This page is one of a 10 part tutorial. The tutorial is designed to be read in order.
The final part of the tutorial covers attacking and capturing stations. I strongly recommend you start a new character for this part, unless your ship, support craft, and crew are still fully operational.
Localised fleet battles rarely have any effect beyond the region they are fought in. The loss of an enemy ship stops one enemy action, it does not stop the enemy from simply launching new fleets and coming back. Stations are theoretically more important to overall galactic strategy. Every enemy station taken out of enemy hands makes the enemy less of a threat. Stations can both be destroyed (in the hours that follow they will be rebuilt) or captured (in the hours that follow the enemy will attempt to recapture them). In the later stages of the game, once you have reached Supreme Commander rank and gained Fleet Command and Control station capture becomes very useful: their resources can be turned against their former owner. Battles for stations bring a whole new dimension to the game.
Station attacks using a single battlecruiser are possible, but not easy. Before starting, you should upgrade your ship with the best non-artifact upgrades, and purchase additional munitions. This will mean making some extra money, maybe trawling debris fields looking for upgrades. You must procure and install a Linear Spec IV shield (~750,000 credits) and Titanium Level V armor (~1 million credits). An upgraded reactor (Trellis at ~5 million credits) and engine (Numega at ~1 million credits) are highly recommended. Also have enough money to buy extra STS missiles and enough fuel to move, be shielded, and cloak (starting volumes are just about sufficient for the station attack). Precisely how you proceed with this first stage is your choice – many methods have already been outlined in previous parts of the tutorial. Start to treat this preparation period as a ‘real’ game: Deal with hostile threats that appear, start to manage your crew rather than accepting the launch default settings.
The target for our attack is Pixan, in Lennen, Sirius – you may recall the region from the basic combat training. This station’s defenses are typical of others in the galaxy (manual appendix R lists the starting armaments of each station). ‘Typical’ still has about five times as much firepower and defensive capability as the best battlecruiser: In a stand-up fight, you will lose. Consider these points:
- You can more-or-less choose when to engage and disengage. The station lies in an orbital trajectory – it won’t give chase. It will launch support craft against you if given the chance (fighters at range, heavier ships close-up), but with care, those can be engaged outside the effective range of the station’s fixed weaponry. Each station has a finite number of support craft and missiles, so it is possible to exhaust much of its offensive capability prior to making an assault on the station itself.
- Most stations fire missiles once you get within under about 100 clicks of the station. At this range, EMD and simply moving will avoid almost all damage. At under around 40-50 clicks, IOD gun turrets becomes effective – the closer one gets the less movement alone will be able to evade them.
- Stations can be damaged using laser fire (IOD, even PTA) or missiles (including those assigned via FATAL). The relatively large size and slow movement of stations means the battlecruiser IOD fire may be able to hit as far away as 50 clicks. When firing missiles at ‘safe’ range, stations stand a chance of shooting them down. Missiles can be deployed via Interceptors with Strike orders, but the casualty rate is often disproportionately high relative to the low damaged caused.
- You can cloak. Cloaking is an excellent way to get into position without being shot at. Firing will force you to de-cloak, and you cannot remain cloaked for more than about 7 minutes without having to deal with radiation problems onboard your ship. The main disadvantage is the cost of Iridium (cloaking costs about 50,000 credits a minute).
- You can get into the station’s blind-spot, a point where their turret guns cannot damage you effectively. Finding the correct spot can require some trial and error. For example, Pixan is star-shaped, but on closer inspection it may be seen to have two main layers with a thin gap between them. Position yourself in the gap and you should be protected from the station’s gun turrets. Some stations designs, such as Spectre and Gammula, have more obvious gaps in the centre of the station. Clearly holding position is an art – the station is both rotating on its axis, and slowly rotating around the planet.
You can opt to destroy a station – just keep on firing… Once the station is destroyed, it will slowly be rebuilt, during which time its owner cannot use it. You will be awarded experience points for destroying the station – 2,000 in the case of Pixan. (Manual appendix B indicates that 250,000 experience points are awarded or destroying station Gammula, but I found it only gave the standard Gammulan station ‘payout’ of 5,000.)
Alternatively, fire at the station until it omits an SOS signal. It will do this *just* before it would otherwise be destroyed. Timing is critical, so I strongly advise you to make a save beforehand, when the station is just heavily damaged. Capturing a station can be immensely frustrating, so be prepared to try the final stage of the battle a few times. Reduce the intensity of your IOD (40% almost always works for me) and turn off PTA to deal the last damage in a controlled way. Once the SOS is emitted, immediately dock to the station (ALT+D) and press Y (yes) to capture. On docking, the station will change allegiance to your race/caste. Re-launch immediately. The station should slowly repair. Sometimes it is possible to dock with a station that is then destroyed when you launch from it – if the target appears as Disabled, rather than Friendly, reload and try again. You may need to be defended whilst it gets its systems back online. Station shields recover in a matter of minutes. Its hull takes hours to be rebuilt. Capturing should net you a Combat Shield medal and 5,000 experience points. You cannot capture the station’s inventory.
Later in the game, when you have the rank of Supreme Commander, any craft the station did not deploy in battle are captured along with the station. They can be used to form a fleet – they will be listed as assets when you examine the station in Tacops. Careful use of cloaking and missiles makes it theoretically possible to capture a station with almost all its support craft un-launched.
Well, what are you waiting for? Capture Pixan…
Author’s note: I don’t think any other game will ever justify an 18,000 word tutorial, merely to introduce the main features of a game to players. Entire manuals are normally shorter than this, even for relatively complex titles.