Are howitzers OP?

General discussion about anything related to Transcendence.
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Derakon
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 2:09 am

I almost always end up spending the last half to a third of SotP using the biggest howitzer I can find*. Here's how I see them breaking down:

Cons:
* Poor firing rate
* Poor shot velocity
* Poor shot HP (projectiles are easily shot down)
* Recoil

Pros:
* High WMD (the highest, I believe, of any non-ammo-using weapon)
* Very high per-shot damage
* Fantastic device support (Makayev weapon enhancer; Lithium booster; Howitzer speed loader)
* High range

This makes it a poor weapon for fending off swarms of small ships, but a great weapon for dealing with capital ships and stations. As the game progresses, though, increasingly the threats the player faces come in the form of big, slow capital ships. There are still swarms, but they're relatively weak and usually serve primarily to drop the player's shields, not to scratch their hull.

Notably, howitzers are the only weapon type I know of that can get a stacking boost from secondary devices: +40% from the speed loader and +50% from the lithium booster. The speed loader boost actually is even better than that because it's multiplicative -- you get 1.4*1.5=2.1, instead of 1+(.4+.5)=1.9. And of course it gets even better if you apply tritium boosters -- no other weapon type can combine +fast with +150%.

In comparison, here's how I see the other primary damage types shaking out:

* (In the midgame) Particle weapons have fantastic fire rate, shot speed, and range, but have no WMD options and mediocre damage. Their device support provides a large straight damage boost.
* Ion weapons are basically up-statted laser weapons -- similar fire rate and range, maybe a bit more WMD, and of course more damage. The Tesla enhancer is seriously unappetizing as it only affects shield damage.
* Plasma damage is...I think I've tried one plasma weapon ever (in 1.7) and it was terrible? No device support at all, expensive, and a massive power draw makes experimenting with these unappealing. Plus there's not even any one-shot enhancers like the tritium injector or ion power capacitor.
* Positron: expensive, rare, and very power-thirsty. Has the same problems plasma does (the two are pretty indistinguishable in general).

Basically if you go with non-thermo for your primary weapon, then a) you're accepting lower DPS due to worse device support, and b) you have to rely on your launcher to provide WMD. Not the end of the world, but it does mean that your weapon isn't doing much to the compartments of all the capital ships and stations you're facing. Which, as mentioned earlier, comprise the bulk of the actual threats you're facing. Sure, you can take down swarms of Sandstorms faster, but you also have to spend more time getting pummeled by Deimos/Phobos lightning turrets and getting ionized by the Ventari.

A couple of special mentions:
* I think the Makayev enhancer also boosts the Makayev launcher, which is probably the best launcher for the midgame. Conveniently, it's also a fast-firing weapon useful for taking out swarms, so it complements howitzers nicely. Conversely, I'm pretty sure that the lithium booster doesn't boost thermo launchers.
* Howitzers are godawful at dealing with Luminous drones, especially since lategame launchers almost all use thermo damage which Luminous will rapidly learn to resist. The drones have a narrow profile and their shots will reliably cancel out any howitzer shots that were lined up properly. Fortunately Luminous isn't very aggressive and its stations have crap rewards, so if you're rocking the lategame howitzer you can mostly just ignore it.
* Of course if you're in a Wolfen then you probably won't want to spend your precious non-weapon device slots on enhancers.

If you disagree with me, hey, that's fine! But could you please share your favored lategame loadouts so I can try them out? :D

* The games where I don't use howitzers are usually when I decide to permit the thermo shell nanofac, which is even more broken than a twinked-out howitzer.

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Song
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:54 am

It's fair. I tend to avoid them because there are weapons that can perform better, but howitzers are generally very reliable. The way to counter them is with point defense, but that's fairly rare in the vanilla game. or thermo/blast resistance, which isn't as effective. I personally prefer rapid-fire weapons though.

The problem is more with AI than with the guns though. Numerically they're not actually better, they just work out that way qualitatively.
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Ferdinand
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:19 pm

I don't generally use howitzers very much. I'm more of an ammo weapon fan. However, if I can get an Ion9 that will be my primary weapon probably until the end, combined with a launcher, either Rasiermesser or Heavy Nami. With that layout there is no trouble with Luminous drones, because the Ion9 will drop any shield in a few shots, even the luminous ion shield. And then packs some serious punch as well. Ion capacitors seem to be less rare lately as well. The launchers' missiles have plenty of punch against capital ships and with a little help of Domina their damage can be up to +40% extra

The Renegade mod has a very good launcher that has armoured missiles dealing plasma damage, they are fabulous for destroying capital ships in a hurry....

Derakon
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Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:48 pm

Song wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:54 am
It's fair. I tend to avoid them because there are weapons that can perform better, but howitzers are generally very reliable. The way to counter them is with point defense, but that's fairly rare in the vanilla game. or thermo/blast resistance, which isn't as effective. I personally prefer rapid-fire weapons though.

The problem is more with AI than with the guns though. Numerically they're not actually better, they just work out that way qualitatively.
Come to think, the only ship I can remember that has point defense in vanilla is the Gaian ship, and they have the turbolaser-based PDS that isn't especially effective in my experience.

What specific rapid-fire weapons do you use? I've considered trying the SARs but they don't look as interesting. And there's a bewildering variety of ion weapons so it's hard to tell which I should focus my attention on.
Ferdinand wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:19 pm
I don't generally use howitzers very much. I'm more of an ammo weapon fan.
Which ammo weapons do you use? I think the only primaries that use ammo in the late game are the thermo cannons, kiloton cannon, and TM7; am I missing any? And the launchers of course but I assume you aren't going launcher-only for your offense.
However, if I can get an Ion9 that will be my primary weapon probably until the end, combined with a launcher, either Rasiermesser or Heavy Nami.
I could never be bothered to grind out the Ion9. It requires waaaaaay too much fiddly inventory management and backtracking and by all accounts the weapon isn't that great.

Anyway, if I wanted to make howitzers less good, my inclination would be to make swarms more dangerous and downplay the capital ships a bit in the late game. If there were a wider balance of enemy ships then there'd be less of an incentive to go whole-hog with a really big, really slow gun.

Ferdinand
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Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:28 am

Haven't used te Kiloton in a while, should test that again. It used to be good around 1.0 but since then it declined and had less use, only good against swarms indeed. ThermoCannon and TM7 are favourites and I have once done a launcher only and could finish the game with that.

I like the versatility of the Ion weapons, they have some nice extras that make them somewhat special. They can be used as anti missile weapons (Ion flame and Ion9) shieldbusters (Ion9) swarmbusters (Ion9 and IM7) and capkillers (Ion9 and IM7) or general purpose guns (all other ion weapons). Also functions like the Ventari's ionising weapon and the blinder cannon from the Heliotropes are Ion and very annoying when used on the player. But can be fun to use on NPC's altough the Blinder cannon does not do much other than dropping shields relatively fast. It does not affect the ability of the NPC's

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