There are a lot of players who complain about the game mechanics of Ingress. By and large, I’ve tried to ignore such things because,
a) I’m not really that into whining
b) I haven’t been playing long enough to really know what does and doesn’t work
c) I like the game and I don’t want it ruined for me… even if I figure it out and it gets ruined down the line.
However, after this weekend, I feel like I can comment on one problem people frequently note in Ingress. You see, on Friday afternoon, a certain player came through the area where I play and systematically destroyed every one of the portals in the area. It would be interesting if there were a way to play a defensive strategy too, but I’ll just go out and knock down what is there and the rebuild them on Monday.
You Can’t Defend Portals Well in Ingress
One of the complaints I hear from the various boards and Google+ pages and communities is that you can’t really defend portals in Ingress. Sure, you can install shields, and some weapons, but the truth is that if someone (who isn’t below Level 3) wants to take down your portal, they can, no matter how well it is defended. This is true even if you are Level 8 and you built a full-Level 8 portal with full defenses and the other player is Level 5, or even 4.
When you attack a portal, you use an XMP blaster. It’s a radius weapon that takes out a percentage of each resonator attached to the portal. Fire enough times, and the portal will be defeated, that’s it. The only limitations are how many XMP blasters you have, and how much XM you have.
If you are not familiar with Ingress, XM is basically the same thing as Hit Points in other games, or the amount of “Life” you have in video games. In Ingress, however, you cannot die. If you have too little XM, then you cannot do things because everything costs some amount of XM in order to be able to do it. This does mean that if you run out of XM, then you cannot keep firing your blasters. More on this in a second.
XMP blasters are something you pick up by “Hacking” portals, whether your side’s or the other side’s. Sometimes you don’t get anything from the opposing side portals, but you do at least half the time. XMP blasters are very common thing to receive whenever your hack a portal, so they are not hard to come by. After playing for a few days, assuming you aren’t firing them as you get them, and assuming you are playing in an area with a reasonable density of portals, you probably have dozens of XMP blasters.
As with everything in Ingress, you can only fire blasters equal to or lower than your level. So, if you are a Level 5 player, you can fire Level 5 and less blasters. That does not mean that you can’t pick up and keep higher level blasters. So, as you go along hacking portals, you are also building up an arsenal of higher level weapons for the day you achieve that level.
When you decide to destroy a portal, you simply get close to it and start firing your weapons. The portal will defend itself, but that isn’t necessarily very harmful. Eventually, if the portal is well enough defended, or if you are trying too low of weapons, you will run out of XM. At this point your attack is over… except…
Running Out of XM While Attacking Portals
The trick is that XM is all over the place. There are small amounts just laying on the roads. I leave my scanner open while I drive around (I don’t play, obviously, just leave it running) to sweep up stray XM as I go from one place to another. Second, portals give off big pools of XM around them. So, to reload, you just walk, bike, or drive over the next portal. This makes certain portals more susceptible to defeat than others.
Imagine you are attacking a portal that has numerous other portals around it. Refilling on XM is as simple as wandering over near another portal and picking up XM then returning to finish the portal off. If you are driving or biking, this can be even easier. Portals with parking lots, or places to pull over are particular susceptible to the attacker driving around the block to another portal and returning.
Theoretically, you get notified when your portals are under attack, but there is a significant delay. Unless the attacker had to take time to refill his XM, chances are the portal if finished by the time you know about it. Even if not, recharging portals doesn’t happen as quickly as a Level 6 blaster takes them down.
Does It Matter That You Can’t Defend a Portal
If it sounds like Ingress is tilted toward offense and destruction, it is, but not to the detriment of the game.
First, constructing a new portal is just as easy. You can deploy all 8 resonators in less than 2 minutes, link a portal in a minute, and if your links make a triangle, a control field is automatically created. Making higher level portals takes more people, but no more work.
Second, while destroying a single portal is a simple task, taking down several can be more difficult. If it takes 10 blasters to destroy a single portal, then it takes 50 to destroy five portals. Running out is likely before you can take down dozens of portals.
Third, the mythology and game design of Ingress is of a world in flux. Teams of nearly equal strength battle for the Earth. The myths are deliberately inconclusive about which side is “right.” No one is supposed to be able to win, not yet at least.
Fourth, unless you are already Level 8, destruction is nothing but good for you. In order to attain higher levels, you need to gain AP (experience points in other games). However, having portals and links and stuff gives you precious little AP. Recharging resonators, for example gives only 10 AP. Deploying (building) a single resonator is worth 125 AP. Filling all eight slots is worth more, and then building links is worth 313 AP, while continuing to have the same link is worth nothing.
I assume at Level 8, the idea of building sounds more interesting, but then unlike other games where high-level players interacting with lower-level players is simply bullying, here, that Level 1 player can take down your carefully constructed control field as easily as any other. That means you must continue to rely on your strategy and teamwork, which is what the game is all about.
Have fun out there, and remember, if you’re rebuilding what someone smashed, you’re getting stronger and more powerful. If you’re just admiring those portals that have been sitting there for weeks, you’re stagnant.