.: Combat Overview
.: The Orion Sector
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Combat is done in real-time. There’s a time limit to each battle, to keep them from dragging on too long. This limit can be changed at game setup. It’s all rendered in glorious 3D, though for simplicity, it takes place on a 2D plane. I'll even promise that it'll look better than the screenshots you see for the main game.
What follows is a brief overview of how combat will be handled, though it is by no means paints a complete picture. If you have any questions or comments, please visit our forums.
Ships can be organized into taskforces before battle to help with their management on the battlefield. They can also be left loose, but there are benefits to organizing them in taskforces beyond ease of management.
Each taskforce has one ship designated as the flagship. This ship represents the command & control structure for the entire taskforce. In this flagship, you can stuff all sorts of extra equipment that provides bonuses not just to that ship, but to the entire taskforce. Of course, only one ship can be the flagship, and only the flagship provides these bonuses. You can change which ship is designated outside of combat, but inside of combat, if the taskforce loses that ship, all taskforce-wide bonuses disappear.
Combat in most 4X games are completely missing terrain. Sure, there might be the odd planet, and a star if you’re lucky, but they tend to be small little things, not much bigger than the ships that are flying around. And there’s usually nothing but those things, and the ships, in common space strategy games. Not so here.
Planets will be massive. The smaller ships will be specks compared to them, and even the largest worldships will still be smaller than most, if not all planets. And stars make planets look small, although you probably wouldn’t want to fight that close to them. At least until you have the proper technology for it. At that point, you might even find yourself fighting in them.
But beyond those two, space is not featureless. There are asteroid fields, pockets of gasses, and comets all around. A good tactician will be able to make use of these. All three of these provide excellent opportunity to hide your fleets. Asteroid fields also provide an excellent place to lose missiles, especially if your ECM are significantly better than the missiles tracking systems. Gas pockets are even better places to hide your fleets, though they won’t do a thing to stop missiles or mass-weapons. Comets can be thought of as mobile asteroids + gas clouds, and they’ll tend to be far larger than many early game ships. The tail of a comet provides excellent cover for your fleet, while the comet itself makes a nice shield from enemy fire.
If it isn’t obvious yet, stealth is going to play a bigger role here than is typical in 4X games. While discharging weapons is a dead giveaway to your position, you can hold fire until within optimal striking range of your opponent, provided your ECM is good enough. Once spotted, though, taskforces will find it more difficult to hide again.
There are two types of sensors: active and passive. Passive sensors are always searching for enemy fleets. Active sensors are more powerful, but they can also give your enemies a pretty good idea of where you are.
The effects of stealth will encourage players to continue to make use of the smaller ships, even in the later game. Besides being easier to crank out, they are much easier to hide. I see successful fleets using a combination of taskforces with the big capital ships, as well as taskforces with smaller, faster, stealthier ships that can sneak up on the enemy, encircle them, and use hit-and-run tactics if need be.