Battlestation: Harbinger launched a few weeks ago, and in our review we were impressed by the depth of the gameplay it offers. In fact, the more I play it, the more I realize I only scratched the surface of it within my first week with the game. Here is the thing – if you are one week into the game and still miss out on some things important strategy-wise, there is more depth to dig. And so I dug, and discovered a lively community of commanders sharing their experience. Let us take a look at the basics first and then deal with the tactical options and scenarios we might take advantage of.
- Scrap – the gear looking material. You need it to buy ship modules and the party ships.
- Green thingies – you will use them to upgrade your ammo, drones and party ships.
Grinding for Scrap
You get the scrap and the green currency by taking out the enemy ships and completing the missions. Eliminating the large ones grants you more scrap than taking down the small one, but completing a mission grants you even more. Another option is selling the equipment you don’t need, but the items you sell come out significantly cheaper than the price you pay when you buy them, so this is a last resort option. On the other hand, selling the alien equipment you get as loot gets you way more scrap, but you will want to use it before you sell it. And you sell it only when you get a better alien equipment.
Tactical Tip – selling gear
What would be that last resort? In many cases, when I grind for a large assault cannon for the red slot, I can sell something when I lack some 150 scrap. As is the case with the nuke cannon, I would not hesitate to sell some laser if that saves me enough money to buy the big gun in desperate times.
If you take a closer look at the different ships, provided you have at least three of them unlocked, you can see the slots they have are of three types. Yet, not all ships dispose of the slots of all three types.
- Red slots – harbor the heavy artillery, like the laser and nuke cannons, my favorite.
- Blue slots – harbor defense cannons that are of a smaller caliber and range, like the bolter – the cheapest and the most universal one.
- Green slots – the hangar, where you can build bolter/laser/repair/shiled fighters and drones. Bolter fighters being the cheapest and one of the best of the affordable ones, or the bolter drones, again my favorite.
- Extra ships – I call them party ships. They, too, come in a decent variety and cost gear and sometimes even gear plus the green thingie currency. Mind which one you buy – a carrier or a fighter because you will be able to upgrade the party ships, too. You can buy up to several party ships, provided you have the scrap, of course.
Tactical tip – mind the party ships’ equipment
The party ships you buy come “virgin clean,” which means you have to buy them equipment and upgrade it, too. I feel this is worth mentioning because the first couple of times I played with the party ships I failed miserably, trying to understand why they won’t fire! They don’t fire because they don’t have the weapons by default – I had to buy them. These are small things that may not be that obvious for a newcomer.
Each piece of equipment you buy has some room for improvement, so do not overlook that. For example, upgrading the max ships criterion under the bolter drones will increase the number of drones your ship can produce rather quickly.
Tactical tip – bolter drones
You might ask why I talk so much about the bolter drones? Maybe because it’s the fastest way to build up some fire power while saving you money for a decent assault cannon, the red slot one. With three bolter drones and one defense bolter cannon you can take out a larger ship, which gives you a decent amount of scrap money. And with careful jumping and maneuvering you can take out a few large ships to grind for that nuke cannon. With that, you can then grind for a couple of decent assault cannons, or come by some decent alien loot.
It is easy to overlook some of the functions the stations are meant to perform. Yes, the game explicitly tells you the repair works at a station won’t cost you money.
The second very useful feature a station performs is the fire power you need when you are seriously outnumbered.
Finally, the third special ability of each station is the equipment you can buy from it. They usually have the super powerful alien gear, which costs both scrap and the green currency, but this technology is very well worth grinding for. You can see the special equipment you can buy from a station when you tap it.
Tactical tip – repairs are free, not everywhere
Go back to the station to perform the repairs. It might be tempting to do the repairs without the trouble of traveling back to the station, or look for the next one, but it well worth the hassle. Especially if you have a clear path behind you and can travel safely without any unexpected ambushes. The reason it’s a valid tactic is the scrap money each repair costs you and when you spend it regularly on repairs, it chips away from the precious scrap you need for big guns and upgrades, or party ships at the beginning of the game.
Tactical tip – luring the hostiles to the Station sector
When outnumbered, jump back to the station. You might just get the free repairs you need, but chances are one or two of the baddies will follow you to the sector and that is a good thing. You will no longer be on your own, having the supportive fire power of the station and its drones. You can also use the distress beacons for this purpose – more on that below.
Besides the traveling function, the map gives you the heads up about the amount of the enemy ships present in the location you are traveling. You can also auto-travel to any destination, but your flight will be interrupted if the transit sectors are not cleared of the hostiles. So, you can’t avoid the battle. The red arrows mean the enemy – fat arrows large ships, thin arrows small fighters. Green dot is a mission, blue arrow is a station.
Skip a move
What is not so obvious about the map is the little sand clock icon that is sometimes present right there in the green sector next to the jump icon. That green sand clock lets you skip a move. You might need it when you look at the map and see where hostiles are moving. You can then meet them in the current sector, it better be the station, or on the contrary, jump to the sector they just left.
Another green icon is called a distress beacon and deserves a separate mention.
A distress beacon is just that – a beacon that emits an SOS message à-la “Somebody help, I am in trouble!” Don’t count on friendly humans having a coffee break in the nearest space burger king cantina. The distress beacons belong to the hostiles you eliminate, so when they die they drop them. Ever notice those green boxes that float in the space and you just can’t pick them up? These are the beacons. You can tap on your ship’s inventory and see if you have space to pick them up. You will see the enemy gear and beacons they dropped before dying to the left in the red boxes. Place the ones you wish to pick up in the green boxes.
If you don’t see the beacon icon next to the “travel to the next sector” icon, you just don’t have it. Don’t get upset, they come up quite often.
Tactical tip – Using the Distress Beacons, Waiting Turns and Splitting the Enemy Party
Here is how the beacon works. From the map, you activate it while in the sector to which you would like to attract the enemy ships that are in the neighboring sectors. This can be handy when you can see from the star map that the sector you need to travel to is crowded with the hostiles. If you are in the Station sector, you can activate the distress beacon, wait a turn and see them come to help their mate in distress. That way, you will face the battle on your conditions, with the supporting fire of the station on your side. This is how you gain the tactical advantage you lack otherwise in the next sector.
Mind, however, that the distress beacons belong to a certain race of hostiles, so they summon the ships of a specific race only, not all hostiles.
Another option is to split the hostile party ships by calling them to a station sector, or your current sector you just cleared, and travel to the next sector, without battling the ones that come. That way, you will jump to the next sector but face less enemies.
Green boxes that float and you can’t pick them up – alien tech
Beside distress beacons, these can be enemy turrets and alien technology, so when you see these boxes go to your space management panel and look to your left. If there are turrets and alien gear, you can place them in the green boxes right next to the red one.
These little things will be easier and more obvious if you go through the tutorial till the end. However, I did cover the tutorial before playing, but the distress beacons part and the alien turrets escaped me.
Moreover, if you have your party ships you can swap the enemy gear to them, too.
Mind that some of the enemy tech you pick up is seriously upgraded – see if you like to use that, or you can also sell it for a decent profit.
Fighters and carriers are two main types, with variations – light carrier, heavy assault. Without further ado, here they are:
- Nightingale – light assault carrier, the first one you get, but don’t take it for granted. You might as well discover it’s better than the ships you unlock further in the game.
- Raven – assault ship, has the strongest hull.
- Guardian – light assault carrier, has somewhat better stats than the Nightingale, but is a little slower, unlocks at level 4.
- Zephyr – destroyer, unlocks at level 4.
- Hurricane – assault ship, unlocks at level 5.
- Resolution – heavy assault carrier, the most expensive ship, unlocks at level 6.
- Memphis – destroyer, unlocks at level 7.
- Avalon – light destroyer carrier, unlocks at level 8.
- Valhalla – heavy destroyer carrier, unlocks at level 9.
- Achilles – cruiser ship, unlocks at level 10.
- Liberator – light cruiser carrier, has the strongest shield capacity, level 11.
- Armada – capital ship, level 12.
More ships that are available as party:
- Chimera – light carrier, one of the speedy ones with 24 speed ratio.
- Genesis – light scout carrier.
- Viper – the scout ship, the fastest and with the highest ratio of thrusters.
- Falcon – assault ship, has one of the best hull and speed values.
- Ravager – assault ship.
Tactical tip – know your strategy before playing
The reason it’s important to know before choosing a ship is the difference between carriers and assault ships, which affects your strategy immensely. For example, assault ships like the destroyer Zephyr can’t have the drones because it does not have the blue slot. It has many weapon slots and a whole lot of three red slots for the nasty big caliber cannons and the powerful alien tech.
It can also have two party ships, which can be anything, like a light carrier. The latter has one slot per ship only, but you can buy the cheapest fighter drones, which cost 180 scrap only, but can be upgraded to produce up to 5 fighter drones. In the result, you end up with a little armada.
On the other hand, when you choose a carrier, you have less slots for weapons, but have the blue hangar to produce drones of your choice.
The party ships also have the carriage slots, so if your main ship is full with the beacons and alien tech you haven’t made up your mind to sell or use yet, you can use your party ships to carry some extra loot with you.
I am hoping the fans of the game will come up with an extensive wikia because right now I feel the need of a detailed breakdown of the red slot gear, the human and alien. Sometimes, it is difficult to make a decision when all slots are filled, and you need to choose whether to carry, sell or equip the new item.
Some say Celestial cannons are superior to the other alien gear, but I could not really see it in the stats.
Don’t forget the Station has some pumped up gear for sale
In the heat of the battle and all the traveling, it is way too easy to forget to get back to the Station and buy that shield re-generizer or the repair beam that fixes your drones on the go, which can be a game-changer.
As for the green slot weapons, the mostly defensive cannons, I found the cheapest bolters to be the most effective, especially when you don’t forget to upgrade them. The teleport module seems to be a tough choice because you always think of defense-offense gear while the escape pod does not even cross my mind – when my ship dies, I die with it.
Now that we have wrapped our heads around the basics more or less, there is little piece of news from the Battlestation: Harbinger developers – they are launching a Kickstarter campaign to make user requests they received as feedback come true in the upcoming upgrades. Ta-dam! Considering how only 30% of playing users bought the game, with the rest 70% getting pirated versions of it, the developers do need some support to keep improving and expanding the Battlestation universe. So, if you like the game you might as well spread the word and support the team.
Moreover, I found the bits and pieces of Battlestation Graphic Sci-Fi Book, which gives a little more insight into the alien races we encounter in the Harbinger, with awesome depictions, philosophical musings and grand artwork. I am sure looking forward to the book release, and anxious to know whatever happened to the Celestial Sirens, the once beautiful women whose men have died to an alien plot and their corpses polluted the waters of their planet. So, the slowly dying women turned into awful and vengeful creatures. I am totally sold for the pieces I’ve read on the forum, and can’t wait to read the book when it’s ready.
I hope this little guide will be helpful, and maybe those who are still on the fence about buying the premium game will see Harbinger is a truly deep RTS with tons of replay value and an unprecedented freedom and variety of gameplay. Share your strategy tips in the comments below and let us know what you think of the game.