With Update 32 releasing on the 22nd, I thought it might be helpful to write up a couple of blog posts about the new mission types being added that can serve as a guide for everyone who hasn't had a chance to participate in U32's Experimental Branch. Spoiler warning: reading this post will reveal the full mission so you won't have any cool surprises on your first playthrough.
Escort missions are the thematic opposite of Elimination missions. In Elimination, you go exploring the cave, find the Dreadnought cocoons, and then have a short but intense fight to kill the mini-bosses. Burst DPS helps those fights go quickly and smoothly. Escort missions, on the other hand, are about long sections of wave clearing and intense combat that lasts for a few minutes and will leave your team with a kill count at the end of the mission that rivals a Point Extraction gone wrong. In between combat waves there are a few minutes of downtime where you can catch your breath and collect minerals, but the majority of this mission is "kill bugs, protect the Drilldozer".
Escort can be broken into two main parts: getting to the Ommoran Heartstone, and collecting the Heartstone.
Part 1: Getting to the Ommoran Heartstone
Beginning the Mission
When your team first arrives, you'll land in a cave rich with nitra and other resources. Collect as much of it as you can! There's no enemies in the starting room, and the nitra you get here is roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of all the nitra you're going to get this mission. As your team goes about collecting the resources, the Drilldozer will arrive much like the Minehead does in Point Extractions. At each of the four corners of the cage there's a button that anyone can press to open it up. After opening up the cage, you get your first real look at your primary objective: the Drilldozer, nicknamed "Doretta". Finish clearing the room, and then press the button on the back of Doretta to begin the mission.
Once Doretta has been activated, the mission kicks into high gear. Doretta doesn't stop or slow down for anything, not even dead teammates or Bulk Detonators. She will autonomously drill from the starting room through the cave walls on her way to the Ommoran Heartstone at the end of the mission. Standing on top of Doretta or at the platform at the rear will increase her speed, indicated by the 5 chevrons in the top-right of your HUD. 1/5 is the minimum speed that Doretta always chugs along at, and having the entire team standing on her raises the speed to 5/5.
If Hoxxes IV has taught us anything, it's that large noises attract large crowds. A few seconds after Doretta starts rolling, there will be an announcment from Mission Control letting you know that the onslaught is about to begin. Look at the tunnel behind you, and get ready to start killing bugs. Any and all enemy types can spawn and throw themselves at Doretta in an attempt to destroy her. It's your job to kill the bugs before they can break Doretta, and if any of them are able to hurt Doretta at least one of your team will have to repair her.
Repairing the Drilldozer
Doretta's health is split into three sections: the left panel, the right panel, and the center body. No matter where Doretta takes damage (Glyphids seem to bite at her treads primarily), Doretta will always take damage on her left panel until it's broken, then all the damage will be on the right panel until it gets broken, and then finally the center healthbar. If the center healthbar is entirely depleted, the mission fails and you'll have to try again. As a result of this model, this means that a Bulk Detonator can blow up on Doretta and at worst you'll lose just the left or right panel, and then the next healthbar should be unaffected.
When Doretta takes damage she lets out some beeps and boops to let you know she's hurting, and occasionally the dwarves themselves will shout that she's taking damage and you need to repair her. To repair the Drilldozer, find the damaged panel and hold E to repair it (if both panels are broken, then you can repair either side). If Doretta hasn't taken damage in a couple seconds, you should be able to restore the healthbar pretty quickly. However, if the Drilldozer is actively being damaged you'll only be able to repair at 1/3 of the normal rate.
The longer you're able to keep both panels unbroken, the higher the probability that you'll win the mission at the end, so I strongly encourage trying to keep Doretta at full health if possible.
As Doretta keeps drilling through walls, eventually she'll break through into large caverns. There can be a multitude of enemies on the other side of the wall, including any of the rare-spawn minibosses (BET-C, Korlok Tyrant-Weed, or Crassus Detonator), Cave Leeches, Spitball Infectors, and more! Keep an eye out for when she breaks through; at higher difficulties you can teamwipe if no one is looking forward and calling out when your backs are exposed. As always, Doretta will keep moving but you can slow her down in the big rooms by hopping off. Generally, Doretta has enough fuel to get through two or three walls before needing to be refueled. When she runs out of fuel, there will be a short break to catch your breath and do non-combat things. I strongly recommend calling down a resupply near where Doretta is parked so that your team can top off as they go about their business.
When out of fuel, Doretta will expose her two fuel cannisters at the back for the team to refill. Pick them up like you would an Enor Pearl, and locate one of the many Oil Shale veins in the caves. It's a new mineral on the walls, a shiny blue that glows in the dark with horizontal black lines running across it. I often find them up high, so Drillers or ziplines may be needed to get the fuel you need. You can either break the Oil Shale into chunks with your pickaxe, or press Mouse1 while holding the fuel cannister to use the built-in mining laser. Each of the two fuel cannisters typically needs around two Oil Shale veins to be filled up. Once they're full, you can hold Mouse2 to charge up and throw it like any other heavy object, and toss it down to your teammates to put back in Doretta. After both fuel cannisters are refilled and replaced in the Drilldozer, you can press the button on the back to get her rolling again and face another long swarm of enemies.
Occasionally a small swarm will be announced while Doretta is parked and your team is off doing other things. If that happens, drop what you're doing and double-back to the Drilldozer to keep her alive because the swarm spawns near Doretta and focuses on killing her, and will mostly ignore the dwarves scattered around the cave.
Short Escort missions only require one refuel phase to get to the Heartstone, whereas the long ones require two refuel phases. However, once Doretta breaches the final wall you should see a massive cavern and at the center of it is what you came for: the Ommoran Heartstone.
Part 2: Collecting the Heartstone
Doretta will roll up to the spherical Ommoran Heartstone, and park herself so that her drill is ready to dig into it. Take some time to call down at least 2 resupply pods (one on either side of Doretta) and then get ready for one of Ghost Ship Games' most ambitious boss fights yet. Be prepared to lose at least one of Doretta's panels when you're playing the mission for the first few times.
Ommoran Phase 1: First Swarm
At the start of the boss fight your team has to defend against a swarm of enemies attacking from all directions, all of which are trying to keep Doretta from getting through the Ommoran's outer crust. This is pretty standard combat, just keep watch on both sides of Doretta so that the enemies don't pile up on one side and go through the Drilldozer's healthbars too quickly.
Ommoran Phase 2: Rocks
As the Drilldozer gets through the outer crust, the Ommoran will start defending itself by telekinetically picking up rocks and throwing them at Doretta. Look at the yellow beams coming out from the Ommoran to find where the rocks are levitating, and shoot them down as fast as you can. If you aren't able to break a rock in time, it will smash down on Doretta dealing massive damage both to her and to any dwarves standing on top of her! To top it all off, about halfway through the Rocks phase a wave of enemies (not swarm) will spawn just to increase the stress level. If a rock does get through and hit Doretta, prioritize shooting the other incoming rocks over repairing her. Any dwarf repairing is a dwarf not shooting, and that increases the probability that more rocks will hit Doretta and the down the dwarf repairing her in the first place. You'll have a couple of seconds to repair before the next phase starts.
Ommoran Phase 3: Second Swarm
Just like the first phase, a standard swarm that your team should be able to clear pretty easily. Use this as your last opportunity to get a quick resupply before the end.
Ommoran Phase 4: Beamers
At the start of this phase, large orange spires will rise up from the ground around the Ommoran, and after a few seconds they will start shooting lasers at Doretta that do a good chunk of damage. Any dwarf can break them with their pickaxes, but Drillers excel at this phase because they can break the Beamers with their drills or C4. After the first wave, more Beamers will rise periodically during this phase so keep a sharp eye. Halfway through the Beamer phase, a third and final swarm will spawn just to keep you busy while the Beamers chunk away at Doretta's health.
Finishing the mission
Once you've made it through all four phases of the Ommoran boss fight, your reward is the Ommoran Heartstone at the core. Pick it up, attach it to Molly, and you're ready to call the Drop Pod. At this point, enemies will ignore Doretta and you won't need to repair her any more. In comparison to how long and intense the combat has been in the Escort mission so far, the extraction phase will feel like a breeze. Just sprint down the path that Doretta drilled and hop in to collect your credits and experience points.
This mission type is excellently designed to use all 4 classes in unison. Drillers make the Beamers phase light work and help provide access to Oil Shale veins during refueling, Engineers provide some great swarm clearing and their platforms are essential to keeping the nitra economy flowing, Gunners have some of the best Sustained DPS, their shields can help get enemies away from Doretta, their ziplines can be used to collect Oil Shale, and Scouts can use their high mobility to be wherever the team needs them: collecting nitra and secondary objectives on the go, repairing damage, or providing more firepower when needed.
While you can complete this mission by taking any combination of the four classes (solo, duos, and trios included), I recommend that your first couple of runs on Escort missions use a 4man team with one of each class to take full advantage of how the mission was designed. Stacking Gunners or Engineers definitely provides a boost in combat, but no matter which class you swap out there will be an aspect of this mission that's made harder because you're missing a piece of the puzzle.
There are two ways to approach gathering nitra, gold, and other resources in the caves: fast or slow. If your team is confident that the Driller and Gunner are able to keep the horde at bay by themselves, then you might want to try the fast way. When Doretta breaches into a new cave, have the Scout use his Flaregun to illuminate the cave. The Engineer throws a platform under every single mineral vein that they see before returning to combat, and then the Scout goes on a solo adventure and monopolizes Molly while clearing that cave. The rest of your team keeps defending and repairing Doretta, and the Scout catches up to them inside the next tunnel after clearing the cave. Remember: if you need more time in a large cave for Scout to collect everything, just have your team hop off so that Doretta only rolls at minimum speed.
On the other hand, if your team is struggling to keep Doretta at high health, you might want to use the slower approach to resource gathering: backtracking. Have the entire team defend Doretta until she rolls to a stop and needs refueling, and then split up such that your Driller is refueling one cannister, your Gunner the other, the Engineer is collecting the resources in the room that Doretta is parked in, and the Scout has to grapple his way back to the previous room(s) that Doretta rolled through on the way here and clear them out as fast as he can. This takes a fair bit longer than collecting the resources as you roll through the caves, but it's a significantly safer option. It leaves the three classes most suited to combat in the room with Doretta to defend against swarms, and the most mobile class is able to backtrack and collect resources much faster than the other three could. The downside to this is that the backtracking Scout won't be able to easily collect gold because it doesn't stand out from the walls like nitra does, and often isn't on the ground like crafting minerals.
Who should repair Doretta?
The obvious answer is "anyone and everyone", but it's my recommendation that Scout does most of the repairing while Doretta is rolling and digging tunnels. Part of this is tied to Scout having more shallow ammo pools in comparison to the other classes, and part of it is tied to the fact that whoever is repairing needs to call out to the rest of the team when Doretta breaks through a wall into a large cavern. If Scout is the one repairing (and by extension watching for breakthroughs), he can quickly throw flares into the new cavern and start sniping down the High Value Targets (Cave Leeches, Spitball Infectors, etc) before the rest of the team is in danger. Then, if your team has opted for the fast resource collection method, your Engineer doesn't have to wait for flares to go up to place platforms under mineral veins. From both a combat and logistic perspective, it makes sense to me to have Scout do the repairing.
That said, it doesn't really matter who repairs Doretta. As long as at least half of your team is fighting bugs, the remainder can repair. For instance, if someone runs out of ammo, then they should be the designated repairer until they can resupply. Be wary of having more than half your team repair, though, because then the last dwarf shooting may not have enough swarm-clearing power to keep you safe and it will turn into a "sinking ship" battle.
Bulk Detonators (and Crassus)
At the time of writing this post, Bulk Detonators and Crassus Detonators have their AI set to ignore Doretta and instead attack the dwarves. Use this to your advantage to lure the Bulks away from Doretta so that when they explode they don't insta-kill one of her panels. Be wary of Crassus Detonators in particular, because they spawn in rooms ahead of Doretta (instead of the tunnel behind like Bulks) and that puts them in the path of Doretta's one-hit-kill drill. If no one on your team sees the Crassus in the way, your team will wipe when it explodes and you'll lose a panel for your trouble.
I only encountered a BET-C once on Escort, but it single-handedly killed both of Doretta's panels in turret mode before my team was able to kill it. Gunners, throw your shield between BET-C and Doretta when BET-C is in turret mode, and everyone needs to prioritize the Xynarch Charge Suckers as fast as they can.
As you would expect, Machine Events can spawn in Escort missions too. I strongly recommend ignoring them entirely until after the Ommoran boss fight is done so that you don't have to worry about Doretta dying in the two to three minutes it takes to complete the Machine Event. No Overclock is worth failing a mission. Of the two machine events I've encountered on the Experimental Branch, one was in the final room and the other was in the room right before the final room, so hopefully backtracking is minimal.
This mission is able to be completed solo, but it's a pain to do. I would recommend playing with teammates if possible. Because you only have Bosco to help in combat, it's going to be hard to keep Doretta repaired while also killing bugs, you won't have anyone to call out when your back is exposed while drilling, it's hard to collect nitra as Doretta keeps rolling and taking damage, etc, etc. If you're going to do this solo, I strongly recommend taking either Gunner to Engineer. Focus on getting all the nitra in the starting room using Bosco to mine the high-up veins, and only grab nitra that you roll by on Doretta. Don't backtrack, there's not enough time to collect what you want and make it back in time to keep Doretta alive. It's very unlikely to complete the secondary objective as a solo player, but there should be just enough nitra to get a resupply at each stop and two at the end.
This is a really fun mission type, and utilizes every class in a distinct and meaningful way. It's going to be a steep learning curve for everyone, but I think once learned it will be a fun mission type to play for people who long for combat more than resource gathering. Hopefully this blog post has been informative and helpful for everyone who's taken the time to read it.
Rock and Stone!