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Author Topic: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.  (Read 8687 times)

Offline zee_ra

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Currently, the THUNDERSTORM craft is the only one that has these three properties:
  • a speed sufficient to intercept most smaller UFOs (in could be argued that speeds over 4000 could not be attained without consumption of Elerium / Zrbite)
  • enough armor to withstand — and to have an option to withdraw from battle in time without suffering annihilation — a confrontation with a heavy UFO (like a cruiser, terror ship, or a battleship)
  • has no requirements for irreplaceable fuel items (like Zrbite or Elerium-115)
These qualities make it an excellent candidate for a general-purpose interceptor craft, with (3) being a critical factor for a craft to be a general-purpose one.

At this time, the only armament available for a THUNDERSTORM is a 2x heavy missile.  Such armament enables the use of a THUNDERSTORM in the heavy interceptor role, whence a pair of THUNDERSTORM crafts armed with 2x heavy STORMLANCE missiles, could in general shoot down a heavy UFO that flies in a patrol pattern at a lower speed.

At this time, there exists no option to utilize THUNDERSTORM with 2x cannon weaponry.  The takedowns of most smaller vessels — and even of terror ships — are feasible with 2x GAUSS CANNON weapons.  The use of STORMLANCE missiles, that require irreplaceable Elerium-115 resource, is wasteful for such targets.

The only other craft with the closest capabilities to THUNDERSTORM, that satisfies (3), and also has the capacity to field 2x cannon weaponry is the RAVEN.  The RAVEN lacks in both speed an armor, thus making itself as less-than-viable option for any missions that require support with larger vessel takedowns.

The only other craft that has nearly enough speed to consistently intercept the fastest alien vessels, including the most powerful ones, is the TORMENTOR.  This craft is capable of carrying 2x heavy missiles, and 1x cannon weaponry.  A pair of TORMENTOR crafts launched either from different bases, or even the same base, and armed with STORMLANCE missiles, could conceivably take down a single battleship, and at the same time be able to disengage from battle when necessary.  In special cases, the TORMENTOR may serve as rapid interceptor for smaller targets.  However, it is not fit for a general purpose interceptor duties, even when only armed with a single cannon, since it does not satisfy (3).

All of these observations suggest that a niche for a reasonbly fast general purpose interceptor, satisfying (1), (2), and (3) exists.  Currently, THUNDERSTORM fits this niche, but with the limitation that only weapons available to it are missiles.  Given the particular efficiency of the latter cannon weaponry (particularly GAUS CANNON), it would be a waste to ignore the opportunity to use those on a fast general purpose interceptor.  The TORMENTOR already has slots for a cannon, so it could be argued that such weapon system is suitable for a fast-moving aircraft.

As one option, I would like to request that a version of THUNDERSTORM be added that supports 2x cannon weaponry, in place of 2x heavy missiles.  It could be called THUNDERSTORM-K, for instance.

Please allow me to offer the following additional considerations.  The GAUSS CANNON is much more efficient than an equivalent STINGRAY, since it has a higher damage per shot, which plays role when penetrating shielded targets.  Thus, a craft armed with GAUSS CANNON, or a missile with higher damage output, would be much more efficient than the one armed with STINGRAY.

Please note that there exists a missile with a damage output equivalent to a GAUSS CANNON.  This missile is PIKE.  If it was available in a heavy missile bay, with increased, it would be a good replacement for the capabilities of a GAUSS CANNON on a general purpose interceptor.

It could be argued, that the presence of cannons is not suitable on a THUNDERSTORM, due to considerations of its engine technology and maneuverability constraints, etc.  In such case, a good replacement for the GAUSS CANNON is appropriate.  For the sake of balance, the replacement should have the same damage potential as the full STINGRAY bay.  For the PIKE missiles to have the equivalent damage potential to 12 STINGRAY missiles, a magazine of 8 would suffice.

Thus, as another option, I would like to request that a version of PIKE launcher would be added that fits into the heavy missile bay, with a magazine increased to only 8 or 9, istead of doubling it to 12, as was done with STINGRAY.  Perhaps, a slight decrease in reload time could be considered for this case, though optionally.  This could be considered as a GAUSS CANNON replacement for vessels less suitable for offensive close engagements.

Both of these options are interesting, and are consistent with the lore, and are well-balanced.  I am also interested in a discussion of these possibilities.


Offline krautbernd

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2022, 12:40:15 pm »
It could be argued, that the presence of cannons is not suitable on a THUNDERSTORM, due to considerations of its engine technology and maneuverability constraints, etc.
Let's be serious here, there are no such restrictions. The ability to carry only heavy missiles is specifically to prevent or at least disincentivize this craft from being used as a "universal" inteceptor, and I can understand why. If this prevents you from getting the best enjoyment out of the game simply add cannon slots to the craft.

As far as heavy missiles are concerned though I see no reason why other light missiles should not have a "heavy" variant akin to the stingray. They don't necessarily need to have double the ammuntion (balancing etc), but this would add to the usefulness (and utilarization by players).

Offline Juku121

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2022, 03:29:27 pm »
Let's be serious here, there are no such restrictions.
Didn't Solarius talk about craft power system integration at some point?

Anyway, I imagine a 'plasma cannon pod' can go into a missile hardpoint as well as anything else. Maybe it'll have some accuracy issues that way, but it's not as if it's a one-shot weapon.

As far as heavy missiles are concerned though I see no reason why other light missiles should not have a "heavy" variant akin to the stingray.
Diluting weapon choice. If that's not a concern, I see no other reason, either.

Offline Solarius Scorch

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2022, 03:34:57 pm »
Missiles and cannons are quite different in how they are mounted, so I'm not sure it would make sense to give both to the Thunderstorm. A separate Thunderstorm variant, like you suggested, would be more sensible, but I'd rather make it a different plane altogether, with similar tech level.

Now, let me ask the big question: is there a fighter craft which seems redundant, or completely useless? If yes, I could rework it into a new fighter craft as suggested in the first post. If not, I'd need new graphics, which may not be as easy (depending if I can plunder something from Piratez or some other mod, or I have to draw it from scratch).

Offline Juku121

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2022, 03:49:51 pm »
Missiles and cannons are quite different in how they are mounted, so I'm not sure it would make sense to give both to the Thunderstorm.
As said, you can give them a 'plasma cannon pod' with an integral power supply. Aircraft hardpoints can take a whole bunch of different equipment besides just missiles.

I'm not sure that's a good idea from a design POV, but you can totally justify it to 'make sense'.

I'd need new graphics, which may not be as easy...
There are a bunch of relatively good fits in Piratez: Hunter-Killer, Sabre, Predator, M-Wing. I'm using HK sprites for Ravens and M-Wings for Arrow myself.

As to useless crafts, MiGs seem pretty useless to me, but I suppose reusing those is not really workable.

Edit: There's also this, and I don't recall which mod I pilfered it from. I even have several pedia images for it.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 03:56:02 pm by Juku121 »

Offline zee_ra

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2022, 05:52:42 pm »
Now, let me ask the big question: is there a fighter craft which seems redundant, or completely useless? If yes, I could rework it into a new fighter craft as suggested in the first post. If not, I'd need new graphics, which may not be as easy (depending if I can plunder something from Piratez or some other mod, or I have to draw it from scratch).

I find the Elerium-powered crafts from original game, except for the AVENGER, to be completely redundant.  In fact, the only two crafts where the Elerium usage is justified at all are the AVENGER and TORMENTOR.  Everything else — all interception tasks, but the hardest ones — is more or less amenable to advanced human synthesis crafts.

However, I think it's justifiable to keep those crafts in game, if only as lore and logic continuity elements.  It's a rather boutique experience to build what has essentially been a research prototype for what appears to be a more advanced craft.

The same argument goes for the Zrbite-enabled crafts, though in this mod it appears to only be used with the IRONFIST craft, with no original TFTD crafts, like e.g. Leviathan, being available.  So, the point is moot on this one.

The fighter crafts in the following progression form a natural chain of advancement in capability:
Code: [Select]
MiG -> INTERCEPTOR -> RAVEN -> THUNDERSTORM -> TORMENTOR
I tend to skip the MiG and INTERCEPTOR, and use only RAVEN and THUNDERSTORM and TORMENTOR.  I find the need to actually use RAVEN late in the game, when THUNDERSTORM and TORMENTOR are available, to be the greatest disappointment with fighter designs.  I think it should be possible to make THUNDERSTORM usable for light crafts interceptions.

I never build DRAGONFLY, SKYRANGER, and SKYMARSHALL.  I find their lack of defensive capabilities to be a great disappointment.  In general, I have Kitsune as a general rapid response platform, and AVENGER for special rapid response missions.  One Kitsune and one or two AVENGERs is more than enough for the game.  There are in general four strike bases, with troops, the fourth having an IRONFIST.

A DRAGONFLY could be an interesting option for insertion into spy missions, but it needs to have a global reach.  Perhaps, an upgraded version of it should be considered.  The issue of what is appropriate for spy missions is an interesting one, and certainly worth a separate consideration.

I could imagine that slower playthroughs may be actually pressed to utilize Humvee, AH-6, as well as MiGs and INTERCEPTOR, or any subset of thereof.  I could imagine how certain playthroughs would end up dangling without the presence of these crafts.  So, their in-game presence is certainly justified.

Though I never use the MUDRANGER, since I do get access to OSPREY by the time I need to use a medium strike force (against a mansion at that point in game, usually), I think that its presence is justified likewise to that of Humvee, MiG, etc..

I absolutely love the DARKSTAR craft.  I think, that there should be a fully stealth troop transport available.  What about giving a special edge to IRONFIST, and making it invisible, and amenable for use in spy missions?  The AVENGER would be a troop transport strong with its weaponry whence it could fight off aggressive alien domination mission crafts attempting to intercept, while the IRONFIST would be the invisible one, a more insidious, oceanic, Cthulhu-like trait.

I think that SENTINEL is at best an intermediate prototype, in the same sense that Humvee might be as considered above.  I don't see how it would be ever built in a good playthrough : it's not good enough for its Elerium consumption costs (nowhere near the AVENGER and TORMENTOR), and THUNDERSTORM is actually better suited for whatever task that craft could be put on.  That is, THUNDERSTORM has enough of hull strength to withstand a couple of hits from the Battleship, and with a good pilot, it usually has enough time to shoot its full rockets magazine into the Battleship.

May I inquire, is there a particular reason why a TORMENTOR could not be faster than a battleship?  Is it conceivable for it to have speed of 6500?

The list of crafts deemed redundant is thereby:
Code: [Select]
DRAGONFLY
SKYRANGER
SKYMARSHALL
FIRESTORM
LIGHTNING
SENTINEL (??)

All in all, I think it would make more sense not so much eliminate any of the existing crafts, but to slightly adjust the current ones.

Missiles and cannons are quite different in how they are mounted, so I'm not sure it would make sense to give both to the Thunderstorm. A separate Thunderstorm variant, like you suggested, would be more sensible, but I'd rather make it a different plane altogether, with similar tech level.

The THUNDERSTORM looks like a one of the old strategic bomber projects, e.g. Valkyrie of USA or T-4 of USSR.  I think, it's only fitting that it by its nature would not be engaging into a more maneuverable combat that goes along with the application of a cannon.  There's a difference between performing an evasive maneuver against a distant missile or beam, and with dogfighting, and also with positioning a craft for a successful cannon utilization.  Shooting missiles specifically is much easier.  In fact, a craft design for such velocities might make the presence of external pylons undesirable, leaving only the internal bay as the mount point.

I think, there's a good argument for having THUNDERSTORM carry only missiles.  What I would like to see, is the ability to have a slightly stronger THUNDERSTORM platform for light interception.  Perhaps, I should experiment with dual STINGRAYs on THUNDERSTORM.  However, the fact that it cannot have PIKEs while it could have STINGRAYs seems a bit illogical.

I think that THUNDERSTORM fits very much perfectly into its tech level.  It's a craft that does not require Elerium, with limited speed, that is good enough to take on a Battleship, but only if supplied with top pilots, additional thrusters, and special missiles.

The presence of cannons on the TORMENTOR is justifiable by it being a maneuverable fighter craft.

All in all, I think it's more sensible to make stronger light rockets available for the THUNDERSTORM.  As noted before, the PIKE missiles are essentially a missile version of a GAUSS CANNON, and with effectively less power.  The presence of a cannon on TORMENTOR is justifiable by its advanced characteristics, which enable it to both have speed and cannon.  A counter-argument could be that at such speeds only beams are feasible, and the TORMENTOR needs to choose between laser and plasma.  The RAVEN would thus be the last aircraft to have cannons available.  A nice balance decision, reflecting the fact that speed has a cost.

There's no reason why there should be no universal workhorse aerial platform starting after the first third of the game.  Please note that the the rest of the crafts, particularly TORMENTOR, AVENGER, and IRONFIST, would have a very special niche role available to them, that THUNDERSTORM could have no hope of replacing.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 06:02:23 pm by zee_ra »

Offline zee_ra

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2022, 06:13:30 pm »
Let's be serious here, there are no such restrictions. The ability to carry only heavy missiles is specifically to prevent or at least disincentivize this craft from being used as a "universal" inteceptor, and I can understand why. If this prevents you from getting the best enjoyment out of the game simply add cannon slots to the craft.

As far as heavy missiles are concerned though I see no reason why other light missiles should not have a "heavy" variant akin to the stingray. They don't necessarily need to have double the ammuntion (balancing etc), but this would add to the usefulness (and utilarization by players).

You see, the great achievement of the THUNDERSTORM is its speed.  The speed is very important in interception.  It's also a craft that uses only generic fuel, and thus a candidate for a general-purpose interceptor.

Concerning your argument about missiles, please allow me to introduce the following objection.  Observe, that other missiles, like STINGRAY, and STORMLANCE, while being light, were made available for heavy mount points.

Please also note that the use of Avalanche on THUNDERSTORM platform is certainly not infeasible, but there are other optimum solutions possible, and there's no  reason for them to be artifically eliminated and/or interfered with.

Offline zee_ra

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2022, 06:21:12 pm »
As said, you can give them a 'plasma cannon pod' with an integral power supply. Aircraft hardpoints can take a whole bunch of different equipment besides just missiles.

I'm not sure that's a good idea from a design POV, but you can totally justify it to 'make sense'.
There are a bunch of relatively good fits in Piratez: Hunter-Killer, Sabre, Predator, M-Wing. I'm using HK sprites for Ravens and M-Wings for Arrow myself.

As to useless crafts, MiGs seem pretty useless to me, but I suppose reusing those is not really workable.

Edit: There's also this, and I don't recall which mod I pilfered it from. I even have several pedia images for it.

The limitations on the available slots could make sense, since when hypersonic speeds are achieved, new physical effects come into consideration.  It's not inconceivable that weapons on hypersonic jets need to be stored inside inner compartments, and that kinetic cannons are not amenable to such settings.  It's both the greater opposite air speed affecting the projectile, and the issues of maneuverabiilty at such speeds (particularly concerning the THUNDERSTORM).

In general, after the tech level of THUNDERSTORM had been achieved, the greatest issue is how to take down the battleships, especially the aggressive ones.

It stands to argue, that truly hypersonic fighters could only hope to use beams, and cannons should be limited to the lower speed crafts, like RAVEN.  Such is the cost of speed.

Also, please consider the following perspective.  The presence of heavy missile pods is to enable certain capabilities that are not available for the lighter missiles.  Whether it be the missile size, or the missile number.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 06:39:47 pm by zee_ra »

Offline zee_ra

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2022, 06:32:37 pm »
Let me adjust my original suggestion to the following one.

  • Replace the cannon slot on any craft faster than RAVEN (or perhaps, another pre-defined number, sufficiently below the 4000 corresponding to THUNDERSTORM in particular, and hyper-sonic threshold in general) with the beam slot.  This represents the cost of fighting at the hypersonic velocities: the use of cannon simply becomes impractical at that point.
  • Make PIKE missiles available in heavy slots, with 50% greater magazine, as opposed to 100% greater magazine capacity as had been the case for STORMLANCE and STINGRAY.  This represents a practical replacement of GAUSS CANNON capabilities available on lower speed tier crafts with similar, but albeit more limited, capabilities on higher speed tier crafts.

Offline Juku121

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2022, 06:57:16 pm »
It's not inconceivable that weapons on hypersonic jets need to be stored inside inner compartments, and that kinetic cannons are not amenable to such settings.

It's both the greater opposite air speed affecting the projectile...
RL autocannons already can be carried internally, even if in many cases they aren't. F-35A has its GAU-12 within the fuselage, for example, while F-35B and Harriers carry theirs externally.

You also get a speed boost from the aircraft itself 'carrying' the bullets.

I do agree that autocannons firing bullets travelling at half the speed of the craft itself are kinda suspicious, and a fixed mount does no wonders for accuracy. That should apply for beam weapons as well, though.

Replace the cannon slot...
This represents the cost of fighting at the hypersonic velocities: the use of cannon simply becomes impractical at that point.
I disagree when it comes do hypervelocity cannons like Gauss/MD. These must already have that problem solved to even work. I suppose making the autocannons a separate weapon type and removing that would work better.

I never build DRAGONFLY, SKYRANGER, and SKYMARSHALL.  I find their lack of defensive capabilities to be a great disappointment.  In general, I have Kitsune as a general rapid response platform...
This is more of a problem of the Kitsune being available so early, not an issue with the Sky... craft.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 07:04:21 pm by Juku121 »

Offline zee_ra

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2022, 06:05:58 am »
This is more of a problem of the Kitsune being available so early, not an issue with the Sky... craft.

The SKYRANGER, SKYMARSHALL, and DRAGONFLY are too weak to be a main troop carrier.  In a sense, they're hardly different from OSPREY.  They are too easy to intercept by even a very basic enemy, which is a source of major disability.


You also get a speed boost from the aircraft itself 'carrying' the bullets.

That may be so in case of head-on course, but the situation is reverse for the intercept course.

The cannon confers additional relative speed to the projectiles, so we may assume the crafts to be stationary, if their speeds are matched.  When maneuvering comes into play, the situation becomes quite distinct, though.

I disagree when it comes do hypervelocity cannons like Gauss/MD. These must already have that problem solved to even work. I suppose making the autocannons a separate weapon type and removing that would work better.

This speed of beam propagation is still negligible compared to the speed of light, or a large fraction of thereof (even e.g. 10%).  Note that even in the case of plasma, the beam consists of particles contained by a gravitic field.

For all practical purposes, the beams are instantaneous.

RL autocannons already can be carried internally, even if in many cases they aren't. F-35A has its GAU-12 within the fuselage, for example, while F-35B and Harriers carry theirs externally.

You also get a speed boost from the aircraft itself 'carrying' the bullets.

I almost forgot, but it's something that might have been implemented since 70s in military fighters by the major powers.  Thank you for mentioning that.

That should apply for beam weapons as well, though.

Consider the description of a plasma beam.  It is mentioned that the beam is shaped with the aid of gravitic field.  Hence, the greater range.

Considering the laser, it's easier to shape the flow of photons inside the cannon than it is to e.g. orient a whole cannon (which would be necessary in case of a kinetic weapon, like gauss cannon).
« Last Edit: July 30, 2022, 06:26:01 am by zee_ra »

Offline Juku121

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2022, 09:38:02 am »
The SKYRANGER, SKYMARSHALL, and DRAGONFLY are too weak to be a main troop carrier.  ... They are too easy to intercept by even a very basic enemy, which is a source of major disability.
Yes, but barring the Kitsune, you won't have the luxury of getting a craft that has self-defence capability until way into the invasion. So this is again not a criticism of these craft in their own time and place, but a problem with the Kitsune invalidating that.

Escorting is also a feature, one explicitly meant for such a scenario.

When maneuvering comes into play, the situation becomes quite distinct, though.
You need an inertialess drive or similar (like a UFO ;D ) to be able to maneuver meaningfully at those speeds. BVR combat is a much bigger thing even today, anyway. This is one big criticism of any Xcomlike ever, there's a strange focus on WVR combat that hasn't existed in the real world since WW2.

There was a whole generation of US fighters that did away with autocannons because of that, and the reasons those came back had little to do with dogfighting.

This speed of beam propagation is still negligible compared to the speed of light, or a large fraction of thereof (even e.g. 10%).  Note that even in the case of plasma, the beam consists of particles contained by a gravitic field.

For all practical purposes, the beams are instantaneous.
What does all of this have to do with mass drivers? And it doesn't matter if projectiles aren't relativistic since the craft aren't, either.

Considering the laser, it's easier to shape the flow of photons inside the cannon than it is to e.g. orient a whole cannon...
Look at the craft weapon images. All of them are barrel-shaped, so still need orienting. None of them are balls that spit out beams in whatever direction the user fancies.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2022, 09:40:23 am by Juku121 »

Offline krautbernd

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2022, 12:37:24 pm »
Missiles and cannons are quite different in how they are mounted, so I'm not sure it would make sense to give both to the Thunderstorm.

@Solarius, OP offered an alternative - a heavy missile version of the PIKE, akin to the stingray. Why would'nt this be an option?

Offline Rag

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2022, 09:19:24 am »
I personally loved DRAGONFLY and used it all the time once I had it available until getting SKYRANGER. It took me a few months after getting promotion 3 until I got Kitsune so I made good use of SKRANGER until then.

When it comes to "useless" craft, for me any interceptors before RAVEN never got any use. I tried using the freebie CF105-ARROW but it barely caught up with small UFO and even with savescumming only managed to shoot down 1 UFO with it before invasion. I then ignored making the other early game interceptors as I had no use for them. I skipped INTERCEPTOR and went right for RAVEN before finally making those in preperation for the invasion.

I had my RAVEN squad ready about a month before invasion then used those for most of the game until getting TORMENATOR, STARFIGHTER and FIRESTORM (preferring plasma beam over missiles myself) I am sure if I struggled on research I could have made do with INTERCEPTOR or maybe even MiG if unable to research RAVEN in time for invasion, but since I was able to rush to RAVEN I just ignored all previous interceptors until then.

As for armament, outside of wishing for plasma beam on everything as I just love me some plasma beam. I tended to use STINGRAY missiles the most either in light or heavy form. I tried using PIKE / STORMLANCE but felt they ran through my alloy / elerium supply too quickly while the STINGRAY was good enough to handle most small ships and the GAUSS CANNON handled most other stuff. Money was no longer an issue during the invasion so I would much prefer to waste it all on STINGRAY / GAUSS instead of eating into precious supplies.

Offline Vakrug

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Re: Considerations for the THUNDERSTORM craft configuration options.
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2022, 11:26:38 am »
Very strange comment. How can you do any serious mission with DRAGONFLY if they are challenging enough even with OSPREY?
In my playthroughs I always get Kitsune far earlier then I research SKRANGER. It, of course depends on priorities, and I have no incentive to rush for SKRANGER when I have OSPREY.
But CF105-ARROW is not designed for fighting UFOs. It's main purpose is to spot cult mansions. Also it can catch syndicate's DRAGONFLYs while "Little Bird" cannot.
As for armament, pretty much everything can be shot down with Avalanche without taking a backfire. I with there were some benefits to use anything besides Avalanche, but I don't think there is.