Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Starsector

Go To
The comforts of the high age of civilization are but a memory.

Starsector is an independent role-playing/sandbox/strategy/trading/exploration/space combat game by Fractal Softworks.

The Domain of Man's latest expansion effort into the Persean Sector has been halted by the sudden and catastrophic collapse of the interstellar Gate network that connected the burgeoning empire to its colonies. The Persean Sector, struck in the middle of the colonization process by the Collapse, was severely crippled by the sudden destabilization of the colonial supply effort. Partially terraformed worlds were left unfinished and largely uninhabitable, some of them lightly populated by the now decivilized colonists who were unable to leave. The Black Box devices used to build ships and construct colonial industries became priceless and irreplaceable overnight, as the colonists lost the knowledge necessary to construct or even repair them. Desperate factions, from the militaristic Hegemony to the ferociously economic megacorporation Tri-Tachyon, fight over the few remaining habitable worlds, while sending scavengers out into the untouched for centuries border systems to scavenge for long lost blueprints to technology they no longer possess. And many of them don't return, lost either to roving bands of pirates, fundamentalist terrorist cells dedicated to the destruction of industrial society, or the unforgiving and hazardous star systems of the Sector. It has been centuries since the Gate network collapsed, and the Sector is on the decline as more and more technology is irretrievably lost in the conflict for survival. And all the while, something stirs deep in the far reaches of the Sector, something that predates even the Collapse.


You start your captaining career with nothing to your name but a few thousand credits, a small crew, and a few combat capable frigates with accompanying support vessels. Or cruisers if you choose the mercenary/explorer start. Through blood and sweat you will gradually build a fleet, amassing control of fighters, bombers, interceptors, carriers to repair them in, various frigates, supply transports, fire support ships, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, all the way up to massive capital ships. And almost every single one of these ships can be further customized to fit your needs. In time, you may even be able to start your own personal colonies and faction. With sheer firepower, clever tactics, and no small amount of luck, you will eventually grow in power such that you will have the capacity to decide the fate of the factions, be that unifying them or destroying them outright.


Combat is hectic and extremely detailed, feeling like the love child of Star Control and MechWarrior. You have direct control over your flagship, and use a tactical map to set objectives and standing orders for the rest of your fleet. Your AI officers will then assign available ships to complete those objectives, leaving your flagship to support the fleet however you feel is best. You have a limited amount of command points to set objectives with, target specific enemy ships, and to position your friendly ships, which regenerate slowly as the battle progresses. While this sounds like a Scrappy Mechanic, it actually works well due to some rather good AI.

Larger battles have an element of Capture the Flag to them, with various types of control points appearing on the map that give bonuses when captured. Taking them grants more command points, extra fleet points to call in reinforcements from your main army, and even direct boosts to your fleet such as maneuvering bonuses and radar extension. Capturing these early (and preventing your enemy from doing the same) helps to turn the tide of battle in your favor immensely.

The game is still in early development, with new versions arriving every few months. Don't be scared away by the fact that it's still in alpha; there is a massive list of features implemented so far, and combat is already more rich and rewarding than most finished games. At the moment it's still less than full price to pre-order, which gives access to the alpha.

Starsector provides examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Humanity is the only known sapient organic species and the only suggestion that this even might not be the case is a bit of in-universe speculation in the Onslaught's codex entry suggesting that some people believe the Onslaught was created to defeat some now-forgotten alien threat.
  • After the End: While the game's lore is only explained in blog and forum posts at the moment (and subject to change if/when the devs decide on something better), this is the current state of things. The sector of space where the game takes place was in the process of being colonized by the Domain of Mannote  when every jump gate connected to the Domain shut down simultaneously. Most of those living in the sector were simple colonists, completely reliant on technology yet lacking any understanding of it. Many planets were only partially terraformed, and the collapse of the gate network left them borderline unlivablenote . Everything quickly went From Bad to Worse, much worse. It's now been just over two hundred years since the Collapse, and ever-increasing amounts of technology have been lost due to the constant conflict.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Almost every factions—except the Independents and Pirates—have banned on AI Cores and established a bounty system for turning them in, rewarding credits and reputation. Installing cores in your colonies brings significant bonuses - but also confrontations with both Hegemony and the Luddic Path. This measure is the result of TriTachyon's AI Fleet, which became sentient and Turned Against Their Masters, devastating civilization in the sector. The AI Remnants - the surviving AI Cores from First and Second AI War - can be found in systems marked with warning beacons and often send out distress signals to lure unsuspecting ships to their doom.
    • Actually having an AI Core installed to run a colony of yours works very well in itself, and they can provide a number of benefits even if not installed as governors. The main problem comes from keeping the Hegemony and Luddic Path from turning hostile because of that. And if you afterwards do decide to remove the AI Core, it will have a perfectly rational self-preservation response...
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Averted. There are precious few planets in the sector that are even in the ballpark of habitable, and fewer still that can truly be considered comfortable to humans. The Collapse stunted the sector's nascent terraforming efforts to the point that 200 years later, the combined population of all human settlements is still an order of magnitude smaller than Earth's today.
  • All There in the Manual: There's an in-game Codex that gives a good level of detail on (almost) every ship, class, and variant in the game, down to individual weapon systems, ship stats, and even the in-universe history of that particular ship or weapon. It's missing a few entries in the current version that the campaign fleet overview shows, but nothing major. Just about the only combat-relevant information it doesn't tell you are the firing arcs of a ship's weapons. Those you learn from experience. Painful, painful experience.
    • Notably, much Spoiler material is also hidden from the Codex (for obvious reasons).
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Sometimes the range of a ship's weapons will be barely more than the length of the ship itself.
    • The Tachyon Lance justifies this by saying that, despite the weapon's theoretically unlimited maximum range, the projectile is 'hardcoded' to disintegrate and become harmless beyond a certain distance in order to reduce the chances of severe collateral damage. Several projectiles remain dangerous beyond their listed range — missiles in particular can still damage anything they collide with even after they run out of fuel. Although they may just bounce off anything they hit.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: As a general rule, EMP weapons will send arcs through shields if the target ship's flux level is high enough.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The space combat has been the focus of development so far, and it really, really shows. Enemies flank, micromanage flux and shields, viciously take advantage of any momentary weaknesses, and otherwise perform well in combat. You can also set your own ship to autopilot and reap the benefits of flawless precision - it's actually recommended for large scale fights. However...
  • Artificial Stupidity: ...while the AI is very precise and gifted with nearly superpowered reflexes, it's also prone to extreme incompetence which will often make you slap your forehead in frustration. Among most common offences are reckless overextending with total disregard for ship's own safety, blocking friendly ships' line of fire, completely ignoring and running into friendly phase mines, wasting limited ammunition for inappropriate targets (like firing torpedoes at fighters or wasting their entire supply of anti-shield Squall missiles at a lone Hound, which is a small frigate with no shields and way too agile to be hit by those missiles). You will be constantly reminded how painful it is to lose a ship when one of your flimsy carriers suicidally and needlessly rushes into firing range of enemy battlecruisers, or when your phase cruiser decides, for no particular reason, to uncloak in the middle of enemy armada and in front of their hot cannons, only to be torn to shreds within two seconds.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Battlefields contain asteroids in surprising quantities. Unusually, they do next to nothing to your ships, so you can simply ram them and continue on your merry way, although they can deal significant damage if struck during the initial "burn" phase. (Collision damage is based on relative mass, and the largest asteroids are only about the size of the smallest frigates, and they also do kinetic damage which is greatly reduced against armor.) Asteroid belts are even downright useful for smugglers, as they'll interfere with your ship's transponders and make it more difficult for patrols to notice and try to stop you for inspections of illegal cargo.
  • Attack Drone: Wasp Interceptors. They have the largest squadron size (six ships), are extremely fast and maneuverable, and armed with a PD laser that makes mincemeat of missiles and unshielded fighters. Unfortunately, they are made of tissue paper.
    • Wasps have crew now, but that same update also introduced true drone systems. A few ships can now summon a swarm of tiny drones to defend them. The drones can be repaired if recalled, but unlike fighters, they are lost for the rest of the battle if destroyed. The sole exception is the Tempest, which can summon a single very powerful attack drone that will eventually regenerate if destroyed.
    • Remnants and derelict domain defense drones are all automated. They range in sizes from fighters to hulking battlecruisers.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • A savvy forum-goer realized that bomb baysnote  count as ballistic weapons. One of the most common frigates in the game, the Lasher, has five ballistic mounts. Bomb bays cost a very small amount of build points, meaning you can afford hull mods to boost ballistic ammo and range. Since each bay fires once per second, one of these bad boys can send dozens of bombs (each doing 600 damage) hurtling towards a target. It's kept in this trope because bombs are ridiculously vulnerable to point defense - to the extent that a well-defended capital ship might not get hit by a single one - and even with the ammo boosting hull mod, you can only make four or five runs before the ship becomes a flying paperweight. Not to mention, flying directly towards anything that requires this level of firepower tends not to go well for you if you miss. But against an undefended or disabled target, it's absolutely devastating.
    • The Hyperion frigate, in general. Sure, it's a frigate which can, among other things, mount two medium energy weapons and has a unique system which allows it to teleport anywhere instantenously. The drawbacks? Everything else. Small flux capacity means you will be constantly struggling to avoid an overload with those two medium energy guns. The ship is practically made out of paper, with even the most anaemic weapons in the game rapidly tearing off its armor, should the shields be down. It has a pathetically short peak performance time, being able to stay in battle only for a brief moment. CR per deployment is unusually high, to the point that the ship cannot be deployed twice without already risking malfunctions. Worst of all, for all of the above, the measly frigate has a supply upkeep cost of a cruiser-class ship. To have more than one Hyperion in a fleet is rare, and even then, the ship is practically useless for anything else than killing civilian ships in pursuits, or unloading torpedoes at unprotected backs of low-tech cruisers.
    • Missiles, and other limited-ammo weapons in general. True to description, there's enough variants to fill any role possible and they have immense damage-potential, but unfortunately they are too situational to be practical most of the time, save for few rare exceptions. The fact that the AI is less-than-capable at properly managing their precious ammo, often wasting it at absurdly unsuitable targets doesn't help (for example, throwing highly limited torpedoes and other heavy anti-ship missiles... at fighters). A common, quite effective tactic is completely forgoing use of missiles, leaving their hardpoints empty, and dumping the resulting ordnance points into flux vents and other modifications augmenting more direct unlimited-ammo weapons, which will actually last throughout the battle and are far less prone to be misused by the AI.
  • The Battlestar: A given, as the gameplay intentionally resembles modern naval combat in space. The Astral, the Legion, and the Odyssey in particular combine flight decks with massive levels of firepower. Some ships like the Legion call themselves "battlecarriers", pretty much stating that they're intended to be the battlestar.
  • Black Market: There are three markets on which it's possible to trade, the open market, the military market, and the black market. The former is the "legal" method, but comes at the cost of a hefty 30% tariff that can cut into profit margins quickly. Military markets can only be accessed if the owning faction likes you enough and still has tariffs, but will buy anything no-questions-asked as part of a "buyback program". The latter has no such tariffs and opens access to various "illegal" items such as narcotics, harvested organs, and AI cores, but running said market runs the risk of raising suspicion with the factions and increased patrols that, if they find contraband, will destroy it and tank faction relationship. The game encourages relying on loopholes to avoid suspicion while using the black market to make a profit.
  • Boring, but Practical
    • Energy weapons. They bypass the Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors used by other damage types entirely, dealing flat 100% damage to shields, armour, and hull alike. They tend to have decent range, and there are multiple cheap hull mods to boost this further. The only real downside is that they tend to be less flux efficient than ballistic weapons.
    • The Harpoon MRM is a fairly generic missile with a HE warhead that works reasonably well against most unshielded targets. It does however really come into its own when fired from multiple pod launchers at once for a swarm of twelve or more missiles that will kill any non-capital ship caught with a high flux bar and no flak.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: Fuel is required to travel between star systems, but navigation within a star system consumes no fuel and costs nothing other than the supply upkeep for the time taken.
  • Character Customization: You can refit your ships with a wide variety of weapons, depending on what type of mounts they have (using a slot system reminiscent of MechWarrior 4). If you have leftover build points, you can use them to upgrade ship subsystems or flux capacity/venting speed. You will also be able to customize your character in a later version, but at the moment all you can change is the name and portrait.
  • Character Level
    • Characters can gain a wide range of skills that allow them to run larger, more powerful fleets, greatly increase the combat capabilities of the piloted ship, or gain new and improved skills that impact Sector actions such as salvaging and hyperspace travel. Individual ships (other than the player's flagship) can also have officers, who can learn a subset of the player's combat skills.
    • The ship's crew used to level up as you fight (Green - Regular - Veteran - Elite), becoming more accurate in combat, speeding up repairs, and even increasing the efficiency of ship subsystems (represented by a slight boost to ship stats). This mechanic was removed in later updates to streamline the personnel system: All crewmembers work at the same level of expertise, meaning you only need to worry about having enough men to crew a ship. Any further boosts come from PC or officer skills.
  • Charged Attack: "Interdiction Pulse" campaign skill has your fleet stop for a few seconds while charging an engine-disrupting shockwave. Downplayed somewhat in that it doesn't actually do any damage - it merely stops and prevents the usage of movement-based skills by affected fleets for some time. Especially small fleets may be unable to interdict larger fleets too.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Various weapons are colored according to their damage type. High explosive rounds are yellow or orange. Kinetic weapons are white. Energy weapons are visually distinct enough to not need color coding. You can identify missiles by size, color, and how bright the exhaust is.
    • A ship's tech level is distinguished by color scheme and exhaust color: red/orange for low-tech, yellow for mid-tech, and blue/grey for high-tech.
    • The factions are associated with their own colors, which also shows on ships that certain factions have specifically modified to suit their purposes:
      • The Hegemony is orange.
      • The Persean League is yellow.
      • The Sindrian Diktat is purple.
      • The Tri-Tachyon Corporation is blue.
      • The Luddic Church and Luddic Path are different shades of green.
      • The Independents is grey.
      • The Pirates is red.
      • The Player’s created faction seems to be cyan on text.
  • Controllable Helplessness: This is the main effect of a flux overload, where all you can can do is try in vain to get out of the way of oncoming attacks (and maybe not even then if your engines flameout in the process). Flux venting is similar, but voluntary and with beneficial effects.
  • Crapsack World: Constant war, loads of piracy, and planets that can't survive without trade (which tends to get disrupted by the previous). Not a fun place to live. Even ignoring the immediate threats, the entire sector is in a downward spiral due to the gradual decline of technology.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Very possible with the customization system due to the limited build points on most ships. Many default ship variants can only perform one role well, and get torn to shreds if they try to do anything else.
    • The game actually encourages creating a fleet with a variety of Cripplingly-Overspecialized ships, each geared towards a different aspect, all working together note . However this has the downside of never being able to field only some of your ships, as they depend on each other for survival. The result is high expenditure of Supplies in each battle, even against light enemy opposition. Jack-of-All-Trades ships usually take longer to destroy an enemy fleet, but are far more flexible and cheaper in the long run.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Any Subsystem Damage apart from armor damage is only temporary, so ships can still perform at peak efficiency in terms of speed and firepower as long as they have even 1 point of hull integrity left. However, a diminished Combat Readiness rating leads to ships generally performing more poorly (including the possibility of equipment malfunctions).
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: Or at least the closest thing to a boss in this type of game, capital ships. Early on, you can have your entire fleet ganging up on a single capital ship for several minutes before it is destroyed. Special mention must go to the Onslaught, which has 1,750 armor and 20,000 hull integrity. There's a reason they form the backbone of the Hegemony System Defense Fleets.
    • Ships with 360 degree shield coverage are worse, since they're immune to flanking. Have fun trying to take down that Paragon before it wipes out half of your fleet!note 
  • Deflector Shields: Most ships have them, and they come in two types: omni and frontal. Omni can point in any direction and can be rotated towards threats, but tend to have a narrow arc of protection. Frontal only point forwards, but tend to have much wider coverage - sometimes up to 360 degrees. Shields work by transforming damage against them into flux. However, flux added from shield damage does not drain over time like regular fluxnote , meaning ships have to drop their shields eventually or risk overload. Only the skill Shield Modulation allows ships to shed hard flux with their shields up, and even then at a significantly reduced rate. Additionally, hull modifications allow adding a crude and inefficient jury rigged shield generator to ships that wouldn't normally have one, as well as options to turn omni shields to frontal or frontal shields to omni, make shields 60 degrees wider, spread to their full width faster, take less damage, and become more efficient.
  • Easter Egg: In the portraits folder in the game files, there is an image of Godiva, the cat of Fractal Softworks artist David Baumgart.
    • In the texture folder for planets, one of the files is a rectangular scan of bread.
    • A randomly generated system name is Brigador as well as a few pilots being modeled off of Brigadors
  • Easy Logistics: Ammo and missiles are replaced for free after every engagement. A single item type ("supplies") represents all necessary items for keeping a fleet and its crew in working condition. Ship mods and refitting do indirectly cost some supplies in the field (and temporarily reduce performance). Any ship, no matter how damaged, can be (eventually) repaired provided there are enough supplies in your inventory.
    • A recent update added accidents, which occur when you go over capacity in any of the four supply types (fleet size, cargo, fuel, crew capacity), or when you run out of supplies to maintain your ships. Since everything is shared between ships, this means the loss of a capital ship (and its massive storage space) forces you to make some very hard decisions on what to toss out. The effects of accidents range from minor cargo loss to hull breaches and the complete destruction of ships. Fleets may be forced to cannibalize some of their straggling ships for supplies in order for the rest of the fleet to make it home...
  • The Empire: The Hegemony, founded by a Domain of Man military task force that coincidentally arrived in the sector just after the Collapse. They tend to use ancient, battle-tested designs, and favor large fleets, heavy armor, and lots of ballistic and missile weapons. The Hegemony control some of the best worlds and have plenty of resources, but it's hinted that the gradual loss of technology is starting to take its toll on them.
    • While the Hegemony is neutral towards the player, the task force that founded the Hegemony was mainly composed of disgraced soldiers being used for a glorified science experiment, and the devs have said that they aren't nearly as nice as they appear. Hence them being listed under this trope instead of The Federation. Also it is called the Hegemony for a reason.
    • The Domain of Man itself was this before the Collapse.
  • Explosive Overclocking: The Energy Weapon Mastery skill allows you to do this with Energy Weapons, as they gain up to +30% extra damage based on the ship's current Flux level and proximity to the target. Push too hard and you'll overload yourself (in dangerously close proximity to the enemy, no less), but that damage gain is nothing to laugh at.
    • A common tactic employed by the terrorist Luddic Path faction. All of their ships come with "Safety Overrides" and "Ill-Advised Modifications" hullmods built-in, the first of which immensely boosts their flux dissipation rate and gives them zero flux engine boost regardless of flux level. This makes them drastically faster, capable of absorbing much more damage and significantly boosting their damage output when compared to regular variants of the same class. The major drawbacks of this are heavily reduced range for all weapons and a painful penalty to peak performance time. "Ill-advised modifications" on the other hand has no benefits and only causes all weapons of the ship to have a chance of randomly failing, sometimes permanently. All of this means that Luddic Path ships have drastically boosted combat stats, but quickly start falling apart. "Safety Overrides" by itself can be mounted on player-controlled ships, only at a hefty OP cost and with its range and peak performance time penalties.
  • Expy: The Hound, a converted cargo freighter with two wide-spaced engines, with the main armament being a huge gun bolted to the top of the ship. Sound familiar?
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Very common, though they actually have a limited degree of flexibility to make lining up a shot slightly less frustrating. Appropriately, weapons with such fixed mounts are generally larger than most or all the turret mounts on the ship.
  • Flash Step: Any ship with a Phase Skimmer type system can make a short teleport-skip. Whilst not as powerful as a full Phase system, these systems store multiple charges and can allow vessels to quickly disengage when in over their heads - something the AI makes extensive use of.
  • Flechette Storm: The Needler family of weapons, which fire concentrated bursts of large needles. They excel at dropping shields and overloading targets due to the high burst damage.
  • Game Mod: The game has excellent mod support, especially considering it's still in alpha. Several mods have already been created that add new ships, stations, and even factions to the game. It helps that much of the game's content is stored in easily edited text files and spreadsheets, and there's a mod API allowing you to implement new features into the game.
  • Glass Cannon: The Pirates' Atlas Mk. II Modified Superfreighter has respectable firepower with two forwards large ballistic mounts and two large missile mounts plus the Accelerated Ammo Feeder ship system, which gives lets it briefly double its ballistic DPS with no increase in flux gain, but it also has by far the worst armor and hull integrity of all capital ships, even far behind the Pathers' Prometheus Mk. II.
  • Goddamn Bats: Fighters. Carriers are commonly used throughout most of the stages of the game and while fighters are easily dispatched individually, they're always deployed in swarms which can quickly overwhelm and cripple even large warships. In extreme situations fighter swarms are easily capable of tearing apart heaviest of capital ships, like a Paragon or the Onslaught, and can seriously choke defenses of the space stations. AI is good enough at managing their fighter replacement rate that unless you deal with the source, enemy fighters will never stop coming at you.
    • Bombers in particular can at times verge on Demonic Spiders, as instead of swarming you and chipping away at your armor like fighers, they instead come in attack waves and deploy salvos of heavy ordnance, ranging from rockets, to bombs and heavily damaging torpedoes. Properly timed bomber run can destroy a whole Cruiser in a single salvo.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Ships that lack shielding usually have higher armor and hull ratings to compensate. However, since shields can regenerate and armor plating can't, it really isn't enough to make them worthwhile.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: If you ignore the fleets of pirate raiders feeding off of merchant ships and other travelers, hyperspace still isn't the safest place in the Sector, with rampant hyperspace storms that damage your ships and accelerate you far off course if you're unlucky. Hit too many, and not only will you waste fuel trying to reorient yourself and supplies from the time travelling (and the repairs), you may lose a ship or two.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Project Ziggurat. The only ship of its kind, it has an incredible combination of traits that make it the best (player-obtainable) ship in the game, if not the best, period. It's a capital-class phase ship, letting it move swiftly around the battlefield and avoid fire(and its nature as a capital ship means it has the flux capacity to stay in phase longer, and a unique hullmod that reduces the phase cooldown by a whopping 80%), while it also has excellent weapon slots (most notably, being the only phase ship with large weapon slots). And if that wasn't enough, its ship system is the best thing about it: the Ziggurat gradually produces "motes" over time, and activing the system will send them towards your mouse pointer (or at a ship if you point at that), and each mote deals sizable EMP damage, allowing you to disable any ship with a single good volley - and of course, the system can be activated in phase, too!
  • Interface Spoiler: Zig-zagged.
    • Inverted regarding Codex entries: spoiler items will never be shown in the codex unless overtly selected in the game and viewed from there - this is due to the "HIDE_IN_CODEX" tag being a hard-set thing for those items.
    • Played straight regarding warning beacons: once you find at least one, on the intel screen you will notice a tab on the bottom labelled "Remnants".
    • The random missions you get can also provide a spoiler - you may get a mission to explore a coronal hypershunt, or alternatively one to analyze the Hamatsu (listed as simply a "derelict ship") or Alpha Site, both listed as being in the "Unknown Location" system and serving as an accidental guide of where it is before it comes up in the main storyline.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Ballistic weapons generally have far superior flux efficiency and/or range compared to energy weapons. The tradeoff is fact that the low-tech ships that mount ballistics are otherwise weaker than the high-tech ships that mount energy weapons.
  • Joke Item: The Mudskipper Mk 2. It has the lowest durability of its size, it has no shields and it can only carry a large ballistic weapon that tends to jam often. Even its own description questions why such a ship exists.
  • Lethal Joke Item: The Dram. It's an ordinary civilian tanker, with little to no armaments. Seems no one in their right mind would make it their main and only flagship, as at first glance, you would think it's a horrible choice for combat and... you would be absolutely right. Except you don't have to fight - in fact, piloting the Dram, you don't have to engage in any fights, as you can easily escape from any combat encounter, suffering nothing but a small penalty in supplies for getting harassed. Being a tanker, it has enough fuel capacity to be able to travel nigh anywhere in the sector. This makes it a perfect choice for early-game exploration missions, which do not require large cargo holds, nor any firepower whatsoever. Picking up multiple exploration missions in the core worlds and doing them all in one go using the Dram is an extremely easy way to amass a fortune early in the game, at almost no cost.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • The Aurora cruiser is a highly advanced ship, its Plasma Jets give it fast bursts of speed, it's heavily armed with several front-facing weapon mounts and its shield can be modified to cover the entire ship.
    • The Odyssey battlecruiser is far and away the fastest capital ship and has a Nitro Boost ability that helps it keep its powerful port-side broadside on a target.
  • Lost Technology: As the sector was cut off from the Domain's portal network during its early colonization phase, then ravaged by the AI Wars, a great deal of knowledge and special equipment was lost - but may yet be rediscovered by adventurous explorers.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: To a much lesser extent than most examples (as even single missiles can be deadly in this game), but certain squadrons and some of the larger fire support ships can send multiple salvos of missiles your way.
    • The Hurricane MIRV deserves a special mention, as each missile fired splits into seven smaller projectiles. There's also the Annihilator Rocket Pod, which fires two missiles per second. And since the Annihilator's a medium missile, many ships can have several of them mounted.
    • When a ship is in extreme danger, it can go into 'panic fire' mode, where it launches most of its missiles in quick succession. The Buffalo Mk II, which was in previous versions something of a Joke Character, has become fairly dangerous due to this change (as lacking shields, it almost always registers as in mortal danger).
    • The new Fast Missile Rack subsystem takes this to a whole new level. It allows you to almost eliminate the cooldown between launches, meaning ships with this system can fire almost a dozen salvos in the time a normal ship could fire two.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Luddic Church claims that the deactivation of the Gates and The Collapse were caused by God to punish humanity for its sins.
  • Mega-Corp: The Tri-Tachyon Corporation, which predates the Collapse. They have extremely high-tech ships (with matching high prices), and favor fast ships, energy weapons, and powerful shields.
    • Other Mega-corps are mentioned in the descriptions for some items and ships, largest among them being Fabrique Orbitale.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • Barring the Odyssey and the Atlas, all capital ships are functionally this, with the longest Peak performance and greatest amount of armor and flux along with highest amount of weapons to boot at the cost of mobility. Their purpose is to trickle down any ship of the smaller classes until they're the only ones in the field.
    • A great example of this is from the Forlorn Hope Paragon mission.
    • In general, Low Tech ships are this compared to other tech bases - Low Tech ships tend to have worse speed and turning than similar Midline and High Tech ships, but better armor and hull integrity, as well as more efficient weapons that keep them firing longer.
  • Nitro Boost: Many ships, especially Low Tech ships, have some manner of speed boost ability like Burn Drive. Burn Drive in particular allows Low Tech ships to push an advantage over the otherwise faster High Tech ships, which would otherwise be able to control the terms of engagement.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Tri-Tachyon Corporation's eventual goal.
  • Overclocking Attack: The defining trait of combat in the game. Ships have a stat called 'flux', which raises when they use certain weapons, take shield damage, are hit by ion cannons, use certain subsystems, etc, and drains slowly over time. If the flux hits capacity your ship overloads, leaving you to drift helplessly while very slowly venting flux. At any time you can vent it manually, causing it to drain several times faster than normal but disabling your weapons and shield for the duration. One-on-one combat against shielded enemies usually revolves around dealing kinetic damage to their shields to force them to either drop shields, vent flux, or cause an overload, leaving you free to unload everything you have into the now helpless ship. Venting speed borders on a One Stat to Rule Them All since it affects combat so drastically.
  • Overdrive: If a ship has an empty flux meter and doesn't have their shields raised, they get a hefty bonus to top speed. This makes retreat feasible, as your enemy can't fire at you without losing their own speed bonus. There is also a hull mod that boosts your top speed and map travel speed, but it is extremely impractical as it costs a ridiculous amount of build points and cripples your flux dissipation.
    • The Burn Drive system is this trope taken to an extreme. It disables shields and steering while active, but allows certain glacier-slow low-tech ships to temporarily outrun most ships in the game. You never forget the first time you run into a Hegemony Defense Fleet and see two or three Onslaughts come screaming in.
  • Point Defenseless: Strongly averted. A good point defense system can usually take out the majority of missiles in a salvo, as well as wreak havoc against fighter squadrons. Most capital ships have several of them. As a consequence, missiles are highly situational, and are usually only fired at disabled targets.
    • This is one category where the low-tech ballistics have a distinct advantage. Flak cannons have an area-of-effect, rendering any ship that carries them almost immune to bombs, interceptors, and missile spam. The low-tech Gemini freighter is considered a capable combat carrier solely because it can be fitted with two dual flak cannons.
    • With a certain hull mod, even small weapons not tagged as point defense can auto-target missiles. This includes tactical lasers, whose long range, high accuracy, and decent damage make them very useful for this purpose.
  • Ramming Always Works: Ramming can do very significant damage to both ships involved, especially if a capital ship with a Nitro Boost ability slams into another ship. The Odyssey especially excels at surprise ramming attacks due to its very brief, extremely high-speed Plasma Burn ability, which instantly pushes it (or any other ship with the ability) to a staggering 620 speed. An Odyssey with its shields down can easily strip its own frontal armor, and with or without shields, can launch frigates across the map. Properly timed with its missile batteries, an Odyssey ramming attack can be terrifying to even other capital ships. Ships that ram using abilities like Burn Drive and Plasma Burn run a risk of flaming out their own engines as well when ramming ships their own size or larger.
  • Shout-Out: Several to Brigador.
    • A possible name for nebulae, constellations, and stars is "Brigador" and a possible name for planets is "Solo Nobre", the citynote  that Brigador is set on.
    • Mercenary portraits six and seven are based on the playable pilots Modesto Pires and Clotilde Aalto respectively. In addition, there is an unimplemented portrait based on the Man from Volta.
    • The Tarsus-class freighter shares its name with the starting freighter from Wing Commander: Privateer, and Talons also appear in both games as fast, cheap fighters. The appearance of Centurions in both may be coincidental due to a common name origin, as they've shifted from heavy fighters in Wing Commander to escort frigates in Starsector.
    • There are portraits (numbers 25 through 32) that are clearly inspired by the seven faction leaders of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.
  • Shows Damage: Ships glow orange where they have taken heavy damage, which means their armor plating has been stripped away in that spot. Yes, you create your own weak points in this game.
    • The glow eventually fades, but if you watch carefully you can see flashes of light emanating from the ship, and the hull shows cracks.
    • Ships with serious near-permanent damage in the form of d-mods also show significant hull-scarring, making pristine ships stand out all the more.
  • Space Fighter: Squadrons are the only unpilotable ships in the game, being multiple tiny ships fighting in formation. They have two unique abilities. First, they can fly through (technically over) other objects, including your shields. Second, they can revive and rearm the entire squadron in the middle of battle if any member manages to make it back to a friendly carrier. These can make fighting them frustrating.
  • Space Friction: On the one hand, ships don't slow down if you let go of the 'forward' key. On the other hand, they do have a strictly limited top speed. How exactly that works is anyone's guess.
  • Space Marine: You can hire them by the hundreds, then use them to raid colonies for fun and profit. They're a guaranteed way to get your hands on a Pristine Nanoforge if you can't find one from looting, for instance.
  • Space Pirates: A surprising amount of them. They have fairly outdated tech, though, and are a great way to grind crew experience and loot.
    • Ironically, the pirates are probably the least technologically stagnant of the factions, having several unique ships that are crudely retrofitted combat versions of the cargo haulers they steal from traders.
      • Not only that, they have a special mechanic where if blueprints are sold on the black-market, after a year or two, those designs will start being incorporated into Pirate fleets.
  • Space Station: Many exist throughout the Persean Sector, from mining stations, to abandoned habs, to major orbital construction and commerce installations. You can build your own once you colonize a planet, which will help protect it from hostile fleets. Pirates and Luddic Path militants will often create their own in border systems from which they will raid/destabilize colonies, respectively.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: Midline ships, especially those that are proper military ships, are generally blocky, relatively wedge-shaped affairs, and generally much more symmetrical than both Low Tech and High Tech ships, and they're painted in olive drab.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Ships are categorized as fighters, frigates, destroyers, cruisers, and capital ships, though there are further subcategories of each.
  • Starter Equipment: Other than the armaments of the ships you start with, none. You buy ships as empty hulls (many of which have been salvaged after being disabled, and thus come broken out the box), then have to track down the weapons/blueprints separately. If you want the good stuff this often means a trip to the outer systems to salvage blueprints from derelict ships and stations. Or you can just raid a core world and steal blueprints right out of their industrial installations.
  • Stealth in Space: Handled realistically. Stealth is an issue of turning off your transponder (which is generally illegal), and minimizing the energy emissions of your ship.
  • Subsystem Damage: Most weapons can be temporarily disabled if enough damage is done to them. This also works against engines - useful for slowing down fleeing enemies. If a ship has two engines and you disable one set, the ship spins helplessly until the engine comes back online.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Ships have up to three layers of defense: hull, armor plating, and shields. Only hull damage affects the ship, so most of a fight is spent breaching the other ship's defenses to get to the vulnerable crew inside. There are four types of weapons to help with this: high explosive, which is excellent against armor but very weak against shields; kinetic, which is the opposite; energy, which is somewhat effective against all types of defense, and fragmentation, which does little damage against any defense, but will tear hulls to shreds once those defenses are gone (and is also good against missiles and squadrons, since they rarely have much defense). There are also EMP weapons, which easily disable ship systems but do minimal damage otherwise.
    • A new addition is the Phase Cloak, which allows you to pass through solid objects at the cost of constant flux buildup. It replaces shields on ships that have it, though, so you'd better have good timing!
    • There's also the meta-level of Low-Tech, Midline, and High-Tech ship classes; Low-Tech ships are Mighty Glacier types that focus on armour and ballistic weapons to power through engagements, whilst High-Tech ships focus on speed and shields to hit-and-run. Midline ships tend to be somewhere inbetween, as the name implies. Faction ships are all over the place otherwise, with "P" (Pirate), "LC" (Luddic Church), "LP" (Luddic Path), "TT" (Tri-Tachyon), and othersuch subtypes floating around which can remix an existing ship's performance in exciting and unpredictable ways - for example, the Atlas Mk.II and Prometheus Mk.II being militarized superfreighters and supertankers favoured by pirates and the Luddic Pathers respectively.
  • Taking You with Me: Large ships go out in absolutely massive explosions when they die, dealing heavy damage to other nearby ships. Capital ships are easily capable of one-hit killing frigates and seriously damaging destroyers when they blow. Thus, it's beneficial to get as close as possible to your enemies when you realize the battle is a lost cause to at least inflict some damage as you go. The Atlas superfreighter and Prometheus supertanker are probably the most liable to cause this for new players, as they're fairly easy to kill yet detonate very violently.
  • Technology Levels: Ships and weapons fall into one of three technology levels. Despite a clear suggestion of technological progression, the tech levels are more lateral than linear.
    • Low Tech: Low Tech ships generally have heavy armor, inefficient shields, low speed and poor maneuverability, and relatively straightforward abilities (especially linear speed boosts) and loadouts built around efficient ballistic and missile weapons and few, if any energy weapons. They usually have somewhat worse flux characteristics than Midline and High Tech ships, but their weapons are generally also more flux-efficient. Low Tech ships have a rusty color palette and red exhaust.
    • Midline: Midline ships generally have a balance between armor and shields, as well as between energy and ballistic weapons and middling handling. They mostly also have relatively straightforward abilities. Visually, they're olive drab and usually have a pronged wedge-shape and yellow exhaust.
    • High Tech: High Tech ships strongly favor shields (which are more likely to be omni shields, rather than the forward shields more common on Low Tech and Midline ships), speed and maneuverability, inefficient energy weapons over armor, hull, and ballistic weapons, as well as more exotic missiles. They tend to have more esoteric abilities like various phase abilities. Visually, they're blue-white, asymmetrical, and have blue-white exhaust.
    • There are also faction-themed versions of ships from all tech levels with minor tweaks to their characteristics and hardpoints.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: How the late Domain lost from the Remnant, and, additionally, their Explorarium armada.
  • Upgrade Artifact: Various pieces of Lost Technology can be found while exploring space, and installed in colony-scale industries. The most important of these are Nanoforges, industrial Black Boxes that are essential for the production of quality ships - while corrupted ones are fairly common, a Pristine Nanoforge is one of the rarest things in the game; though you can always just opt to steal one from one of the pre-generated planets.
  • Walking Spoiler: Nothing can be said about the Omega, their ships, and their weapons without spoiling a surprising part of space exploration. Likewise, Project Ziggurat and Alpha Site cannot be spoken of without spoiling a major part of the main storyline.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You!: Averted. You don't even need to send your flagship into an engagement in the first place. Even if your flagship is destroyed, you can transfer command to any other ship. This is accomplished by escaping in a personnel shuttle and flying across the map to dock with them.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Derelict Contingent skill can turn any ship with an officer into one of these; the more d-mods the ship has the bigger the benefits the ship gets, the biggest being an up to 75% chance for any incoming hit to only deal 10% of its normal damage. It'll still suffer the usual d-mod effects, but those can be worked around.
  • With This Herring: As the intro states, you start out with only a single frigate and a small amount of credits. You have just enough to buy two squadrons of weak interceptors, but it will be quite some time before you can afford a carrier to repair them in.
    • Averted in later updates, which add "Quick Start" versions of pre-existing ones that give you a bit more to work with, though it'll still be quite the upward climb.

Alternative Title(s): Starfarer


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: