Given the Achievement stats on Steam, it’s pretty clear that the last few Force levels are where people are really getting stuck. In particular, F3A-3 and F3C-3. (F3A-2 is a fair bit easier since version 1.6.0.) So let’s dive right in. (Now might be a good time to make a pot of tea.)
Zen Attractors 3 is all about efficient orbit manipulation. For those interested in some deeper reading on the subject, start here and here, paying attention to Hohmann transfers in particular. But I’ll present enough material here to get you transferring Osmos orbits with the best of them. (Strangely, I was unable to find an easy to understand “how to efficiently manipulate your obit” tutorial on the web. I guess it doesn’t come up very often in everyday life.)
Take a look at the leftmost image in the diagram below. (Click any image for a larger version.) The red circle is an Attractor, the blue circle is you, and the green circle is your target. Both you and your target are moving in a circular, counter-clockwise orbit. Note that because your orbit is closer to the Attractor, it takes less time to come full circle than for your target.
The first step is for you to speed up to grow your orbit (by clicking behind your mote a few times), as in the middle image. You are now in an elliptical orbit that intersects your target’s orbit. Note that your new elliptical orbit shares a point with your old circular one, and you will continue to return to the point where you “made your move” (ie. clicked to fire mass). Now it’s just a matter of time. You may not come close to hitting your target in your first trip around the Attractor, but if you wait a while, you will. And when you get close, a few judicious clicks should be enough to catch your target. Remember you can warp time: speed it up if you’re waiting for a good fly-by opportunity, and slow it down when you’re close and want time to think and perform micro-adjustments. That’s the basic recipe!
Here’s a video example for good measure. (About two-and-a-half minutes to complete the level. Watch in fullscreen.)
For completeness, the rightmost image above shows how to complete a Hohmann transfer (ie. moving from one circular orbit to another). By speeding up again when reaching the apoapsis (the “far end” of your orbit’s ellipse), you can grow your orbit to the new, larger circle. Again, note that you will continue to return to the last point where you adjusted your speed. (And you will no longer return to a point on your original, smaller circular orbit.)
To shrink your orbit, simply do the reverse: slow down to go from diagram 3 to 2, and slow down again to go from 2 to 1.
Note that you can make these adjustments anywhere in your orbit, but it’s most instructive to view them in this way. Experiment away!
Once you find Zen Attractors 3 easy, it’s time to tackle Epicycles 3. The first thing to practice is efficient orbit escapes and how to fall back into orbit around an outer-Attractor. This is what the tutorial level F3C-1 is for. Practice moving from Attractor to Attractor, and watch how clicking affects your epicyclic orbit. Once you get a good feel for this, you should be able to put all your skills together and beat F3C-3.
Personally, I prefer to visit each of the three outer-Attractors in turn, absorbing their satellites, then absorbing an outer-Attractor, and finally moving into the central Attractor’s orbit to absorb its satellites and finally the Attractor itself. Any remaining outer-Attractors will then leave the “blobiverse” due to their inertia and be absorbed by the red, circular border. But there are multiple ways to do it. A good discussion on strategies can be found on the Steam forums here.
Here’s a video example of how to do it. (It’s over seven minutes long. Refill that teacup and watch in fullscreen.)
As was wisely pointed out by pez0 on the Steam forum: “Think before scooping up the orbiting attractors! If you come from behind in orbit, they’ll accelerate you forward really hard, causing your orbit to expand and you to crash into the wall. This is because gravity isn’t mutual – you accelerate but the attractor does not. Momentum is not conserved so don’t be afraid to dump huge amounts of mass into the attractor to slow yourself down as you’re pulled into the gravity well. You’ll get the mass back immediately when you absorb the attractor, but you’ll retain the change in momentum.” It’s true; in these levels, Attractors’ velocity is not affected by satellites, including you, so momentum is not conserved. Without this physical “cheat” in the game’s design, the Epicycle levels wouldn’t be stable enough to play. So include that technique in your arsenal. I actually use it in the video around 6:19 to slow down as I’m absorbing the first Attractor. (Though it’s hard to make out since I’m firing mass right into the Attractor.) Thanks pez0!
One final note. All levels in their default form are winnable — randomization is never necessary. It’s true, if you randomize enough you may get a particularly easy configuration, but I don’t recommend this strategy. The randomization feature is there to offer players variety, not luck.
So there you have it, the end of our “Osmos Rage” series. Hopefully all this helps you really enjoy the final stages of the game — that’s why we made them in the first place! And who knows… maybe people will even learn something along the way.
Except you video makers out there. You guys’ll never amount to nuthin’! ;-)