Each “incoming missile” alert in Nebulous: Fleet Command spawns a number of questions, scattering via your mind pan like chaff. Crucial of these questions is: “which missiles, precisely?” There are lots of species of self-propelled ordnance on this dangerously engrossing space sim from Eriadanus Industries – you’ll be able to design your very personal within the fleet editor – and whereas all are unhealthy information, some are far worse than others.
The least lethal varieties take their focusing on data from the ship that fired them. In an easy engagement, you can see the vessel involved, however craftier admirals would possibly use one more durable frontline ship as a spotter, sharing lock-on knowledge with one other, undetected artillery platform lurking within the radar shadow of an asteroid. If there aren’t any ships seen in any respect, the missiles could possibly be self-guided with their very own radar gear, and the knock-on query there’s precisely how far-off they’ve come from, and by way of what exact twists and turns.
I have never managed this myself, however in accordance with Fleet Command’s dense tutorial missions, you’ll be able to plot paths for sure sorts of missile, waypointing them across the map to catch the enemy flagship from behind, then letting the homing mechanisms take over (which assumes the enemy flagship is the place you suppose it’s). On condition that such missiles share sensor knowledge with the remainder of your fleet that fired them, they may also be used for reconnaissance, although you actually should not deal with them like disposable probes.
Each these kinds of rocket-powered nuisance might be dispersed or destroyed utilizing launchable decoys, point-defence turrets and “crafty” evasive manoeuvres – aka, slam that frigate round by 120 levels and set to “flanking” pace, on the danger of burning out your engines. Altering route could be very efficient given cheap timing. Many missiles, you see, have their targetting knowledge loaded into them the second earlier than they fireplace, so in the event you alter course instantly after they fireplace, you’ll be able to throw off the incoming salvo.
However every now and then, you learn the horrible phrase “hybrids”. These are the velociraptors of the missile menagerie, geared up with a second-stage “dash” function that makes rudimentary evasion and level defence all however ineffective. The sport’s kindly tutorial girl describes avoiding a hybrid as like avoiding a telegraph pole that’s corkscrewing in the direction of your face at a kilometre a second. Which I believe is underselling it, as a result of telegraph poles should not have large bombs connected to them, and so they aren’t able to monitoring your actions throughout a number of million cubic kilometres of vacuum.
There are two issues that may cease a hybrid. Firstly, laser turrets. And secondly, one other missile, offering it is launched properly earlier than the hybrid’s sprinting section. Offensive missile vs defensive missile exchanges are among the many many quiet beauties of a simulator that may appear desperately fiddly and obscure – nebulous, one would possibly say – with an acronym-sodden HUD’s price of menus inside menus. Glittering pink darts surge out of the black and are joyfully met by a coruscating inexperienced swarm of smaller interceptors, bursting into puffs of foil. It is beautiful to witness. However then just a few of the pink darts make it via, and now you have received no thrusters or radar protection down one complete aspect of your cruiser.
I am choosing aside all these particulars in hindsight, flashback by flashback. Through the handful of Nebulous: Fleet Command battles I’ve performed, I have been swamped in white noise, paralysed by the spectacle of icons converging on my battered and protesting fleet. Fleet Command can really feel completely overwhelming. The early entry construct provides you little in the best way of an on-ramp past the tutorial – no story mode, on the time of writing, only a collection of deathmatch variants and goal modes to play towards the AI or, shudder, the sport’s small neighborhood of inevitably over-practised gamers. However in the event you’re any sort of naval techniques nerd, Fleet Command is fascinating to consider.
Let’s discuss direct fireplace engagements – a sophisticated dance of hulls that’s directly agonisingly sluggish and extremely quick. Sluggish, as a result of the sport’s ships are ponderous – having locked onto an enemy, it could take them moments to get shut sufficient that each shot has optimistic odds of connecting. And quick, as a result of there are a frightful variety of micro-managerial choices to make whereas these juggernauts are approaching one another.
For one factor, there’s the query of spreading out your injury. Each ship in Fleet Command is a 3D association of parts and armour-plating. Whenever you come beneath fireplace, the parts on that aspect get hit first. Thus, in the event you cost immediately at one thing that is taking pictures armour-piercing shells at you, your ship’s ahead parts will find yourself filled with holes. This consists of your bow thrusters, which can be an issue for you once you realise your gasoline strains are on fireplace and battle to reverse out of hurt’s manner.
So what you need to do as an alternative is “angle-tank”. Fleet Command gives up a dizzying assortment of motion choices, from plotting out patrols via having ships orbit a degree in house to ordering your ship to journey in a single route indefinitely. On the subject of straight-up duels, you may give your ship a heading, which forces them to fly at a sure angle to the route of motion. This can probably make inefficient use of their thrusters, however it would additionally hopefully imply that incoming shells hit your armour at an angle, deflecting a bit of harm.
Nonetheless, the parts on that aspect will nonetheless take a beating. So you may in all probability need to maintain rolling and angling your frontline ships as they advance on the opposite fleet, to layer out the punishment. Doing this may also scale back the possibilities that your restore groups – represented as tiny hammer icons, roving every vessel’s schematic – aren’t killed when patching up programs beneath fireplace. However do not roll round willy-nilly, as a result of there are particular components of your ship that should not take injury in any circumstances. The comms programs that enable ships to obtain orders, for example, or the ability reactor. If it takes an excessive amount of warmth it’d overload, which isn’t an ideal consequence for both the spacecraft in query or any vessels close by.
Phew. Phew! It is loads, is not it? I have never even touched upon the fundamentals of reconnaissance and digital warfare – actively jamming enemy radar with cones of static, or minimising the chances of being scanned by spacing formations out and turning ships to current a smaller floor space for radar waves to bounce off. I have never talked about crew morale, or how one can tweak sure programs on the go – having your missiles launch “chilly” and ease across the launching ship with thrusters earlier than participating their fundamental engine, for instance, to make sure an unobstructed line of flight.
At instances Nebulous: Fleet Command looks like a vicious entice for Homeworld gamers determined to play one thing, something in the identical vein. It actually takes inspiration from the grand previous dame of 3D real-time house strategy – the identical boxy, diecast ship aesthetics, and a well-recognized bass drop once you change to the holographic planner view. However then you definitely attempt to play it like Homeworld, and realise you’ll be able to’t simply drag-select fleets and right-click them on the enemy – this can be a Severe Simulation, by which your prowess as an admiral might be deduced near-exactly from the distribution of shell craters on every hull.
Once more, it may be completely overwhelming. However it’s by no means brutally so. Have a look at the delicacy and apparent delight with which all these transferring components have been put collectively. Marvel on the symphony of every ship in movement – the best way its course and orientation correspond to the flickering of thrusters throughout its size, as if the hulk have been skimming via the void on feathers. If Eridanus Industries can discover a method to convey the intricacies of Fleet Command extra regularly, maybe increasing the present narrated tutorial right into a full single participant marketing campaign, this could possibly be an area navy simulator for the ages.