AZS made four hours of my afternoon disappear today. Without my noticing. It's been a long time since a game's done that - I'd guess Amnesia was the most recent, up there with the first playthroughs of Half-Life 2 and its episodes, and particularly engaging points in WoW. Pretty awesome for an indie game that only cost me $10.
But AZS is pretty hard, and while I definitely enjoy hard games (I play every game on the hardest difficulty setting possible), twice now I've ended up with a campaign that's unwinnable. I know there's a "Chooser" option that allows you to select your mercs each round, but that just seems like cheating to me, and my merc loadout would never change: chopper+infantry+bait+artillery, then add in snipers after you unlock that fifth merc slot. I honestly feel like Demolition mercs are just useless (you can't manually detonate individual charges, and the AOE is tiny, so unless it's being used to set off a gas main, it'll kill like... 10 zeds at most), and Barricade mercs aren't much better due to the (obvious) restrictions preventing you from just boxing in half the map for a cheap win. Land mines can be pretty decent, but compared to the other mercs, why bother with them?
Both campaigns ended with me owning a good handful of territories, against nothing but level 4 sections, and whether or not I could even do anything about those sections was entirely up to luck of the draw - I need good mercs, and then I also need a setting that isn't at least unfavorable (i.e. shorter daytime or more zeds.) Did I get demolition, barricades, land mines, and snipers? Yeah, not gonna take down a level 4 with that.
Generally speaking, I was always trying to prioritize any sections that were in danger of becoming level 4's over anything else (typically level 3's adjacent to other sections that could become level 4's and thus turn those level 3's into level 4's themselves), and doing my utmost to try and convert those territories in the process. This worked out fine, but eventually all of the remaining infested sections turn into level 4's and if I don't have a commanding lead, it's an inexorable process as I essentially roll the dice, hoping for good mercs and good conditions while trying to hold out for the next llama bomb salvo or elephantbird cannon salvo.
But that begs the question: are you even [b]supposed[/b] to win, without great luck or rigging the game (by using "Chooser" or other mods)? Oddly enough, I'd totally be fine with a game you generally could not win, and you were instead just trying to see how long you can hold on before the inevitable defeat.