Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Mission Prizes - Countermeasure Loaders, Scarab UAV

And to continue catching up with the new content, I'll look over the new Countermeasure Loaders special, and the Scarab UAV.

Countermeasure Loaders:
This new special is fairly simple - it combines countermeasure improvements with a reload bonus.  At a glance, I thought the CM improvements were the same as Countermeasure Equipment 3, but they aren't.  I'll chart it:

CM LoaderCM Equip 3CM Equip 2
Weapon Weight6%9%6%
Anti-Mort Range40%50%30%
Anti-Mort Accuracy30%20%15%
Anti-Miss Range40%50%30%
Anti-Miss Accuracy30%40%30%
Pen/Ball/Mort/Rocket/Radio Loader Bonus10%NoNo
Build Time w/Officer1d 38m1d 38m16h 53m

There's a few tradeoffs here when comparing the CM Loader to CM Equipment 3, so I'll make a Pros/Cons list:

CM Loader Pros:
  • Less weight (based on weapon weight, I always thought CM wasn't very heavy anyway)
  • Better anti-mortar accuracy (Appreciated, I think Hailstorm Accuracy is pretty poor even with CM)
  • Loader Bonus (10% reload bonus for 6% weight helps DPS per ton a little, but other weapon buffs do better)

CM Loader Cons:
  • Less Range (with base range of 28 or 30, the 10% range difference doesn't mean much anyway)
  • Less Anti Missile Accuracy (with a Phalanx 3, CM3 anti-missile accuracy is REALLY GOOD, maybe good enough with 10% less)

CM Loader Tie:
  • Build time is the same 
Overall, I like the CM Loader compared to the older CM Equipment 3.  The extra Mortar Accuracy makes up for the lower Anti-Missile accuracy, and 10% extra fire rate is appreciated.  But you also need to consider when this special will be used most effectively:

Triton Countermeasure ship in base guard: Here, the small range difference might be a factor, but having better anti-mortar accuracy is also important.  The Loader bonus probably doesn't help, since the best weapon choice for the Triton is UAVs.  I would lean toward using the CM Loader in this case since mortars are more of a threat these days, but I wouldn't exactly rush to refit any existing ships with CM Equipment

Enforcer Countermeasure ship in base guard: Some Enforcer builds I've seen will combine launchers with hailstorms as a weapon loadout.  With 4 specials to use, and the reload bonus helping the launchers, CM Loader is a special to consider for this ship.

Dedicated CM ship escorting a fleet: The most common use for dedicated CM ships are for Forsaken missions, where the main threat is missiles.  Here the extra accuracy of the CM Equipment 3 comes into play, because missiles are the main threat as long as you keep moving, and I would stick with CM Equipment 3

Ship build combining CM and weapons: Back when the Mercury was a popular hull, a popular build used 2 Siege Missile, 2 Strike Missile and 2 Hail/Phalanx, along with Strike System, Evade/Armor special, and CM Equipment as the specials.  For this type of build, CM Loader is a much better choice.  But I don't see this type of build too often anymore - even on Launcher ships with some CM, you will usually see Engine, Armor, and Evade specials instead of a Countermeasure special.  For a build dedicated to Forsaken Missions (like the Mercury I described above), you may want to use this special, but if you are planning to hit bases, CM Loader probably isn't the best use of a special slot, and a defensive special (resist or evade) would serve better.

Scarab UAV:
The first thing to note about the Scarab is that it is the first UAV to show up in the Forsaken Missions, instead of being a Raid prize.  This is similar to the Impulse Launcher S, which I reviewed as "not very good" when compared to the other Launcher choices.  I was expecting the same thing out of the Scarab, but I'll look at the numbers to see:

Building Damage33.055.0158.6
Reload Time2.04.04.5
Swarm Duration3.26.26.2
UAV Reload0.61.51.2
Weight (Shipyard 2)479595453
Damage TypePenetrativeBallisticExplosive
Fleet DPS198137.5162.7
Fleet DPS/hton41.423.135.9
Building DPS99.068.8211.5
Building DPS/hton20.711.646.7

So... I'm very impressed with the Scarab.  Its Fleet DPS and DPS per weight isn't quite up to the Hornet (but in the same neighborhood), but the building DPS (and DPS per hton) is double.  That 46.7 is in the same DPS neighborhood as launchers - although the nature of how UAVs do damage means that you won't take down a turret as fast as with UAVs as with launchers.

Other considerations: 
  • The slower reload of the Scarab make it more susceptible to countermeasures.  
  • The Scarab does Explosive damage type, which many hulls have fairly good resistance against, and Compound Armor has the highest resistance (subtraction) against Explosive
  • Range is slightly less than the Hornet, but not really enough to make a difference unless you want every bit of sniping capability - you can mix UAVs and have all UAVs be in range when you click on a target and let your ships move to it.
  • The Swarm Duration combined with the UAV reload means that the Scarab gets 6 hits per UAV launched, like a Hornet, instead of 5 hits like a Dragonfly.  (remember it hits at T=0)
  • The Dragonfly looks terrible in comparison, but the weapon debuff it inflicts can be powerful.
  • The Scarab gives extra range for chaining, which is an ability like missile retargeting that goes with the UAV Powercell special.  Chaining is sort of broken, in that the chaining range is much longer than the published range anyway, so I don't see this ability as an advantage.
So overall, the Scarab is a very effective all-around UAV, and probably the go-to choice for base hitting.  If you use your UAV fleets for base hitting (or missions), it may even be a good candidate for refits.  So unlike the Impulse Launcher S (where I would still recommend going after the F launcher in raids after getting the S), if this is the only UAV you can get, be happy with it, and you really don't have to prioritize picking up the other UAVs in raids.  The Hornet is still a little better for base defense, although mixing in a Scarab or two wouldn't be bad if you are worried about attackers running Penetrative Plate.

One more note about the Scarab - on the blueprint, there is a statistic for wall damage - Robot confirmed that was an error, since UAVs do not target walls.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Mission Prizes - Coax Turret, Countermeasure Targeting

I was on vacation last week at the beach, so I'm a little behind in content... but not behind in relaxation.

(Sunset from the Duck, NC boardwalk)

And after Kixeye released the Coax Turret last week in the Forsaken Mission, they released a new Countermeasure Targeting special for turrets this week - so I can look at them together.  Also newly announced this week in the Forsaken Mission is the Countermeasure Loader for ships, and the Scarab UAV, which is the first UAV that isn't a raid prize.

Coaxial Turret
The new coaxial turret has two functions, Countermeasure (anti-projectile/drone) and Ballistic (anti-ship).  It operates uniquely from any other turret in a few different ways, and each difference deserves a few sentences.

It fires against many different types of incoming projectiles - Mortars, Missiles, UAVs, and Rockets.  Previous base Countermeasure Turrets only worked against specific incoming fire - Bombards protected against mortars and UAVs, then Flaks defended against Missiles and UAVs (and maybe rockets?  I never saw flaks do squat against rockets).  Using the Coax Turrets allows your base to be less specific in defenses, although rockets and missiles aren't really big threats these days.

It changes function based on targets available.  The coax turret prioritizes anti-ship fire - so if any ship is within range, it will fire with its ballistic weapon on that ship.  If no ship is within range, then it will fire its countermeasures on any incoming projectiles.  So the expected behavior against a mortar fleet (for example) is that as a ship approaches, it will fire countermeasures against incoming mortar projectiles until the ships come within range, then it will fire ballistics against the fleet.  This is important to know when thinking about how to best use these turrets, or possibly how to overwhelm these turrets.

It fires single shots with a short reload time.  Other countermeasures generally fire a salvo of shots, then have a multiple second pause while reloading.  This turret will provide continuous countermeasure (or ballistic) fire.

So let's compare each function to the other options, and I'll show the choices WITH specials installed:


Coax CM
+ PriTarg
Flak 4
+ BR3
Bombard 4
+ EP3
Spread/SplashN/A4 / 35N/A
Effective AccuracyN/A30.48%N/A
Avg Hits/Sec4.21.16.0

Flaks are probably sold short in the chart above, because I used the spread/splash formula I use for weapons: Splash / (3/8 * Spread).  This shows their effective chance to miss, but doesn't account for the possibility that a flak shot might hit multiple targets.

The effectiveness of the Coax countermeasures is very good, with the longer range you could build these with more overlap and let more turrets target the incoming fire.

Ship Attack:

Coax CM
+ PriTarg
+ (defense)
Howy 4
+ PriTarg
Splash / SpreadN/A18 / 80N/A
Effective AccuracyN/A60.00%N/A

Cerbs are sold short in the chart above for two reasons - one is that the damage is "front loaded" because the damage all comes from the initial salvo, and the other is that the explosive damage can hit multiple targets, so against an attacking fleet of 4 ships the effective DPS is multiplied by 4.

Even with the multiplication of Cerb damage, the DPS of the Coax turrets is very good, and should be enough to keep attackers from blitzing through these with impunity.

The dual capability of these turrets allows them to be used much more liberally than other countermeasure turrets.  Imagine a base with all flak and bombard turrets in the front line - ships would blitz right through.  A base with all Coax turrets in the front line would not be so blitzable...

I think the best use of these turrets will be to cluster a few of these to protect an area, see the picture below:

With a Coax up front with Priority Targeting (where the Cerb is now), and then the Disrupter & Brimstone locations using a Coax with the new Countermeasure Targeting (accuracy + range bonus), just getting that first turret destroyed will be a chore for a mortar or missile fleet.  Of course, you will need something else doing damage to a fleet that may be sitting still trying to destroy that first turret.

Of course from the attacker's point of view, the best way to neutralize the countermeasures from these turrets will be to charge them, but then you'll need to be able to stand up to the ballistic damage.  Clustering turrets as I suggested above will mean that even after charging one turret, others will still provide countermeasure coverage.

Countermeasure Targeting
Countermeasure Targeting is a new special for turrets, that provides:

15% Countermeasure Range Bonus
40% Accuracy Bonus

This special does seem very highly tailored to be used with the new Coaxial turrets.  Used with a Flak turret, the Accuracy bonus will not help since those use spread/splash, and used with a Bombard turret, the 15% range isn't much of a help when the base range is only 35 (you still won't protect a neighboring turret).  With any other turret, Priority Targeting will provide the same accuracy along with the improved targeting.

So for Coaxial Turrets, lets run through the viable options for the special slot:
Countermeasure Targeting - CM range + CM accuracy + Ballistic Accuracy
Priority Targeting - CM accuracy + Ballistic accuracy, targets weakest ship, ignores subs.
DU Shells - Ballistic accuracy + Ballistic damage, does not improve CM.
Defensive Panels (Lead, Ablative, Compound, ...) - Defense boost, does not improve CM
Insulated Panels (C, X, M) - Stun Resist + Defense boost, does not improve CM
Ballistic Platform - Ballistic Accuracy + Stun Resist, does not improve CM
Frontline Platform CX - Ballistic Accuracy + Explosive Resist, does not improve CM

I think each base's choice might depend on what they are specifically trying to defend against.  In most situations, the Countermeasure Targeting would likely be the first choice; however, for the first turret in a line (like the Cerb in my picture above), Priority Targeting or possibly even DU Shells might be a better choice.  For those concerned about pinches, one of the combo panels with stun resist might be a good choice.  

Overall, just remember the main advantage of the Coax Turret over any other frontline base defense turret - the countermeasures.  In most situations, the special choice should be one that enhances the countermeasures.

Soon: I'll catch up with the other new Mission Prizes - Scarab UAV and Countermeasure Loaders. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quick Thoughts on the Coax Turret

I don't have time for a full analysis of the Coax Turret until next week, but my quick thoughts are:

  • Nice range on the Anti - overlapping a few of these may be very effective.
  • Nice range and DPS on the Ballistic, looks like a better option than the Howitzer for sure

So overall I'm optimistic, layering a few of these may help against the Grims that many of us have trouble stopping - if you can slow down the incoming Mortar/UAVs and get the fleet to stop or else drive into a close range turret, you are helping your defenses.  Think about how often your current cerbs/howys/disrupters are doing that....

Of course, I've been wrong before - I was pretty upbeat on the Harpoons when they were first released, until I saw that a 30% slowdown was pointless.  We'll see.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Raid Prize Analysis - The Reckoning

The video has been posted for the next raid - The Reckoning (great album).

(update - it looks like the video was taken down... I didn't get screenshots, but all the info below is based on notes I took from the video.  It's possible the information will be changed before the raid starts)

There wasn't much about the raid format itself in this video - I expect it to be very similar to the previous raid.  My only prediction (with no evidence to back it up) will be that there will be some wrinkles to make subs less effective.  You can see the tips I provided for the last raid (Tempest) at:

The other raid tidbit from the video is that Swag suggested that UAVs would be effective.  My Harlock fleet will be ready minus a few armor pieces, so they will be my backup plan in case the Cat Specs aren't as effective this time.

The more interesting bits from the video are the information on all of the prizes.  They are: Siege Torpedo D65-Z, Nighthawk Submarine, Phantom Nighthawk, and the Viper Interdictor.  I'll take a look at each and compare them to existing items to let you know some initial impressions:

Siege Torpedo D65-Z 
With the weapon rebalance, Siege Torpedos got a nice range boost, but I still recommended using the Assault Torpedo B because of the +5% Combat Speed boost on that weapon.  Now with the Siege Torpedo Z, Kixeye has one-upped the B torpedo with a 6% Combat Speed boost.  Let's put all the stats side by side with some existing torpedos:

Siege ZSiege CAssault B
Bldg Damage706705420
Bonus Damage1321260
Reload Time5.005.006.00
Bonus Armor01000
Fleet DPS82.675.652.5
Fleet DPS/hton20.718.923.9
Build Time (w Off)?16h 52.5m8h 45m
Speed Bonus6%0%5%

(note they showed Siege Torps at R5 on the raid video, so I had to back off the 12.2% damage bonus)
(UPDATE: Assault Torp B DPS changed from 43.5 to 52.5)
(UPDATE: Siege Torp Z DPS changed from 84.4 to 82.6, DPS/hton changed from 21.1 to 20.7)

What's to notice on the new weapon?  
  • Damage per weight is very close to the Assault B.  But on Spectres, Reapers, and (soon) the Nighthawk, loading up with Assault Torpedos often results in weight capacity left over (wasted).  The much higher DPS per weapon (more than double!) will really make the Z torps most effective on the heavier subs.
  • The Radioactive bonus damage is less desirable than straight Concussive damage, since many top Hulls are carrying some radioactive resistance at this point.  But I'm not complaining.
  • You don't get the bonus armor like on other Siege Torpedos - again, not a dealbreaker.
  • Build time for the existing Siege Torpedos are just about twice than the Assault (since the rebalance), which is a similar ratio as the weight.  I would expect the Siege Torpedo Z to have a longer build time than the existing Siege Torps, but we'll have to wait and see.
  • For the two primary missions this torpedo may be useful at - FvF and Base Prep - speed is critical and I think these new torpedos will shine.  The main tradeoff is the 10% reduced weapon range.  For stealthy spectres, I suspect the range difference won't be too bad.  For base prep I would take the speed over range every time as well.  The one area I would be careful about using these would be on Battery Spectres for dredge fleet prep.  The detection range of the Reaver ships is fairly close to the Assault Torpedo range, so having to get closer may be a problem.  We'll have to wait and see how they do in the water.
Nighthawk Submarine
Last week, when we learned the names of the new prizes, I had a suspicion that one of our sub hulls would become obsolete.  I was wrong... I think 2 sub hulls just became obsolete.

StatisticNighthawkPhantom NighthawkBarracuda R5Spectre R5Reaper R5
Weapon Slots77667
Armor Slots33134
Special Slots33323
Max Weight6,1257,1151,9704,8006,865
Base Armor1,7451,8456001,2002,250
Combat Speed11/16.511/16.5161014
Turn Speed1515202525
Ballistic Defense20%/40%30%/50%0%0%20%
Explosive Defense20%/40%30%/50%0%10%20%
Penetrative Defense20%/40%30%/50%10%0%20%
Radioactive Defense0%/20%0%/20%0%0%0%
Repair Modifier300%300%400%300%200%
Concussive Damage0%0%0%19.9%0
Building Damage0%0%0%0%50%
Hull Build Time5d 10h8d 3h2d 16.8h1d 3h4d 16.1h

The x / y numbers for the Nighthawk represent surfaced/submerged statistics.

So what's to notice on the comparison:
  • The slot configuration and Max Weight of the Nighthawk will allow its builds to look much like the most effective Reaper builds.  Load it up with the new Siege Torpedo Z, Cat Drive, Battery, and Engine.  
  • About the speed - when submerged, the accurate way to describe submerged speed would be 11 with a 50% speed modifier, not 16.5 as I show in the table.  The reason this is important is that combat speed bonuses will be applied to the base speed of 11.  So if I build a Cuda with Engine 3 and 6 Assault Torpedo B (actually tricky to fit), the combat speed will be 16 * 110% = 33.6.  The Nighthawk with Engine and 7 Siege Z torpedos will be 11 * 122% = 24.4 surfaced and 11 * 172% = 29.9 submerged.  Add 3 V armor, and you can get it to 31.6 submerged.  So the Nighthawk can be fast, but not quite as fast as the Cuda.  With the speed drop when surfaced, you may even need to get a little further away than with a Cuda against fast fleets to avoid being shot at.
  • The extra resistance when submerged is nice - these subs may be fairly durable if built for it.  
  • Build times are going to be long - similar to a Reaper.
So overall, this hull will be nearly as fast as a Barracuda, and do more than twice the damage.  The Nighthawk will be a great FvF hull.  Its utility for other missions will depend on its submerged time.

Although surface/submerge times weren't given in the video, unverified info on forums suggests:  Nighthawk: 48 sec under / 14 sec surface

Compared to (base time without Battery):
Barracuda: 28 sec under / 10 sec surface
Reaper: 35 sec under / 15 sec surface
Spectre: 60 sec under / 12 sec surface

Update: This forum thread - has some info from a Mod & Robot implying that the 48 /14 is the correct number.

If that's true, a comparison of how far subs should be able to go submerged in a base prep situation (full Z torps, Engine 3, Battery 3, V armor): 
Spectre: 23.1 * (60 * 1.39) secs = 1927
Nighthawk: 31.6 * (48 *1.39) secs = 2108

Now.. if the data on the forums, which may have been backed out of the video, is 48 seconds under WITH Battery 3 already installed, then the submerge time would be only 35 seconds (the same as a Reaper), and so the Nighthawk would be much less effective than the Spectre in base prep.  

So a Nighthawk may also be more effective than a Spectre for Base guard prep - adding a Speed Upgrade as the third special would let it go even farther, or using Cat Drive might negate some sub detection defenders.  But remember that a Subsonic Cavitator arb will force subs to the surface whether detected or not.

So goodbye Barracuda, goodbye Spectre.  Your only advantage over the Nighthawk is your build time.

Phantom Nighthawk (Limited Max 1)- Bonus Capabilities

The Phantom Nighthawk adds some more wrinkles.  Its larger weight capacity and slightly higher resistances are nice, but there are two major features.

One is its status as a flagship hull, meaning that it will allow 5 ship sub fleets, which provides a big advantage over any existing sub fleet.

The other big attraction is its ability to cloak on the world map.  The exact wording on the blueprint shown in the video is: "This cutting-edge variant of the Nighthawk is capable of leading a submarine fleet.  This unique flagship will make sub-only fleets cloak on the world map under most circumstances."

So it should be able to cloak Spectre and Reaper fleets as well as Nighthawks, but not surface fleets.

Just off the top of my head, fun targets for sneak attack will be:
  • Ships waiting to ninja a base hitter
  • Base hitters that think they are clear outside
  • Ships salvaging
  • Ships picking up salvage
  • Ships entering / leaving a tower
  • Ships doing the weekly mission (especially if autoing lower level targets)
  • Ships doing a raid
  • Ships hitting/prepping dredges (allowing someone else to come in for the steal)
But there's a big problem here - the victims... I don't editorialize much, but I am very concerned that these Phantom fleets will end up being another way that the "haves" can grief the "have-nots", and make it harder to do the weekly 'chores' that are critical for those "have-nots" to feel like they are even keeping up.  

Kixeye said "most circumstances."  There's a couple scenarios I'm worried about that will really put a damper on gameplay even for the top players - can Phantoms create invisible guards on alliance bases?  Can an invisible fleet hide under its owner's base? Will they show up on radar?  

From the forums, a mod said: 
The Phantom sub will be completely visible on the world map when actively guarding a base (set explicitly as a guard on your own or an alliance member's base) or when in close proximity to your own base. It will also be visible when engaged in any battle.

If visible only when stopped (invisible only when moving), a lot of my concerns would be lessened... at least you will know when someone is waiting for you.  
Update: This is definitely not the case.

We'll see how this works out.

Phantoms will be a lot of fun to own I'm sure, but I'm worried about their overall effect on the player base at large.

Viper Interdictor - (Limited max 5)

I hope you didn't spend a lot of time or gold going after Vassago's Interdictor in the campaigns... Vassago's Interdictor has some enhancements for sub hunting, but the Viper blows it away...

StatisticViper InterdictorVassago InterdictorInterdictor R5Interdictor
Weapon Slots7777
Armor Slots2222
Special Slots3333
Max Weight5,2455,2455,2455,245
Base Armor2,3721,8651,8651,865
Combat Speed14141414
Turn Speed20202015
Ballistic Defense20%30%30%10%
Explosive Defense10%10%10%10%
Penetrative Defense20%30%30%10%
Concussive Defense50%40%40%30%
Radioactive Defense0%0%0%0%
Concussive Damage39%39.9%30%0%
Sonar Range80655025
Thermal Range80000

What to notice on the comparison:
  • The advantages of the Vassago Inderdictor over the R5 version are the improved sonar range and the extra 9.9% Concussive damage.  Now the Viper has arrived, giving up a little bit of resistance and 0.9% damage, but gets the Thermal Imaging with a range of 80.  All subs will be seen by the Viper while outside of torpedo range.  65 Base Sonar range with the Vassago still wasn't enough to see heavily cloaked subs before getting shot up.  I see no reason to go after the Vassago any more, unless you don't earn enough Vipers to build a full fleet.
  • Build time is unknown since the video showed refit mode.
  • Not much else to report on the Viper... more base armor, less conventional resistance, more concussive resistance.
The Viper Interdictor is the sub-killer everyone has wanted. Even if you can only earn one Viper, pairing that ship with any other hulls (even unretrofitted Interdictors or MCX) that are able to hit underwater subs will allow a surface fleet to make short work of subs, unless those subs are heavily armored.  

Let's hope we don't see too many of these Vipers in the raid targets... Good luck everyone - happy hunting!