- slide 1 of 4
Fighters, Cruisers, and Frigates...Oh My!
Gratuitous Space Battles is one of the most original strategy titles to debut in 2009. It is a game of management in which the building blocks of your strategy are three classes of starships - fighters, cruiser, and frigates. Each class is flexible enough to be molded into a number of roles. However, each class also has its distinct advantages and disadvantages which I will examine in this ship building guide.
- slide 2 of 4
Personally however, I prefer frigates that are quick. Three-engine frigates with good short-range weapons like Ion Cannons and Smallbeam Lasers are some of the most deadly offensive ships in the game. With their orders kept on Keep Moving, they can run rings around enemy frigates and cruisers while delivering a constant barrage, which quickly destroys both shields and armor. Alternatively, fast frigates can be armored with missile weapons. This is not as damaging, as counter-measures will defeat some of the missiles fired. However, these long-range frigates can eventually defeat any ship with a slow speed and short-ranged weapons because the enemy won't be able to bring themselves into effective range.
More heavily armored frigates can be used as assistants to cruisers. Bringing along specialty frigates - which are built to destroy enemy fighters or to paralyze enemy ships with EMP weapons - can be an effective way of augmenting a cruiser's offensive power. Because frigates are expendable, they can be considered temporary solutions. For example, if an enemy's missile frigates are reaching your line first and causing a lot of damage, but are followed by heavy cruisers with beam weapons, it is wise to use a point-defense frigate as defense. The frigate will help defend against the missiles without forcing you to compromise your cruiser's ability to slug it out with the opponent towards the end of the battle.
The only problem with frigates is that they are vulnerable to fighters. Even fighters with laser weapons can quickly take down a frigate. Players should be particularly wary of using quick, lightly armored frigate when enemy fighters are on the prowl, as even speedy frigates can do nothing to dodge enemy strike craft.
- slide 3 of 4
The small, pesky fighter is not the most glorious of ships in Gratuitous Space Battles. In comparison to cruisers and frigates the fighter seems rather simple and less exciting to use. The fighter plays a crucial role in most battles however, and learning to use the fighter well is an essential skill.
Fighters can basically split into two roles - fighters and bombers. Fighters are going to be equipped with lasers and will be used primarily to chase down enemy fighters. There is nothing in the game better at killing enemy fighters. What makes fighters really shine, however, is that they're also effective against other ship types. Once you've cleared out the opponent's fighters your own fighters can rip enemy frigates to shreds. Fighters are even effective against some enemy cruisers.
Bombers on the other hand, are most adept at assisting your own cruisers in killing enemy cruisers. A bomber will be equipped with torpedoes, which are very effective at damaging targets with a great deal of shielding and armor.
Once you've placed the weapon of choice on your fighter hull, making it either a fighter or a bomber, you'll need to decide how to distribute armor and engines. Personally, I say that all fighters and bombers should forget armor. I've had no luck with it at all. It slows fighter hulls down dramatically, and the additional protection is offset by the larger number of hits your fighters will be taking. Given the choice between armor and an empty hardpoint, I will take an empty hardpoint.
- slide 4 of 4
The biggest ships in Gratuitous Space Battles, cruisers have more options available to them than any other hull type in the game. There is plenty of space to go around, and cruisers also gain access to goodies which the other hull types can never equip.
Cruisers are as a rule slow. I don't recommend attempting to use them as fast, agile strikers. Laying the defenses on thick is usually a better investment and allows cruisers to act as your damage absorbers. The question however, is what kind of defenses you should lay on. The answer to this question depends on what you're facing.
Shields tend to have the advantage in long-range slugfests, against fighters, and against medium-range beam weapons. They regenerate when they are damaged until they are completely knocked out, giving them great resilience against a steady stream of incoming fire. Thick armor (an armor rating of at least 30 or more) is great at taking the big hits and also is capable of completely shrugging off smaller ones. It is usually best to show preference towards shields, as their regeneration is extremely helpful, but armor is also critical - particularly when fighters or bombers are about.
Active defenses - like point defense lasers - are often better delegated to frigates. However, there are certain scenarios where the enemy uses huge numbers of missiles. In these scenarios it is critical to mount guidance scramblers and point defense lasers on cruisers as the frigates don't have enough available hardpoints to mount the required defenses.
Offensively, cruisers are best when optimized to fight at long and medium ranges. As mentioned, cruisers are not very fast, and so it is difficult for them to come close enough to an opponent to use short-range weapons. Missiles and Plasma Launchers are great for cruisers, as are Cruiser Beam Lasers. These weapons give Cruisers the range necessary to attack faster enemies who are trying to evade return fire.