I’m… well, a noob. Found the game on steam ages ago, got it on a lark recently and am now wondering why I didn’t pick this game up sooner. (loving it)
I’ve gone through all the included single player scenarios at all levels, unlocked everything, tried out different Fleets (love Imperial for some reason), tinkered about with different loadouts on Cruisers, Frigates and Fighters, reduced my forces to get even more points for the fun of it and even tried a few challenges (with only minor success).
But, I digress so on to the point.
The survival missions where one takes on ever continuing waves of enemy ships, I have trouble breaking past even the 5 digit mark for points. I’m at a loss on how to put together a robust and effective force that doesn’t fold after the fourth or fifth wave and… I come to you all for advice! Is it something as simple as putting repair systems into my cruisers? Fighter bays to ensure those lil devils don’t get chewed up too bad? Frigates a waste of time or crucial to success? Is it more an issue of complimentary orders for ships?
What race have you been predominantly using against the survival missions?
Whatever race-specific weapons they have might give you an edge (or deny you one). Even more important is what starship hulls are available for your use with that race. Smaller hulls get hits less often. I’m not talking about “frigates getting hit less,” though that is often the case. I mean that the hull length stat (in meters) has a definite effect that’s akin to a form of passive stealth. This applies across the full range of hulls in each class (fighter, frigate, cruiser). It’s not always major, and it is a subtle thing to make use of, but I suggest you design with it in mind. It could save your butt. The Rebel Fenrir cruiser is possibly the best example of a cruiser packing many weapon hardpoints onto an amazingly tiny hull.
There’s been a lot of spamming of cruiser lasers. Check that weapon’s stats to see why. It wouldn’t be spammed to death if it was totally ineffective. The short optimum range can be a major problem, though.
Don’t get tempted to over-use plasma weapons. The tracking on all types of plasmas is, alas, abysmal, meaning that they can barely hit the broad side of a barn. Really only suitable for punishing an enemy formation which includes absurdly-slow ships on purpose. However, they’re really good at breaking thru both shields and armor against such targets, when they hit… so make sure that you’re not the one who designed ships moving around speed 10 or less.
There’s a lot of rabid pro- and anti- partisanship regarding frigates. I happen to like them, albeit to a more moderate extent. The combination of the ion cannon and the EMP missile launcher II aboard frigates makes them very powerful. While the ion cannons are penetrating enemy shields, the EMP missiles are stun-locking enemy ships so that they cannot (temporarily) fire back at you! Eventually, the rushing waves of enemy ships will grind your frigates down to nothing, but at least your whole fleet will last longer if you armed most of your frigates as shown above. Even though the ion cannons have terrible armor penetration, at least they can contribute something towards finishing crippled cruisers whose armor has already been savaged.
While I include at least one such EMP missile aboard most of my own frigate designs, I’ve occasionally added a second class that’s armed with nothing but EMPs and the fastest engines I can get, plus as little parasitic weight as possible to slow it down. Remember: speed is life; you foil weapons whose tracking is on the lower side, giving you some extent of immunity. I let a handful of those super-fast frigates go rampaging around the battle field, dumping mass quantities of EMP missiles onto the heads of every enemy ship I can get to before my little ship is eventually blown away. Consider this a form of light cavalry and plan accordingly.
You have to armor frigates enough to avoid sudden death by rocket-armed fighters. This tends to be a pricey defense. Make sure that you add enough armor to the ship to boost its armor rating to at least 12. That’s not far above the level needed to retain immunity from fighter laser beams.
Don’t cheap-out when buying frigate shielding. In the ship design window, look at the stats of the type II shield generator. Pay close attention to shield resistance; it’s damn important! (Here as well as elsewhere.) That generator provides enough resistance to completely block fighter lasers. Of course once a big hit from a cruiser weapon rips the entire shield down, resistance is useless. (Awful pun, I know.)
Use armor repair on your cruisers. Buy the best system you can afford. Unsupported armor won’t last long against some of the waves in those endless missions. Bear in mind that the more heavily armor becomes damaged, the lower its resistance to armor-piercing weaponry drops. The range of effect from when the resistance can still block fighters, to when it drops to zero and the entire armor belt gets chewed away completely, can be frighteningly brief. Plan accordingly.
If you’re using a huge amount of fighters, designing some cruisers that have at least one carrier bay isn’t a bad idea. These, too, will eventually run out of spare parts, but your fighters will live longer with them than without them. Make certain you don’t mis-set the fighters’ Caution order such that their retreat threshhold is unrealistically high; I often opt for 10-20% at most so that a damaged fighter - which will usually be slowed by said damage - can survive the trip back to the “carrier” now that its slower speed makes it fair game for many more weapons which have a lower tracking value!
Oh, are you using the Stick Together order for fighters? It is a huge help.