I have about a month invested in this game now, and I have discovered that I prefer to play as Substrate over PHC. I would like to discuss the various units and give my opinion and get feedback from others if you can.
Martyr - Only use at the very early game because they are cheap. Once you have a decent economy they are replaced by anything else.
Reaper - one of the best units in the game. Very versatile, fast moving unit that can 1 vs 1 beat any other frigate and groups of them can take down all cruisers easily except for the Zeus. They seem to have a slight nerf in the 2.6 patch (They used to annihilate dreadnaughts so they were a bit overpowered I guess), but still a phenomenal unit.
Capacitor - Obvious use as support to restore energy
Sky Cleanser - Excellent defense against the PHC T2 Bombers. 6 Sky cleaners is enough to defend against the big bomber.
Avenger - I have never found a use for them. They die much too quickly and Reapers & Drone Hives are better against frigates anyways.
Mauler - These are situational. They are incredible against Artemis because the can close in on them fast, but not much use against anything else.
Destructor - These are devastating against base defenses. I actually prefer these over the Artemis. They need protecting, however, because they are pretty weak on defense.
Drone Hive - You can build these pretty early on and they are awesome. They are good at capturing and holding nodes because drones are amazing.
Eradicator - These are something to waste money on if you have a huge economy, other than that they are too expensive and take too long to build compared to their usefulness. I guess they were supposed to be anti-dreadnaught cruisers, but they don't do a very good job of it. They are decent vs base defenses because of their long range and high damage cannon, but they don't perform well when grouped into a mixed unit army (they don't seem to know what range to stay at).
Masochist - Situational unit. Their best used as a defensive wall to protect your destructors when attacking.
Caregiver - I hardly use them because I build base regenerators. I can't justify a support unit that is weak on defense and has no attack when I can spend the resources on something else.
Mobile Nullifier - Critical if you are playing games with full orbitals turned on. So critical that I usually have an assembly constantly pumping them out exclusively.
Dominator - Best fighter in the game. Best used for nexus defense and harassment when attacking an enemy nexus. Make great fodder for air defenses to protect your other air units.
Punisher - T1 bomber that is only useful in massive numbers. Then they are devastating. Otherwise they are very weak.
Air Rampager - Not as good as the PHC version, but useful to have until you can build Harbingers
Air Harbinger - Most devastating unit in the whole game. These things are slow, but faster than the PHC t2 bomber. They have a decent defense and a ridiculously strong single target attack. They are like little flying deathstars. a group of 10 or more, accompanied by some Dominators, can destroy any base. They are also the best things you can have to destroy Dreadnoughts
Share your experiences
A few things:
Capacitors mixed in to an army eventually hit a point of clearly diminishing returns. At a certain point, your army will have sufficient energy to rapidly take down a large chunk of an enemy's army per battle. Once that point has been hit, you're better off fielding more offensive units rather than any more capacitors.
Caregivers are essential in any protracted engagement. Keeping your troops alive away from your base without them borders on impossible. If you're sitting back defensively, sure, rely on regenerators. If you're going after the enemy base or scooping up no-mans-land, stick several of them in the army.
Eradicators aren't exceptional at their main task (Dreadnought killing), I agree. They are decent at it however. And they have tremendous utility for something else: Several of them firing at a target can allow you to snipe enemy Cruisers and Frigates prior to an engagement. Anything that preemptively stacks the odds in your favour when fighting has a purpose. Consider stuffing them in their own army for hit and run deployments.
Avengers, like the Maulers, are a very niche unit: They excel at taking over neutral nodes. They're cheaper, faster and killier than the Drone Hives are at that role.
Drone Hives you're right: This is by far the Substrate's single best unit (Barring Dreadnoughts). Fielded on their own, they make an excellent "harassment" artillery. Stuffed in to an army, they still have utility against enemy Frigates
I need to do some more experimentation with Caregivers, but the reason for my assessment was that I used to build them as part of my armies and I never noticed that my army would last longer in a fight due to having them. Maybe need to have them in high quantities? What would be the ideal ratio? The fact that they have no attack is what really turns me off to them. They take up logistics and cost resources to make. Compared to the awesomeness that is the PHC Charon, it is a pale comparison as far as unit utility.
I usually never get round to adjusting my frigate production so I'm usually producing frigates in a ratio of: 5x Marty, 5x Reaper, 2x Capacitor and 2x Sky Cleanser. I play the PHC exactly the same way, but with the scouts/medics in place of the batteries and AA.
My cruiser production is similar to my PHC ratios as well with a ratio of: 5x Avenger, 5x Mauler and 2x Drone Hive as the basic ratio package. You got your anti frigate cost efficient 'tank', you got your anti cruiser 'tank' and you have your AA 'DPS' in the drone hive. Works great against basically all targets, especially when supported by a few frigate factories worth of the other ratio.
The Destructor is great when you need to crack some enemy defences, weather you are sitting back and bombarding or going in for a bloody assault. They are literally armed with a defensive pistol for defence, and so are frigate fodder in an open battlefield so I don't always build these until I need to attack enemy bases. I'll add 2x to my cruiser ratio.
Eradicator these guys have poor DPS but are designed to fight enemy dreadnoughts and actually live to tell the tale. They need support from other forces but are great DPS units who can survive the later games mass AOE damage spam. Alternatively you could just go mass dreadnought. It is nice to get them because I'm usually late to the dreadnought game, I'll add2x to my ratio even if that does throw off the timings of production. They are always the last to die and can often join the next wave!
Masochist's don't work very well as tanks in my opinion and they cost far far far too much to be cost effective in that role. Better to treat them to a wall of Avengers and Maulers who can adsorb the actual punishment while the rest get used to super charge the Masochist weapons systems. But when they get going they can obliterate whole armies and even tear into buildings with ease. Which they can only do while they are still alive, if damaged. 2x to the old ratio, and if I am doing really well on my AA game I might even replace the drone hives with them as the prime DPS cruiser in my armies.
Caregiver is a mobile shield regenerator. Can't fix HP damage but still regenerates shield hp for others. More hp the enemy has to chew threw for free once they get to work. I'll always add these to my ratio when I unlock them as even when playing the substrate I like my armies to be self renewing. 2x to the ratio, supports are always useful for keeping the tanks alive for a little longer.
Dominator ideally you don't attach these to armies but I do anyway as some extra mobile AA and anti drone. Good to have handy when the enemy uses bombers and cheap enough to not worry about.
The Punisher is a brutal precision bomber that can easily take out enemy AA without losses. Best against enemy dreadnoughts and buildings rather then armies. But they still wreak face against cruisers.
Air Rampagers are flying dps boxes that you should use to raid enemy economy buildings. I treat them as flying additions to my ground army.
The Air Harbinger is another precision bomber with a giant death beam instead of bombs. I'm more of a tank fan then and aircraft fan but these have some real potential for harassment. Absolute fodder against prepared mobile AA and fighters however.
Back when the basic factory could produce the fighter, bomber and scout I'd produce them on a 5x Dominator, 5x Punisher and 2x of the scout plane as I like my radar very abundant. With the other aircraft being produced separately in their own factories constantly depending on how I feel. Not sure what I'm doing with them these days.
I did play a campaign mission where I went for a ratio of 5x Dominator, 5x Air Rampager and 2x scout plane as a swarm to sit above my tanks. That was fun at the very least!
I'm assuming you're using mostly Cruisers by the time you're deploying Caregivers. If so, aim for a ratio of 1:5 (Dreadnought in army) or 1:8 (No Dreadnought in army). That will allow them to shore up weak shields, without taking up so much of the army space that it takes away from your potential. If you're still leaning on Frigates quite heavily, don't bother with Caregivers: Frigates will die too fast for Caregivers to keep them alive. Make no mistake, in spite of this, you will still suffer more attrition than the PHC, due to our inability to fully heal. In spite of that though, an army that would be half dead after the first node can be kept in the fight for significantly longer (It actually makes teleported deployments enough to "keep up" with attrition).
I also agree that the Charon is AWESOME. But still, between the teleporter quantum thing and the Substrate's general offensive ability, they don't really need the Charon in their lineup. What they need is a Medic.
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