EDIT: What is this ship designed to do? Build info says “Strong vs corvettes and frigates” but selection info says “anti-fighter/corvette”. Yet it can’t do any of these roles decently.
I’ve been regularly playing HW1 races in multiplayer since the game’s release and one of the most notable issues I’ve encountered is that the Kushan/Taiidan assault frigates are very useless in their intended HW:R role as anti-fighter/anti-corvette.
In several instances, I have tried to use them en masse against large groups of fighters or corvettes only to see the battle drag on endlessly rarely resulting in victory and often resulting in an easy retreat for my opponent or me losing most of my frigates especially due to even small quantities of bombers/laser corvettes/pulsar gunships.
For those of you who wish to skip this “thesis” of a post, scroll down to the TL:DR for a summary of the problems and possible solutions. Apologies for the extremely long post but I needed to be thorough and meticulous to show the seriousness of this balancing issue.
To begin with, let’s compare the K/T assault frigate with the closest analogue available, the Vagyr assault frigate. Both of these frigates have similar armament so it is the best comparison to make over the Hiigaran flak frigate:
Vagyr assault frigate (Anti-fighter):
Movement speed: 161
Damage per second: 127
RU Cost: 650
Armament: 3 x Flechette turrets, 1 x Concussion missile launcher
Note: Can have its armor and speed upgraded and Vagyr have access to firecontrol towers and command corvettes to boost its accuracy and damage.
Kushan/Taiidan Assault frigate (Anti-fighter, Anti-corvette):
Movement speed: 140
Damage per second: 178
RU Cost: 800
Armament: 4 x Assault gun turrets, 2 x Plasma bomb launchers
To roughly demonstrate the killing efficiency of each respective frigate, I set up a small controlled test where I recorded how long it would take for each one to destroy a fighter squadron of ships. Since the fighters and frigates were on the same team, all damage is reduced to 10% making the fighters’ effective HP ten times larger. Therefore:
One Assault Craft Squadron (30 HP per fighter * 7 fighters * 10 multiplier for same team = 2100 effective HP) for the Vaygr frigate to shoot at.
A group of four Kushan interceptors (50 HP per fighter * 4 fighters * 10 multiplier for same team = 2000 effective HP) for a Kushan frigate to shoot at.
Conditions are more favorable to the K/T frigate since it has more firepower and there is less total effective fighter health (2000 vs 2100) and less fighter numbers which means less time wasted from overkill due to fighter death animations.
Both frigates were positioned such that all targets were always within the firing arc and range of all weapons as the fighters themselves were stationary in passive mode.
Results below. TTK = time to kill (in seconds) rounded to the nearest integer
So the test was pretty conclusive; for a ship that has more firepower than the Vaygr equivalent, the K/T frig took an average of more than twice as long to defeat the same amount of fighter HP.
So why is the K/T ship so bad at killing strikecraft? Looking into the gamefiles for the ships’ weapons reveals the answer.
Vaygr Assault Frigate
- Accuracy vs fighters = 0.31 = 31%
- Accuracy vs corvettes = 0.13 = 13%
Concussion Missile Launcher:
- Accuracy vs strikecraft is close to 100% (rarely misses)
Kushan Assault Frigate
Assault Gun Turrets:
- Accuracy vs fighters = 0.137 = 13.7%
- Accuracy vs corvettes = 0.135 = 13.5%
Plasma Bomb Launchers:
- Accuracy vs fighters = 0.04 = 4%
- Accuracy vs corvettes = 0.07 = 7%
Now we prove why the K/T Assault frigate is so grossly incompetent as it has a turret accuracy of 0.137 against fighters. That is less than half the effectiveness of the Vagyr’s. The lack of accuracy vs corvettes makes sense for the Vaygr (0.13) but not the Kushan frigate (0.135) since it is listed in-game as anti-corvette too.
Accuracy stats like these do not belong on a ship designed to kill strikecraft. The fact that the Kushan frigate has an extra turret and slightly higher ROF does not change the fact that it is worse than the Vagyr equivalent.
Taking accuracy into account, the actual effective DPS of each ship is as follows:
Vagyr Assault frigate effective DPS vs fighter class:
3 turrets * 95 damage per turret / 2.5 seconds between attacks * 31% accuracy = 35.3 DPS
1 Missile launcher * 90 damage per missile / 7.3 seconds between attacks * approx. 100% accuracy = 12.3 DPS
Total = 47.6 DPS which would take 44 seconds to destroy 2100 fighter HP.
Vagyr Assault frigate effective DPS vs corvette class:
3 turrets * 95 damage per turret / 2.5 seconds between attacks * 13% accuracy = 14.8 DPS
1 Missile launcher * 90 damage per missile / 7.3 seconds between attacks * approx. 100% accuracy * 0.32 light armor damage penalty = 3.9 DPS
Total = 18.7 DPS
Kushan Assault frigate effective DPS vs fighter class:
4 turrets * 64.8 damage per turret / 2 seconds between attacks * 13.7% accuracy = 17.8 DPS
2 plasma bomb launchers * 128.4 damage per launcher / 5.6 seconds between attacks * 4% accuracy = 1.8 DPS
Total = 19.6 DPS which would take 102 seconds to destroy 2000 fighter HP.
Kushan Assault frigate effective DPS vs corvette class:
4 turrets * 64.8 damage per turret / 2 seconds between attacks * 13.5% accuracy = 17.5 DPS
2 plasma bomb launchers * 128.4 damage per launcher / 5.6 seconds between attacks * 7% accuracy = 3.2 DPS
Total = 20.7 DPS
The DPS and TTK for fighter damage are roughly consistent with the results of the test I performed. The Vaygr frigate easily wins all round as an anti-fighter platform and it is cheaper too. Realistically the Vaygr frigate also has better DPS against corvettes as the Kushan frigate rarely ever gets to even fire its plasma bombs at strikecraft because of it’s limited firing arc.
In practice, fighters get one shot by the turrets from both Kushan and Vaygr frigates. This also highlights the only advantage that the Kushan has which is that it deals less overkill as it has lower damage yet a slightly higher rate of fire but this has such a negligible impact on its effectiveness.
The plasma bomb launchers are redundant at the moment for a few reasons. They have horrible accuracy against all strikecraft (less than 7%) and they are hull-mounted with a very limited firing cone. Yes, plasma bombs are an anti-frigate/capital weapon but it is mounted on a ship designed to defeat strikecraft.
Another annoyance is that the AI will only actively point the bow of the ship to aim these weapons at frigate-sized targets and above. This is one of the main problems with Assault frigate AI when fighting strikecraft - once the ship is within firing range, it does not care what orientation the ship is in which often leads to the bomb launchers never hitting anything and targets positioned out of some of the turrets’ arcs.
HW1 Classic Assault Frigate behavior:
In the original game, assault frigates had much more refined behavior to engage fighter and corvette class ships.
Versus fighter class, the ship would point towards the targets only on the XY-plane (no pitching up or pitching down). This made sense since fighters are the fastest and most maneuverable ships so the frigate’s priority is to keep targets within the turrets’ traverse:
Versus corvette class, the ship would aim its bow directly at targets and use its plasma bombs to great effect with little or no misses. Screenshot below demonstrates the vertical angling of the frigate as it tries to aim for corvettes “above” itself:
This is the behavior that needs to happen with the assault frigates in HW:R if only to make the plasma bomb launchers useful.
If I had an upload rate greater than 512 kbps, I would be posting gameplay videos instead of measly screenshots show this.
Why Kushan/Taiidan Assault Frigates are underpowered:
- WTF is this ship designed to do? Build info says “Strong vs corvettes and frigates” but selection info says “anti-fighter/corvette”. Yet it can’t do any of these roles decently.
- Terrible turret accuracy vs fighters and corvettes.
- Plasma bomb launchers rarely hit strikecraft (less than 7% chance per attack).
- AI doesn’t bother to point the ships bow to enemy strikecraft which causes plasma bomb launchers to never be able to fire at anything and sometimes turrets too.
What should be done:
- Significantly increase turret accuracy against fighters and corvettes or corvettes and frigates (see EDIT below).
- Increase plasma bomb accuracy against strikecraft.
- Change AI behavior to mimic their HW1 classic counterpart’s combat maneuvering against strikecraft.
Whether or not the K/T assault frigate should be as equally potent against both fighter and corvette ships, on the same level that a Vaygr frigate is to fighters, may be a delicate issue. It’s important to note that HW1 races have adequate counters against fighter-class ships but no decent counters against corvettes.
Given that the Vaygr assault frigate costs 650 RU (and has access to upgrades and CC/firecontrol towers), a dual anti-fighter/anti-corvette role is justifiable for 800 RU.
Ideally I would have liked to have some videos to further cement the fact that these frigates are underpowered but unfortunately, I do not have the upload bandwidth or a partner to do such tests in a controlled environment.
EDIT: Now I’m confused. The build tooltip for K/T assault frigate says that it is strong against corvettes and frigates while the info when selecting one says it anti-fighter/corvette. Talk about a massive identity crisis.
If the build tooltip is true, its worth mentioning that it is mediocre against frigates too.
Anti-corvette and anti-frigate does make more sense since the Kushan already have the drone frigate which is, supposedly, anti-fighter/anti-corvette itself.
I am now of the opinion that the assault frigate should indeed be buffed to fulfill the combined role of anti-corvette and anti-frigate - this will alleviate clashing with the drone frigate and is better justification for the existence of the plasma bomb launchers.