The Atomic Raven's Cheap and Cheesy Guide to Sierra/Relic's %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% _ _ _ _ | | | | ___ _ __ ___ _____ _____ _ __| | __| | | |_| |/ _ \| '_ ` _ \ / _ \ \ /\ / / _ \| '__| |/ _` | | _ | | | | | | | | | __/\ V V / | | | | | | | | | | | | | |_| | | | | | | |__ \ /| |_| | | | | |_| | |_| |_|\___/|_| |_| |_|\___| \/\/ \___/|_| |_|\__,_| %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% FAQ Version 1.00 January 1, 2006 =============================================================================== Sierra/Relic's 3d RTS was one of the first games of its type to include an engaging storyline and logical technology progression in its single-player campaign. For these reasons, and of course because of how cool the ships looked (who among us failed to drool over those Ion Cannon Frigates when you first saw them!), it became immensely popular. True, it was Game of the Year several years ago, but it's still well worth playing. This guide will help you enjoy a quick evening of smashing fleets in either campaign or versus scenarios. The Atomic Raven is proud to be known among fellow gamers as a "munchkin": the kind of player who mathematically minimizes penalties and maximizes benefits no matter what sort of rules apply to any given situation. Some call this approach cheap, or cheesy. But let's face it--you're not concerned with how honorable your victory over the CPU is, you just want to win, right? Listen to my advice, and your journey from the galactic boondocks back to your forgotten Homeworld will be a walk in the park. For the purpose of this document, I assume basic familiarity with gameplay. If you see words or abbreviations that are incomprehensible, go play the tutorial, then start reading again. I have also attempted to avoid repeating information from the game's documentation, with the exception of noting what technology must be researched to make each ship type available--that data is an important part of planning strategy for builds. Legal Statements: The Atomic Raven is not an employee and has no relation to the corporations who created Homeworld. Their names and trademarks are entirely their property. Copyright 2006 Blair Burroughs. All rights reserved. This text may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright. The following sites are permitted to host a copy of this document for public access: GameFAQS.com Neoseeker.com DLH.net 1up.com Supercheats.com To request hosting permission, make comments, ask questions, or suggest corrections contact the Atomic Raven at email@example.com. INDEX ===== I. Comparative Anatomy of Buildable Ship Types A. Scout B. Interceptor C. Defender D. Attack Bomber E. Cloaked Fighter F. Defense Fighter G. Light Corvette H. Heavy Corvette I. Multi-Gun Corvette J. Repair Corvette K. Salvage Corvette L. Minelayer Corvette M. Assault Frigate N. Ion Cannon Frigate O. Support Frigate P. Drone Frigate Q. Defense Field Frigate R. Destroyer S. Missile Destroyer T. Carrier U. Heavy Cruiser V. Resource Collector W. Resource Controller X. Probe Y. Cloak Generator Z. Gravity Well Generator AA. Proximity Sensor BB. Sensors Array CC. Research Ship Final Recommendations II. Dirrrrty Tricks 1. Stealing Victory 2. Banzai! 3. Fun Without Formations III. You CAN Go Home Again 01 [Kharak System] 02 [Outskirts of Kharak System] 03 [Return to Kharak] 04 [Great Wastelands] 05 [Great Wastelands] 06 [Diamond Shoals] 07 [Garden of Kadesh] 08 [Cathedral of Kadesh] 09 [Sea of Lost Souls] 10 [Supernova Research Station] 11 [Tenhauser Gate] 12 [Galactic Core] 13 [Karos Graveyard] 14 [Bridge of Sighs] 15 [Chapel Perilous] 16 [Hiigara] Closing Remarks SECTION THE FIRST In which the relative merits of the different buildable unit types are compared. Campaign availability assumes you research all available technologies during each mission. =============================================================================== [Fighter Category] A. Scout Cost 35 RU. Requires "Fighter Drive" tech. Available in campaign mission 1. This is the cheapest and fastest combat craft available. It can outrun any ship in the game with its 1.5 kps "speed burst" maneuver. In single player, its low firepower rating makes it ineffective as an offensive weapon against anything larger than another fighter, and its primary usage is to serve as filler for your strike groups until you have enough spare RU to retire squadrons of Scouts in exchange for Interceptors, Defenders, and Attack Bombers. It is best used in decoy maneuvers--send a group of five or more Scouts set to Evasive tactics in just before your main attack. While the enemy ships are uselessly attempting to track down the dodging Scouts, they aren't attacking more easily hit targets, like your vulnerable frigates and corvettes. In multiplayer games, you may find it advantageous to build three Scouts rather than two Interceptors; you can quickly amass a large group of quick attackers in this manner. Especially when your opponent has only a Carrier rather than a Mothership, it may be possible to eliminate him with a "kamikaze rush" from a large squadron of Scouts (see Banzai! below). B. Interceptor Cost 55 RU. Requires "Fighter Drive" and "Fighter Chassis" tech. Available in campaign mission 1. This fighter is the bread and butter combat craft of this size. Not quite as fast as a Scout, and lacking afterburners for dashing, it does however have much better capacity to deal and survive damage. In numbers, Interceptors can deal with just about any kind of foe except groups of super-capital ships or specialized anti-fighter craft. C. Defender Cost 65 RU. Requires "Fighter Drive", "Fighter Chassis", and "Defender Subsystems" tech. Available in campaign mission 5. This ship is more of a turret than a fighter. As the name implies, it is far more useful on defense than offense. In the earlier versions of the game, its firepower was almost as intense as a corvette's, but the more recent patches have downgraded it to only about the same damage per unit of time as an Interceptor. It is cripplingly slow for a fighter, but does have slightly better armor than an Interceptor, and its guns fire hypervelocity projectiles which seldom miss, a major advantage against highly maneuverable opponents. D. Attack Bomber Cost 80 RU. Requires "Fighter Drive", "Fighter Chassis", and "Plasma Bomb Launcher" tech. Available in campaign mission 5. Against really big targets, most fighters are like a cloud of mosquitoes-- annoying, but not truly deadly except in huge numbers. The Attack Bomber is the exception to this rule. Tough resourcing ships and frigates are easy meat for a small group of Bombers, and in larger formations they can mince Destroyers, Carriers, even Cruisers with ease. Against targets which have no turreted weapons to return fire, or which are already distracted by another foe (psst, remember those Scouts?) punch F10 to lock into Sphere formation and drop a hard rain of plasma onto the foe. E. Cloaked Fighter *Kushan fleet only. Cost 85 RU. Requires "Fighter Drive", "Fighter Chassis", and "Cloaked Fighter" tech. Available in campaign mission 13. Wouldn't it be nice to be invisible? Yes? Well, try something else. I'm not kidding. It sounds neat--a fighter size ship incorporating a cloaking sail-- but in practice, the results won't satisfy you. For the price, I'd rather have Scouts, and I hate Scouts. These ships are expensive, sluggish and flimsy (less maneuverable and about 2/3 the hit points of an Interceptor), and burn fuel so fast it seems they've barely left the docking bay before the pilots start whining about needing their tanks topped off. If you have Repair Corvettes or Support Frigates available to gas them up repeatedly, they might be worth trying in multiplayer games to sneak a quick peek at your opponent's base area or resource zones. But I doubt it. By the time your fleet has access to this ship in either single or multiplayer games, your opponent will be able to see it coming with Proximity Sensors they've built to keep far more dangerous ships grouped with a Cloak Generator at bay. Take my advice and build something that will make it to the enemy's location and actually do damage before being shot down instead. F. Defense Fighter *Taiidan fleet only. Cost 85 RU. Requires "Fighter Drive", "Fighter Chassis", and "Defense Fighter" tech. Available in campaign mission 13. Wouldn't it be nice to be invincible? Well, this ship sports a laser array in its domed nose which attempts to vaporize incoming rounds before they strike. It makes an excellent part of an escort for extremely valuable units you don't care to lose as it blocks cannon fire. Aside from its expense, its only real disadvantage is that it can't shoot back at the attackers. You'll get more effective coverage by building a Defense Field Frigate (which is available much earlier in the single player campaign) and sending along some Interceptors or Defenders. [Corvette Category] G. Light Corvette Cost 135 RU. Requires "Corvette Drive" and "Corvette Chassis" tech. Available in campaign mission 2. As you might expect from the low-end prerequisites, this vehicle isn't much to write home about. Don't waste RU building any. In single-player games just a few more minutes of research and patience gives you the chance to construct Heavy Corvettes instead, which are far more effective. In multiplayer, especially if you chose to skip researching Defenders, try Multigun Corvettes instead. They come with six turrets instead of one, and better armor and speed to boot. H. Heavy Corvette Cost 240 RU. Requires "Corvette Drive", "Corvette Chassis", and "Heavy Corvette Upgrade" tech. Available in campaign mission 2. I give these my unalloyed recommendation. They have excellent armor and paired turrets capable of independently tracking multiple fighters, plus the guns in those turrets do enough damage to penetrate frigate hulls. Easily more than twice as effective as their predecessor, the Light Corvette, for less than twice as much--a bargain by any standards. As an added bonus, their "charged burst attack" creates flak explosions effective against capital ships or tightly grouped strike craft formations. Heavy Corvettes should be a staple of your single- or multi-player fleet. I. Multi-Gun Corvette Cost 225 RU. Requires "Corvette Drive", "Corvette Chassis", and "Fast-Tracking Turrets" tech. Available in campaign mission 7. If you are faced by constant waves of enemy fighters, like the kamikaze Scout waves referred to earlier, you may wish you had a squadron of Multi-Gun Corvettes. Equipped with six hypervelocity guns (like the Defender above), they can cut through waves of small ships like a knife through warm butter. In terms of speed and price, they also have a slight advantage over Heavy Corvettes. However, they lack the Heavy Corvette's armor and ability to damage large targets, so unless your opponent eschews larger ships entirely, I'd suggest you stick with the Heavy's durability and versatility--after all, it's only a 15 RU difference. The Heavy Corvette is also available much earlier in campaign mode, which allows you to crank out a good-sized squadron by the time you really need one. J. Repair Corvette Cost 150 RU. Requires "Corvette Drive" tech. Available in campaign mission 1. Too poor to buy Support Frigates? Try these instead. They can only dock and refuel fighter-class ships (what a shock!), but they do have a weaker version of the Support Frigate's repair beam. I don't recommend sending them into serious combat; they do have one small gun, but firing it at anything is all too likely to attract the sort of attention that this lightly armored ship just won't survive. Personally, I've never built one in a serious game, and you shouldn't either. K. Salvage Corvette Cost 220 RU. Requires "Corvette Drive" and "Corvette Chassis" tech.* Available in campaign mission 1. *(Though apparently only in multiplayer games--in single player mode these can be built from the beginning of mission 1.) Pay close attention, Grasshopper. The Salvage Corvette doesn't look like much. No guns, speed and armor not too impressive either, and it costs as much as four Interceptors. Yet this simple tugboat will lead you to greatness in the single player campaign and make your opponents howl with anguish in multiplayer. Mark well this ship. It is quite possibly the most important unit you can build if you can use it properly. The reason? Salvage Corvettes lock on to enemy craft with magnetic grapples and drag them back to your Mothership or Carrier to be boarded and captured, after which the enemy vessel becomes part of your fleet. Don't begrudge those 220 RU, because a single Salvage Corvette, if properly defended, can contribute to thousands of RU worth of fleet growth. I'll discuss the use and care of the Salvage Corvette in detail later (see Stealing Victory below), but in single player you'll want even more of these than you have Heavy Corvettes, and in multiplayer you will want to keep at least 8-12 in your fleet whenever possible. L. Minelayer Corvette Cost 275 RU. Requires Requires "Corvette Drive", "Corvette Chassis", and "Minelayer" tech. Available in campaign mission 10. The Minelayer Corvette can drop tiny guided bombs in neat walls wherever you like, blocking avenues of approach and inflicting unanswered damage on your attacking foes. Unfortunately, in real combat situations the Minelayer is an unarmed sitting duck, and unless your enemy sits around indecisively until you have created a very thick minefield, it's a relatively simple task for a Destroyer or larger capital ship to simply plow through. This tactic does cause some pain, but isn't generally dangerous to the mine-clearing ship; some admirals prefer to use Missile Destroyers to take out the mines at range, or sacrifice a formation of Scouts. Any way you slice it, the only time a minefield tends to really be effective is if you see where your opponent is sending resourcers and plant one right there. With a little luck, the harvesting can come to an end among brilliant plasma fireworks. Generally, however, your money will be far better spent on Heavy Corvettes or Salvage Corvettes, and your research time on improving your capital ships. [Frigate Category] M. Assault Frigate Cost 575 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive" and "Capital Ship Chassis" tech. Available in campaign mission 3. This is the bread and butter frigate class ship. It doesn't inflict damage to other capital ships as fast as the Ion Cannon Frigate, but it does have the important advantage of turrets. Its excellent arcs of fire mean it can begin attacking enemy formations, then move past or to the flanks while continuing to pour volley after volley into its victims. The multiple medium guns are also excellent against corvettes and moderately effective against the slower fighter class vessels (don't plan on hitting Scouts). Probably the most efficient counter to corvettes short of the much more expensive and slower Missile Destroyer. N. Ion Cannon Frigate Cost 650 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive", "Capital Ship Chassis", and "Ion Cannons" tech. Available in campaign mission 4. Yeah, you saw those nasty looking red and blue energy beams crisscrossing in the screenshots and you were hooked right there. Admit it. Well, this is the fastest and cheapest beam equipped ship there is. In both single and multiplayer these are going to be a major part of whatever fleet group you use to take out enemy capital ships. Excellent bang for your buck; once you have 9-12 of these puppies and some screening vessels to cover them, you can seriously fry an opponent. However, please note that without support against fighters and corvettes Ion Cannon Frigates might as well be served to your enemies on a platter! That beam weapon looks neat all right, but the ship has ONE of them pointing straight out the front, and frigates don't turn on a dime, bub! Ion Frigates without covering escorts are vulnerable even to properly managed Scouts. As with other single-weapon craft, focusing the entire group's fire on one hapless victim at a time is the best way to kill your enemies quickly while suffering minimal damage in return. O. Support Frigate Cost 425 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive" tech. Available in campaign mission 3. A Support Frigate can dock 10 fighters and 4 corvettes to refuel and heal, can hyperspace them across the map in multiplayer games, and its repair beam is far more effective at removing damage from capital ships than the Repair Corvette's. At less than three times the expense and more than three times the armor and support ability, this is a much better buy. The only reason you would use the smaller craft is if you are already at your unit cap for frigates. P. Drone Frigate *Kushan fleet only. Cost 800 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive", "Capital Ship Chassis", and "Drone" tech. Available in campaign mission 6. If you're playing this game with an older computer system, don't use Drone Frigates. Building just one creates 25 more models for your CPU to keep track of, often resulting in molasses-like frame rates or hangs. That aside, much like the Missile Destroyer, a Drone Frigate can quickly obliterate wings of fighters. The AI for this ship has some weird quirks, since technically it's unarmed, and its drones do all the fighting... you may occasionally experience odd behavior because of this. I find that the drones seem to attack on their own most effectively if the frigate is set to "aggressive" tactics, but this may require micromanagement to prevent your Drone Frigates from haring off across the map after passing Scouts and the like. These can be nasty when mixed in with a group of Ion Frigates to create a battle group capable of taking on ships of any size. Q. Defense Field Frigate *Taiidan fleet only. Cost 800 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive", "Capital Ship Chassis", and "Defense Field" tech. Available in campaign mission 6. Much like the Defense Fighter above, this vessel has absolutely no offensive capability whatsoever. However, it protects all friendlies within a 2km or so bubble from incoming cannon rounds and plasma bombs, stopping roughly 75% of all shots. The shield is ineffective against beam weapons, missiles, and mines, but because of its spherical coverage, much better range, and higher durability, it's a better buy as an escort than the Defense Fighter. Against wings of fighters, corvettes, and Assault Frigates it provides unsurpassed protection, and the shield is big enough to completely screen your own formation of corvettes or a small group of frigates. [Super Capital Category] R. Destroyer Cost 1350 RU. Requires "Super-Capital Ship Drive", "Capital Ship Chassis", and "Ion Cannons" tech. Available in campaign mission 6. These heavyweights are essentially a combination of an Assault Frigate and an Ion Frigate. With paired cannon turrets and two gimbal-mounted ion beams, they can engage multiple targets and deal heavy damage. Ideal for thrashing anything corvette-size or larger, since their multiple rotating weapons cancel out their poor turning speed. Ineffective, however, against moving fighters, which are too quick for them to track effectively. S. Missile Destroyer Cost 1500 RU. Requires "Super-Capital Ship Drive", "Capital Ship Chassis", and "Missile Launcher" tech. Available in campaign mission 9. Slightly more expensive and slightly less maneuverable than a standard Destroyer, this class of vessel eschews standard guns and beams for four missile pods, achieving ultimate supremacy against small craft. The multiple homing warheads from just one Missile Destroyer can turn incoming fighter and corvette formations into clouds of flaming scrap in mere moments. Against other capital ships its performance is slightly inferior to the regular model, though its "volley attack" can give you an early advantage in such large-scale engagements by entirely emptying its magazines at extended range. Beware, however, because Missile Destroyers take time to manufacture more missiles to replace those spent, and the delay in doing so is even longer after a volley attack. T. Carrier Cost 2000 RU. Requires "Super-Capital Ship Drive" and "Super-Heavy Chassis". Available in campaign mission 9. Your home away from home, Carriers provide pretty much all the same services as the Mothership but can actually move. Nice. In single-player games Carriers allow you to capture enemy craft up to frigate size without the interminable wait for your Salvage Corvettes to drag the foe all the way to your starting position. They also provide a mobile bunker for storing, repairing, and refueling fighters and corvettes--a fact of vital importance in certain missions (one which comes to mind immediately is the Supernova Research Station, scenario #10). In multiplayer, these ships serve as extra manufacturing and resource dropoff points, and if your Mothership should unfortunately perish, your new command HQ. They are unfortunately useless in combat except as decoys. U. Heavy Cruiser Cost 3700 RU. Requires "Super-Capital Ship Drive", "Super-Heavy Chassis", "Ion Cannons", and "Heavy Guns" tech. Available in campaign mission 12. Once you have a Heavy Cruiser, the lumbering core of your fleet is complete. In fact, capital ship engagements become as easy as detailing a couple of destroyers, a few frigates, and a squadron of fighters or corvettes to guard your Cruiser, and spend all your time concentrating the Cruiser's fire on specific targets one at a time until they make a satisfying popping noise. With six huge railguns and paired twin ion beam turrets, this monster makes short work of anything corvette size or larger. Keep in mind, however, that its cost is just as monstrous as its combat presence. Never assign a Cruiser to do anything without Support Frigates to keep its health up and screening elements to deal with enemy fighters (which a Cruiser simply can't hit to save its life) or you'll lose your investment faster than you built it. In multiplayer, it's wise to max out your complement of smaller ships before you try to field a Heavy Cruiser; in terms of price and build time smaller ships can deploy more firepower more quickly. With the "rush" tactics most often prevalent these days in PvP RTS matchups, some players never even bother researching so far down the tech tree. Personally, I admit, I just can't resist the sight of turrets half the size of an entire frigate. >:) [Non-Combat Category] V. Resource Collector Cost 650 RU. No requirements. Available in campaign mission 1. With no RU, you can't build ships. With no ships, you lose. Simple, yes? Resource Collectors actually do have reasonable combat potential when used correctly; they are the smallest ship with self-repair capability and the largest ship with kamikaze capability. In fact, it's possible to beat the entire attacking force of fighters and corvettes in mission 2 by simply commanding your Resource Collector to ram them while the rest of your craft remain safely inside the Mothership's docking bays. Don't resort to tactics like this in multiplayer games unless you're already on the brink of defeat, though--they are far more useful harvesting resources so your fleet can continue to grow. W. Resource Controller Cost 680 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive" tech. Available in campaign mission 3. In single player missions, speed is not critical for your resourcing operations. In fact, in many situations you'll find you can let the game run an extra half an hour or more after all combat has ceased until you hear Karan's dulcet tones saying "Available resources consumed." In multiplayer games, on the other hand, deploying a Controller to the nearest resource cluster greatly increases the speed and efficiency of your mining operations, a critical concern in an era when either using or defending against "rush" tactics has become the default scenario. Carriers may be a better bet in late game situations, since they can build and repair as well as receive resource drops. X. Probe Cost 30 RU. No requirements. Available in campaign mission 1. A very fast spy tool. Unfortunately, it can't defend itself and can't move more than once, so be careful when giving that first deployment order! Curiously for what is essentially nothing more than a mass of antennae, its sensor range isn't any larger than that of a normal fighter. In single player games, sending ANY ship within sight distance of "send a probe here" objectives will satisfy them, and in multiplayer games sending an armed and agile Scout on reconnaisance takes only 5 RU and a few seconds longer... Plus, since they can't move after initial deployment, you can't even take them with you between campaign missions. Basically, don't bother building any Probes unless you plan to use them as missiles (see Banzai! below). Y. Cloak Generator Cost 500 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive" and "Cloak Generator" tech. Available in campaign mission 13. This frigate-size vessel is essentially nothing more than a mobile invisibility field. When deactivated, its batteries recharge at about half the rate they deplete during cloaking. Therefore, a set of three generators alternately activated can keep a small formation of your fleet permanently invisible if properly managed. Handy for surprise attacks, especially capture raids involving Salvage Corvettes. Keep in mind that cloaked ships briefly become visible when attacking, so you should keep your invisible strike group in motion to minimize the effect of return fire; turreted ships like Assault Frigates are most effective when doing so. Z. Gravity Well Generator Cost 800 RU. Requires "Capital Ship Drive" and "Gravity Well Generator" tech. Available in campaign mission 9. Like the Cloak Generator, this is essentially a tool with an engine on the back. The Gravwell Generator cannot recharge, but has two nasty effects within its sphere of operation: all nearby fighters and corvettes are held motionless like flies trapped in amber, and (in multiplayer games) enemy capital ships cannot use hyperdrive. An excellent tool for offense and defense in longer multiplayer games, it tends to weaken the economic advantage of fighter/corvette rushes--IF you can research them in time. Since the Generator cannot recharge and self-destructs once its power supply is exhausted, you can recover some of its cost by using the "retire" command instead of allowing it to wear out and explode. AA. Proximity Sensor Cost 50 RU. Requires "Proximity Detector" tech. Available in campaign mission 10. Better than a Probe, these little detector arrays are as fast as a Scout and can detect cloaked vessels as they reach beam and missile range, allowing you to counterattack. Their superior drive systems allow them to maintain formation with any combat vessel to prevent invisible enemies from getting the drop on you, and they don't run out of fuel, which makes long-duration recon missions simpler. Definitely handy. BB. Sensors Array Cost 800 RU. Requires "Proximity Detector" and "Sensors Array" tech. Available in campaign mission 13. A giant floating radar set. Nothing more. However, if you have one, you'll be able to see the exact positions and sensor ranges of EVERY ship on the map. This is an extraordinarily useful ability and should not be underestimated. As soon as you have the tech to build one you should do so, and guard it carefully. CC. Research Ship Cost 700 RU. No requirements. Available in campaign mission 1. Each Research Ship is a compact module meant to become part of a rotating laboratory station. Uniquely, each subsequently built Research Ship (to a total of six) links to the previous modules, making the lab larger and tougher, as well as quicker to achieve your scientific goals. In single player, you can get by with just one until you've finished the Great Nebula missions and have more money than you know what to do with. In multiplayer games, however, you'll want to build the maximum number as soon as you can afford to do so, both to increase the lab's survivability and to accelerate your all-important tech development. Multiple modules can be assigned to research the same tech, getting it finished faster, or to different techs, to achieve variety--it's up to you. [Final Recommendations] These are the ships you should spend your money building. If you don't see it here, don't bother even clicking on it in the Build Manager. Fighters: Lots of Scouts early, so you can quickly reach the maximum of 80 fighter-class ships. Later, replace losses with Attack Bombers. If you can't afford Bombers, use Interceptors instead until your cash reserves increase. I only recommend Defenders if you need a quick escort for a capital-class vessel and you have not researched Heavy Corvettes; they're just too slow and easily destroyed to handle most fighter tasks. Corvettes: The truly optimal choices here are Heavy Corvettes and Salvage Corvettes. The virtues of Heavies have already been elaborated; see II/1. below for more reasons why the Salvage Corvette should be one of your favorite ships. The normal class cap for corvettes is 50. Frigates: As soon as you can afford it, I recommend at least half a dozen apiece of Assault and Ion Cannon Frigates, as well as four Support Frigates. This should give you a well-balanced medium ship complement capable of handling all the tasks frigates need to perform. Depending on your race, the Drone Frigate and Defense Field Frigate are handy for specialized situations as well. Just remember, without stolen ships, you can only have 18 frigates at a time. Super-Capital Ships: Promptly construct at least one Carrier. This enables you to build ships faster, as well as giving you a mobile secondary base. A group of 2-4 standard Destroyers and 1-3 Missile Destroyers can handle most major engagements as long as you remember to concentrate fire from the Destroyers on one target at a time, working your way down from large to small, and "group attack" (Ctrl+bandbox) the fast movers with the Missile Destroyers. As noted above, don't spend resources on a Heavy Cruiser unless a) you're filthy rich and b) you are at unit cap for everything smaller. Max number of Carriers is 4, Destroyers is 7, and Cruisers is 3. Non-Combat Ships: I noted earlier that you never have to build a Resource Controller or even an extra Collector in the single-player missions; in fact, if you guard the one you're provided in mission 1 carefully, it's all the mining operation you really need the entire game. In multiplayer this is totally untrue! Buy yourself up to at least 4-6 Collectors and at least 1 Controller ASAP, and in a long game on a large map, maxing out at 10 Collectors and 4 Controllers can allow you to defeat your opponent through sheer attrition. The same goes for Research Ships; in campaign mode just one can do all the research required, but in multiplayer scenarios the more the merrier--after all, no sane opponent will just sit around and wait to attack while you cheerfully research every tech with just one lab! If you're going to try sneaking up on your opponent, go for a trio of Cloak Generators. One or two Grav Well Generators are good for both offense and defense. Keep one near the Mothership for emergencies and send the other along with the big boys whenever you suspect your enemy has a load of fighters to dump on your fleet. A Sensors Array is critical to show you what the bad guys are up to. Lastly, keep half a dozen or so Proximity Sensors handy. Split them up guarding your Mothership and other widely separated fleet groups; that way if your opponent suddenly whips out a cloaked attack force you'll be able to effectively deal with it. SECTION THE SECOND In which revelation is made of various underhanded tactics. =============================================================================== 1. Stealing Victory This strategy is so simple it's practically self-explanatory. In this game, crime DOES pay. Every chance you get, you should quickly reach and exceed your unit caps by stealing capital ships and non-combat craft with your Salvage Corvettes. You did build some, didn't you? "Salvaging" as many enemy craft as you can is critical in the first half of the single-player campaign to quickly increase your fleet size, not to mention acquiring bigger ships (often substantially before your research and budget would allow you to build them yourself). In the multi-player scenarios, nothing will cause your opponents as much agony as watching entire resource operations dragged back to your nearby Carrier, or watching 3700 RU of Heavy Cruiser suddenly quit fragging your frigates when the salvagers lock on to its hull. Get used to laughing evilly as your fleet swells with stolen vessels; for those who deride this tactic as "sissy" I recommend you review the cutscene between campaign missions 3 and 4. Now just imagine what your pissed-off marines are doing to the enemy crew. :) Stealing CPU Ships: There are two important tricks to this. First, the target MUST be distracted. Most CPU-controlled ships are very sensitive to Salvage Corvettes. In fact, all ships of frigate size or larger within sensor range of Salvage Corvettes will preferentially attack them first unless they are already in combat against a high-priority target like one of your own capital ships. Scout formations are NOT a sufficient distraction against CPU ships--don't waste your time and Scouts trying. Instead, use a super capital ship like a destroyer or cruiser as a stalking horse. Make sure the decoy is set to "evasive tactics" by hitting F2 so it does not automatically retaliate and destroy the enemy ship before capture is completed. It may prove useful to have a Support Frigate nearby to keep the decoy's health up while it meekly suffers the slings and arrows of the CPU's outrage, depending on the firepower of the ship to be stolen compared to the damage capacity of the decoy. Taiidan fleets can extend the endurance of the decoy against most victims of this maneuver by deploying a Defense Field Frigate to block incoming fire. Second, the salvage corvettes must be MOVED manually into position nearby. Again, the CPU quickly notices salvage attempts, and in several missions the prospective victims will instantly react when targeted by a capture maneuver, promptly ceasing their attack on your decoy and vaporizing the relatively helpless Salvage Corvettes. The best way to avoid watching your tugs melt like clay pigeons at a skeet shoot is to take advantage of the distracted state of the computer-controlled vessels by maneuvering into close range before giving the salvage command. If you can put your salvage team within a kilometer or so, preferably underneath or to the rear, as soon as they are told to salvage the target it will be paralyzed and unable to turn to attack them. Once you get some experience with this maneuver you'll soon see that it can allow you to grab entire enemy formations with no losses to your Salvage Corvette team. Keep in mind that there are some ships you cannot salvage (more's the pity). You cannot salvage the Turanic Raider Carriers from missions 2 and 4. You cannot salvage the Kadeshi Needle Motherships from missions 7 and 8. You cannot salvage the Junkyard Dog from mission 12. Any stationary objects (the derelict in mission 9, the Research Station in mission 10, the Autoguns in mission 12) cannot be salvaged either. Don't waste your time trying. You can salvage the enemy Probes occasionally sent towards you, but you can't take them to the next mission with you, so there's no point unless you intend to use them yourself in the same scenario. Also, make sure you have enough ships for the job! Frigates and Resource Collectors require two corvettes apiece; Destroyers and Resource Controllers need three apiece; Carriers and Cruisers can only be dragged home by a group of five.* Anything that needs more effort than a frigate must go all the way back to your Mothership, since it can't be handled by a Carrier. Plan accordingly, since given how long this can take your opponent may be able to "liberate" the captured ship unless you provide a combat-capable escort for the vulnerable Salvage Corvettes. (*Due to a glitch in all versions of the game, Kushan Heavy Cruisers actually need 6 tugs for successful salvage, despite their stat file being _exactly the same_ as the Taiidan model. Don't look at me! Also, theoretically, fighters, Probes and Proximity Sensors, and corvettes can all be salvaged with only one tug apiece... except they can simply move out of the way as long as they still have fuel. In practical terms salvaging these small ships is difficult enough that only a dedicated cheesemonkey like me would even bother trying, so I don't recommend it for the casual reader of this guide.) Stealing Human Ships: There's really only one trick to this--it has to be a surprise. How you manage this is up to you. A strike group with its admiral micromanaging is essentially invulnerable to capture. As soon as the human commander notices what you're doing, it's over; even if you snuck your tugs into close range with the help of cloaking technology, the escorts will quickly destroy them before the big ships are "locked down". Here are some suggestions for achieving the necessary stealth for this approach. First, you can simply conceal your Salvage Corvettes in a formation of other corvettes. Denied the ability to pause and examine the situation carefully (only available in campaign mode or in player vs. CPU skirmishes), the human commander may simply not notice them until it's too late. When trying this method, MAKE SURE TO CALL OFF THE OTHER SHIPS as soon as the salvagers are in grapple range. Trigger AI is moronic in this game... craft don't take into account whether friendlies are in the line of fire before attacking. If the rest of your strike group continues firing at the salvage victims, they run the risk of destroying them instead of capturing them, or, worse, fragging the Salvage Corvettes! Either way, you just wasted time and money. It can be difficult to dissuade your ships from pressing an attack sometimes. I recommend using F2 to put the offenders in "evasive tactics", then tapping the ~ key a few times, then ordering them to move off to the side someplace. This combination of orders usually stops even the most fanatic attack from a turreted ship. Second, you can concentrate the fire of your strike group and escorts on the enemy fleet escorts BEFORE sending in the salvagers. Especially when used in conjunction with cloak generators to keep the corvettes hidden until it's time to strike, this minimizes their exposure. Once again, however, make sure you cancel the attack orders as soon as the Salvage Corvettes get a grip. The disadvantage of this tactic is that a canny player may realize what you are doing when you concentrate solely on the escort formation, and bring reinforcement escorts with Proximity Sensors, thus extending the engagement and most likely resulting in the failure of the capture operation. Third, you can make sure the human's attention is elsewhere! An attack, no matter how Pyrrhic, on his Mothership or primary resource operation just as your fleets are engaging will most likely cause him to hurriedly group-attack your ships and jump to the "emergency" situation right away. If your timing is good, either of the tactics mentioned above will increase dramatically in effectiveness. Just remember that you need to make the diversionary strike look significant if you want it to be taken seriously--otherwise he'll just scoff, pop back to the original engagement and immediately see what you were trying to do in time to stop it. Fighters can get to a target area quickly and are cheap enough to be sacrificed for this sort of thing; a mix of Scouts or Interceptors to deal with escort craft and Attack Bombers to pound on the real target looks businesslike enough that most players will spend at least a few moments trying to deal with it. For those with truly superior multitasking skills, try pulling off three or more strikes simultaneously. If you have local superiority in even one location, focus fire in another area and you may win there too. In fact, even if you don't like Salvage Corvettes and don't ever use these tactics, they make a scary distraction themselves! Just a couple can latch onto a frigate and start dragging it off, which triggers a voice message to the original owner. When he panics and starts concentrating on the salvagers, use the time you've bought to focus fire on his most dangerous ships and quickly turn the tide in your favor. 2. Banzai! Missile Destroyers are fun. But did you ever wish you had real, long range missiles that you could just toss from your Mothership all the way across the map? Well, you can. Now, many game philosophers before yours truly have composed dissertations on the virtues and methodologies of the "rush strategy". If you aren't familiar with it, in a nutshell, this is achieving victory in a multiplayer game by just enough economic expansion to fuel a continuous stream of the cheapest combat units you can build, then sending them in waves to wear down your enemy until he's finally destroyed. I'm really not a big fan of this technique, though I've used it and defended against it successfully; in my opinion it substantially reduces the enjoyment of the gameplay the designers spent so much time refining. However, I have to say that there are some fun and nasty things you can do with that technique, and one of them is heaving Scouts and Probes at your enemies' fleets. Yep, you heard me. Scouts can "kamikaze" (give an attack order, then press K), as can all other fighters, corvettes, and Resource Collectors. They're the only ship cheap enough and hard enough to hit to make this an effective tactic, however. A kamikaze attack sends the Scout barreling toward its hapless victim, firing its guns continuously until it literally crashes into the target's hull and detonates, inflicting further explosive damage. Set a formation of at least five Scouts to "evasive tactics" with F2 to make them faster and more difficult to shoot down, and then when they get close to the intended victim, give the kamikaze command and follow up with Z to activate their "speed burst". This adds extra damage to the ram and further reduces the amount of time the victim and any escorts have to shoot down your Scout missiles. Probes can't kamikaze, and even if they could their total lack of maneuverability would make it unlikely that they would successfully strike anyway. However, you can use them like small caliber shotgun shells. Simply give them a move order that rockets them head-on towards an oncoming enemy formation or a large, stationary target far away (a Mothership or Carrier, most likely). Then, as the speeding Probe approaches the foe, scuttle it. The debris created by this self-destruct damages everything in a forward cone. This technique is more complex than the Scout missile tactic, and may require some practice to learn the correct timing, but it can be a great way to weaken incoming waves of strike craft. A group of three or more Probes makes a quite satisfying cloud of shrapnel, possibly obliterating an entire squadron of fighters. Economically speaking, Banzai! is very wasteful. Use these tactics carefully and only in a situation where you already have superior resources or the enemy lacks a well-balanced combined fleet. Be aware in multiplayer games that using either or both will likely get you called a "cheap bastard" or similar names; hey, you expected that after reading the title of this FAQ, right? :) In campaign mode, I don't recommend either Banzai! method until after the Great Nebula missions, at which point you ought to have cash to burn. 3. Fun Without Formations If you've read the manual and played through the tutorial, you've been told repeatedly by the game designers that formations are vital to successful combat maneuvering. In fact, this point is hammered home one more time in the first single-player campaign mission, when Fleet Intelligence has you testing the effect of formations on performance. Guess what? It's all WRONG. With a few exceptions, putting ships of any sort in formation substantially REDUCES their maneuverability and time-on-target (the segment of the attack pass during which the ship's guns are pointing at the target and firing). Strange but true. Modders who examine the performance data for the ships can see the maneuver instructions that cause these results; I recommend Seb Haque's excellent FAQ on the subject of modding. For the more casual player, just experiment a bit with a saved game. Using any kind of timepiece, examine how long it takes for a group of fighters to move from your Mothership to a few kilometers away and back with, then without formation. Then, attack something with the same group, first in formation, then without. Notice the difference? Essentially, formations increase the moment of inertia of a group of ships. This is a physics term, but in this case what it means is that the ships on the "inside" of a formation making a turn can't turn as fast as they normally could because they are in lock-step with the ships on the "outside" edge of the formation. Without formations, they turn at their maximum maneuverability rating all the time. The obvious conclusion is that you should rarely put your ships in formation, since it reduces their effectiveness both offensively and defensively. There are a few exceptions to this general rule: a) Large groups of ships attacking a single target. In this circumstance your vessels can sometimes get in the way of each other. Combined with the poor trigger AI mentioned previously, you will occasionally watch in disgust as your ships shoot down their squadronmates. In the case of large groups of fighters attacking a Missile Destroyer or a ship with turreted guns, the riot-like rush of the non-formated ships may actually make it easier for the defender (shots that miss by only a small amount may connect with another fighter in the same group, since they're so close together). In this case you may find it slightly more effective to use several Claws (no more than 9 ships in each) or hit F2 for "evasive tactics" to make the wingmen split farther apart during their attack pass. In the case of many fighters attacking an unarmed or distracted target, immediately put the entire group into "aggressive tactics" with F4 and drop them into Sphere formation. This will do the most damage possible in the minimum time. b) You need to select a certain number of ships from the group during combat. Often the case when setting up groups of special ships, such as Cloak Generators or Salvage Corvettes for one of the coordinated capture maneuvers detailed previously, especially when in a human vs. human multiplayer game. In this case your best bet is to use Broad formation for four or fewer ships, or Wall formation if there are more than that. c) Guarding a slow or immobile ship against fighters and corvettes. Common for groups of fighters and corvettes intended to escort bigger vessels with little or no organic anti-fighter capability. In this case you want the escorts to stay relatively close to the ship they're watching over, and the best way to do that is with Wall formation (for turreted escorts, like Heavy Corvettes) or Sphere formation (for single-weapon escorts, like Interceptors). Be aware that craft in Sphere formation are much more vulnerable to incoming fire because of their practically stationary position, but hey--the whole point of an escort is to draw fire away from the ship you're protecting, right? SECTION THE THIRD In which recommendations for each campaign scenario are set forth. =============================================================================== The storyline has Fleet Intelligence and Fleet Command prompting you in most situations, giving you instructions on what you must do to advance the plot. Therefore, I'm not going to discuss mission objectives in detail unless I feel the instructions are misleading or vague. I'm not going to give any spoilers, though I cheerfully exhort you to abuse event triggers whenever possible to improve your situation. To avoid repetition, I'll say this right now: after any combat that takes place during a mission, make sure your Resource Collector(s) have harvested ALL AVAILABLE RESOURCES before initiating the hyperdrive jump to the next scenario. If you do not do this, you will rapidly run out of cash and will have a fleet far too small to take on the harder situations later in the game. It's boring, but very important! You should also be aware that the game reacts to the size and power of your fleet by modifying the opposition you face--the more you've got, the more they'll throw at you. For this reason, I will tell you how to set up to deal with your opponents but not exactly how many/what kind of ships they have. 01 [Kharak System] *Build before jumping: 1 Research Ship, 2 Salvage Corvettes, Scouts until out of RU *Specific advice: After you finish researching Fighter Chassis, research Corvette Drive as well. You are not prompted to do so, but it will save you time in the next mission. 02 [Outskirts of Kharak System] *Build before jumping: 4 Heavy Corvettes, 6 Salvage Corvettes, Scouts until out of RU *Specific advice: Do NOT build or use a Probe here. Keep all ships except your Resource Collector at the start position. Research Corvette Chassis and Heavy Corvette Upgrade while supervising your Collector; when it finishes harvesting all the relatively nearby resources and starts heading off towards the Khar-Selim, recall it to dock and keep it nearby after it drops its load. After building the Heavy Corvettes, go to the Launch Manager and set the Mothership hangar to "Remain Docked". Dock all your strike craft to keep them out of harm's way. Tell the Collector to harvest once more. When it nears the dust clouds at the Khar-Selim's position, the next event will be triggered. Don't panic--the Mothership is not in real danger. Simply have the Mothership group-attack the enemy ships and soon they will all be destroyed. After docking the returning Resource Collector and finishing your build orders, set the Collector to guard the Mothership and launch your Heavy Corvettes and Salvage Corvettes. Redock all but one of the Salvage Corvettes, set the four Heavy Corvettes into Wall/Aggressive and command them to guard the one active Salvage Corvette, then send the tug off to check out the Khar-Selim. When your corvettes return, dock them inside the Mothership once more. Again, the Mothership is easily capable of handling itself in this scenario, so just group-attack the enemy ships; this battle will go slightly faster if you use your Collector to ram the enemy corvettes (just remember to dock it for repairs after it runs them over or takes severe damage). Do NOT check out the large power signature. None of the ships you have at this point are capable of dealing with what you will find and you will lose them to no avail. Before jumping, disable "Remain Docked" in the Launch Manager so your ships will autolaunch at the beginning of the next mission. 03 [Return to Kharak] *Build before jumping: 4 Salvage Corvettes, 2 Support Frigates, Scouts until out of RU *Specific advice: Distract the enemy frigates with your Scouts set to Evasive. Move your Salvage Corvettes in; as described in Stealing Victory, do NOT give the salvage command until the corvettes are very close. By this point you should have at least 8 tugs, making it possible to capture most or all of the frigates simultaneously. Don't be concerned about the damaged Cryo Tray; the number of trays remaining has no effect on the rest of the game (though it is certainly a challenge to save all six--see if you can manage it). Research Capital Ship Chassis and build the Support Frigates while your Resource Collector harvests. You should enter the next mission with plenty of Scouts, at least 3 stolen Assault Frigates, and at least 12 total Salvage Corvettes. 04 [Great Wastelands] *Build before jumping: 2 Support Frigates, Heavy Corvettes/Salvage Corvettes/ Scouts until out of RU *Specific advice: It is not necessary to spend money and time building and placing a Resource Controller. Before sending your Resource Collector to harvest, queue the Support Frigates and other craft in your Build Manager and let the projects run until you are broke and construction pauses. Then send 2 Salvage Corvettes roughly 3 km to starboard of the Mothership, 2 the same distance to port, and the remaining 8 about 10 km aft. Now initiate harvesting. If you have set this up correctly, the Bentusi should see 650 or fewer RU in your bank account when they arrive and offer to sell you Ion Cannons for only 300 RU instead of 500 RU. Every penny counts! To be a true disciple of cheese, don't accept the traders' offer until your Resource Collector has drained every RU from the nearby asteroid belt, since the departure of the Bentusi ship triggers the next combat event. Your Heavy Corvettes and Scouts can assist the Mothership in dealing with the incoming attackers--you need to be proactive this time, or they will zero in on your helpless Salvage Corvettes. After the first wave of enemy corvettes, be watchful of the area immediately around the Mothership. Shortly, a group of frigates hyperspaces in. Immediately command your Salvage Corvettes to capture them. If all goes well, you'll suffer no losses and own a new group of combat frigates. When the enemy Carrier attacks soon thereafter, use your captured capital ships to destroy it while capturing some more frigates from its escort. If the Mothership or any of your frigates suffers severe damage during this episode, make sure you heal up promptly with your Support Frigates. (The Ion Array Frigates do NOT self-repair, unlike all other ships that size.) 05 [Great Wastelands] *Build before jumping: Heavy Corvettes/Salvage Corvettes/Scouts until out of RU *Specific advice: Do NOT build or use a Probe here. Save your game before moving a Scout about 48 km down the V-shaped dust cloud formation straight towards the "ping" on the sensors manager. If you move it a little too far, the enemy fleet will see it and attack right away--reload and try again. Now you have a reference mark. Send your Resource Collector out to harvest in the dust clouds until it gets near the Scout you parked earlier. Supervise the Collector's progress so you can get all the resources possible without triggering the Imperial attack. Use the RU gained this way to max out your fleet as much as possible. (See how much you saved your bank account already by stealing all those frigates?) During your harvesting efforts you should have plenty of time to complete research on Plasma Bombs. When you are ready for a major set-piece battle, move your main combat group over the boundary. If you keep your Salvage Corvettes stashed someplace safe, you'll have the opportunity to capture several Assault and Ion Cannon Frigates, a Support Frigate, a Carrier, two Destroyers, and two Resource Collectors. Quite a haul, especially the Destroyers and Carrier. After the enemy fleet is destroyed or captured, Defender Subsystems is researched, and all harvesting is complete, dock your fighters and corvettes with the Mothership and select "Remain Docked" in the Launch Manager. 06 [Diamond Shoals] *Build before jumping: Retire all Ion Array Frigates and replace with Drone/Defense Field Frigates, max out numbers of fighters and corvettes *Specific advice: Send the Carrier and all your noncombat ships except the Resource Collectors at least 30 km to the starboard of the Mothership to keep them out of danger. Divide your capital ships into 2 or 3 groups, each responsible for a specific "lane" in front of the Mothership. After the first couple of rocks fragment, command your Resource Collectors to harvest; otherwise, you'll get no cash out of this mission. When the Mothership is safe, buy Drone or Defense Field tech from the Bentusi. This will be your last chance to build any frigates of your own if you are using my Steal Victory tactics; scrap the inferior Ion Array Frigates you hijacked earlier and fill their spots with your race's special ships, both of which are quite useful. Make sure you have 20 Salvage Corvettes and as many Heavy Corvettes and fighters (preferably Interceptors or Defenders) as you can afford to build, and research Super-Capital Ship Drive before initiating hyperspace. 07 [Garden of Kadesh] *Build before jumping: 2 Destroyers, replace fighter and corvette losses *Specific advice: Create a bastion of defense against fighters BEFORE sending one Resource Collector out to harvest. If you have enough Drone/Defense Field Frigates, you may be able to leave all your fighters docked for protection (even Defenders don't last long against the fighters you will see here!). In any case, set up as if you will be attacked twice from ahead, twice from above/ port, twice from the rear, and twice from starboard-- because you will be. Heavy Corvettes and Drone/Defense Field Frigates are your best defense, though your Assault Frigates and Destroyers will be handy as well since the enemy fighters tend to hover momentarily at the end of each attack run. Command your Support Frigates to be ready to repair all your capital ships. After your Collector harvests one load, send it into the middle of one of your defense clusters for safety--on at least two attack runs, most of the enemy fighters will concentrate on your resourcing craft. The key to victory is to either destroy or capture the Fuel Pods accompanying the enemy fighters. When they run out of fuel they become sitting ducks for defensive fire; you may even be able to salvage a few of them if they don't self-destruct first (apparently a popular choice). Do NOT initiate hyperdrive when told to. This simply drops all your ships out of their prepared formations and orders, opening you to the next attack wave. Instead, wait until the enemy Mothership gets tired of beating on you and departs. Then send all your Resource Collectors out to drain the nebula dry while you build another pair of Destroyers, replace any losses you suffered, and take a moment to research Fast-Tracking Turrets if you haven't already. When your Collectors are finished, try to jump out. Then, when Fleet Command reports the inhibitor field gone, jump out for good. 08 [Cathedral of Kadesh] *Build before jumping: Replace losses, retire Fuel Pods until you have no more than 20 *Specific advice: Much like the previous mission, fort up around the Mothership. You will suffer repeated fighter attacks from above/ahead, below/ behind/port, and below/behind/starboard. Use the same tactics to deal with them. During these attack waves a new kind of frigate will move in, generally in pairs or trios, to take on your fleet--first a group from directly ahead, then from above/starboard, then from above/port, then from directly ahead once again. It's wise to try to capture as many as you can, since their massive firepower will prove quite useful in subsequent scenarios. Once all the frigates have been destroyed or captured, one of the enemy Motherships will move in to directly attack your Mothership. Concentrate fire on it. As soon as it expires, the second enemy Mothership will also begin an attack run, then the third. Rinse, repeat. When the third Mothership has been badly damaged it will flee towards the opposite end of the map from your start position; let it go for now, it's invulnerable until it reaches its final resting place. After you rebuild any lost ships, send your Destroyers, with the Support Frigates tagged to repair them, off toward the fleeing Mothership. Behind this group your Carrier and all your fighters and corvettes should also advance. The Destroyers will be attacked by two groups of enemy fighters; shortly after these are dealt with you'll see another large group of frigates approaching. While they are trying to maneuver around your battle group to head towards the Mothership, send in the Salvage Corvettes. Even if you didn't get the earlier groups, this bunch practically captures itself, so you have no excuse not to acquire them. Leave the capital ships in place while the rest of your Salvage Corvettes snag the undefended Fuel Pods left over from the fighter attack, and order your own fighters and Heavy Corvettes into Sphere formation. Target this huge "ball of death" on the last enemy Mothership, which should still be burning unless you took WAY too long to get this far. Creating this massive Sphere formation prevents the Mothership from being able to fire back at more than a couple of your ships (the formation is so big most are just out of range!) while killing it as quickly as possible. If properly executed you should lose only a couple of fighters at most. Send the strike craft back home to dock and let the Resource Collectors do their thing. There are a LOT of RU waiting for them, so be patient and let them get it all. IMPORTANT--Save your game before you attempt to jump to the next mission. If you have captured many Fuel Pods their parade formation may be too large to fit within the map borders... this hangs the game, since you lose control of the fleet after the hyperspace command is activated. You may have to manually exit the game, restart Homeworld, reload your saved game, and retire some Fuel Pods. As I noted above, I recommend keeping no more than 20 if you captured all of the frigates on this level. 09 [Sea of Lost Souls] *Build before jumping: Replace losses, 2 Missile Destroyers, 3 Carriers, Grav Well Generators to taste *Specific advice: Gather all your remaining Scouts, put them in Evasive, and send them off to one side of the Ghost Ship to distract its zombie escorts. While they are busy chasing shadows, use your remaining fighters and Heavy Corvettes to trash the ship itself. It can't be destroyed, but when the control field drops the zombie escorts automatically become part of your fleet. Do NOT send capital ships to do this job--they become zombies themselves as soon as they get within attack range. Do NOT attack the zombie escorts--it's pointless, and if you destroy them you don't get them for free! (This is especially significant in the case of the Missile Destroyer--it's scary, but if you kill it you will not be able to build Missile Destroyers of your own for another three missions. D'oh.) When sending a salvage team, make sure you manually move the corvette around to the upper aft end of the wreck... for some reason the pilot AI for the Salvage Corvettes likes to suicide-crash into the hull if attempting to dock from the front. ?! There are a number of small asteroids floating around in the vicinity of the anomaly, so once again be patient with your Resource Collectors; there's enough dough here to cover the expense of rebuilding your fighter and corvette squadrons as well as a couple of Missile Destroyers. After you research Grav Well Generators, you'll once again have the opportunity to trade. Note that swapping tech with the Bentusi during this mission costs you nothing. Dock your Salvage Corvettes in one of the Carriers and all your other fighters and corvettes with the Mothership, then enable the "Remain Docked" flags in the Launch Manager before jumping. 10 [Supernova Research Station] *Build before jumping: Replace losses, adjust corvette forces to 30 Salvage Corvettes/20 Heavy Corvettes *Specific advice: Immediately after jumping in, check the far edges of your parade formation. Ships that are sparking and showing damage need to be moved closer to the Mothership. The only safe locations in this mission are inside the dust belts (clearly visible on the Sensors Manager) and the asteroid fields. Next, take your Missile Destroyers and send them up the dust vein that angles up and to port, heading almost directly towards the research station. Between your start position and the top of the arc of this dust belt, the MDs should meet and annihilate several groups of fighters and corvettes, as well as clear three minefields (each is equipped with a Minelayer Corvette to maintain it). At this point, there should be only one remaining enemy signature along this dust path, which represents a Heavy Cruiser and two Destroyers. Bring the Carrier-full of Salvage Corvettes and your Support Frigates up to hold position just behind the Missile Destroyers, assign the frigates to repair the MDs, then use the MDs as decoys to capture the Cruiser and escorts. In the lulls before and after this little bit of excitement, send a Resource Collector and either a Carrier or Controller to each of the two nearby asteroid fields (making sure they stay inside the dust as much as possible on the way!) Check up on the progress of each mining operation regularly--the moment the last rock has been digested, your retarded Collector pilots begin cheerfully wandering off into the radiation trying to continue harvesting, so dock them and then cancel their harvest orders after they have dropped their last load. Don't neglect to research Proximity Sensor tech, and Minelaying too if you're really a completist. Once the Cruiser and Destroyers are captured, send the Cruiser and your salvage Carrier farther to port. The two small enemy signatures in the lower and narrower dust paths each represent a small squadron of Assault Frigates. If you like, you can easily destroy them, but it's far more useful to capture them. You know the drill by this time; the Cruiser is your decoy, and you took the Carrier along so that your Salvage Corvettes wouldn't attempt a suicidal straight-line trip into the radiation zone. (If you have Defense Field Frigates, they work even better as decoys than a Cruiser, since they are practically invulnerable to all the weapons an Assault Frigate carries.) Having added further to your fleet, bring all your big combat units back up to where the Missile Destroyers are still waiting. Keep the salvage team Carrier with you, since there are another half dozen or so frigates near the research station itself that you can grab. Move the whole group along the same dust belt past the station itself to the point where the upper belt and the one containing the station nearly meet, then drop straight down into the lower belt. Be careful at this assembly point; if you have a large force you may have to adjust the positions of several ships to keep them all out of the radiation. From this location, storm the station! Generally, I assign the Heavy Cruiser to take out the escaping Carrier, my Destroyers and Frigates to fry the fighters and corvettes, and use the Salvage Corvettes to snatch the frigates. After you deal with the combat craft, lay into the station with every gun handy and watch the pretty fireworks. Finally, before you go, you CAN get that last scattering of asteroids near the station--just remember to send the Collector and its dropoff ship through the dust rather than straight there, and you can pick up another few hundred RU before departing. Uncheck "Remain Docked" in the Launch Manager for all ships carrying Salvage Corvettes, and jump. 11 [Tenhauser Gate] *Build before jumping: Replace losses, 6 or more Proximity Sensors *Specific advice: Simple exercise of the Stealing Victory protocol. There are no enemy fighters or corvettes. Use your Cruiser, healed by your complement of Support Frigates, as the decoy while you move your entire wing of Salvage Corvettes to point-blank range of the enemy capital ships before commanding the capture. Executed properly you may have a smoking Cruiser and a couple of badly damaged tugs, but zero casualties for this entire mission. When all the Imperial ships have been assimilated, enable "Remain Docked" for all your hangars once again before you enter hyperspace. 12 [Galactic Core] *Build before jumping: Replace losses (you'll likely lose most if not all Proximity Sensors) *Specific advice: Launch your Salvage Corvettes but no other strike craft as the mission begins. This should ensure that one of your frigates or destroyers is the subject of the initial Missile Destroyer and frigate ambush. Retreat and heal the targeted ships while your Salvage Corvettes cheerfully capture the MD and its escorts. Try to capture the Support Frigates assigned to each of the enemy Grav Well Generators also, or they'll retreat and you'll have to deal with them again later. As soon as the Grav Well Generators have been destroyed or run out of juice, launch all your remaining strike craft. Leave them, your combat frigates, and your standard Destroyers here to protect the Mothership. Next, press directly forward with your MDs, some Support Frigates to keep them healthy, and your salvage team Carrier. Assign some Proximity Sensors to guard the salvage team force, since on at least two occasions it will intercept enemy frigate groups using Cloak Generators. This force will serve as your "gatekeeper"--the MDs can obliterate most strike craft formations headed toward the Mothership, while the Salvage Corvettes snag the frigates and Cloak Generators. (CPU ships grouped with a Cloak Generator always target Proximity Sensors first so they can maintain their invisibility. Keep several extras handy, or build one or two more from the Carrier each time such a group approaches.) If you get the chance, capture the Resource Collector and Controller nearby to reduce how many attackers are thrown at you and to increase the amount of resources remaining for you to harvest at the end of the mission. The next serious attack comes from a Heavy Cruiser and a squadron of Ion Cannon Frigates guarded by formations of corvettes and Defenders. When you see this group approaching from below and ahead of the Mothership, send your own Heavy Cruisers and Missile Destroyers down to take care of business. If you've captured a Cloak Generator, send it along with an invisible crew of Salvage Corvettes. Let the big boys take the heat while the salvage team waltzes off with the Cruiser and frigates. About the same time this group is done being assimilated, you'll want to detail a crew to ahead starboard to dispose of some Interceptors and destroy or capture some more Frigates. Instead of activating hyperspace immediately, however, push forward still further with your MD/Cruiser/salvage fleet. Use the capital ships to dispose of the fighter and corvette screen around the two carrier groups while your Salvage Corvettes have a field day stealing the Carriers and the Frigates that guard them. Finish up by harvesting all remaining resources, as usual. 13 [Karos Graveyard] *Build before jumping: Replace losses, consider adjusting corvette forces to 50 Salvage Corvettes *Specific advice: You'll have plenty of time here to research Cloaked/Defense Fighters and Heavy Guns, though if you've followed my advice you won't have any room in your fleet to build new Heavy Cruisers at the moment. Cloaking won't help you with all the Proximity Sensors about, though. Your best bet is to line up every ship with weapons right near the beginning of the Graveyard itself, then send one single frigate across the border. This will activate the Junkyard Dog, a giant and incredibly tough Salvage Corvette capable of dragging off even the largest ship all by itself. When it approaches, let go with every weapon you've got. By this point, your fleet should be able to obliterate the thing with just a few seconds of sustained fire. Without the Dog to contend with, a single Heavy Cruiser with two or more Support Frigates trailing to perform repairs can clean out every Autogun in the entire Graveyard. After doing so, you can harvest the dust clouds at the center with impunity and easily dock any kind of strike craft at the office station. If you are a real Scrooge like me, you can also use Salvage Corvettes to steal all the Proximity Sensors lying around (as if your fleet wasn't large enough already!). 14 [Bridge of Sighs] *Build before jumping: Replace losses, 1 Sensor Array *Specific advice: This mission requires extensive patience. To be truly thorough about it may require twelve hours or more of play. Keep in mind that even with the massive ship inventory you should have at this point, there are over a hundred Ion Cannon Frigates guarding your primary target, and a carrier group right on top of it, not to mention the three hyperspace gates and their reinforcement fleets. Your best plan is to defeat each of these forces in detail, thereby ensuring you can't be overwhelmed. Step one is to use your Resource Collectors to harvest all but one of the dust clouds outside the frigate fortress. When they have done so, dock them and then park them. Before much time passes, the carrier group's Collectors will harvest all the resources in their immediate area and mindlessly head for the one remaining dust cloud. Smile evilly, and send your salvage team to steal them. Keep their Carrier and some escorts nearby--your MDs work well, since the CPU often sends a squadron of fighters or corvettes in a vain attempt to save its Collectors when the Salvage Corvettes come into view. Having terminated the computer team's economy, deploy a strong battle group of Cruisers, both kinds of Destroyers, and your salvage team to the closest hyperspace gate. As soon as your ships attack the gate, a group of strike craft and capital ships will jump in. Direct your own capital ships to dispose of the small enemies while your salvage team briskly disposes of the larger vessels. Repeat this process for the other two gates. Next, the most time-consuming part of the mission... dealing with the huge number of Ion Cannon Frigates. For best results, group a Cloak Generator with your salvage team and position them no closer to the sphere of frigates than the former locations of the port and starboard hyperspace gates. Then select one ship which is the same speed or faster than an Ion Cannon Frigate; I recommend one of your own frigates or a Resource Collector. Move it directly towards the sphere and watch the Sensors Manager carefully--as soon as the nearest few frigates "wake up" and respond by leaving their positions and accelerating to attack, instruct your decoy ship to flee directly past your salvage team. If all goes well, your Salvage Corvettes can lock on to all of them without batting an eyelash. If things don't go so well, fire up the Cloak Generator to hide your salvage team and move in your Destroyers and Cruisers to dispose of any stragglers. Repeat this maneuver until you fall asleep at your keyboard or all of the frigates have been captured or destroyed. Dealing with the final fleet is pretty well anticlimactic at this point; you can capture some more capital ships, including another Heavy Cruiser, if you like, before you destroy the inhibitor. Be prepared with Proximity Sensors guarding your attacking force and salvage team, because the enemy carrier group does have enough resources to build Cloak Generators and usually will do so. Before you jump to the next mission, you will probably want to retire many of your capital ships, particularly frigates. The extra RU won't hurt your bank account, and if you keep all of them you'll have two problems: a) The size of the defense fleet in the next mission will be ridiculous, and b) Probably more importantly, you'll have too many total ships in the fleet and will no longer be able to replace destroyed fighters and corvettes even if you have fewer than the class-based unit cap. 15 [Chapel Perilous] *Build before jumping: Replace losses (if possible) *Specific advice: Priority one is breaking up the rock. Send the Multibeam Frigates you've been saving for just such an occasion, your fighters in Sphere/ Aggressive, and your Heavy Cruisers to do the job. Detail your Destroyers and Missile Destroyers to take on the approaching squadrons of enemy fighters and corvettes. As for the enemy capital ships, you can salvage some or you can leave them for later destruction by the rest of the fleet. You will probably need to give your Heavy Cruisers and frigates "move while attack" orders to keep them from being rammed and demolished by the incoming asteroid. The moment it is destroyed, retask your fleet to deal with whatever enemy ships remain. Prior to jumping into the last mission, replace whatever losses you can (considering unit caps, max fleet size, and that there are no resources available in this mission) and adjust your fleet composition and organization. You will want a burly defense fleet for your Mothership capable of taking on heavy capital ships (Heavy Cruisers, Support Frigates, and your salvage team work well for this task), a slightly smaller and faster battle fleet to intercept incoming attackers farther away (Destroyers of both types and a mix of Frigates), and a skirmish group of fighters and any remaining combat corvettes. Even after dividing your fleet this way you'll still probably have plenty of ships left over for reserves, which is a good thing. Make sure the Launch Manager has all "Remain Docked" buttons checked so your fighters and corvettes don't launch immediately after jumpdown, and engage hyperdrive. 16 [Hiigara] *Build before jumping: Whatever you can afford and fit in! *Specific advice: Launch all fighters and corvettes once the enemy Missile Destroyers have begun to attack your capital ships. Main defense fleet deals with the forward threat, expeditionary force and skirmish group take care of the threats from above and below. In the meantime, send your Resource Collectors and their service vessels off to harvest (this gets them out of the immediate line of fire, and more money never hurts in a massive battle like this one). When the first conflict has subsided, send the expeditionary force towards aft/above and hold the main defense fleet just forward of the Mothership to deal with the next waves. One more fleet will approach from aft/ below; remove it with the expeditionary force, command the skirmish group to guard Captain Elson's ships, and order the main defense fleet to advance toward the Emperor's Mothership. During this whole scenario, you can capture yourself another couple of dozen capital ships, but it's not necessary to spend time doing so--remember your primary goal, and that it doesn't matter if the only thing left in your fleet is your Mothership, you still win! Closing Remarks =============== Thanks to the Sierra/Relic team for creating the first truly 3D RTS, and making the gameplay so enjoyable that it's still worth running six years after I bought it. Uniquely at the time, Homeworld included a real and well-designed plot and music so excellent it was worth purchasing a soundtrack album. I still consider this a benchmark for judging similar games today. Thanks to Seb Haque and his extracted .shp files, which became the final proof of the maneuvering logic underlying Fun Without Formations. Thanks to my wife and kids, who had to suffer through many a night of the Raven disgruntled while examining quirks of Homeworld. (I _still_ can't figure out why the dust clouds in mission 2 and mission 13 can't be entirely harvested, or what exactly my Resource Collectors are looking for at the aft/ port/rear of the radiation zone in mission 10...) And, once again, To request hosting permission, make comments, ask questions, or suggest corrections contact the Atomic Raven at firstname.lastname@example.org.