, scouting, better use of Conquest capture points, and removal of clogged bottlenecks that made single strikes very lethal.

But did they remove what made Caustic Valley a pain to play on? Certain terrain elements seem to still exist despite the map being redone, as seen below. The pipes that run horizontal to vertical ramps would block 'Mechs with movement archetypes of all kinds, forcing people to run far to the left or right adding a lot of time to their rotation, possibly allowing flanking 'Mechs to pick them off from behind.
As seen in the new screenshot, this "C" shaped pipe existed in the old Caustic Valley. Hopefully it doesn't cause the same issues as before.

Spawn points weren't spread out long ago. All lances started close to each other, and moved together. The downside to them being spread out is that lances with a lot of weight (mainly Assaults/Heavies) could get flanked easy caused by the inevitable caldera NASCAR rotate-right sequence seen in competitive and PUG-matches alike. The center point of the map, a large hill with ridges made for poking, can be quickly traversed in a circle if you stay at the highest elevation. Often, the circle routes are stopped when a team decides to hold a ridge and turn around to defend from a flank.

That being said, it's very likely that the Caldera of Caustic will remain. My guess is that making it harder to use the top ridges to peek will remove any NASCAR movement, since the once traversable terrain will turn 'Mechs to bottlenecks that cross the ridges. Judging by the screenshots, you can also expect quite a bit of open area with rolling hills and valleys, very similar to the old Caustic.

And the Caldera looks as hot as ever. On par with Terra Therma, the terrain at the top guarantees slow heat dissipation. From what I can guess from the screenshot on the right, we are looking at the C4/C5 open area, the B4/B5 foggy lake, and the B3 'Mech Factory. The camera seems to be at the D5 ridge.


That being said, we can expect a very similar map layout with the addition of more terrain to make the maps boundaries stretch farther than they did before.

To give a short overview about Old Caustic Valley competitively, valleys are naturally lower areas of land that resides between hills or mountains. The difference in elevation or long distances between ridges creates an advantage for certain 'Mechs and loadouts over others, which is a rule generally followed for most maps by competitive players when creating dropdecks or 'Mech builds. Taking the advantageous ground is a large part of competitive MWO, and teams are always better off when they understand the fight for positioning. That being said, you also have to remember that Caustic Valley is a pretty warm map.

So take these three variables into account: Wide open areas, long distances, differences in elevation. Depending on 8v8 or 12v12, Game Mode, Team Tonnage, or Weight Class Distribution ruled by the league, those three variables will lead you into finding what can work best for a dropdeck and 'Mech.


This is solely my opinion, and doesn't reflect EmP in any way. We all take each other's suggestions into account and during practice, put the ideas into action. These next two paragraphs regarding loadouts and positioning are what I'd theorize are good areas/'Mechs to utilize for a competitive win.


One of my rules of thumb is to shape the dropdeck around initial/secondary positioning. That means, choosing an area that the team will go to, and hopefully engage with favorable position. For low tonnage dropdecks with a lot of lights, mediums, and maybe one or two heavies, weapons with medium/short range become a bit more viable in a game where, majority of the time, both teams end up getting in a brawl. These brawls mostly occur around the middle, "Caldera" section of the map, or on the outskirts of it. That being said, assign a streakboat like a StormCrow (JagerXII has done well in this competitively) to pick off lights, using the ridges to, "Peek Streak", and lights with medium/short range lasers that put out good DPS in hot environments.  Other mediums should follow that same thinking, as well as other possible heavies. So my advice, use the outside ridges to get the right positioning. I don't recommend crossing Caldera, since it opens a lot of 'Mechs up to easy focus and peek shots from the enemy. Only sort-of go in if the enemy does, or if you can catch the enemy on really bad low-ground.


For heavier decks, you could go with a few long-range LL/ERLL 'Mechs with Gauss to sit on the outskirts while medium-range 'Mechs control the engagement at the Caldera where the long-ranged 'Mechs are able to cover them. On the Assault-based decks, movement becomes very limited due to the low speed. This coupled with wide open valleys meant teams had to be 100% sure they could rotate into the open to another area without getting shot. Lights on heavier decks should take long-range engagement into consideration, that means RVN-2X or 4X with 3xLL or 2xERLL.


The heavier the deck is, the more you should expect to trade for a decent amount of time.

THE REVIEW


   "Beautification" is the word PGI used to describe what they are doing to maps, and it's the right word - The new Caustic Valley looks gorgeous. However, looks are, as we know, just aesthetic and how the map actually plays out is the important part. I made sure to play it for a few days before giving a complete review, especially since there are a few important things from the preview to touch base on.



First of all, the map layout is essentially the same. 

Caldera in the middle, outer ring of cover, main valley around the Caldera, etc. The middle of the Caldera is hot.


Remember those "C" shaped pipes? Well, they don't give nearly as much as a problem as I thought. In fact, only parts are sticking up enough to block any 'Mech movement archetype. The other half of it is buried mostly underground, so you walk over it pretty cleanly. That being said, this pipe will become the least of your worries.



One of the first things you'll notice about the new Caustic is that the outer-rim seems, "closer" to the caldera, and there is slightly more cover out there. I have a feeling this is due to the bulkiness of the caldera itself. Before, the ridge of the caldera was easily traversed, and NASCARing around the center was pretty easy, too. Now, the ridge is filled with tall, jagged rocks that can easily block your 'Mech, and can be utilized as great spots for jump-jet equipped 'Mechs.



Speaking of NASCAR, the new Caustic Valley still has a lot of it. After many PUG playthroughs and testing run-arounds, the large center-focus of the map (with no incentive to be in the hot middle) causes players to rotate around the valley between the caldera and the outer ridges. Often, players stay close to the caldera for cover, since being in an open valley results in death.
Will this be the case for competitive play? I highly doubt it. The extra pathways and cover in an 8v8 will provide brawling options for heavier tonnage decks despite the large amounts of open area, especially for the Conquest game-mode. On Skirmish, a different story would be told. The outer-edges of the map are raised in elevation, and have many rocks to provide cover. In a game-mode where there is no objective other than eliminating the enemy team, a battle of positioning begins to see who will be in a better spot to engage from.

THE CONCLUSION

I personally feel that Caustic Valley will have a few more options competitively with the added cover around the Caldera/outer-rim. As for PUGs? Not much of an improvement other than the map being better to look at. NASCAR is even worse due to all the extra rocks, people get left behind more often than before. However, I really enjoyed the re-make of the map, and feel it might be one of the best for competitive play.

I'd give PGI an 8/10 on this. Great job!