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StarSector – A Guide To Combat Ships

StarSector is shaping up to be one of the deepest and most complex games I’ve played in quite some time. Many comparisons to Battletech’s Mechwarrior series have been made off of the strength of Starsector’s ability to customize a wide variety of ship hulls. While the game is not in a finished state, let’s take a zoomed-out view of release 0.95.1a.

There are five classes of ship hulls, of which four are pilotable by the player. The classes are as follows:

  • Fighters
  • Frigates
  • Destroyers
  • Cruisers
  • Capitals

Of those classes, the fighters are not able to be flown directly.

Fighters

While the fighter class isn’t able to be piloted, they are definitely a powerful addition to any fleet. Deployed from larger ships in groups from 1 to 6 (described in-game as ‘wing’ size), these ships engage targets and swarm about them until their armaments are empty or are all destroyed. While piloting a ship that is a carrier or has a Converted Hangar Bay ship modification, you can send your fighters out to engage or return to refuel and repair. Used correctly, fighters can easily overwhelm ships if deployed in great enough numbers.

Within this class of ships, there are five sub-classes or roles they can fill. Those roles are interceptors, bombers, heavy, assault, and support fighters. Here’s a quick rundown of each type:

  • Broadsword – HVY Fighter – While they are low-tech in numbers, they can be valuable in overloading a target’s shields. Flares make them great escorts for bombers. (3 qty per wing)
  • Claw – SUP Fighter – With 5 per wing, this shielded fighter can be used to disable enemy ships. Won’t do any permanent hull damage, however. 
  • Cobra – Bomber – This high-tech shielded bomber comes at only one ship per wing. However, if they are escorted to their target, the Reaper missiles they carry do massive damage to ANY class ship.
  • Dagger – Bomber – This three-wing high-tech bomber will each drop 1 (Atropos) fast guided torpedo that does 1/4th the damage of a Reaper missile. Shielded but fragile.
  • Gladius – HVY Fighter – This two-wing midline tech fighter has similar armaments as the Broadsword but has more armor. 
  • Khopesh – Bomber – This two-wing low-tech bomber has rocket pods that unleash a large number of unguided rockets to the battlefield.  
  • Longbow – Bomber – This two-wing high-tech bomber unleashes Sabot missiles which are designed to overload the enemy’s shields. Not very effective against Capital sized ships.
  • Mining pods – Support – These drone ships are basically only used to shoot down enemy missiles.
  • Piranha – Bomber – This three-wing bomber will drop a large number of unpowered bombs that can do as much damage as a Reaper Torpedo… if they all hit the target. Great stationary targets.
  • Perdition – Bomber – This 3-wing bomber fires one unguided Hammer-class torpedo, which is about 50% stronger than an Atropos missile.
  • Talon – Interceptor – This four-wing low-tech fighter has weapons suited for taking on other fighters and missiles. In numbers, they could do a bit of damage to an unshielded target. 
  • Thunder – Interceptor – This two-wing midline fighter is the fastest of them all. However, their weapons are best suited for occupying frigates’ and fighters’ attention. 
  • Trident – Bomber – This two wing shielded high tech bomber fires two Atropos guided missiles
  • Warthog – Hvy Fighter – This three-wing midline fighter has decent firepower but wields nothing that can break a larger ship’s shields. 
  • Wasp – Interceptor – These high-tech drones drop mines and wield point defense lasers to swarm enemy targets and fighters. 
  • Xyphos – Support – This two-wing high-tech fighter has ion cannons built to disable the weapons and engines of unshielded targets.

The rest of the ships in Starsector are ships that the player can pilot. Every ship has a different number of weapon slots. Each weapon slot can house either small, medium, or large weapon systems. Some slots only allow energy or ballistic weapons. Some only allow missiles. Others will allow any kind of weapon system as long as it is of a certain size. As a result, each ship hull can be customized much like a mech is in the game Battletech. (FYI, the term ‘flux’ is a characteristic used much like ‘heat’ in Battletech. Too much flux causes the ship to be temporarily paralyzed until the flux is dissipated)

Oftentimes players will focus on a specific type of damage they’d like to do. Kinetic damage is intended to do max damage to shields but won’t do much damage to armor and hull. Fragmentation damage will do the most damage to the hull but not much to shields or armor. Energy damage typically does equal damage to shields and armor. Explosive damage will do lots of damage to armor but not much to shields. 

Keeping this in mind allows the player to build in weapon systems that will be key to every phase of the battle. With systems that are too spread out, there may not be enough damage to handle certain ships (especially capital ships) without additional assistance from your fleet.

Also, each ship has a built-in weapon system that has a special effect. Some systems boost the damage of ballistic weapons. Some systems boost the ship’s engine speed. Other systems can make the ship’s shields impenetrable for a short amount of time. As a result, it is important to refit each ship’s hull with weapon systems that take advantage of the weapon system the ship has.

Frigates

The smallest and fastest of the ship hulls, frigates, are an agile ship type for players to pilot. While most typically don’t hold a host of weaponry, they do fill out a fleet nicely to support other ship types. 

  • Afflictor – A fast phase ship, the Afflictor is often used as a finisher. Flux management is often an issue, given the ship’s size and phase cloak. The Entropy Amplifier system increases damage but also increases flux which can quickly overload and paralyze the ship.
  • Brawler – Probably one of the most popular frigates, the Brawler can be outfitted with medium ballistic weaponry. The Brawler’s speed and agility make it a ship that skilled pilots can masterfully use to take down almost every ship class. The Luddic Path version is often the most sought after due to its built-in hull mods providing higher speeds and agility. The weapon system on this ship temporarily increases ship speed and maneuverability.
  • Centurion – With a host of small weapon slots, the Centurion is a decent pesky ship to have around in numbers. The weapon system allows the ship to temporarily have an energy field that makes the ship almost invulnerable.
  • Cerberus – With a medium weapon slot and no shield generator, this frigate is popular with trade fleets due to its cargo capacity. The weapon system offers a speed boost.
  • Dram – A small tanker used in small fleets to hold fuel for longer missions. The weapon system provides flares to distract and counter-guided missiles.
  • Gremlin – A pesky phase ship often used by pirates acts as a decoy to occupy enemy weapon systems for a time. The weapon system deploys flares to counter missiles.
  • Hermes – Typically used as a fast cargo ship, this shuttle is not suited for front-line combat. Smuggler fleets will often employ a few of these ships. The weapon system boosts speed and maneuverability.
  • Hound – Yet another cargo ship that is often refitted for combat, the Hounds is an unshielded pest that pirates often use as well. The Hound’s weapon system deploys flares.

  • Hyperion – With three medium mounts, the high-tech Hyperion is a fast and maneuverable gunship. The weapon system allows for short teleportation if there is zero flux at the time of activation.
  • Kite – As a shuttle fitted with three small weapon mounts, the Kite is often used to take down helpless freighters during trader raids. The weapon system allows for increased speed and maneuverability.
  • Lasher – Probably the most common assault frigate in the game (outside of the Hound), the Lasher boasts five small ballistic mounts and two small missile mounts. When coupled with the weapon system, which accelerates the firing of all ballistic weapons for a short time, the Lasher can do quite a bit of damage in a short amount of time to any ship.
  • Mercury – Used as a transport for VIPs, the Mercury and its three small weapon mounts are rarely used in combat. The weapon system deploys flares.
  • Monitor – Used as a tank, the Monitor, when outfitted with Safety Overrides and other mods, can become a distraction that even Capital ships will have a hard time destroying. The Luddic Path variant has Safety Overrides built-in as a hull mod. This ship is useful for any size fleet, whether beginning or endgame. The weapon system makes it invulnerable for a short amount of time.
  • Mudskipper – While the unmodified version of the Mudskipper is primarily a transport with no shields, the Mk. II variant is the only frigate that can mount a large ballistic weapon. A unique addition to any fleet, it can be used in various roles…especially as an assassin. The weapon system allows for higher speeds and maneuverability.
  • Omen – Probably the most useful support frigate next to the Monitor, the Omen a fast and maneuverable ship that has a built-in EMP Emitter. Its ability to knock out enemy weapon systems as well as incoming missile ordinance makes it a valuable escort for other vulnerable ships. Unfortunately, it is a very fragile ship that can’t really hold any other ordinance of value aside from 2 small energy mounts and one small missile mount.
  • Scarab – While the Scarab can hold five small energy weapons and two energy/missile mounts, there are few loadouts that are capable of doing a ton of damage. However, in numbers, the Scarabs can be used to harass and disable larger vessels, given its weapon system makes it temporarily invulnerable and highly maneuverable. 
  • Shade – The Shade is a phase-capable frigate that is equipped with an EMP emitter. It isn’t suited as a support ship due to the fact its phase cloaking negates the possibility of a shield generator. However, this is a capable finisher/assassin in the hands of a good pilot. 
  • Shepard – The Shepard is a valuable utility frigate. Equipped with salvage and surveying equipment, this ship can provide a fleet with excellent exploration bonuses. Combined with miner drones, this can even provide enough of a distraction for other ships to outflank the enemy for a kill or for escape. Exploration fleets will often have more than one of these.
  • Tempest – The Tempest is a damage-dealing specialist. Equipped with two medium energy mounts, this fast and agile ship is definitely for elite pilots. The weapon system is quite unique. The Tempest weapon system supercharges one of the two typically deployed drones turning it into a high damage missile. 
  • Vigilance – Typically used as a support or escort vessel, the Vigilance can only hold two medium weapons. Its low armor and low speed compared to other frigates make this frigate little more than a distraction.
  • Wayfarer – A versatile combat freighter, the Wayfarer has six small weapon mounts and a shield generator. The weapon system deploys flares. 
  • Wolf – A high-tech agile freighter, the Wolf is fragile but, in the hands of a skilled pilot, can do quite a bit of damage. Equipped with a medium energy mount and three other small mounts, the Wolf relies on speed and agility. The weapon system is key to that agility in that it can teleport the ship short distances.
  • Vanguard – This tough and heavily armored low-tech frigate is simplicity at its best. With eight small weapon mounts and a weapon system that makes it temporarily invulnerable, the Vanguard is an excellent combat freighter for new and skilled pilots. 

Destroyers

Destroyers are basically larger frigates that mostly maintain their agility. These ships are great for noob pilots since they have more defensive and offensive capabilities to allow them to last longer in a battle than most frigates. 

  • Buffalo – These ‘destroyer’ class ships are essential to trade fleets. Different variants of this ship provide the speed, cargo space, and sensor profile needed for smugglers and agile trade fleets.
  • Buffalo Mk. II – Built from the skeleton of a Buffalo, the Mk. II is designed to hold as many weapons as possible. Since it is not agile, has very little armor, and no shield generator, the Mk. II is basically an escort vessel that can send as much ordinance as possible to enemies. This can overwhelm frigates and possibly other destroyers, but not much else. These can be useful with cleverly built fleets as pirates often do. 
  • Condor – A cheap and capable carrier-class destroyer, the Condor is a useful support ship. Equipped with 2 flight decks and a weapon system that allows for fast missile reloads, the Condor is very useful. The main cons of this ship are its lack of weapons for defense, slow speed, and low maneuverability. 

  • Drover – The Drover is another carrier-class destroyer. Also, with 2 flight decks, the Drover has a unique weapon system called Reserve deployment. This allows for any fighter wing to be increased by one above its max wing size for a temporary deployment. Couple this with an amazing four missile mounts, and you have a carrier that can help turn the tide of any battle. With better shielding than the Condor, these Drovers will last longer.
  • Enforcer – Basically a larger-sized Vanguard frigate, the Enforcer is a well-armored and lightly shielded destroyer built for long engagements. Toss in an impressive four missile mounts and five ballistic mounts (all small), and you have a slow but dangerous addition to any fleet. The weapon system gives it a temporary speed boost.
  • Gemini – While the Gemini boasts better armament than the other carrier class destroyers (2 medium ballistic, one medium missile), it has very little armor and only one flight deck. 
  • Hammerhead – Similar to the Brawler in usefulness, the Hammerhead is often the tip of the spear. Built for head-on engagements, it uses most of its front mounts (2 medium missiles, two medium ballistic, and two small turrets) to overwhelm its enemies. The weapon system doubles the firing rate of ballistic weapons.

  • Harbinger – This high-tech phase-capable destroyer is often the flagship for player fleets. With a weapon system designed to instantly disable a ship for one second. Plenty of time to devastate any ship (or station) with weapons mounted on the two small universal mounts or three medium energy mounts. Phase lances, Anti-matter blasters, and Reaper missiles work wonders on this ship. 
  • Manticore – This low tech highly armored destroyer is a slow but imposing threat. With the ability to field a large ballistic weapon, two medium missiles, and three small ballistic mounts. This, along with the Manticore’s flak weapon system, makes the Manticore a formidable ship against any ship. The main weakness is that the Manticore’s main weapon is only front-facing, so more maneuverable ships will be able to avoid the dangerous stare of the Manticore. 
  • Medusa – This high-tech destroyer is fast, mobile, and an excellent escort ship. Filled with a number of 2 medium energy, two small universal, and five small energy mounts, this ship has the firepower and agility to harass larger ships. However, the higher maintenance and low armor of this ship lead to high costs when these ships are damaged as well as issues in longer battles. 
  • Mule – Another no-nonsense low-tech ship, the Mule is a commonly used destroyer by pirates. Fitted with one medium mount, three small ballistic mounts, and two medium-small mounts, this cargo destroyer can hold its own in battle. Well armored and able to handle long battles easily, the Mule is often the backbone of cheaply made fleets.
  • Nebula – Designed to be a civilian transport, the Nebula is typically used to provide the necessary space for a crew to start a colony (a few Nebulas would be needed for that) or enough troops to engage in profitable colony raids. Either way, the Nebula has the non-combat speed to be a great utility ship for various types of fleets.
  • Phaeton – This tanker is easy to understand. At more than twice the capacity of a Dram tanker, the Phaeton extends the exploration range of a small and medium-sized fleet. 
  • Phantom – Designed specifically for ‘cloaked’ colony raids, this phase of personnel transport is hard to pick up on sensors. Also equipped with advanced ground support tech, this ship is excellent for any fleet designed for dark ops colony raids. 
  • Salvage Rig – One of a kind, the Salvage Rig is intended to provide your fleet with the ability to improve upon how much is salvaged from successful battles. 
  • Shrike – Typically used as a high-priced frigate due to its speed and low armor, the Shrike is a decent harasser. With medium energy and medium missile mount, the Shrike can be used to eliminate frigates quickly. When put up against heavily armored targets, however, the Shrike often doesn’t have the firepower to do much despite also having five small energy mounts as well.
  • Sunder – With a large energy mount and a weapon system that increases all energy weapon damage, the Sunder can be an excellent hit and run destroyer. While it has decent speed and agility, it has very little armor making it a good escort ship for other more important damage dealers in a fleet. 

  • Tarsus – This is basically the cargo version of the Condor. 
  • Valkyrie – The Valkyrie is basically a military-grade crew/troop transport. Task fleets not built for covert raids will employ this ship.

Cruisers

Often employed as the flagship of medium or small fleets, Cruisers are dangerous ships. With better flexibility in weapon loadouts and stronger armor and shielding than smaller classes, Cruisers are great ships for players to pilot until their skills improve.

  • Apogee – Essentially a must-have for any exploration fleet, the Apogee is fitted with sensors and surveying equipment necessary to make the most of any mission. Add in the fact that the Apogee can use one large energy and one large missile weapon alongside much more weaponry, and you have a formidable ship that can handle itself in most engagements. 
  • Aurora – Typically used in a hit- and run role due to its lack of large mounts, the Aurora has the loadout capacity to do quite a bit of damage. The weapon system allows for it to increase its speed temporarily, which it can use to bring its full loadout into battle quickly. 
  • Champion – This Cruiser is like a heavily armored Sunder. While it has a slow speed, it can utilize its large energy mount and the high energy focus weapon system to deal a ton of damage quickly. The rest of the Champion’s weapon systems can also allow it to be a very difficult ship to take down without getting hammered quite a bit.
  • Colossus – Essentially the staple of trade convoys, the Colossus is a massive cargo freighter. While it isn’t the largest freighter in the game, it is the most common for trade fleets to have.
  • Colossus Mk. II – Used by the Luddic Path, this combat modified Colossus adds armor, faster engines, and a ton of ballistic weapons (12 small) about a single Hammer missile rack. All of that, and it still has a bit of cargo space to boot.
  • Colossus Mk. III – A mainstay of pirate fleets, this modified Colossus adds 2 flight decks, a ground support package, and a dozen small ballistic weapons. Almost every medium or large pirate fleet will have multiples of this ship.

  • Dominator – Outfitted with an impressive array of weaponry (including two large ballistic, two medium ballistic, and two medium missile mounts), this well-armored ship is hard to miss. However, it has few relevant turret mounts, so most of its damage capability is front-facing. As a result, ships that can easily outmaneuver the Dominator will easily take them down. 

  • Doom – The largest phase ship that can be purchased, the Doom cruiser is as deadly as they come. The phase mine weapon system can be used while the ship is cloaked. As a result, the mines can be used to destroy fighters, redirect enemy fire, and cause unwanted collisions for overambitious speed boosters. These ships are best if piloted by the player rather than the AI.
  • Eagle – A workhorse of good fleets, the Eagle is a maneuverable ship that has great versatility given it can wield three energy and three ballistic medium weapons. Then to help them even more, the two missile mounts and the five small energy mounts provide the necessary finishing and defensive armaments to apply pressure on any class ship. 
  • Eradicator – The Eradicator is a fast and well-armored cruiser that is a mainstay in pirate fleets. Interestingly enough, the Pirate version of this ship uses a speed boost, while the base version of this ship is even more deadly with a weapon system that temporarily doubles the firing rate of ballistic weapons. Given the Eradicator can mount three medium and seven small ballistic weapons, that can add up to a ton of damage to any class ship. Even more deadly is the inclusion of 5 small missile mounts to follow up on the massive ballistic damage. These ships are an absolute priority to target when encountered in any fleet (pirate or otherwise).
  • Falcon – Another excellent ‘midline’ cruiser, the Falcon utilizes its speed and maneuverability to pressure the battlefield. Able to be outfitted in a variety of ways, the Falcon sports two energy, and two medium ballistic mounts along with two small missiles and four small energy mounts. The only issue is that the Falcon doesn’t sport the durability of its larger cousin, the Eagle. Therefore, it is best suited for staying on the fringe of space brawls.
  • Fury – Built as an energy weapon’s fast attack love child, the Fury is like a high-tech Falcon. With even less armor than a Falcon, the Fury is quick and maneuverable, sporting three medium mounts and six small energy mounts. In numbers, the Fury can harass and take down stations and capital ships without much issue.
  • Gryphon – Built as a missile boat, the Gryphon utilizes its built-in expanded missile rack hull mod and a weapon system that reloads missiles faster to flood the battlefield with a variety of missiles. Sporting 1 large, one medium, and three small missile racks, it can deal a ton of damage. For defense, as it reloads, it has one medium ballistic and five small ballistic mounts. Using freelance pilots in Gryphons is a must to further optimize their usefulness in battle. 

  • Heron – The fastest of the carrier ships, the Heron will assure your fighter fleets are always in range of the enemy and quickly. With high speed and 3 flight decks, the Heron will allow fleets the speed necessary to eliminate fast trade fleets or to flee enemy fleets. Unfortunately, this also put the carrier close to battle as it only has one medium turret and five small energy turrets. This ship will need an escort of some sort.
  • Mora – This tank of a carrier has the durability to slow crawl head first into the center of the battle. Equipped with three decks, eight small ballistic, and two medium missile racks, the Mora can be a headache for any enemy fleet, even on its own. However, throw one or two Mora’s in as an escort to a capital ship, and you have a very durable ‘anchor’ to any fleet. 
  • Revenant – A curious design, the Revenant is a phase freighter. While not as efficient as other freighters and tankers, it still does provide ‘dark’ or ‘phase’ fleets a bit more range given its modest cargo AND fuel tank capacity. There are no defensive weapon mounts, however.
  • Starliner – As the largest civilian transport, one Starliner can hold 1500 crew and/or troops. In a pinch, the Starliner can buy itself a bit of time to escape with its six small ballistic weapon mounts.
  • Venture – Built as a civilian vessel, the Venture is an odd ship. While it is equipped with surveying equipment, it is well armored and easy to maintain. Also, its weapon system allows for its missile mounts to reload quicker. This makes the Venture a great early game flagship to use for exploration missions. While it is slow, it does have the weapon systems to fill the battlefield with missiles and ordinance. 

Capital Ships

The largest ship class in the game, Capital ships are always a massive threat. These are the ships that need to be taken out as soon as possible. However, since every fleet strategizes how to take these ships down, they are also the most vulnerable. Mostly slow and hard to maneuver, capital ships are typically flagships (except for veteran players). 

  • Astral – The largest carrier of the game, the Astral can bring 6 flight decks worth of fighters into the fight. To enhance the fighter group, this high-tech ship can even teleport its fighters back to the ship to reload and deploy. This is especially effective with bombers. The Astral’s weakness is that it is useless in direct combat. Even with its five medium energy, two large missiles, and eight small energy mounts, the dreadfully slow Astral is expected to hang back and allow the fighter groups to do all of its damage.
  • Atlas – This super freighter is the largest freighter in the game, with 2000 cargo capacity. Large trader fleets will use at least one of these to haul massive amounts of goods in their well-defended fleet. Useless in battle, these are goldmines for pirates.
  • Atlas Mk. II – The heart of well-equipped pirate fleets, the Atlas Mk. II is simply a weapons platform built from the skeleton of the Atlas super freighter. Sporting 2 large missiles, two large, four medium, and six small ballistic mounts, this imposing ship can use its accelerated ammo feeder weapon system to tear into any target with enhanced ballistic weapon speed temporarily. Thankfully, these ships have low armor, so once the shields are breached, they fall pretty quickly. Outflank them and aim for their engines to eliminate them from battle.
  • Conquest – In the Battlestar Galactica of Starsector, the Conquest is your standard battleship. With a design that prioritizes ‘broadside’ attacks rather than frontal assaults, the Conquest brings a massive array of weaponry into battle ( 2 med missiles, two lrg missiles, two med energy, four lrg ballistic, four med ballistic, eight sml energy). Only about half of its firepower is available at any given moment, though – unless it is surrounded. That makes flux management difficult with this ship. The weapon system increases speed and maneuverability, which can surprise a flanking foe that attempts to expose an unshielded or undefended side of the ship. These are excellent flagships for beginner players.

  • Legion – This Hegemony beast is the love child of an Onslaught and an Astral. A well-armored and armed carrier, the Legion is a terrifying opponent. Stacked with 4 flight decks, two large ballistic mounts, five medium mounts, and eight small ballistic mounts, the Legion can bring the pain. There are many ways to outfit this ship, making it a great ship to have and hand over to AI pilots.
  • Onslaught – The frontal assault of an Onslaught is feared by every ship. This low-tech Brawler is well armored and filled to the brim with weaponry pointed toward the ship’s front. Add in the speed-boosting burn drive, and you have a capital ship that can speed into the midst of battle and even ram the enemy with its shields down. The rear of this ship is its weakness, so having ships to protect it is key.

  • Odyssey – Imagine the Conquest as a battle carrier that is fast, and you have the high-tech Odyssey. Built for speed and brimming with weaponry and 2 flight decks, this rare ship is easily one of the best purchasable (from an arms dealer) flagship candidates in the game. 
  • Paragon – Almost the equivalent of a battle station, the Paragon is a slow-moving energy mount. With a built-in ‘fortress’ shield, the Paragon is well armored and filled with tons of energy mounts. These are difficult to take down if well escorted due to the amount of attention they require to take down. 
  • Prometheus – A mega tanker needed for deep space exploration of large fleets, the Prometheus has unmatched fuel tank capacity.
  • Prometheus Mk II – A combat-ready version of the Prometheus, this hulking battle carrier fields 2 flight decks and a decent amount of weaponry. The Luddic Path utilizes this ship.

There are more ships that can be acquired, but they are encountered or seen by going through the story missions and deep space exploration. So as not to spoil the surprise, those ships (mostly drones that cannot be piloted) are left out of this list.

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