The Skulk is the basic alien (Kharaa
) lifeform in the Half-life mod Natural Selection
. Of the five alien types in the game the skulk has undergone the least drastic fundamental changes since the game was first released October 31, 2002. It appears mostly doglike, except with spikes for feet which it uses to climb on walls and ceilings. ASCII art as follows:
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The following information is accurate for all versions of natural selection from 1.0 to 3.0b4a, the current version as of this writeup. It is probable that the information will remain accurate for all future versions as well, but you never know.
The skulk's basic concept is the expendable alien that comes in large numbers. It is also meant to be the provider for "cat scares" in the game, as their wallclimbing ability and small size enables them to set up ambushes above doors and in tiny alcoves and ventillation ducts, preying upon the marines from the back of the line. In close quarters, the skulk is supposed to be able to tear through any marine, and at long range, marines should be able to tear through any skulk. Various versions of the game have altered this balance from time to time, so don't be surprised when a 1.04 version skulk is able to barrel down a hallway soaking up hullets, and a 3.0b4 skulk ambushes a lone marine only to die.
The skulk's arsenal of weapons is as follows:
- SLOT 1, Requiring No Hives: Bite
- SLOT 2, Requiring One Hive: Parasite
- SLOT 3, Requiring Two Hives: Leap
- SLOT 4, Requiring Three Hives: Xenocide
, as one might expect, is a melee
range weapon. While playing the skulk, the "camera
" is placed inside the skulk's mouth (suggesting that this is where the thing keeps its real eyes, despite vestigial eyes located outside the creature in a more traditional location) and every time you bite, your view is briefly obscured as the teeth close together. This was done for balance reasons, making frenzied biting disorienting, and allowing agile marines to dodge out of the way after the first nibble. Additionally, marines
struck by the bite are also knocked back a short distance, forcing the skulk to run after him to finish the kill
. When marines have no armor upgrades, it takes two bites to kill them, and the addition of one level of armor upgrades requires three bites. The number of bites for higher armor levels has been variable between versions.
Parasite is almost not a weapon at all, but rather a recon tool. As a ranged hitscan weapon, it can fire across the room and has perfect accuracy. Unfortunatly, it uses a significant amount of energy to fire, meaning that while it is technically a semi-automatic weapon, you get very few shots before you have to wait to "recharge". Furthermore, it deals next to no damage to marines, requiring vast numbers of parasites in order to get the much sought after "Parasite Kill". This doesn't mean the thing is useless though. No no no, quite the contrary. After a single hit of the parasite, any marine or marine building will show up on every alien's "Hivesight" for the rest of the game, or until they die. This means that all aliens can now see the parasited target, even through walls, from anywhere in the level.
Leap has always been a method of zipping around the map faster, as it propells the skulk at incredible speed straight forwards, eating up a hefty chunk of energy in the process. Depending on the version, however, it might or might not be a significant weapon. While leaping, if you touch a marine, you deal damage to that marine depending on how many "touches" the game counts.
Prior to version 2.0 (that is to say, versions 1.0, 1.01. 1.02, 1.03, and 1.04), the number of touches registered depending on the client's frame rate. What this meant was that if you had a jacked up expensive beast of a gaming machine, and hit the maximum of 100 frames per second, you could deal outrageous amounts of damage to marines by leaping into them. On the other hand, if you had a mere 25 frames per second, leaps were almost impossible to kill with. This bug was fixed in version 2.0, and with it, most of the killing potential of the leap. Now everyone was equal regardless of hardware-- equally lacking.
Xenocide has gone through a few revisions in the game as well, but is still fundamentally the same in all versions. With three hives, the skulk becomes a walking bomb. Pull pin, run at the target, explode. This of course kills the skulk in question, but respawn is fairly quick and in most versions, the damage dealt is devestating. Originally, this weapon was designed to be a base clearer, and as such dealt double damage to structures. In more recent versions, the damage has been toned down a little and the extra damage to structures has been removed. That doesn't mean it isn't an effective weapon though... repeated waves of xenociding skulks can wear down nearly any installation with its very wide blast radius. Marines have quite a bit to fear from these little walking timebombs as well. However, if a marine manages to kill the skulk before it explodes, no damage is dealt.
Reccomended upgrades for the skulk:
Carapace, in all 1.0x versions, is not only reccomended for skulks, it was practically required. Carapace basically doubled the lifetime of a skulk, and often made it so that the skulk survived engagements long enough to run to defence chambers or the hive for healing. With 2.0 and later versions, however, carapace has been nerfed and the base skulk beefed such that while still useful, it is no longer essential for survival.
Regeneration is useful only in post 2.0 versions, and esspecially in versions which allow marines to electrify key buildings. While Regeneration won't help a skulk much when faced with marines, it will enable one to face an electrified resource tower or turret factory.
Redemption is almost never useful for the skulk. Skulks have so little life that it almost never works, and when it does, what's the point? Skulks are free. The only purpose of redemption here would be to starve marines of "Resources for Kills" in classic NS, and experience in Combat. Even then, it's not really all that great, due to the rarity in it actually working. Not worth the upgrade.
Celerity rocks for skulks. The exact amount of additional speed it grants is version dependant, with the fastest version making skulks so speedy they might as well be invulnerable death machines on wheels. Even in the slowest versions, celerity grants the skulk the ability to close the distance to the marines fast enough to take less bullets in the head making it as useful as carapace, and allows them to respond to attacks elsewhere much faster. A very useful upgrade.
Silence on the other hand, is only useful after version 2.0. In the 1.0x versions, silence only silenced footsteps, not the actual bite sounds. What you must realize is that marines really do rely on sound to react to skulks. Run up to a marine from behind without silence, and that marine will turn around and kill you as long as said marine has his speakers turned on and some modicum of skill. With silence, you can take out an entire squad of marines from the rear, and its possible the others won't realize it until they are dead. Additionally, the fact that you make no noise whatsoever is incredibly creepy, and provides a profound psychological effect on both you and your foe. Also a very useful upgrade.
Adreneline isn't really all that useful for a skulk. A skulk only runs out of energy if he's taking down a structure solo, leaping across the entire map, or trying to get a parasite kill. Either silence or celerity would be a better choice. Other lifeforms may need this upgrade, but probably not the skulk.
Cloaking is righteous for the skulk. In the 1.0x versions, cloaking only worked while you were standing still, and motion tracking would spot you anyways, but in 2.0x and beyond which allowed for invisible stalking, cloaking has been the source of more marine swearing than any other upgrade. Beware, cloaking only offers somewhere around the realm of 95% transparency, which means that some marines may spot you regardless. Most, however, will not, making your next kill almost an assured thing. It won't get you an entire squad unless paired with Silence or m4d sk1llz, but you can at least thin a herd by getting the jump on 'em.
Scent of Fear has also undergone some revisions between versions. Originally, it let you see any injured marine anywhere on the map. In later versions, it allows you to see marines of any health level as long as they are close enough. Either way, this is useful for finding that last marine who likes to hide, or to set up ambushes, or to perform rapid reconnaisance, or to stay away from heavily occupied areas until the bigger aliens can show up. Useful indeed.
Adv. Hivesight only existed in the 1.0x versions, and allowed you to use something like nightvision. As most maps lacked areas dark enough to make this useful, the ability was dropped, and rightly so. This upgrade was basically useless for everyone.
Phermones, existing only in the 2.0x versions, was pretty redundant, allowing you to see a vapor trail following after marines. Awesome in concept, this one failed in practice since Scent of Fear allowed you to see exactly where the marines were NOW, not where they had been a minute ago. In 3.0x, this one was replaced by...
Focus, an upgrade to be reckoned with. This upgrade doubles your attack power, but lowers your rate of fire to a little less than half normal. This means that over time you deal less damage, but for most situations, it doesn't matter. When fighting marines, all you need is one bite at a time, and this upgrade delivers. Able to instagib unupgraded marines, the dev team actually made it worth two upgrade levels in Combat to help the marine team survive during the early game. Well worth being selected, and is an upgrade that makes sensory chambers more valuble.