As you may expect, combat in X Rebirth can take place between the player, other ships and or stations. Combat is worked out and represented in two ways depending on where it is taking place in relation to the player:
- High attention: The detailed simulation we see near the player (same or nearby zones).
- Low attention: An approximation of high attention for distant combat (e.g. other sectors).
The detailed simulation comprises things like drones and missiles flying around, turrets aimed and firing projectiles, and ships manoeuvring against each other. The simplified (AKA "abstracted") low attention combat aims to approximate the outcome of a high attention fight without bringing our computers to a stand-still. See here for further game engine details.
For the purposes of this guide, the information below describes high attention combat unless noted otherwise. The reasons being that it keeps things simple, relates to the combat that the player experiences, and any major differences can be considered valid feedback via the forum. We owe thanks to w.evans for unleashing lots of info about low attention combat.
Player ship combat
The player flies a ship called the Albion Skunk, which is classed as a fighter in X Rebirth and is a small M6 by the standards of earlier games. It can mount main weapons that are effective against small or medium ships and surface elements on capitals or shipyards. It can also mount a range of missiles that are effective against the above, and at the higher end, also the hulls of capital ships.
Generally speaking, the Skunk fights in the styles of dog-fighter, sniper and/or X-Wings flying over deathstars, erm, around stations. Picking off fighters or neutralising the capabilities of capital ships that other capital ships are often more efficient at finishing off. Boarding being another way in which the player can neutralise and capture capital ships.
Small combat ships
Small combat ships are NPC-piloted fighters from within the Small and Medium ship classes. They have less shielding than they have armour but their shields recharge relatively quickly when not being hit. Travel-wise, they will use highways to travel between zones where possible, and may use boost engines while dogfighting to help them gain range between strafing runs or if trying to flee. All small combat ships are armed with at least one forward-facing main gun. Some also have missile armaments but, Drostan notwithstanding, they are not fired very rapidly and occasionally, their missiles will be shot down by their own main guns – sometimes damaging the launching ship… As they have no turrets, they can only apply damage when flying towards their targets.
Although their guns generally dish out around double the damage per credit compared to capital ships*, their strafing runs probably means they do similar damage per credit to capitals overall. When attacking capital ships they will focus on damaging surface elements to weaken their target. It is often the case that single strafe runs are unable to break local surface element shielding, which will begin to recharge once damage pauses. To offset local recharge and to increase the rate of turret incapacitation to reduce casualties, using fighters in larger numbers can help.
When not on strafing runs against capitals or stations, they may employ banking and other manoeuvres to try and limit the amounts of incoming damage. Fighters are relatively fragile, potentially being killed by single hits from some capital weapons, or shock waves from exploding capships, especially as they tend to stay close to <target>. In addition, they tend to cost around 3-times more per hitpoint than capital combat ships,* do not auto-repair like capitals, and full repairs can cost as much as a replacement.
Although we can buy, order and assign them to commanders in groups, we can’t issue group repair orders. Given their lack of self-repair and the possibility that their default Pilots may be poorly-skilled (impacting on performance or implying replacements), they can require a lot of micro-management. Overall, although they are cheaper ways to increase the player's fleet than capitals, they are not very cost-effective.
*Stat comparisons based on non-DLC Fight ships, excluding the Xenon P (costs more than an equipped Balor but has low DPS so it would bias comparisons).
Low attention notes:
- Damage bonuses for fast ships and for large targets in abstracted combat tend to favour fighters.
- The don't shoot their own missiles :)
- Surface element destruction doesn't factor in local shielding, which may help fighters (not tested if different to capitals).
Capital combat ships
By comparison to fighters, even the smallest combat capital ship is pretty large and slow in-zone. In exchange, they have between 18- to 455-times more hitpoints than the toughest fighter and auto-repair when crewed with an Engineer. Travel-wise, they possess boosters for inter-zone travel, and jumpdrives for inter-sector travel. As a result, they are typically faster and safer over longer distances than fighters. Capitals and stations have a number of "surface elements" (SE), which are objects that have roles that support the ship and can be damaged. These include engines, the jumpdrive, turrets and radar dishes. Surface elements, drones and the amount of undamaged hull are features factoring into how hard a ship may be to board by the player.
All capitals are equipped with a variety of gun and missile turrets as defensive surface elements. Weapons turrets and their protecting Force Field Projectors are on the exterior of the ship and so can be put out of action by incoming fire, weakening the defences of a capital over time. The Balor, Sucellus and Xenon I also possess integral weapons in addition to turrets. All combat capitals employ the same combat style, which consists of facing their targets on approach and then beginning to manoeuvre around targets once within a couple of kms. With capital weapons varying in range from 1.7-8.8 km, this style tends to try to maximise the number of weapons in range of targets as possible.
The approach-based combat AI has some drawbacks:
- Turret distribution and damage isn’t explicitly accounted for, so line-of-sight can be lost for main turrets.
- The Balor is fragile, so bombarding with integral missiles from range would make more sense.
- The Sucellus’ integral gun is spinally-mounted, so pointing towards a target would make sense.
Drones: Capital ships may carry a range of drones but combat drones will only be used against Small and Medium ships. Given that Overrun URVs shoot dumbfire rockets that may even occasionally miss stations, it's probably not worth using them**. Similarly, since Assault URVs are currently broken (they do not launch!), they are not worth equipping (at least for high attention combat). This leaves Interceptor (faster, weak, low DPS) and Intrepid (moderate speed, toughness and DPS) URVs as the combat drones that are most effective against fighters.
**From v4 Overrun URVs launched by NPC capships are now more effective against <player> (IZ); whether <player> Overruns are effective has yet to be tested (from Skunk or player capship)..
Defence Officer settings:
- Attacking Enemies: Ship will pre-emptively attack any hostile (red standing) ships (useful option for keeping space safe).
- Defending: Ship will only retaliate unless issued an attack or patrol order (handy if trying to raise a red standing to blue).
Low attention notes:
- Fast and small ships recieve damage bonuses in abstracted combat but capitals are relatively slow and big.
- Weapon range is taken into account.
- Integral weapons are not counted against fighters.
- Potential DPS is split around 6 by cardinal points, with up to 3 usable per target.
- It is unknown how well Overrun URVs may work against fighters.
- It is unknown whether Assault URVs are broken in low attention or not.
- Whilst the launching of drones is not simulated, they do add anti-fighter damage and they can be randomly lost.
- Drones also offer a distraction factor that reduces the DPS of attacking ships (-0.3% per drone to a maximum of -50% from 167 drones).
Stations are very tough and generally very well armed - often to greater extents than the largest combat capital. Their minor weaknesses are that they don't have hull shields and cannot move, so all hull damage they receive needs repairing (automatically for NPCs; with CVs' Architects via purchased wares for the player...) and substantial damage can impact on their manufacturing rates. On the other hand, they have much more hitpoints than capital ships and are indestructible. So although individual modules can be wrecked, they can be repaired later.
A general bug with capital ships and NPC stations is that their surface elements repair very rapidly outside combat in low attention. This means that in practice, it is very hard to suppress NPC stations in low attention since they will regenerate over a very short time and cause large casualties without the possibility of their destruction.
Stations possess a feature called "Supply Options", which allows for the automation of restocking of combat drones. As with capital ships, these drones will only be launched against fighters. Unlike capitals, they do not have any impact on low attention combat (at least not yet)...
Low attention notes:
- Damage bonuses for shopting large targets in abstracted combat applies to station weapons.
- Very large stations cannot use all weapons on single targets.
- NPC stations will replace lost surface elements (turrets and shields) relatively quickly.
- NPC and player stations may have defensive drones but they have no impact on abstracted combat.
WIP (Key bindings and controllers)
Ships can be issued [combat] orders in a variety of ways:
- By pressing the Comm key while a ship is selected or via the map (or via option 3 on Property Owned screen).
- By double-clicking on a target in space if wishing to issue attack orders to the Skunk's squad.
- In conversation with Captains, either in first-person or via ship menus.