Level 7: Arctic Sea
Yggdrasil thrall onslaught challenge
Posted July 9th, 2010
Shortly into the Yggdrasil section Lara slides down a ramp, triggering a checkpoint in the process. A Viking thrall heads her way and there are another 10 around the corner, plus 2 Yeti thralls. As well as that, additional thralls can spawn. On your chosen difficulty, see if you can defeat the lot without using Thor's hammer. Each time you achieve success or get killed, you can have another go by suiciding Lara with a grenade or two against the wall (if you've got any left). It's pretty good for playing over and over, and for me it's the best combat situation in the whole game. Something you can really get your teeth into.
Staying off the ramp
You may notice that when thralls pressure you, they can push you back up the ramp you slid down. From up there you could easily decimate them with gunfire or grenades because their programming can't cope with things and they mostly stay at the bottom dumbly. You can have some fun with that sure, but for serious combat it would be a cheap tactic to use. So if you want to fight with honour, the rule is: no attacking from safety like that. Keep clear of the ramp. Keeping clear of the ramp will also ensure that Lara can melee, incidentally. She can't kick on the ramp.
You can make the challenge harder by imposing restrictions on yourself. One severe restriction would be to deny yourself the use of grenades. Grenades can be extremely effective in this scenario, so it's quite tough to do without them. If that restriction is too severe for you, you could at least limit the number of grenades you allow yourself to just a few. Preferably keep the number low to force yourself to use them wisely. I enjoy using grenades on Yetis but they can also be taken out using an adrenaline headshot of course. You may want to save your adrenaline accordingly.
Another possible restriction is on your guns. For example you could limit your guns to "pistols only", or whatever. Personally I don't like to use pistols here because of the way Lara's arms flick around so wildly from target to target, even with so-called 'target lock' on (which doesn't keep her fire focused on just one target). It's just not enjoyable for me and it's hard even to follow what she's doing. I favour the shotty, with its added satisfaction of being able to knock a Viking thrall off his feet. One challenge I like to try is to cope using just the shotty and melee - aside from the usual finish-off stomp of course.
If you're allowing yourself any grenades, bear in mind that you can set a grenade off early with gunfire. It's a powerful tactic. You can potentially also throw grenades on the floor or wall, causing blast damage to advancing enemies. Obviously you have to be wary of the danger that a tagged thrall may bring a bleeping grenade back your way. That's when it can be very advisable to set a grenade off early, though another tactic is to quickly kick him back the way he came.
Enemy behaviour and spawning
Some detail now on enemy behaviour and spawning. Initially there's just one Viking thrall in sight as Lara comes down the ramp. Killing it triggers 3 more to come around the corner. A further 7 remain around the corner, along with 2 Yeti thralls. Those enemies don't seem to advance until Lara steps past the archway that ends the first section of corridor. That enables you to use a sneaky tactic if you wish. By moving Lara to the very edge of the ornate flooring which stretches across the arch, you could destroy some enemies with grenades while they stand around dumbly. However, this exploitation of poor enemy AI is hardly fair fighting and isn't what I had in mind for the challenge.
The enemies I've mentioned so far amount to 11 Viking thralls and 2 Yeti thralls. As enemies die however, additional ones can spawn, though not indefinitely. The exact spawning dynamic is unclear to me and there may be some randomness involved, but as an example you might end up with a total of 31 Vikings and 4 Yetis, or 29 Vikings and 5 Yetis. I've certainly had such totals when tackling this area with the hammer, but things are a lot more troublesome when doing without it in this challenge, so it's harder to count. Also, if you're slow to kill the initial Yetis - which can easily be the case here - it seems that you get significantly less spawning.
As well as all this, spawning stops permanently if Lara crosses a certain line. Halfway along the long section of corridor (containing most of the initial enemies) there's a red-inscribed arch, and then along the walls there are four sets of red-inscribed sloping supports. The line in question is roughly level with the penultimate set of supports. If you want the full challenge, you should thus avoid advancing that far.