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Xenonauts-2 Air Combat Prototype & Effects on Strategy Layer

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Posted (edited)

Absolutely love this concept, brings back very fond memories of the weeks (accumulated hours :D) I spent playing the original X-Com but with a nice touch on the changes, can't wait to test it out!

Edited by Kaiphus_Kain

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It's weird. I guess this is what the people who are on about the ant farm feel like, this just gets an immediate ew from me just because I'm reminded of all those tiny two dollar video games that they used to hand out at McDonalds and in cereal boxes. I have no idea how to make the air game fun, not when you want it to be short, sweet, and free of obvious repetition but.. I can't think of how this will be fun. It's potentially interesting, but I guess I'll just have to see how it plays in the end.

The tactical ground game is awesome because there's an enormous variety of environmental tactics to flow through with an ever changing landscape of cover, injuries, accuracy, lines of sight, and soldiers/aliens who just play completely differently for each one. All completely interwoven with every other feature of the geoscape (research, development, healing, ect.) I imagine that someone will eventually want the air game to be the Third Game that slots into XCOM-em-ups. Where you'd have the Geoscape, the Battlescape, and the Airscape, but for now I think it might be doomed to be this awkward tacked on feature that's hard to make nearly as good as the rest of it.

In someways, XCOM2 had the right idea with getting rid of it entirely. It's weird to say that even XCOM:EU had a more complicated airgame than UFO Defence, but then XCOM2 ran into the even bigger issue of never really getting to decide what missions to take on or feeling responsible for their existence. At least shooting down a UFO feels proactive. All that's really needed is a way to make the player feel like they're choosing the missions rather than being handed them when the RNG feels like it.

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Posted (edited)

Just please don't do away with the idea of adding extra defenses outside of the main base (interceptor jets, anti-air missile systems, extended radar capability, etc ...)  And even though it might be factored as totally cosmetic, it would be cool to show countries that were being attacked in the RT aspect of the game (at least, those where you could pick up on the enemy ships with your radar) firing back with their own versions of anti-air missiles.  You might show these hitting by the dozens and not phasing the enemy ships one bit, or the alien ships appearing to get more pissed when counterattacked and then switching from observance / marine and ground-life casual interaction to more aggressive tactics, I dunno.  If you had the living, breathing feel of XCom Apocalypse and actually showed airliners crashing and burning or oil rigs going up in flames or class 5 hurricanes appearing out of thin air, these could be some cool 'extras' but barring those others, incoming ground to air attacks would still be a cool deal in my book .... Heck, if further in, you could strike deals to 'sell' some of your anti-air tech to certain countries you trusted not to use it against you, then some of that 'cosmetic' warfare might start to add up a little in your favor once you actually engaged the aliens ....

I did like an earlier suggestion about how you could respond with more firepower but you could bump up the 'threat level' of the aliens' perception and response to the Xenonauts - if this came in the form of more dangerous ships, more dangerous ship occupants, or base / outpost attack sooner than otherwise expected, any of these things could help shake up gameplay and keep things interesting !

Edited by Wyldefyre_CP

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Just going to add my 2 cents in.

 

Overall, I like the idea. Now, while I did like the old air combat, this does fit much better in with the TBS of this game. Also, with the different ranges and other values I can see a lot of possible reasons to equip some different weapons. Now, a meta could still emerge but going in fresh I don't feel like I'll have an immediate want for weapon to equip. Also, the idea of having weapons with only 3 turns of ammo is interesting. Sounds like it will be pretty short which will be a plus for some.

 

I'd also like to add that it would be nice to see the same type of ufos come equipped with different loadouts. That would really add in a reason to do one crashsite over another. Could also work well for making it harder to optimally equip craft before engaging. It could be useful to do it in such a way that the equipment isn't entirely random. Perhaps it changes based on race piloting it or on what mission it is doing. It could also be cool if different loadouts came with different interiors. I could see that working out good for the lore with having let's say a terror corvette having more weapons than a research corvette. Maybe one ship has a couple extra generators to power a bulky shield because it also comes with some escorts to protect it. That could also eliminate ships such as the landing ship and the scouts since now they might just be another layout of a different ufo design. Could also give extra purpose to a hyperwave decoder.

 

I also like the idea of making the planes drones. That could allow for a lot of fun designs and it make things a bit less finiky than assigning actual pilots. Could work well with their size and limiting what weapons and the amount of ammo they can carry and can work pretty decently against the size of the ufos you will be facing. I also like the idea of building extra drones than you can reasonably pilot all at once just so you can have some spares laying around in case you want to deploy more in one region or have some different options for loadouts. Pilots can be another good resource, but I would keep it simple. Adding in stats could be too much to have to manage. Finally, with them being drones (robotic in nature) that I think that could allow for a good bit of Andron application due to them being robotic too. I was always sad that you couldn't do more with them. Also could work well if the fighter ufos are just drones too. Finally, drones would eb mush easier to have stored in the base than full sized planes would.

 

Speaking of escorts, I'm not sure what is best to do with them. I like the idea  of them kind of being like terrain effects. Maybe they can give you a reason to change ranges since maybe they can do strafing runs on them. But, if they only do that, how will engaging them be handled? Perhaps the ufo acts as a drone controller and once it is done the fighters crash? But, if that's the case, that could make just fighter squads impossible. Maybe they have their own lanes and if not ship is in it they then get to do what they please? Like, you must assign a ship to them to engage them in a dogfight? That could work if you have a pretty powerful missile ship that is weak. this could keep some fire off them. Anything yall come up with will probably be good.

 

I might also suggest if you are looking for something else to do with limiting fighter squads is maybe making a drone control structure for the base. That could also add another limiter besides just not recruiting the other people. That could also allow for you to cycle the pilots out more. Also, maybe then you can add in some upgrades for the structure that adds in some bonuses. 

 

As for limiting the amount of ships you field by having that increase threat, while that is cool, I imagine the more you do such as shooting down ufos would increase that anyways. Also, that might not be the best way to make players not field more ships since people like me (probably only me though) will like to do as many missions as possible so what is one or two extra base defenses? I think adding in pilots work well especially if there is a bit more nuance than just do you have enough pilots. I think building a structure for them to use could be a better way to do it if that also allows you to recruit pilots at a significant cost. The benefit then of getting one from a geoscape op would be they are free.

 

Anyways, those are my thoughts. Really looking forward to being able to test this.

 

*edit* Also, in addition to the above, could be cool if different races also reacted to combat differently. Maybe Seballians are more aggressive than Ceasans. Could also add another layer to variety to aircombat.

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On 7/26/2018 at 5:17 PM, Ninothree said:

I've got to echo Solver's sentiment. The challenge shouldn't be a repetative one, that's just a chore; nor should the tactic to win battles be a repatitive one, that's equally dull. If each battle could present something new that would be best, e.g. there being enough UFO equipment/weapon loadouts for no two battles to be tackled the same way in one playthrough. 

I think that the ideal in my mind would be for the aliens to equip weapons or develop tactics in response to the player's previous tactics. e.g. if the player keeps rushing in with missiles, the UFOs start using close range defensive measures - this would then force the player to do some research. 

A cool thing about UFOs all using different and varied equipment, would be the potential to target and loot gear that you haven't already researched. Imagine facing a wave of scouts, one uses a shiny new shield generator. That is the UFO crash site to which you send your ground troops, because you want to steal the shield technology for yourself.

Like this idea a lot, stops the ground side getting dull and 100% repetitive.

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I'm glad the overall response has been largely positive to the basic idea. We're hoping to implement the basic mechanics in the game in the coming month and once all the fundamentals are working (it'll probably take a while to iron out all the bugs) then we can start to look at all the different ways the system could be expanded or better integrated with the rest of the game.

Thanks for all the suggestions. There's a lot of good stuff here and once we've all got a better idea of how it plays we can see what best applies.

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Posted (edited)

---
While this iteration of the Interception-game certainly ain't "Darkwind"esque as I personally concepted to be earlier, it is at least far more interactive and has more tactical-potential in comparison to many other iteration of "intercepting" in various games.

(( To be fair, the "Darkwind"esque / "Frozen Synapse"-like-interception could be a whole stand-alone-game itself;
we'll hopefully get to see see this comment of mine once thread-hiding isn't needed anymore. ))

Interception-"chaining"-wise I hope this "mini-game" actually does have some ties to the Geoscape-time-passage.
E.G. each turn in interception-game could be say five-seconds, which at first might not sound much but let's consider that Fighter-Jets "at this point" of the game-lore could easily reach speeds over 3500-kilometres per hour which is almost a kilometre in a (metric?-)second
(the example used here was "MiG-25 Foxbat"). ))

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Edited by Pave

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Posted (edited)

an idea could be that perhaps over the globe you have 2 maybe 3 secret/private airbases with enough range to combined be able to fly anywhere but 2 bases cannot launch at 1 ufo duo to fuel problems.

pilots then could be assigned to these bases.

 

if a ufo would fly into 2 airzones to prevent a player from engaging with 2 bases anyways you could have the ufo be on guard after one attack entering orbit again if it is approached a second time

 

and it could also add for event posibilities with one of these airbases being compromised because of legal action being taken against the hangars

Edited by jevry

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If you are going to be limited each player to only a couple of air bases, then could we have small range missile bases, so as to provide some defense to the other areas on the globe, and also be able to bring the fight to the UFO's.

Hope that we will be able, within the scope of the game, and time to put up a global defense of our Earth!!

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11 hours ago, Ruggerman said:

If you are going to be limited each player to only a couple of air bases, then could we have small range missile bases, so as to provide some defense to the other areas on the globe, and also be able to bring the fight to the UFO's.

Hope that we will be able, within the scope of the game, and time to put up a global defense of our Earth!!

Second that.  I'd like to also reiterate the idea of showing other countries anti-air attempts on UFOs in their airspace - this could be exclusively missiles if the idea of npc aircraft seems too much - but this is something I never see in other UFO defense games, and even if it's 90 - 99% cosmetic ("Those @#$! Americans chipped our paint job!" scream the aliens) I think it'd add immensely to the atmosphere of the game and not feel so much like you're operating in a vacuum as the only agency that gives a flip about the planet. ;) 

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If other countries starts to fire to ufos, then why would they use their air force to shoot down them. Then why do they not send their armies.. Then why... 

So even not so realistic, you should be the only one who react again alien armada with some planes and 10 brave soldiers. If you start to get help from earth, it would bring the why not questions. 

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4 hours ago, drages said:

If other countries starts to fire to ufos, then why would they use their air force to shoot down them. Then why do they not send their armies.. Then why... 

So even not so realistic, you should be the only one who react again alien armada with some planes and 10 brave soldiers. If you start to get help from earth, it would bring the why not questions. 

That always been the main target of suspension of disbelief in Xcom type games. Why are all the world powers standing by doing nothing aside from funding 8 dudes and 2 planes? The world's military should be able to do something seeing as you start with the same level of tech as them. However there would be no game if they did. I think sponsor country interaction with aliens should be purely event driven, like the map pins in X1, not having them intercepting craft on their own.

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For that reasons i love "Afterlife" geosphere.. it's more sense when you start small and taking territory one by one with missions. I like the Dune 2 style with other enemies and friends.. i would like to have it at Xenonauts with airgame.. i hope we lose this war and try to get the earth back at next game :)..

"We lost the war because we just miss any fcking thing!!!..." Old Commander..

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There's local forces in the ground combat; it would be cool to have some local forces aircraft in some of the air combats too. Hard to imagine it happening in the average interception but perhaps it's something we could include in the aerial terror sites that appeared late in X1, as it'd also make those missions feel larger and more impressive too.

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Another reason to try X-Com Apocalypse. When not infiltrated by aliens, the police actively attacks alien ships. They sometimes take one down, even. Why don't they send their armies to clean the site? Because YOU are the expert, they've already sent you their best soldiers, so that YOU can fight the alien menace. Sure, if the aliens attack an urban center, soldiers and police will confront them (as they did in X1), but your organisation is the one they're funding to take care of the aliens, so they're not going to risk their people by sending them against an alien ship.

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3 hours ago, Alatar said:

Another reason to try X-Com Apocalypse. When not infiltrated by aliens, the police actively attacks alien ships. They sometimes take one down, even. Why don't they send their armies to clean the site? Because YOU are the expert, they've already sent you their best soldiers, so that YOU can fight the alien menace. Sure, if the aliens attack an urban center, soldiers and police will confront them (as they did in X1), but your organisation is the one they're funding to take care of the aliens, so they're not going to risk their people by sending them against an alien ship.

It's a city and they got some police only. You are the most powerful military organization. 

We talk about earth here with numberless weapons and armies including nukes. Would you expect from USA to let a very little international organisation's touch to a spaceship on its land?

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Posted (edited)

I think Ravn7 had the right idea by suggesting card game elements, because it would allow the entire base concept to be kept, would solve the problem of too many interceptors and repetitive combat, and do all of this while being adaptable to different levels of integration and ideas.

In order to keep the game from becoming a complex deck building experience, you keep it very simple by each interceptor having a base set of cards, with each weapon and pilot (if you wanna stick to the pilot idea), adding their own set of cards to the pool available to that interceptor. Then at the start of combat each ship draws cards from their deck, with a new one being drawn each turn, then the combat plays out as mentioned in Chris's original post, but with the cards determining in which distances/conditions the ships can attack from and how much damage they do to each target. From there the card system could be expanded to include effects other than just offensive attack cards if desired.

The advantages of a system like this are many, like fights playing out very differently depending on the match up of card pools available to the player and UFO's, but a good card game should never feel unfair or chaotic, with hard and soft counters still being achievable. The other big bonus is this makes it very easy to balance a single UFO vs one interceptor, and that same UFO vs many interceptors, by simply having certain cards that the UFO can only field when out numbered. This solves other problems as well, like what if the UFOs now out number the player's interceptors due to escorts? The UFO can no longer use it's out numbered cards, having instead traded this for the bonus of escorts, but perhaps certain interceptors available to the player will have their own out numbered cards, making 1-2 of these interceptors ideal for fighting 3 UFOs , but would lose to that same UFO alone. This means that the player could still have lots of interceptors, but only certain numbers and combinations would be ideal to respond to certain threats at any given time.  Other advantages include making it easy to make different combinations of weapons/ships/pilots ideally suited for each other when dealing with different ranges and opponents, but it also lets you mix and match them for a more well rounded or wild card strategy. It also allows the implementation of different load outs for enemy air craft, as each UFO could have its base deck that would determine its general strategy, but would have a random pool of additional card sets for different equipment the craft could be carrying. 

For example, if you change the gain one escape charge per turn to the alien needs to draw a set number of escape charge cards in order to escape, you could have scout ships that had decks built around gaining charges quickly and few attack cards, which would lead to it being less predictable as to when it would attack and varied escape times, which in turn could be even more varied by a randomly assigned (or fixed and determined by the UFO's mission type) aggressive attack deck due to superior armaments on that particular scout, or an especially escaped focused deck due to a better engine. This would ideally make it hard to counter every single UFO every single time, so that you don't end up missing out completely on terror missions and base defense because your air game is too good.

Card elements also work very seamlessly with turn base games, and can be scaled up or down to cover more or less of the combat as one desires. It can be the mechanic that all the combat revolves around, to just certain systems, to just a random sub element to occasionally mix things up. It can also be tuned to be as simplistic or involved as per the needs of the game as different ideas are presented.

As for realism ever coming into question, the nice thing about cards is that in that regard you're only limited by your imagination when writing the cards description.

 

 

Edited by BDSMOverdrive
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I hate card games. It will break realistic tactical engagement. You got a plane with machine-gun and torpedoes but you should attack with machine-gun because you got only that card for now.. 

Just big no.. Give me something tactical or make it something just watch like a soccer manager game maybe with some option.. 

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Posted (edited)

If you think card games aren't about tactics, this is likely because you hate card games.

Regarding your realism concern, card game elements are very flexible as I've said above. If you felt that it would be unrealistic to never have access to all your weapons, the system could be limited to just special actions/conditions/inspirations in combat and not your attack options. The important thing is it opens up opportunities for more varied battles with different outcomes.

Also if it's just the idea of cards that ends up being the biggest road block for some people, the system is also flexible in this fashion, because if you've ever played a game where you weighed your options against statistical probabilities and the mind of your opponent (in this case the AI), then you've played a card game. For example: Say you make a very simple deck that consists of escape charge cards, special actions like the out numbered cards, and then added in blank cards in order to balance out the probability of drawing a specific card to your liking. If people like the idea, you now have a card game system that is adding meaningfully random elements to the battle system, creates an easy means of explaining why these random events are happening so no one's immersion is being broken, provides an easy means to visualize various events that would be hard to portray happening otherwise, and is also just something a lot of people enjoy. If soccer manager 2018's sales are sky rocketing however, you just take the statistical probabilities of each card and turn them into % traits for that ship. Now the battle will play out the same without ever having to see a card on screen, but there will have to be other ways of explaining why and how these mechanics are taking place. 

Edited by BDSMOverdrive

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On 8/8/2018 at 6:53 PM, drages said:

It's a city and they got some police only. You are the most powerful military organization. 

We talk about earth here with numberless weapons and armies including nukes. Would you expect from USA to let a very little international organisation's touch to a spaceship on its land?

No, if the UFO attacks your territory, you respond, as I said earlier, but the US has sent Xenonauts some of their special forces and funds just for that. It's a matter of jurisdiction. UFOs are your responsibility, not the military's. You are the one who has to deal with them, to gain expertise. And because they're paying you to do it, dammit! :)

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23 hours ago, BDSMOverdrive said:

If you think card games aren't about tactics, this is likely because you hate card games.

Regarding your realism concern, card game elements are very flexible as I've said above. If you felt that it would be unrealistic to never have access to all your weapons, the system could be limited to just special actions/conditions/inspirations in combat and not your attack options. The important thing is it opens up opportunities for more varied battles with different outcomes.

Also if it's just the idea of cards that ends up being the biggest road block for some people, the system is also flexible in this fashion, because if you've ever played a game where you weighed your options against statistical probabilities and the mind of your opponent (in this case the AI), then you've played a card game. For example: Say you make a very simple deck that consists of escape charge cards, special actions like the out numbered cards, and then added in blank cards in order to balance out the probability of drawing a specific card to your liking. If people like the idea, you now have a card game system that is adding meaningfully random elements to the battle system, creates an easy means of explaining why these random events are happening so no one's immersion is being broken, provides an easy means to visualize various events that would be hard to portray happening otherwise, and is also just something a lot of people enjoy. If soccer manager 2018's sales are sky rocketing however, you just take the statistical probabilities of each card and turn them into % traits for that ship. Now the battle will play out the same without ever having to see a card on screen, but there will have to be other ways of explaining why and how these mechanics are taking place. 

Cards are cool when they are alone. But when you try to use at a tactical combat, it becomes a card game with shiny graphics or a failure.. The biggest example is Endless Space series. You like it very much probably if you like the genre but its battle system is the weakest of 4x games out there. I would rather to have a full automated battle with random possibilities then choosing them from a deck of cards.. I am just against it. I don't want to play a card game for every ufo encounter.. 

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Posted (edited)

I've played through the first endless space and a little bit of the sequel, and I agree that the combat gameplay (if you can even call it that in this case) in it is the absolute worst. However, I fail to see how that's relevant because the battle system in that is a purely rock paper scissors number crunch with what is essentially an optional FMV that plays out, and so is neither a tactical turned based game similar to the air combat being conceptualized here, nor a card game.

I'm also unaware of this apparent reliable trend of mixing card games elements with tactical games resulting in shiny graphics or failures, but I'm always open to the suggestion with the right data. I've played tactical turned based games that incorporated cards in the past like metal gear ac!d that did just fine, and I see tactical turned based games like the upcoming space hulk tactics bringing in cards in order to fix certain problems with its combat system in the last game as well. If it's a trend that is plaguing the genre, it is not deterring others from using it.

As for just not liking card games, I hear ya, no game is for everyone, and I myself am not a die hard card game player. I'm putting it out here because I think it has a lot of potential, I personally think it would be a blast to play, and it's easy to convert ideas into the card part of card games and back again, so it's easy to expand upon it or scrap it based on feedback after it's implemented.

 

 

*An edit after posting this* So I went and watched an endless space 2 battle because like I said, I only played a little bit of the sequel, and it does allow you to play a card before the FMV combat begins, so I was in the wrong saying there was no card system. I still maintain the idea that it's a poor example, as endless space's combat is just a step above an auto resolve, and does not reflect turned based tactical games mixed with card games.

 

*An edit of an edit* I watched some more footage and read the endless space 2 wiki on combat just to make sure I wasn't missing something, and I actually understand now why you would think I was suggesting something similar to endless space 2's combat system. Combining the imagery one might get reading the wiki, and the pre battle screen one is shown in game, it certainty gives the impression that the player is about to engage in a tactical game possibly similar to what I have been describing. I assure you though that neither what I've been describing, nor the game examples I used above, are anything like endless space 2's combat, nor would I ever want it to be. From a purely aesthetic UI point of view though, the pre battle screen of endless space 2 (In game called the "ADVANCED BATTLE SETUP") wouldn't be the worst example of what the UI for a turned based tactical game mixed with a card game revolving around aerial ship combat to be inspired from.

Edited by BDSMOverdrive

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Using a card game setup for an air-combat mini-game has the advantage of mixing it up, it solves that issue of boring repetition. But I can see where Drages is coming from, cards just feel out of place in xenonauts. They work quite well in XCOM2 as cards on a strategic board - but a mechanic that draws cards from a deck for each interception would feel a little...clunky. However, I think that the same function, some random generator of combat variables, would work really well if it were given another face. It is just the aesthetic. Like the actual interception game itself is always going to look something like what people expect a radar display would look like.

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The other thing is that in a cold / secret war which may or may not progress to open warfare, the initial UFOs will be so small and/or have stealth capabilities that only by a complete fluke will anyone be able to detect them.  The Xenonauts will be the most likely to do so, since they are dedicating their efforts to finding the aliens, but other forces might also develop the means to do so, especially if Xenonauts are working closely with them.  With alien propulsion and inertial dampeners their craft are also very fast, so they can flee whenever any earth craft approaches.  Until you research new tech and/or find ways to cooperate with other earth forces, the only way to attempt to capture alien tech is to attack a base or storm a landed craft before it escapes.  One of your first grounded UFO missions might be one nation's military managed to detect and even ground a UFO, and they're inviting you to clear the wreckage and share the loot.  Only after you have better means to detect / catch up with / ground UFOs can you actually start to slow the aliens' progress on whatever their main goals are.  Then you need to decide just how much you are willing to cooperate with earth governments as that will have strings attached (sharing loot / developments with them), which is dangerous as they could end up as open enemies if entirely dominated, and/or renegade factions from them could steal resources / tech and fight you in other ways.

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What if we had not enough advanced fuel?

A way to limit the number of planes fielded could be to make elerium/whatever fuel much more rare. Either you construct and maintain a lot of basic planes (just one bit superior to conventional, allied planes) and see them being maimed quite fast, after the first few weeks, or you invest in hybrid tech to be able to launch the aimed limited number of balanced craft. That, rather than the maintenance system.

About environmental factors (to make the game less repetitive)

Each time a fight is initiated, at least two factors are rolled: Solar activity, Cloud density, ... These factors would differentiate the battlefield in impairing vision/short range aiming of un-upgraded human planes, jamming sensors/EW/CEW/guidance systems, basically altering the attack and/or defence figures.  Also, specially equipped planes could use EW/CEW ordinance that would affect one lane, one range or all the battlefield for 1 or more turn, etc. (Those decoying system could take a weapon slot, hence the need for more than three planes) (I know that you'd prefer less factor to make the balance easier, but this could be added afterwards)

Combined weapon attacks

I remember a game were you'd need to first pierce external hull with AP rounds before sending in HE rounds to wreck havoc in the internal structure of an UFO. You could say that elaborated weapons would have both effects in sequence but still, it could be interesting if you need a harasser to soften the target/lower the shield, followed by a killer to exploit the former damage. Not only would the planes' roles diverse, but perhaps the weapons' life duration could be enlarged (still in need of a laser canon before launching plasma torpedoes (or the reverse)).

Hard point targeting

On capital UFOs, it would possible to specify the kind of attack/aiming: propulsion, weapon system, life support, reactor. In case of success, not only would the air combat's odds turn to be slightly different, but the crash site could reflect the actual damage's location as well. Some weapons could perform better against particular hard points.

 

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