The new Stalker cloak

In late July, DBG made a performance pass on the infiltrator cloak based on movement states.  Here’s a link and the relevant notes:

  • Infiltrator cloaks now have additional states based on movement.
    • Crouching no change
    • Crouch walking is now much less visible
    • Standing is now less visible
    • Running is slightly less visible
    • Sprinting, no change

What does this mean for players?  A lot more than I had initially thought to be honest.  But the short answer is that stalker cloak is much MUCH more viable than it ever has been.  Crouch walking and standing are very difficult to see and allow for a clever stalker to control engagements and gain the upper hand in combat and base disruption.

The stalker cloak has been in the game for over 1 1/2 years now.  When it first came out, I was pretty excited about it, hoping to finally be able to maintain a presence behind enemy lines, hacking terminals and softening defenses in advance of my squad or platoon.  And while this worked to an extent, the reality was that infiltrators remained partially visible, whether due to how they appeared on low settings or the fact that if you moved even a slight bit, you left “deep cloak” and were easy to spot.  I had some fun with stalker and the crossbow, but found myself mostly camping terminals for cheap kills and dying in frustrating ways behind enemy lines with no easy way to get back into that position.

But since the release of stalker, we’ve had several changes to the game which have all added up to a new paradigm.  First, EMP grenades have been buffed several times – they now remove deployables, disable engineer turrets and sap heavy shields, medic regen and LA jetpacks.  One good toss will soften up a whole room of infantry, allowing your sidearm to be as deadly as a Betelgeuse.  The crossbow, while a nice attempt at a sidearm designed for the stalker, has some serious shortcomings when you have nothing else to fall back on.  However, the need for a midrange secondary was fulfilled this year with the release of the NS-44 Blackhand.  It’s basically a Commissioner with a 4x scope and 4 rounds per reload, which finally gives stalkers the ability to kill at mid range without putting themselves in significant danger.  Lastly, we saw the addition of the OHK knifes – The Carver, Lumine Edge and Ripper.  These babies, while somewhat flawed, allow you to silently (relatively) cut through infantry in a single hit – perfect for that moment when you have patiently waited for everyone to look away.

One last mention – implants.  It’s hard to remember that far back, but we didn’t actually have implants back when stalker first came out.  Say what you will about them – but there are a few very nice choices for stalker that further enhance your ability to remain undetected and efficient behind enemy lines.

But lets get back to the cloak.  What exactly has the recent changes done to improve upon the initial shortcomings of stalker cloak?  Well, I had all but discarded stalker as a gimmick for the last year or so, until recently giving it another try just for fun.  What happened was… actually shocking.  If you are crouched and stationary, PEOPLE DON’T FIND YOU.  It’s amazing.  I have been crouched out in the open without cover, with enemies running right past me – with not a single player seeing my shimmer. I can crouch walk into position, right next to enemy players, undetected.  I can stand up to line up shots over cover without being picked off.  In other words, I can control my engagements, ambush players at will, and have more control over WHEN I am detected.  This is a massive paradigm shift for stalker – all of a sudden, all those sidearms you have become much more interesting when you know that you will get the first shot off.

I have been going behind enemy lines with great success – lying in wait until the time is right.  I can do more than camp terminals – I can move around the base and hack various objects, ambush snipers and engineers and be in position to drop a beacon and bring the rest of my squad in at a moments notice.  It’s everything I dreamed of when stalker initially came out and more.

There are a lot of ways to equip a stalker infiltrator.  I’m still toying with various combinations – and I have always had a somewhat different take on sidearms than most (favoring the TX2 Emperor over the Repeater and revolvers).  That being said, since I spend most of my time on VS these days, I’ve been using the beamer, underboss and blackhand primarily.  The beamer is accurate, very fast firing and perfect for landing damage after an EMP toss due to its generous magazine and extremely fast reload.  The Underboss shines as a 1v1 sidearm – I can pretty much guarantee a kill if the target is moving in a straight line or stationary based on when I decloak.  The Blackhand is self-explanatory, great for those longer range shots.  I have been having so much success with stalker that I started using the ammo belt simply because I was outliving my supply.  I’ve always been a medkit chugger, and it’s really hard to give up, even though you could make a compelling case to give up the medkits for mines + regen implant.  I run the Lumine edge, it’s so freaking hilarious when you bust it out and cut through 4-5 clueless nerds in a row and disappear into the darkness again.

For implants, I have to say that sensor shield is really a must.  And unfortunately, you really need to get the tier 4 version.  Good luck.  The reason?  It’s simple – once you get a few kills, you will quickly find yourself surrounded by darts, motion spotters and dark lights, as anywhere from 1-20 players start looking for the SOB who keeps killing them as they try to pull a sunderer.  You have to be able to move from your position undetected – fortunately with the cloak changes this is feasible visually – but if you pop on radar, the gig is up.  Sensor shield has extended my runs many times over and I cannot endorse its use enough.

So, with all this glowing enthusiasm for stalker, when should you consider using it?  Honestly in its current state, you can use it in almost every fight – however I will help narrow things down for you (especially the KDR sensitive readers here).  Stalker obviously is great for moving behind enemy lines – do this if your PL/SL wants you to help them leapfrog to the next hex in the lattice.  Stalker is great in small/medium sized fights that have an outdoor component.  Especially bases that mix terrain and buildings such as can be found on Amerish and Hossin.  You may struggle with stalker in really large fights, where every ambush gets thwarted by someone else who is looking in your direction.  Bases that are primarily indoors give you less room for cover and escape (although it is possible if you are creative).  I tried stalker in a biolab but it wasn’t quite as fun as what I was able to do at Mani Fortress for example.

Ultimately, your success with stalker will depend a lot on YOU.  It requires patience, positioning, and a very different pace of gameplay.  While you can sustain a 100+KPH/4-5 KDR session with stalker, that is not the reason to use it.  Take time setting up your ambushes, don’t jump at every opportunity to kill someone, and recognize when it’s best to move, leave or just wait.  Take the initiative to set up a back-cap, look for chances to prevent vehicle pulls, and make your enemy completely paranoid!  I can assure you, it is a lot of fun, and I am very pleased to say that this unique style of gameplay within Planetside is finally a viable one.

Have you had success with the stalker cloak?  Any thoughts or criticisms to this entry?  Let me know on twitter @themustarde or here in the blog.  I know I rarely post here nowadays, I’ve just been so focused playing the game lately.  But I still check here and am very active on twitter and love discussing the game with other members of the community.  And keep an eye out for a stalker video sometime in the near future!