Most new players think of this game as a Robot Combat game, which it is. But what many new players fail to understand is that at its heart it is a territory control game too. Beacons are not something added to the game just to give bored players bonus points. They are the central objective. The team which controls the Beacons for longer wins the game!
If there were no beacons then there would be no reason to move out of cover, there would be much more camping, and there would be no reason for the light faster robots. The need to monitor and control beacons adds complexity and creates the need for teamwork.
A beacon is a location on a map that can be captured by either team.
Each map has five beacons, marked by beams of light coming from a small structure on the ground. At the start of a match, all five beacons are unclaimed and show a white light. When a beacon is captured by allies it changes color to blue, and when captured by an opponent it changes to red. A captured beacon will remain captured until the end of the game unless it is recaptured by the opposing team. Beacons can be captured and recaptured multiple times during a match.
On the HUD, just below the countdown timer are 5 letters A B C D E representing the 5 beacons. These show which team, if any, currently controls each beacon by the color of the circular background. In the example shown, the player's team (blue) controls beacons A, B, and D, while the enemy team (red) has beacons C and E.
Capturing a Beacon
In order to capture a beacon, a robot must remain within several meters of the beacon until it changes color. There are two basic scenarios for capturing a beacon:
- Unclaimed beacon: As soon as a robot enters and remains in the capture radius, the letter corresponding to that beacon will begin flashing that team's color around the beacon in an increasing pie, for approximately 5 seconds until the letter has a solid color background and is captured. If the robot fails to complete the capture, either because the robot has left the capture radius or is destroyed, the beacon will reverse capture to its neutral state. Also, if another friendly robot enters that radius while draining back to neutral, it will pick up from where it left off and continue from there.
- Already claimed beacon: As soon as a robot from your team enters the capture radius of an enemy-controlled beacon, the letter of that beacon will begin flashing a countdown, removing the enemy's control of it. This process, like the process of capturing a beacon, takes 5 seconds to complete. After the beacon has been turned neutral (white), the beacon will start being captured by you or your teammates for another 5 seconds, taking up to 10 seconds to turn an enemy-captured beacon to your team's possession. If the robot leaves the capture radius or is destroyed before the beacon turns white, the beacon will reverse the capture whose length depends on the capture status (i.e. if a robot was in an enemy-captured beacon for 3 seconds but is destroyed before it completely "liberates" the beacon, it can take 3 seconds to fully restore the enemy capture). As in scenario 1, it is possible for a robot to turn the beacon to white and leave the capture radius before securing the beacon for their team.
- Special case, the contested beacon: A beacon cannot be claimed if robots from both teams are all inside the capture radius. This means that even if there are 5 allies but 1 enemy on the beacon, it will stay unchanged until the allies or the enemy leaves or is destroyed. The beacon will remain unclaimed (or unchanged depending on the scenario) until all of one team's robots are destroyed or leave the capture radius. In this scenario, multiple players of the same team who are inside the capture radius and win the beacon will all receive credit for capturing (capping) the beacon.
These are the color-coded blue and red bars which are located between the "Players in battle" and the game timer HUD. The blue bar represents your team's dominance, and the red bar represents the enemy team's dominance. The game begins with each team having a full bar. Each beacon held depletes/reduces the opposing team's dominance bar by a set amount over time (a rate) for as long as the beacon is held. A team's bar will continue shrinking so long as the enemy team holds at least one beacon. Held beacons cause the bar to decrease in a linear fashion, i.e. 5 beacons held will reduce the enemy's bar 5 times faster than holding 1 beacon. It is important to note that if NONE of the beacons are red (all are some combination of blue and white), that the drain on the red dominance bar STOPS - which means you can still win a game if you are down to nothing on blue dominance IF you flip all the beacons to blue or least white.
Capturing and holding beacons is the main object of the game. There are two ways to achieve a victory that is directly related to the beacons:
- Fully depleting the Dominance bar of the opposing team.
- Having more of the Dominance bar remaining than the opposing team has when the game timer reaches zero.
(The other victory condition is: destroying all enemy robots.)
It is worth noting that even if the blue team kills all the enemy robots but the blue dominance bar is fully depleted, it will be counted as a loss. Also, if the blue bar is less than the red bar when the timer ends under the same scenario, the blue team will still lose. This means that Pixonic puts more emphasis on beacons than killing.
Generally, it is good to acquire three beacons and hold those three. Although holding all five beacons is the fastest path to victory, it is very hard to defend them all as the enemy can regroup and capture them back. The center beacon is usually the most hotly contested beacon, and it is very common for this beacon to change hands many times in one battle.
Most maps have this beacon layout: two beacons very close to the spawn point, one in the "center", and two somewhere in the middle. Avoid letting your enemies capture the one very close to your spawn point--many enemies can spawn there in Beacon Rush and start spawn-camping (camp directly in front of your spawn point), making it almost impossible to get out of this situation.
Capturing and Holding Beacons
Capturing ("capping") a beacon is not the same as holding a beacon. When you spawn, decide if your goal is to capture unclaimed/hostile beacons or to defend beacons your team has already captured. As a rule, if your team has 2 or fewer beacons, it's suggested you capture more; if your team has 3 or more beacons, consider defending them to keep them out of the red team's hands.
The goal of this strategy is to move from beacon to beacon as quickly as possible. The faster you capture beacons, the faster your enemy's dominance bar depletes. The key to this strategy is a fast-moving robot—45 km/h or more (i.e., any light robot or Doc, Rhino, Galahad, or ideally a Rogatka), ideally with jump ability. Of course, you can still capture beacons with slower robots, but you won't have the speed to win a race against your dominance bar. Fast light robots will have trouble capturing the middle beacon in a map (i.e. the city square beacon in Shenzhen or the crater beacon in Dead City) because this is where most of the fighting takes place If you really want to capture the center beacon, your team should eliminate all robots in the outskirts of such beacons or proceed to capture it in "mini-squads" of 3-4 robots as it is better to capture with just one.
A successful capture strategy relies on almost zero engagement with the enemy, for two reasons:
- Firefights take up valuable time—your goal is to capture beacons quickly.
- Fast and light robots have low combat stamina—you won't last long in a fight. Although they can rely on speed and stealth (in the case of the Stalker) to capture beacons, it can easily die when multiple enemies focus fire on you and even when you do have a Stalker, the stealth would have run out by the time a heavily contested beacon is captured. Sometimes, it's better to suicide trying to capture such beacon(s) than trying to get out.
- If necessary, capture beacons while with a "squad" so you can defend those robots in that squad while they do the same to you. Although it won't increase the capture rate, it can help you and your teammates to survive longer in battle (two or more is better than one if they cooperate).
While you don't want to engage, you need to defend yourself. Pick a loadout based on the following priorities:
- Fast reload (10 seconds or less—if you get cornered, you'll have to blast your way out quickly.)
- Medium to Long-range (500 meters or more—any closer and you risk a toe-to-toe fight you're likely to lose)
- Damage (higher the better—you don't want to shoot, but when you do, make it hurt)
Regardless of your loadout, avoid weapons that require a lock-on. Not only does it take time to achieve lock, it also takes time to get into an optimal firing position free of obstacles once target lock is achieved (the Zeus is a possible exception because of its fast reload time, and so is the Scourge as it automatically fires for you). When you do shoot, resist the temptation to "finish off" the target (unless his health bar is so low that "one more shot" is all it'll take, and you can take that shot on your way to the next beacon). Instead, satisfy yourself with shots at targets of opportunity—while you may not earn a kill, you will soften up foes for your teammates.
After your side has captured 4 or 5 beacons, change your mission to distracting the enemy: employ sneak-and-peek maneuvers to draw enemy fire (especially from enemy beacon defenders). The idea is to tempt the enemy into attacking you instead of going for your beacons; ideally, shifting the enemy's focus allows your teammates to attack unnoticed from his flanks or rear, and if that involves enemies abandoning the beacon, you can sneak yourself (if you are a light robot not part of the distraction) and capture the beacon. This becomes crucial in Beacon Rush because if you have a beacon far in enemy territory, you can deploy there and start attacking without having to go the distance needed.
The goal of this strategy is to protect the beacons you've already captured, essentially denying the enemy's access to them by warding off his attempts to capture. Firepower and combat stamina are your key assets, as you'll need to survive multiple attacks from a variety of weapons and vectors.
The job is simple: Keep enemies away from the beacon you're protecting. There are three ways to do this:
- Drive off the enemy before he can enter a beacon's capture radius (i.e., make him retreat)
- Destroy the enemy before he can enter a beacon's capture radius
- Maintain proximity to the beacon such that even if the enemy enters the beacon's capture radius, the beacon's ownership doesn't change
However, effective beacon defense is more than just camping next to a beacon and shooting at any enemy who comes close. Instead, you want to become an active defender who protects the beacon and participates in the match. Here's a suggested approach:
- Establish a perimeter around the beacon. This is typically defined by your weapon range (i.e., your perimeter cannot extend beyond how far you can shoot). Figure out how close enemies can approach before you can take an effective shot.
- Develop tactical awareness. First figure out where the enemy robots are (relative direction and distance), then recognize the approaches they can take to reach you. Know where your best firing lanes are, where your cover is, and where your teammates are. Always track the status of the other beacons.
- Patrol your perimeter. Stay mobile to confound enemy snipers and use obstacles to guard your flanks and rear. Stick close to obstacles where possible to deflect incoming missiles. While moving, keep your tactical awareness current. Guard your approaches, and be prepared to take opportunity shots at enemy targets even though they may not be headed toward your beacon.
- Avoid leaving the beacon off-guard. If your enemies are trying to attack you in "squads" of 3-4 robots, resist the temptation to leave the beacon to deal with the enemies, especially if they intend to capture that beacon. In this case, stay around the beacon and try to hold the enemy off as long as possible so you can at least delay the enemy capture.
While patrolling, engage targets selectively. Opportunity shots at enemies who wander into your picket are fine (and helpful to your teammates) but don't engage for the kill unless the target is headed for your beacon. Learn the difference between a wandering foe and a determined beacon capper—the former shoots at any available target and pursues for the kill, while the latter avoids engagement, runs along or behind cover, and tries to draw as little attention as possible.
Avoid getting drawn into a fight that takes you outside your perimeter—pursuit leaves your beacon unprotected. Remember that your mission is to keep the enemy away from your beacon, not to rack up the kills. Sometimes, a good pounding with a high-damage salvo is enough to drive an enemy away, but you need to keep moving so you can line up effective shots and watch your approaches. Employ sneak-and-peek maneuvers to maximize each salvo and give yourself time to reload (under cover when possible).
You should also keep an eye on the battlefield's "front." This is where the bulk of the robots are fighting. If the front is well beyond your perimeter, consider heading to the next beacon closest to the front. This leaves your current beacon "behind the lines," where it's less likely to be captured. It also gives you an opportunity to capture or protect the next beacon, which (being closer to the front) is at higher risk. Finally, it brings you closer to the action where you can take a more active role in supporting your team.
Beware of enemies employing surprise attacks on your defense as well as enemy robots that your team can't afford to pass up on. The enemy can use this as distractions to capture a beacon that is well-secured and that your team relies on focus-fire on robots. A good anti-surprise strategy is to have at least 1 robot standing guard while the others pursue the robot(s) knocking out the team's aim so that the enemy will capture the beacon much later in battle.
- Always be aware of beacon status across the map, and their locations relative to yours. As beacons change hands, you may need to reconsider which beacon you're trying to capture or hold.
- Do your best to assist teammates fighting near a beacon—if the beacon's yours, you'll help protect it; if the beacon is theirs, you'll help your teammate capture it faster.
- Always check your surroundings for an undefended beacon—there's nothing more frustrating than watching a teammate walk past a beacon ripe for picking. Even if your current combat role is something other than capturing or protecting beacons, take advantage of any opportunity to capture an unclaimed or unprotected hostile beacon.
- Conversely, don't compete with your teammates to capture beacons. If you see a teammate going for the same beacon and he's closer or faster, let him have it and use the time you just saved to capture a different one.
- Don't worry too much about beacons close to your spawn. These are the least likely to be captured by the enemy, not only because they're farthest from his spawn point but also because they're defended by robots originating from yours.
- Capture, then defend. When a match starts, spawn your beacon-capping robots first to capture as many beacons as possible. As the match progresses, switch to your beacon defenders to keep what you've captured.
- If you are in Rookie or Bronze league, it is recommended to prioritize decimating enemies over defending beacons, as every player only have around 2-3 bots most of the times. However, it is not advised to let the beacons get out of control, as if the enemy may have 4 or more beacons it could rapidly end in a game over for you. So when the score is around 2-3 or 3-2, prioritize destroying enemy bots and staying alive than capturing and defending.
- In higher leagues however, most matches are won by territory control. So you must prioritize the beacons over your bots. If you need to capture that center beacon but you will die, do it. Beacons more important than bots. But, very importantly, do not trade off all of your bots for beacons, as if you lose all of your forces your team will likely be outnumbered. Always be careful with your bots while getting beacons in a smart way.