Welcome back to another Astra Exodus dev diary! Today we are going to go over the pausable real-time space battles.
Whenever two hostile fleets engage each other a real-time space battle will take place. It is marked on the star map with a red target over a star system. This can happen while exploring, when you encounter galactic menaces, and more generally when a colony, outpost or fleet is attacked. Then the player can either retreat, auto-resolve or fight it out as a tactical battle.
When a Colony is under attack, depending on whether or not it has orbital defense installations, the defensive force will be bolstered by a static weapons platform. There are several types of these platforms available, from small Orbital forts to gigantic Stellar bastions and supporting Spacedromes with their strike-craft squadrons.
One of the most important factors to consider is that Armour and Shield damage is directional. This means that there is one section per facing (bow, starboard, etc.) for these defenses which you then have to wear down before actually damaging a starship. This obviously means that maneuvering, fire arcs and facing become quite important.
Fleets can have up to 49 ships each, meaning that a single battle can have close to 100 starships in total, not to mention any strike-craft squadrons that might have launched. Each of these fleets can be under the command of an Admiral, who, thanks to his or her skills, will surely impact the outcome of the fight.
The selection and command of units in Astra Exodus follow standard RTS practices. You click and drag to select a group of ships, generate control groups with control plus a number and right click to execute a context command, like move or attack.
Time Dilation controls are an important tool to manage the battle flow and allow tactics to be properly executed. This allows you to slow down the action to a total stop, or speed it up to accelerate time. In practice this means that if the player is overwhelmed at any point, he or she can simply press the Space Bar to totally stop the action and give any orders in the meantime. This system allows for the tactical depth required by the starship design system, without forgoing the spectacularity of real time battles that can hopefully be a blast (no pun intended!) to watch as they are to play.
There are some basic orders available to all starships. These are Halt, Retreat and Hunt Strike-craft. The first two are quite self explanatory, however it is worthy of mention how the Retreat order functions. Your ship will break away from battle, head towards the closest edge of the battlefield and open a Hyperspace jump point. It will be vulnerable in the meantime. The Hunt Strike-craft order will command the ship to target the closest enemy strike-craft squadron target and engage it as soon as possible.
Starships can also have special abilities available according to the modules they have installed. These can have a Passive or Active effect on the battle, meaning that in some cases they apply their effects at all times to the ship, while in other cases the player might trigger them, they will work for a given time window and then reset again with time.
Passive abilities include things like preventing enemy starships from retreating or reducing the penalty that armour adds to a starship’s tactical speed. These effects are constant and do not need to be activated. In contrast, Active abilities can be things like engaging a Spatial Compresor to teleport the starship across the battlefield or a Nanite Cloud to repair the ship mid-battle. All passive and most of the active abilities require the presence of a special support module in the starship design.
Among all Active abilities there are those which we can call basic, which only depend on the presence of core systems. These are: Boost Engines, Weapon Overload and Recharge Shields. Boost Engines allows for a starship to increase its speed momentarily at the expense of collapsing any shields available and reducing its weapons damage output. The Weapon Overload ability in contrast drastically reduces speed and shielding while increasing damage output. Finally, the Recharge Shields ability immediately resets a collapsed shield at the expense of speed and damage output. Basically, you are sacrificing all other aspects in order to benefit one, temporarily.