FreeSpace 2 Tactical
Alright pilot, lets get to the basics of space combat in FreeSpace 2. In the deep cold of space, nobody can hear you scream, so don't get yourself killed, that's the first rule in any handbook.
If you have the choice, you should make sure you check ever aspect of your ship and wing configuration. Going with the standard loadout may get you by, but there may be better or preferred weaponry out there.
When you hit space, first thing you should check is the nearby friendly ships, your current velocity, armed weapons and configurations, and if there is any immediate threats nearby.
Protecting a friendly vessel can sometimes prove quite challenging, especially when the enemy forces outnumber you. Fortunately, you can use some things to your advantage. Order your wingmen to protect your escort target, or escort wing. The target being escorted usually has some defenses of its own, use those to your advantage. I've seen many a Basilisk splashed because escorting fighters drew the Shivan fighters into range of the bigger ships guns. If you have 2 wings to work with, this is even easier, you can usually assign one wing to escort while one engages the enemy ships at long range.
If you're helping fend off an opposing capital ship, remember to take out its main beams as soon as possible. When stripped of their beam weapons, capital ships lose much of their offensive firepower, and this can give you a critical advantage in battle. Once the main beam weapons are out, target the anti fighter beams, especially if you're defending a small ship like a cruiser.
Assault missions usually come in a few flavors. If your attacking an enemy cap-ship, then you'll be wanting a bomber of some kind (usually Sekhmet or Boanerges) and a loadout of Cyclops or Helios. If your mission requires the escort of a bomber wing, then you better have a few Perseus with Harpoons at the ready.
When attacking enemy cap-ships, make sure you knock out some of the turrets or the weapons subsystem before letting loose with the space bombs. Anti fighter beams and Flak cannons are particularly good at eliminating incoming bombs, but even standard plasma turrets can find their marks on occasion.
Stealth missions can be among the most challenging to fly, requiring top notch reflexes and situational awareness. Remember to stay as far away as possible from patrolling fighters, and avoid firing your weapons at all costs.
The HUD (Heads Up Display)
The most important interface in the entire game is your Heads Up Display, or more commonly known as HUD. The HUD used in FreeSpace is robust, giving you many options on the brightness, color, and numerous displays designed to help you during the conflict.
The Main Flight Controller
The Main Flight Controller (MFC) is the cluster of instrumentation at the center of the screen, and contains an enormous number of extremely valuable tools. A majority portion of your time in your ship will be spent looking at the MFC since it serves as the focal point of your ship's weapons, flight path, and most critical readouts.
The center of the screen shows the targeting reticle, three small slashes in a triangular arrangement. This where your weapons are pointed. Note that this is the center of your ship's axis, straight ahead in other words. The ship's weapons will be mounted away from the center to varying degrees. For some craft, the distance between the weapon's actual muzzle and the targeting reticle is quite dramatic! It is only through experience and observation that you will be able to know where your weapon's shot is actually going to land relative to the reticle.
Directly below the reticle is a summary of your target's hull and shield strength. This is the same information as presented in the target information box, but here you can see it without taking your eyes off the target. Surrounding the numeric hull strength are four sectors showing shield power. If a quadrant is down, it's good to try hitting that part of the ship rather than chewing on other shield quadrants that are still active.
There are four types of indicators that orbit the edge of the MFC. They are:
1: The target directional indicator: A solid arrow will point the the direction to your current target if that target is not near the center of your view.
2: The aspect indicator: A small "T" shaped marker shows the current aspect, or facing, of the target relative to your ship. If the aspect indicator is in the upper half of its orbit, then the ship is facing toward you. Conversely, if the indicator is in the bottom half, then the target ship is facing away from you. 12 o'clock means the target is heading straight at you, 6 o'clock means you're staring up its engine exhaust. 3 and 9 o'clock indicate directions of travel that are roughly perpendicular to yours.
3: The attacking hostile indicator: One or more hollow red triangles point in the direction of hostiles that are currently attacking (targeting) you. These can be cycled through by using the "Next nearest attaker" key (default 'R').
4: The incoming missile indicator: One or more yellow triangles will point the direction of incoming guided missiles. The length of the line extending from the point of the triangle shows the missile's approximate distance. You will also hear a series of warning beeps that increase in frequency as the missiles near you. Be aware that no warning is shown for dumbfire or manually detonated missiles; you must learn to recognize these weapons by sight and sound alone.
On the left side of the MFC, are your throttle setting and afterburner gauge. Your engine's top speed is displayed; this number will change depending on how much power you have allocated to engines. Your current throttle setting is displayed as a hash mark on this scale. If your ship is set to automatically change speed to follow your target, you will see an "M" indicator next to your throttle setting. The afterburner gauge simply shows how much power is available to drive your ship's powerful afterburner boost feature.
On the right side of the MFC, are the two threat indicators and the weapon energy gauge. The thread indicators show you when an enemy is firing their primary guns at you (top icon), or is attempting missile lock (bottom icon). You will also receive an audible warning if the enemy is trying to missile-lock you. The weapon energy gauge simply shows how much power is available for the firing of your primary guns; keep an eye on this one, as if it reachs zero, you can't fire your guns until some power recharges. If the level gets very low, a percentage will be shown.
This shows the current wings under your command. Each dot represents a fighter. All are organized into their respective wings (Alpha, Beta, Delta, Epsilon). There may be more wings under your command than shown here. An easy way to see what wings are under your command is to bring up the communications window (default 'C' key), and choose "Wings" ('2' key).
When one of the fighters is under fire and taking hits, their dot will flash briefly. Be sure to keep an eye on the status of vulnerable wings like bombers. A solid green dot is good; a solid red dot means that the fighter is badly damaged. If the dot turns to a hollow green circle, then the ship has left the combat area. If it's a hollow red circle, then the ship has been destroyed.
This display allows you to keep tabs on friendly or enemy craft that are vital to your mission objectives. It allows you to quickly target these ships with a single key press. The monitoring display shows the current hull strength of the target, and will also flash briefly if that ship is under fire. A "D" is shown next to the line if the ship is disabled and unable to move. Be aware that you have control to add or remove ships from this list via a menu shown when pressing te F4 key.
The top of this display shows your primary weapons. The bottom shows all secondary weapons. Active weapons are marked with a single triangle. In the secondary display, missiles can be dual fired. When such an option is selected, a double triangle is used to mark the display.
This shows where your energy is being allotted to. When your craft is equipped with shields, this is broken into 3 bars, when there is no shields, this is shown with 2 bars. Each bar represents Guns, Shields, and Energy respectively.
Target information box and targeting bracket
When you select a target, it will be surrounded by a box so you can keep track of it easily. Its distance will be shown under the box. Note that this distance may vary from the one shown in the target information box, since one is showing distance to the target's center of mass, while the other is showing the distance to your currently selected turret or sub-system. To the right side of the box, you may see a number of colored dots. These dots indicate how many of your squadmates are currently assigned to the target. On an allied target, these dots indicate wingmates guarding the target ship. On a hostile target, dots indicate wingmates that are attacking this target.
In the lower-left of the screen is the Target Information Box. This gives you vital details on the stats of a targeted ship. This information includes:
- a visual representation of the target, showing its orientation relative to your ship.
- the ship's hull strength, shown both as a percentage and as a bar graph on the right side of the box.
- if the target has shields, then a diagram showing their shield quadrants and each one's relative strength will be displayed.
- the target ship's distance, and speed
- docking status, whether the target is attached to or hauling something else (for example, a cargo container or a transport).
If the target is an allied ship, then you will receive additional information, namely its current orders and estimated time to completion (if applicable). When you select a turret or sub-system of the target, then additional information is shown: the name of the selected subtarget and its strength.
In the case of both the target information box and the target bracket, your current subtarget will be shown as a second set of brackets. If the subtarget is visible to you, then its bracket will be a square. Otherwise, it will be a diamond with an X in it. Be aware that sometimes this may be innacurate. If it looks like the subtarget should be in view but the computer says it isn't, you may still hit it.