Starsector Guide to Combat and Fleet Building

Starsector combat is so nuanced that a battle can be won before deployment even occurs. However, a great pilot with just the right ship loadout could find a way to solo kill the likes of a battle station. With that said, the question is, how do you become both the best pilot and the best admiral?

Starsector Gameplay
Starsector Gameplay

Guide To Building Your Fleet

Early game fleets are hard to manage, given your inability to optimize each ship properly. A great ship can be easily destroyed without the right hull mods and weaponry. With a small fleet, the key to survival is maneuverability and tactics. The rest of your strategy should simply be to absorb as many decent (aka 2 or less d-mods) combat ships as possible. The reason for this should be apparent… there’s strength in numbers.

An easier way to build your fleet is to explore and find derelict ships outside of the core worlds. If you don’t have the fuel or resources to do so, lurk around systems that are being raided by pirates and salvage the ships and weaponry left behind. 

As you take on fights that you think you can handle, you’ll start to recognize the kind of ships you are more comfortable piloting. Also, if what you are firing is raising your flux too much, then you should reconfigure the ship to have more vents followed by capacitors. Lastly, you’ll begin to notice which weapon systems work better for the ship you are using too. 

OP Starsector Fleets

As you scour the interwebs for information about what is the ‘ultimate Starsector fleet’, you’ll always find a variety of answers. Probably the most common answer is to field a bunch of Brawlers, Scarabs, or Hyperions. Equipped with Safety Overrides, these ships have high maneuverability coupled with enough weapon systems to do a lot of damage in quick bursts. They’re relatively cheap to make or buy and don’t field a large crew.

Others, who’ve become experts at piloting phase ships, have found success in fielding a few Harbingers or a few Doom ships. These ace pilots would use these ships as assassin’s to take out an enemy fleet’s highest threats before allowing their fleet to mop up the rest. 

Using numbers to your advantage is always a great strategy. This can be done with a healthy dose of fighters/carriers as well. The key to this strategy is having a variety of fighter types and maximizing the weapons/missiles they can deploy. Fighters have great range and speed. Just make certain you’re able to protect the carriers though. 

Managing Your Fleet’s Combat Readiness (CR)

In Starsector, your fleet’s CR or Combat Readiness is an important rating. With values between 0 and 100, your combat readiness is like the ship’s stamina or endurance. When the rating is high, the ship will take less flux damage to its shields and will have a higher speed. These values will worsen as the battle drags on. Once the value reaches or is close to zero, the engines, weapons, and other systems will malfunction. At zero, the hull will take damage as well leaving your ship to drift unable to retreat.

A good Starsector player will always keep an eye on this value and be certain to take hull mods or skills that will improve this rating. 

Becoming A Better Starsector Pilot

Becoming a better pilot in Starsector takes quite a bit of time. Here are some basic strategies to help you get better.

The PCPH Stellaris Guide to Ships
  1. Always try to outflank or surround your opponent. Doing so will allow you to either find a hole in their shields or disable their engines. Most ships don’t have a full circle (aka 360 degree arc) of shields.
  2. Always be aware of how high your flux is. You never want to be overloaded with one or more ships focused on taking you out. Even if you have to drop your shields and take a bit of straight hull damage for a short while, do so. Try to use other ships or debris as cover and then vent if possible.
  3. Get familiar with what weapons you have and what kind of damage they do. Some weapons are only meant to raise the enemy’s flux. Some are only meant to disable weapons and engines. Always make sure you’re using the right weapon for the right situation. 
  4. Remember what weapon system your ship has and also to use it (by pressing ‘F’)! Some ships can increase the firing rate of their weapons while others can get an invulnerable shield. Knowing the system and the right moment to use it can turn the tide of an encounter quickly. 
  5. Protect your flank by protecting the flank of your fleet if you are piloting a slow ship. The AI will always attempt to surround you and your fleet. Check your tactical map regularly and adjust or issue orders to counter their efforts. 

Remember, overloading an enemy ship is always the goal as this shuts down their shields, engines, and weapon systems for a short while as they vent flux at half the rate they typically would. This is the prime opportunity for a well placed missile or torpedo!

Last of all, remember that the explosion from a dying ship can damage ANYTHING nearby. Be certain to phase away or have your shields on if you are close to dying ship. 

Refitting Your Ships

As you play, you’ll encounter various different ship types and a wide range of weapon systems. Much like playing a game of Battletech, the loadout capability for each ship hull is wide ranging. Most of the time you are only limited by your play style preference. However, it is also key to understand what support ships that you have and what damage type they deal primarily. 

Know your weapon types and which ones are best for the situation. Kinetic damage is intended to do max damage to shields but won’t do much damage to armor and hull. These will be used primarily to get the ship to lower their shields for fear of becoming overloaded.

Fragmentation damage will do the most damage to the hull but not much to shields or armor. These weapons are your finishers. When the shields are down, look on your scanners to see what areas of the ship are low on armor and shoot there!

Energy damage typically does equal damage to shields and armor. These weapons pressure your enemies constantly. These are particularly effective when dealing with phase ships.

Explosive damage will do lots of damage to armor but not much to shields. These weapons are important when dealing with capital ships and other tanky ships that operate with no shields. 

As you outfit your ships in Starsector (see our Combat Ship guide for more info), you’ll need to remember that each weapon mount can only hold a certain type of weapon. This will focus the role that you can assign each ship that you have. This strategy should continue as you begin to equip hull mods as well.

Strategy and tactics will change depending on your enemy’s size and type. As you progress in the main storyline and begin to build your own ships and weapons with your colonies, you’ll have a bit more freedom in fleet composition. 

Be sure to stay tuned as we continue to break down Starsector’s amazing depth! 

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