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Starfighter: Infinity - Building an Effective Ship
This guide explains a basic philosophy on how to build an effective ship, regardless of level, as well as touches on some details of combat, mentions of endgame material, and general tips regarding both PVE and PVP.
Mechanics - Things you need to know before building a ship
Philosophy - Building for eventuality
Gear - Picking the right ship for you
Gear - Augmentations
Gear - Shields
Gear - Engines
Gear - Utilities
Gear - Proximities
Gear - Mines
Gear - Larges
Gear - Secondary Weapons
Gear - Primaries
Closing - Personal flair
Intro - Building a Ship
This guide is intended to be advice for new and experienced players to help them build an effective ship for either PVP or PVE. Here, we will discuss basic mechanics, build concepts, and gear breakdown. This guide assumes the player has a very basic understanding of controls (how to change lock targets, how to change weapons, how to buy weapons, etc., and is looking for advice on how to build a ship.
The Golden Rule of Ship Building The most important thing to keep in mind throughout this guide is that you, as a player, should use whatever is the most fun to use - this guide will touch on what is typically the most effective/meta-relevant for combat, but it means nothing if you take no enjoyment out of the builds you create. Build something great and fits how you like to play - whether it be building the most devastating player-destroyer, a ship with a fun gimmick/combo, an NPC grinder, a joke ship, a bullet hell machine, or something else.
Mechanics - Things you need to know before building a ship
There are a couple of in-game mechanics that need to be addressed before we can continue into the gear breakdown, starting with the basics:
The environment is the biggest factor when building a ship - a shark is pretty useless when it's beached, and so is an energy-reliant ship in a star system with low solar charging. Take into consideration the following when deciding on your ship build:
Star system solar charging rate (the rate at which you regenerate energy passively)
Nebulas - nebulae interfere with locking ranges, and some can even apply effects to your ship depending on the star system: make sure your ship can handle fighting blind
No Man's Land - some star systems don't have restock areas or have no safe areas: make sure your ship has contingencies for always having ammo and being able to escape. This also applies to duels - where yourself and another player can't restock until one of you forfeits the duel.
AI/NPRs - The nearby AI and local NPR (non-playable race) can make a difference in a fight - make sure to be familiar with the types of weaponry they have and take them into consideration.
Hazards - Things like minefields, black holes, and other dangerous features can affect your build: good luck firing projectile weapons next to a black hole.
There are multiple ways of obtaining passive energy generation for your ship, which is used for movement, weaponry, and gear. Your current method of passive charging (you can only have 1 active on your ship at once) is listed at the top of your HUD, as well as the rate of charge in EPS (energy per second).
Solar Charging (Default, no item required) - gains energy in relation to the proximity and intensity of nearby stars; can be enhanced via solar panel augmentations to boost the passive recharge rate.
Dark Charging - the sort-of inverse of solar charging, dark charging is acquired using the dark charger augmentation, and gives more energy the darker the system is, and is best in low-light systems.
APS Charging - Andromedan power source charging charges at a fixed rate of 2-5 EPS, depending on level, regardless of location. (Can stack multiple APSs to gain a higher charge rate).
Guided vs Unguided
All secondary weapons are divided into unguided or guided weapons - unguided weapons do not require a lock to use, and guided weapons require a lock, which is determined by the weapon's lock distance on the bottom right of your HUD, as well as your direction to the target using the locking angle of your ship - larger ships typically turn slower, making them less effective with dumbfire weapons, but have higher locking angles to compensate. Guided weapons will track the target ship until either the weapon's lifetime expires, it hits the target, or is destroyed.
Many mechanics of weapons and gear in SFI are based on effects: time-limited boosts or detriments to your ship that can effect a variety of factors, such as speed, agility, locking, visibility, healing, and much more.
Some weapons and gear can inflict effects that constantly deal damage to your ship until they expire - this is important because it means that you are always visible for the duration of the effect, as the shield on your ship "lights up" when you take damage. It also means that your shields cannot begin the recharge until the DOT is over and you wait the appropriate amount of time for your specific shield. The most common DOTs are listed as follows:
Heat - 7 DPS.
Hellfire - 12 DPS.
Radiation - Variable damage based on the mass of your ship: DPS = 2 * Level * ShipMass, where level = 1 if duration is less than 3, level = 2 if duration is less than 6 but greater than/equal to 3, and level = 3 if duration is greater than or equal to 6 seconds.
Anti-Stealth - only hurts you if you are currently stealthed - will do damage and increase locking on you to 150%.
Cold Fusion - An intense heat damage, cold fusion does more damage than heat but doesn't last long.
Corrosion - A chemical effect, corrosion does more damage the more "stacks", or time it has left.
Red Mist Overdose - A chemical effect caused by red mist - reaching the threshold (10 seconds of red mist) adds red mist overdose, which causes damage to the user the faster they move. Holding still causes no damage, but leaves the target vulnerable.
Some ships have stealth systems - utilities, shields, and other gear that can affect locking onto them based on their speed, firing rate, distance, and more. Make sure to have an answer to a cloaked target - and make sure you have an answer if you are caught out of your cloak.
Damage Types and Weapon Types
Every weapon has a weapon type: the method of which the weapon is created (typically energy vs ammo-based) and a damage type: a tag used to determine the kind of weapon for damage reduction and amplification when interacting with other gear. The damage type of a weapon is listed on their stat card at a station or by pressing your ship's loadout button bind when out of a station (view only). Heat, Laser, Photonic, and Explosive are all examples of damage types.
Philosophy - Building for eventuality
An effective ship build can take on a variety of threats and hazards without needing to swap gear to answer danger - here are some points to keep in mind when kitting out a ship that take into account the aforementioned mechanics, as well as a few other concepts:
Unless you are running an elite sprinter build built for speed, there is always a faster ship - be aware of how fast potential ship(s) are compared to yourself, and consider what you could use to negate their tempo control - whether it be area denial or constant projectile pressure.
Plan accordingly and include gear that covers situations where you are outsped - where you want to get away but cannot. This can include a variety of options, such as an augmentation to increase mobility, such as sidestep or short-range hyperspace (SRHS), or something more defensive, like the kinetic field disruptor (KFD) proximity, or even a wide-spread mine cluster to force enemies to take a longer path to get to you. Also consider gear that allows you to teleport or speed up, such as teleport discs or engine overdrive (EOD).
Stealth systems are valid options as well, as concealing yourself against a faster target can give reprieve and allow you to fall back and reassess.
It is always better to avoid damage rather than trying to mitigate it afterwards.
Unless you're in an accumulator with a carapace shield, there is always a tankier ship. Plan to have an answer for larger, tankier ships - even in situations where you have the mobility advantage, have a plan in case you get caught in one spot, whether it be a shield that resists commonly used damage types, barriers, teleports, proximities, or temporary damage reductions.
Guided weapons will be in almost every fight - and not every ship you fly can dodge everything that can be hurled at you due to their tracking nature. Often times a fight can be decided by knowing when someone is going to use their lock-on weapons, and appropriately using countermeasures to prevent their fire-and-forget weapons.
Such examples include the ever-popular shield bubble - the grail of anti-lock measures, as it prevents 100% of all locking weapon damage for its duration. Its main weakness is that continued use builds up a negative effect, hard light decay, which reduces the duration for each consecutive use unless it is given more time to cool down.
Other examples include signal scramblers, such as the scrambler, retargetter, return to sender, detonator - and decoys, such as advanced, normal, radii, gravity, and tyraan decoys.
Note that lock-on weapons are often able to be blocked in the same manner as many non-locking weapons, such as barriers or KFD.
It is imperative to always have some kind of anti-lock gear to prevent constant bombardment of lock-on weapons, whether it be a swarm of AI or an overzealous lock-on user.
Dumbfire weapons are the harder to use, but more reliable weapons in a fight - seldom few defenses exist to prevent their use outside of barriers, KFD, and outright dodging.
These don't require defenses if you are confident in your ability to move - and your ability to eliminate the opponent before they can land a damaging shot with them. So while not required, make sure you have a plan against swarms of dumbfire weapons.
Another effective strategy is the use of DOTs to cut down an enemy - whittling them down as DOTs prevent shield recharging, allowing for drive-by hits going in for the final strike. In some cases DOTs can be critical weaknesses of some builds, such as radiation for larger ships. Prepare and expect DOTs to be used against a build in a fight - and have a contingency, such as a shield that resists a particularly despised DOT, a healing utility/augment/etc., or some kind of damage reduction gear. This can typically take a little fine-tuning to know which DOTs hurt a potential build the most.
Due to the ability to whittle down targets, DOTs are highly valuable, but not absolutely necessary. They can, however, make targets panic and are good for exerting pressure. Some DOTs also have positive effects for the user, like hellfire allowing users to lock onto a hellfire'd target through stealth systems. Some examples of effective DOT weapons are heat ray, cold ray, neutrino beam, LR spit + barrage, hellfire blasters, xand-based weapons, and red mist orbs.
Some DOTs can be mitigated in their effectiveness without having a direct counter - for example, a stealth system can almost completely negate the threat of occasional cold fusion damage, since the cold ray is the only lock-on cold fusion weapon; all other applications could be dodged - thus cold fusion not being a threat, and you can use build slots for something else.
Damage type is of great importance when making a build - or varying it, that is. Too much of one damage type leaves a build vulnerable to being walled by a single defense/shield. For example, don't pack all heat weapons - the odd enemy with a heat shield is going to laugh it all off and disintegrate the build. Make sure to run through a potential build and make sure there isn't any one shield, utility, etc. that can resist most of it to ensure damage can always be dealt regardless of what a potential opponent brings to the fight. It is better to prepare for what a build could encounter and fight, not what it is expected to fight. There are millions of item combinations in the game - preparing for the worst is the most viable and effective strategy to fighting the unknown.
Gear - Picking the right ship for you
Probably some of the most subjective parts of this guide are what ship is considered the "right' ship for a person to use - ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but there are a few considerations that may help decide which ship is best for you, no matter what level you are at:
It is important to establish what you imagine a potential ship doing - do you want to build a siege machine? A dogfighter? Sniper? Mining vessel? The concept/theme and/or usage of the ship defines which base model to build off of. Think about how the base ship complements the role you wish to use it for, and the situations it could find itself in, when you go about picking a base model.
Individual playstyle also factors in here as well - no use picking a large bulky ship if you'd rather use something agile and quick.
Number of Slots
Arguably more important than anything else, slots determine how many, and which, kinds of weapons a ship can hold. More slots = more options for eventualities, even with things like normal secondary weapon slots: something like a mine torpedo could be used as a pseduo-mine, or a swimming dragon torpedo as a spacing tool, or even a gimbal cannon as a proxy weapon.
If there are multiple ship options that have been narrowed down to chose from, in general it is more effective to chose one with more options to respond to a threat compared to another that does not. Some ships have slots that complement their stats, like numerous secondaries on ships with high locking angles.
Survivability vs Power
Factoring into slots, roles, and number of slots is survivabiltiy vs power: the Hydra and the Manticore are good examples of this. They are relatively similar in bulk, agility, etc, but the Hydra tends more towards utilities and survivability, whilst the Manticore is raw damage potential. Ultimately it comes down to picking the right ship for the right job - it may be harder to finish off a heavy target with a Hydra, but a Manticore might struggle with mitigating hits.
Take this into account when considering the aforementioned ship choice factors, as it can help mold a ship to an individual's playstyle - power would typically be more aggressive and tempo-controlling, and survivability would be more reactive and adaptive.
Gear - Augmentations
If an active aug is not being used, a slot is being wasted. Active augs add another element of depth to the game as a reactionary item - whether it be to reduce effects, reload weapons, recharge shields instantly, or move.
Earlier, it was said that avoiding damage is more important than mitigating it - a few active augs can accomplish this, such as the SRHS, SRHS XL, sidestep, handbrake, drift, quickturn, field hopper, etc. While the handbrake and drift are not as popular, the augs mentioned are all valid options to add another layer of movement to the chosen ship - thus adding more potential to avoid damage, and thus survive, being more effective.
It is highly recommended to always use a movement-based active aug unless a certain gimmick or build requires something different, like the effect dampener, red mist injector, radii reloader, energy to shield converter, and more. E2S converter appears to be the most popular non-movement based active aug, but most ships run something that affects movement.
Passive augmentations are the more varied augmentation options, as they can vary greatly depending on the build theme and/or need of the ship. Some good passive power augs were mentioned in earlier sections, as they help with environmental survivability - typically a good passive aug will enhance the functionality of your ship by adding something it didn't have previously, or by enhancing an existing function beyond the normal scope.
A good example of this is the laser sight vs the locking widener - the laser sight only adds a visual indicator, which is something that could be eyeballed by the player, and thus doesn't add much value to the ship. The locking widener, however, increases the locking angle base stat of the ship - potentially even allowing 360 locking on some ships with massive locking angles to begin with that normally couldn't be covered due to low agility and high bulk.
With that in mind, here are some effective augmentation options:
Energy-boosting augs - Capacitor overcharge, solarian supercharger, solar panels, APS, dark charger are all excellent augmentations that augment a ship's energy storage and/or recharge.
Turret Augs - some ships can support tiny turrets if they are big enough; these turrets can be effective if a ship can spare the slots and needs more damage (refer to power vs survivability). Note that laser/beam-based turrets turn more slowly and thus aren't as good.
Information Augs - these can be iffy, but could be useful for a player that is overly cautious: tobor weapon scanner, deep ship scan, early warning
Formation/Mine Augs - these can re-arrange barrages and mines to be more effective/unexpected shapes, and are very good options for siege ships and minelayers: sticky mine launcher, mine formation augs, barrage formation augs, and mine quick armer augs.
Travel Augs - these can be used to decrease travel time, which can be useful for missions, exploration, and/or evasion. Some examples are: Hyperspace Recharger (Takes up to 5 minutes off hyperspace with just one) and Hyperspace Integrity Booster (negates malfunctions due to applied effects, useful for making a hyperspace count).
A note about using augmentations that deal with losing lives: (life extender, deathtraps, suicide augmentations, etc) - don't. These augs are planning for failure - why equip an aug that only adds value after a loss when augs that add value to prevent loss could be used instead?
In summary, a good passive augmentation will maximize value to your ship and/or give features that it normally doesn't have, or complement aspects of your build to enhance functionality and/or make up for shortcomings in other equipped items.
Gear - Shields
Shields are the last line of defense on a ship - when all else fails, the shield is ultimately what determines how much punishment a ship can take.
Fortunately, shields are fairly straightforward, and consist of only a few factors for consideration:
Shield Multiplier (multiplies max shields available for a ship)
Recharge Delay (how long a player must wait before recharging begins after the last hit
Recharge Rate (the rate at which the shield recharges, go figure)
Additional effects (effect depletions, damage resistance, and more)
When choosing a shield, try to match the shield to both the ship's role and attempt to cover the main weakness of the ship - for example, a beam refractor on a sprinter is an excellence choice since the low shields of the sprinter would leave it vulnerable to a high power, instant travelling weapon like a beam/laser. Try to make sure the coverage of the shield is not made redundant by any other items - for example, an explosive resistant shield like the igni shield is not necessary if the ship already has means to handle locking and projectile weapons (as explosive weapons are typically slow and easy to handle).
This leads into the next concept - choosing a shield based on what is expected to be common/threatening. Beyond general coverage, extra emphasis should be placed on damage that is deemed to be critical, or more importantly, likely to be frequently used against the build. For this reason, an igni shield is almost never viable since while it is immune to explosive weapons, it is also 2x weak to photonic weapons, as well as 2x weak to the EXTREMELY common damage type "laser".
Here are some very viable shield options + common scenarios in which they are used (highest levels of the shields are used for numbers here):
Thermal:Heat is both common and powerful - the thermal shield negates a fire threat as well as ice, along with having balanced stats.
Anti-Nuclear:Nuclear damage is a threat to any large ship- the anti-nuke shield removes this Achilles' heel and forces ships to take out heavy ships the hard way. It is also the only shield that explicitly resists corrosion effects.
Carapace:The largest shield multiplier in the game at the cost of no recharging, the carapace makes for a good tank shield at the cost of requiring extra slots to keep it charged, such as the shield repair device.
Resonite: The antithesis of the igni shield, the resonite shield resists 100% of all laser and photonic damage, at the cost of explosives being 2x effective. This means a fast ship with a resonite shield resists a lot of common weapons with almost no downside, so long as the user is agile enough to avoid explosives, which are traditionally extremely slow compared to lasers.
Relisk: The "resonite-lite" shield, the relisk shield only reduces laser by 30%, and is 30% more vulnerable to explosives: however, this shield also has good stats and features an incredibly short recharge delay, which is ideal for shrugging off pressure.
Radii Adaptive: One of the most powerful shields in the game, the adaptive shield depletes all negative effects 50% faster, and features an above-average shield capacity in exchange for a slightly slower recharge rate.
Endurer:The endurer depletes 90% ALL effects, positive and negative - while requiring more limited builds, the endurer eliminates the worry of effects wrecking a build.
Dark Shield: Boasting a large shield capacity and immunity to cold fusion, the dark shield is another viable option at the cost of a long recharge wait.
Mist Resist: Offers a massive threshold for red mist immunity, turning a potential weakness into a strength. Also boasts a large shield capacity in exchange for a long recharge wait.
There are also several variations on some of these main shields - variations that could be used to fine tune builds for exploitable weaknesses, such as a thermal shield alternate (the devimon shield), which resists gravity as well at the cost of depleting the shield repair effect. There are some cases where some shields are strict upgrades due to numbers, but most of the time it comes down to build preference as to which shield to pick.
Take care to choose a shield that will save you when nothing else can - this is what determines how easy it is to take a ship out when it's cornered.
Gear - Engines
Engines are a fairly straightforward pick, as they have a few more factors than shields, yet have more cut-and-dry application. Take all these factors into consideration when picking an effective engine:
Speed - the speed multiplier of the engine, useful for tempo control and evasion.
Acceleration - the acceleration multiplier of the engine, usually not worth caring about.
Turning - the turning multiplier of the engine, extremely valuable, though typically limited by other downsides.
Boost - the propulsion boost multiplier of the engine when using the propulsion enhancer key.
Boost Cooldown - the length of time before another propulsion boost can be triggered.
Boost Duration - the duration of the propulsion enhancer.
Reverse Speed - the reverse acceleration multiplier, typically insignificant.
Of the previous factors, speed, turning, and the propulsion enhancer are the most valuable in creating an effective ship. Revering in a fight is extremely atypical, and even when it occurs it's typically not important to be moving quickly - even engines with fast reverse still can only boost forward, which means that the main feature of the engine directly conflicts with the most useful part of the engine - the propulsion enhancer.
This leads into the next point: the propulsion enhancer is extremely important in combat. The propulsion enhancer allows unpredictable movement, emergency evasion from a dead stop, start-and-stop fighting, nonlinear movement (to avoid tracking) and can even be used to abuse the turn rate of enemy ships via circling. An engine without a propulsion enhancer, at the time of writing this guide, is an engine not worth using, ever.
As a result of this, acceleration is a stat that is typically ignored, both in ships and in engines - the ability to jump into full speed negates the need to wait for acceleration - simply use the propulsion enhancer rather than waiting an eternity to get up to full speed.
Bearing these rules in mind, this simply leaves the options between engines that juggle speed, turning, and propulsion boosters.
Typically high-speed engines sacrifice turning - gaining the ability to make a quick strike and retreat, though usually at the cost of requiring turning help through other gear, such as the field hopper or quickturn augs. These engines are optimal for speed-demon ships, strafe bombers, and ships that rely on speed for survivability to make room for other gear/strategies. Afterburner is essentially the sole engine for this job, though overcharged could be desirable in certain scenarios.
Quick-turning engines, on the other hand, typically sacrifice speed (and sometimes propulsion) for an increase in turning - this makes them ideal for larger ships that can take hits, and wish to augment their bulk with high turning in order to deal out more punishment. The twista is an example of this, however the twista significantly hurts speed and propulsion to the point where its use is questionable. The red mist booster is a viable alternative, featuring good turning, yet lower speed, which is compensated for via a massive propulsion boost akin to a "lunge" forward - ideal for evasion and dangerous on larger ships.
Propulsion-focused engines are typically energy-hungry and/or sacrifice acceleration, which has been established as fairly inconsequential - thus leaving propulsion focused engines to be fairly desirable as all-around engines. The tobor enhanced, arguably the best engine in the game, is a massive energy hog in exchange for above average turning and frequent propulsion boosts. It makes an ideal dogfighter engine - though using it runs the risk of being rushed, being restricted by energy, or made dead in the water via the propulsion dehance effect. The store-bought enhanced V is another good all-around engine with an emphasis on propulsion.
Ultimately, the ideal engine depends on the role of the ship - consider what kinds of movement patterns above match the movement expected in a typical fight using the imagined build, then pick the engine that most closely matches this schema.
Gear - Utilities
Utilities are probably some of the most interesting slots/gear on the ship - a wide variety of utilities exist for any and all playstyles, and going through all the possibilities would turn this guide into a novel. Therefore, focus will have to be on specific schema, as well as more popular picks. Typically, the best utilities are more defensive in nature, as they allow a ship to cover their main weaknesses and/or make their main function more effective, thus protecting their strategies from the unexpected.
Referring back to that general guideline of avoiding damage rather than mitigating it, the most effective utilities are ones that block damage entirely, or give the user an opportunity to avoid damage more easily. As a result, all of the utilities mentioned in the anti-lock section earlier are quite popular, as they negate the constant tracking of lock-on weapons - though they each have their vulnerabilities, whether it be hard light decay for the shield bubble, timing/counterplay of the scrambler devices, or mass spam against decoys, which still leave the projectiles active and dangerous. In general, it is good to have at least one anti-lock utility when possible, as the inability to avoid lock-ons is a death sentence in general combat - both in PVE and PVP.
Effective anti-lock utilities include:
Shield Bubble - the most popular pick, the shield bubble gives temporary immunity to locking weapons at the cost of sequentially short lifetime.
Scrambler/Detonator/Returner/Retargetter - excellent anti-lock disruption, though prone to being overwhelmed, abused by the attacker with their own signal device, or energy/cooldown weardown.
Decoys - good for temporary reprieve, but can still be damaged by active projectiles, and a clever enemy can still line up a shot on occasion. Pairs extremely well with transparent stealth, as it allows the user to fire and then deploy a decoy to allow re-stealthing. Also typically limited by a magazine.
Smokescreen - good for preventing locks, but requires the user be relatively stationary, which brings up other problems.
Movement utilities are excellent for either avoiding damage via evasive action, or by rapidly closing distance to prevent being chipped down at a distance:
Relisk Portals - good for instant travel and flanking, usually at the cost of high energy depletion and/or long cooldown times, so their use must be calculated and not spammed.
Sheenite Jumps - good for closing distance and evasion, but can suffer from teleport jamming, as well as limited ammo.
Resonite Jumps - good for closing distance without fear of jamming, but linear movement can be abused by an attacker, especially with mines. Also restricted by ammo.
Engine Overdrives - good all-around movement tool, though typically negatively affects turn radius while in use. Good for escape, closing distance, and maintaining control over the ship during use.
Teleport Discs - excellent distance-closing or escape tool, the main weakness being the delay in travel and the low ammo count.
Andromedan Ram Shield - a dual damage/movement tool, the ram shield is good for offense and defense, and is only weak to energy drain and the occasional proxy weapon.
Alternative avoidance tools are less absolute than the previously mentioned gear, but more repeatable and can potentially complement other gear for extreme protection:
Dephase - temporary intangibility at the cost of a short effect time for the energy cost and cooldown. A few weapons can still hit through dephase, such as proxies, auto-targetting lasers, and lightning.
Barriers - blocks all projectiles, save sticky mines - which penetrate barriers - typically with a fair amount of energy. Excellent tanking tool and sniper guard against oncoming ships/spam.
Stealth Systems - amazing for flanking, preventing locks, and sneaking around. Typically come with a fairly high energy use cost and carry a massive weakness to the "anti-stealth" effect, so be wary of not having a contingency for stealth failing.
Projectile Repulse - a pseudo-counter for technically any projectile weapon, when augmented with agility and speed the repulse field can make for an effective antilock and antidumbfire utility, but can easily be overwhelmed - typically used with a solid backup or specific gambit.
Andromedan Escape Teleport - avoids any would-be projectile hit at the expense of energy. Is typically very resource intensive, as it requires both ammo and energy in practice. Excellent for temporarily being difficult to hit.
Devices and Effect Tools
While this category does not follow the avoidance rule 100%, it is worth mentioning, as devices and effect appliers can be used as counterplay - and the occasional mitigation isn't the worst thing, because no pilot is perfect in avoiding everything.
Shield Repairer - very popular, an on-board device that applies a shield repair effect that adds on top of shield regen.
Energy Cell - popular and arguably necessary for energy builds, the energy cell can provide emergency power to the chancellor to a user's ship in the case of overexertion, energy drain effects, or even a crutch in low-charge systems.
Igni Harden - reduces all incoming damage by 50% while slowing down your ship; a good choice for an emergency tank functionality, especially for larger ships that can benefit the most from the damage reduction and don't care about lesser speed during use. Has a colossal cooldown.
All other device utilities are on a case-by-case basis as to whether they are useful - typically they are situation-specific, or require a niche build to shine. Play around with the different AOE devices and explore which, if any, compliment a potential build.
In summary, it is best to pick utilities that follow the above principles while maximizing the situational coverage of the build. Once a user is familiar with all possible utilities and develops their own playstyle, typically utilities come down to personal preference, with the exception of the necessary anti-lock use.
Gear - Proximities
Proximities dominate the CQC scene - and fairly so, due to their typically 360-encompassing nature and power at short range. Typically proximities are ironically more offensive in nature, as their power can allow the user to maintain pressure via close-contact chasing with high-damage or opportunity-creating proxies. They do, however, also contain some of the most powerful defensive tools - which are typically limited by range. Keep in mind that many proxies can be use offensively or defensively - here they will be broken down into their typical usage for understanding and build synergy.
Offensive proximities are characterized by their high damage potential and/or potential to leave a target stunned for follow-up damage. Offensive proximities are excellent options on ships that can cover their defenses using utilities or speed, and are most effective on an agile ship that can easily place itself in range of using a proxy - this makes tempo-controlling ships dangerous proxy users.
Effective offensive proxies and their uses:
Acid Blast:A quick-firing, fairly short range proxy that uses the rare corrosion effect - a solid proxy to inflict a difficult-to-mitigate effect.
Cold Fusion Blast: For the same reasons as the acid blast, cold fusion blast has a longer range but slower firing rare damage type.
EMP Blast:A devastating effect, the EMP blast has a fairly long cooldown and high energy cost to inflict power failure on the enemy - excellent for comboing weapons for follow-up damage, though it has many restrictions such as energy consumption, resistive shields, easy to dodge, and obvious windup.
Electrostatic Blast: Effectively the same situation as EMP, with destabilization instead of EMP.
Solarian Orbital Sphere Ring: An extremely potent proxy, the user can passively fire and have the proxy orbit them before charging and crashing into an enemy for massive heat effects and explosion damage.
Proximity Blast:The most deadly explosive weapon, the proxy blast is a fairly quick burst of high damage at extremely close range - good for a finishing kill. Precious few things can resist the damage.
Gravity Proximity Blast: Weaker than the normal proximity blast with a longer windup, the gravity proxy blast can be dangerous on larger ships to ensnare enemies with gravity.
Igni Rock Follower:The tiny rocks generated by this proxy can be used similarly to the orbital sphere ring, though slower - allowing them to be an anti-trail tool as well.
Red Mist Horn Circle:Solid damage, reasonable energy, and application of the deadly red mist - along with scaling to the size of the user- makes this proxy very effective at keeping smaller ships at bay.
Thunderbolt:Boasting a long duration, passive damage via proximity, and a rarely resisted damage type, the thunderbolt is always a solid option to keep ships away - or harass them up-close, even hitting through dephase.
Tornadian Whirlers:The energy-based whirlers function similarly to the horn circle, but can apply useful effects to the user, and negative effects to the enemy, or just deal damage, depending on the variant. Also applies a slight EOD effect for closing distance.
Defensive/utility proxies give additional protection to the user, as well as the occasional slight offensive perk. Defensive proxies are best used on ships with limited defensive options, or need to keep enemies at bay.
Some effective defensive/utility proxies are:
KFD: Arguably the proxy with the most potential and highest skill cap, the KFD can eliminate all projectiles within a radius of the user on-demand - though limited via a quickly depleted magazine and requiring quick timing for fast projectiles.The KFD boasts as much potential as the user is able to muster, as it is a good anti-dumbfire, anti-lock, anti-mine, and anti-ram tool, as it can destroy solarian orbital spheres and igni rock followers. Just make sure to not KFD XHE mines, as they simply detonate instantly - which is not fun to be hit by. With good practice, a skilled user can get away with using fewer defenses so long as they can use the KFD.
Electrostatic Bubble: While used equally for offense and defense, the e-bubble does damage, repels enemies back while inflicting stabilizer fail, and blocks all electrostatic damage-type weapons, excluding lightning. It is an excellent spacing, harassment, and protective tool - though it suffers from building up HLD - hard light decay, the same as the shield bubble.
Damage Bubble: Despite its name, the damage bubble's best feature is detonating all explosive weapons - regardless of locking type - before they hit. This makes it an excellent damage threat as well as a minesweeper tool, anti-torpedo tool, and overall solid choice. Also suffers from HLD.
Radii Revealer: A fast-firing anti-stealth blast that is extremely useful for wrecking stealthed builds. The only downside is that it has no other use - it requires dedicating a proxy slot to counter stealthed ships.
Radii Repulsor: A unique spacing tool, the radii repulsor has the potential to expel enemies from the immediate vicinity - the ultimate anti-proxy tool, as it can prevent proxy ramming, can be used to harass in a dogfight, can make ships miss, and in hilarious cases, send the occasional user out of a sector. It can also be comboed with mines, pushing ships into mine clusters for deadly kills. Also applies the blinding effect.
Note - avoid all proximities that involve shooting dumbfire projectiles radially, they're typically just a waste of a slot, as spreading out damage is counterproductive to a fight - and radial weapons are typically weak and spammy.
Ultimately, the most effective proximity is one that covers what secondaries and utilities don't - if a ship lacks firepower, go with an offensive proxy. If a ship is light on defenses, consider a defensive tool proxy. Proxies have very good combo potential and are often used as finishers - find good pairings with secondaries, mines, etc. to rack up the damage.
Gear - Mines
Mines are some of the most basic - and fun - weapons to put on a build. They typically come in every flavor of effect, variation, and combo well with certain augmentations that reduce their arm time for pursuers or shape the clusters when deployed. Usually, mines serve one main purpose - deter pursuers, so which mine to choose comes down to asking what a mine could cover that the rest of the build cannot.
Due to the wide variety of mines, this guide will simplify their groupings, give general applications, and list a few very notable mines.
These mines are characterized by their reduced damage, but also apply every negative effect under the stars - these mines are typically used for fine-tuning build coverage, like nuclear mines against a massive target. They can also be used to counter utilities and weapons, like the energy drain mine, jammer mine, and so on. Explore which effects of which mines cover what the rest of your ship can't in the event you are tailed.
Raw Damage & Special Mines
Some mines are simple and rack up raw damage, typically at the cost of ammo. These are good mines for swarms of enemies, as well as turning the tables instantly on a pursuer. Be wary of clusters having longer arm times, which can allow close pursuers to fly through before they arm.
Special mines have unique properties, such as the thunderbolt mine, which acts like the proxy and cannot be "run into" or destroyed before its lifetime expires. Tyraan laser mines are extremely popular special mines, which fire lasers before their very short lifetime ends - though they do have the potential to be shrugged off with laser or beam-resistant shields. Teleporting mines, relisk mines, homing mines, and gravity mines are all other examples of special mines that have unique combo potential. Some mines, like the plasma mine, are energy-based and laugh at ammo restrictions - but are potentially energy-exhausting.
Bombs, like the micro photon compresison bomb, XHE mine, and splicer bombs, sit until their lifetime expires, not caring about contact, at which point they explode. Bombs are typically used with slower or stationary targets in exchange for higher damage.
Sticky mines come in almost every variation the effect and damage mines do, but are unique projectiles in that they inherit momentum of the user + any potential launcher aug, penetrate barriers, and are not affected by repulse or attraction effects. Sticky bombs have potential to be pseudo-torpedo slots, and are amazing at pounding bunkered builds, stationary targets for bombing runs, and putting pressure on ships with their wide variety of effects.
Minion mines spawn tiny ships that a player can "own" and get kill credit for. Minion mines follow the minion limit of 12 maximum minions at once, and are typically used as cannon fodder to distract or use as cover. In swarms, they can be deadly, but typically are restricted in their deployment, ammo, and several weapons can eliminate groups all at once, potentially wasting a slot.
In summary, mines are all about controlling movement - try to think about the potential applications of how each mine could fill a hole in a build's coverage. For example, relisk or teleport mines to stall speedy ships, tyraan laser mines to force a ship out of your vicinity, or even a sticky mine barrage to force a barrier enthusiast to move. Relate the ability of the mine to a potential problem or aspect of surviving combat to determine which is the most valuable for the chosen ship's role, and thus place in the build.
Gear - Larges
Now for the potent stuff - larges. Larges are the heavy hitting, low-ammo weapons that are typically restricted to large/massive ships, and for good reason - the raw power of most larges eclipse even the most ambitious secondary weapons. In terms of relating to build effectiveness, "effective" larges really come down to 2 major categories: sustainable and powerful.
An effective "sustainable" large is a large that provides a lot of power per use, but also has an amount of uses that make it reasonable to carry into a fight where it wouldn't be depleted quickly. These larges can exert constant pressure and fear even after being used - they also happen to be better in duels as well, as failing a kill isn't as impactful as messing up a one-shot weapon:
Radii Mass Driver: The premiere sniper large weapon, the radii mass driver boasts 10 shots, the most of any large, as well as incredible speed, huge damage, and significant destabilization at the cost of a long and obvious windup.
Droids: Droids boast high ammo counts, long lifetimes, and can only be destroyed in a black hole, allowing them to either function as harassment/firepower tools, or a spare utility for utility-light large ships when using healer or recharger droids.
Sabre Laser: A powerful, long-range laser that follows the user - a high ammo count ensures repeated high powered pressure. Weak against popular anti-laser shields.
Andromedan Droid Arrays: incredibly powerful dumbfire shots that create bullet hell for enemies and allow massive damage output.
Effect Bombs: Mainly used for countering builds and complementing other weapons, effect bombs can be used to cripple enemy builds before a fight.
Clouds: Most weapon clouds are not considerably strong due to their vulnerability to anti-lock, but they can exert pressure all the same, along with good timing being able to damage enemies when it is needed most.
Red Mist Slammer: A unique weapon that concusses, then red mists every ship in the sector. Only useful if the user is running the mist resist shield, otherwise it hurts the user as well.
Thunderbomb: Probably the most popular large due to power, lifetime, rarely resisted damage, and higher ammo count, the thunderbomb is an amazing spacing and high-damage combo large weapon.
These larges are characterized by their insane kill power and low ammo - typically with a higher cost as well. These are effective at a fast and powerful kill - so long as they are timed correctly:
Minion Launchers: Heavy drone beacon, null launcher, pique launcher, and devimon portal are all powerful large weapons that summon powerful minions en masse in order to overwhelm the enemy. Very effective in groups, especially with organizations being able to customize their heavy drone loadouts for maximum preparation/damage. The devimon portal also features the ability to curse all enemies in the sector for a short time, doubling as an effect bomb.
Misted Orb Array: One of the few arrays that have true power, the misted orb array applies heavy red mist effects to all ships via tracking orbs - while prone to re-drection, unprepared ships can be devastated by this weapon.
Turret Beacon Plus: With only one use, the turret beacon plus summons a powerful security turret, which serves as heavy additional firepower. Works well with repair tools.
Vortex Bomb: A classic weapon from the previous installment of starfighter, the vortex bomb has a powerful pull that instantly kills all enemies who are dragged into the black hole it generates. Item drops are also destroyed, as well as asteroids and most everything else. Gives a warning beep the last few seconds before it detonates.
PCB - Photon Compression Bomb: A nuke of sorts, this weapon eradicates most ships in the sector after a long, noisy countdown. Almost unrivaled in power.
UVB - Ultra Vortex Bomb: A vortex bomb similar to the power of Sagitarius A., the UVB pulls in ships from across the sector into its maw. It is preceded by a long, loud timer akin to the PCB. If this distinct countdown is heard, leave the sector - or hug the edge of it - or be destroyed.
Note - arrays are tempting large weapon picks, but most suffer from anti-lock devices, mediocre ammo counts, or worthless dumbfire radial effects - similar to how radial proxies are ineffective - they are not recommended, other than the aforementioned red mist orb array.
The choice between power or sustainability depends on the desired use of the build and the role of the ship - most come down to preference, but it's hard to argue against some of the larges on these lists.
Gear - Secondary Weapons
Now for the meat of this interstellar sandwich: secondary weapons. Secondary weapons are the main offensive coverage items - they are typically the longest range, highest DPS, most varied items in the game. With this concept, it is important to have a varied arsenal - as tempting as it may be, having a homogeneous arsenal is extremely asinine in a game like SFI, as a variety of weapons allows the user to respond to a variety of situations - where a non-varied one does not.
Rather than discussing the multitude of secondary weapons available, this guide will elaborate on what categories/methodology a ship build should look to cover when choosing secondaries in order to have an effective and balanced build. Keep in mind that some secondaries can overlap these categories, making them more desirable to use. Notice a lot of recurring items from previous sections of this guide: those concepts were derived from observing the variation in secondary weapons.
Killing power refers to the ability to finish an enemy off - typically high-damage and reliably-hitting weapons fit in this category, as they can clean up a kill after a target is softened up. Railguns, slugs, white xand blaster, LR pulse laser, red mist spinner, and positronic convergence discs are all good examples of high-power, reliable weapons that can clean up a kill. Weapons that do chip damage, have unreliable spread, etc. are not good killing power weapons.
Guided weapons, despite having more counters than unguided weapons, still shine because they require active management to counter, and if unmanaged can deal constant, devastating damage - thus an arsenal is not complete without a good locking weapon. All xand variants, positronic convergence discs - POSCONS, red mist spinners, slugs, teleporting stingers, flounder torpedoes, etc. are all excellent choices to keep a target on their toes with constant-tracking weapons. Many guided weapons, similar to mines, also feature incredibly strategy-breaking effects, such as energy drain or power failure if they connect, and be used to threaten a build without explicitly being high-damage weapons. Some guided weapons, such as stealth carnivore torpedoes, are immune to signal scrambling devices, and some, such as the tyraan cluster torp, are immune to the effects of the shield bubble, as they explode into frag rounds when in proximity.
Unguided weapons are the shields of secondary weapons category: when all else fail, they are all the player has left to do the job. Unguided weapons don't care about stealth or anti-lock - thus an effective arsenal must always have an unguided weapon to not be caught out in the open with no viable weapon options. Some effective unguided weapons include the LR pulse laser, andromedan hoop + variants, railgun, gimbal cannon, hornet rockets, devimon spikes, plasma cannon variants, neutrino beam, and devimon hellfire sphere. All good unguided weapons either have high damage to make up for their lack of speed or high speed to allow them to hit faster targets - typically with mediocre damage.
Similar to the aforementioned DOT weapons, effect weapons can be used to cripple enemy builds - jamming weapons to disrupt locking, disruption weapons to reduce fire rate/DPS, and needle torps to threaten quick builds are all excellent examples of using secondaries to tear down opposing strengths and exploit weaknesses. Some popular examples of devastating effect weapons include the sheenite scaler beam, flounder torpedo, needle torpedo, leech torpedo, hornet rockets, and stiletto torpedoes. Consider which effects would best allow other secondaries and gear into an oppositions' build, then potentially implement them if they combo well with the rest of the build.
It is also important to have non-DOT weapons in an arsenal to prevent being shut down by anti-effect builds, as well as being able to have some kind of burst damage. Most DOTs have low up-front damage in exchange for longer effect damage - if a target can mitigate this, the weapon is effectively walled hard. Some good examples of non-DOT damage are LR pulse laser, railgun, POSCONS, stingers, slugs, andromedan hoops, plasma cannon, and red mist spinners.
While some secondaries might have a nice shiny stat tag of 100+ damage, it won't matter if it will never reach its target. Sprinters and other quick ships will laugh as they circle and cut down non-speed prepared builds to pieces. Speedy weapons are required to be effective and hit/finish off quick ships. Good examples of speedy weapons are LR pulse lasers, railguns, slugs, POSCONS, xand blasters, and pretty much any weapon with a good ~50su/sec or higher speed. Typically, the lower speed the weapon, the quicker it needs to fire for speedy targets to compensate for the lower speed. Devimon spikes are good examples of this - while only travelling at ~40su/sec, they fire quickly and with a wider spread, making them decent-speed weapons to take on faster ships.
Large weapons are perfect examples of weapons that have power but lose it very quickly. If a weapon cannot continue to put up a fight for very long, it's not an effective weapon. White xand is a very good example of this - high damage weapon, very good speed, tracking, DOT + good base damage, the works. Unfortunately, it only has a 5 shot magazine. That means sustained fights, misses, etc. are detrimental to the ability of this weapon to pump out punishment - and that an overzealous user would soon be left defenseless. Not to say that such weapons are bad choices - just that they must be balanced with the rest of the build, lest they make the user suffer when they quickly run out. Consider weapons of similar, or sometimes even lesser stats in exchange for a few extra shots - such as the andromedan hoop vs the javelin - 10 less damage (50 vs 60) for 10 more ammo per mag (30 vs 20). That's 17% less damage for 150% of the total ammo - a great deal for an effective build.
Some weapons aren't meant to be the high-damage killing items - and that's okay. Some weapons can be used to exert pressure, which can be used to force a player to use defenses to put them on cooldown, move out of an area, or other tempo-controlling effects. Good pressure weapons are typically spammy, hard to avoid, have high ammo, or something inbetween. Some good example of high-pressure weapons are LR pulse laser, stiletto rockets, devimon spikes, hornet rockets, hammerhead rockets, slugs, red mist spinners, POSCONS, oscillating bolts, swimming dragon torpedoes, and more. Pressure-based weapons synergize well with weapons that can typically be avoided, as they can open up opportunities for attack to keep an enemy on their toes.
Synergy is not required, but is extremely effective in secondary weapons, as some can be used to set up others, similar to pressure weapons. For example, red mist orbs work extremely well with high-powered, slow dumbfire weapons, as the enemy must choose to either risk a hit or suffer the red mist.
Gear - Primaries
Ironically, primaries are the cherry on top of the build - typically used to chip damage in combat, as all primaries are energy-based weapon types, though they have different damage types. Primaries ultimately come down to what the user is comfortable with using the most, though there is the odd niche primary that comes in handy with a build, such as a orbital chevron for a ramming proxy build, or rodion projectile cannon for a stun-based build.
Typically a good measure of a primary is speed, damage, and DPE - damage per energy. Energy is something that is typically reserved for movement, other gear, or higher damage energy-based secondaries, so the primary hogging energy can kill a build: resonite primaries are good examples of this. Very good damage and DPS, but awful DPE with unimpressive speed/spread, thus making them questionable to use.
Some popular primaries include:
Radii Pulse Beam: an instant-travelling, short-to-mid-range beam that uses the ships' locking angle to target - making it extremely popular with larger ships who normally would need to use their turn speed to aim. It is very effective against quick ships as well - though it is reduced by laser/beam reduction shields.
Tyraan Glass Cannon: The ideal primary, this weapon features high speed, decent range, reasonable spread, and decent damage with a lower energy cost.
Tyraan Cannon: Slower, shorter, and with more spread than its relative, the glass cannon, the tyraan cannon trades reliability for crippling damage with the same lower energy cost.
Brainblast/Eyeblast: The shortest ranged primary in the game, the brainblast boasts unresisted high-damage and low energy usage at the cost of needing to be head-on for maximum damage, as it uses an angle-and-range based model instead of just range- and the user needing to place themselves at risk of retaliation.
Gao Bolt: A high-knockback and long-range primary that can be used to evade and put pressure on a target at longer distances.
Minibomb: A higher-speed explosive primary with limited, but effective, range for reasonable energy.
Andromedan Bolter: Featuring a rarely resisted damage type, good speed, damage, and lower energy, the andromedan bolter is the generalist/spammy sniper primary.
HV Projectile:A solid long-range and high-speed primary with low energy usage. Good for reliability.
Rodion Projectile Cannon/Vulcan Cannon: Insanely quick-firing primaries with a wide spread in exchange for high DPS, energy usage, and pressure.
Plenty of other primaries fit with many other builds - experiment and find which primary gains the most hits/damage on a target and provides the most comfort for the build, as primaries should be reliable in a clutch situation to augment secondaries - not relied upon to deal the bulk of the damage in a firefight.
Closing - Personal flair
Photo Credit: TmickyD - "Making an Entrance"
Once you've mastered the basics of building an effective ship - add your own personal flair. Is there a certain effect, mechanic, weapon, or ship you like more than the rest? Start with that and build around it, modifying the rules based on what you like to use and/or what you're good at.
There are over a thousand different items in SFI, and millions of possible combinations of gear and items - you could potentially find a devastating combination, a puzzling quirk, or an unexpected strategy that you could call your own: go out into the galaxy and fight amongst the stars.
Wurmish - Proofreading
TmickyD - Proofreading and "personal flair" image
Joestrodomus - Section structure advice
Ben Olding - For making an incredibly in-depth game