I’ve jumped into fleet battles pretty heavily recently, after cutting my teeth on Dogfight to learn the ropes and I wanted to make a post on some of my learning experiences that have allowed me to start winning a majority of my matches after placement, and meaningfully effecting a game.
One of the biggest frustrations newer players might come across is feeling like they are doing everything right, doing lots of damage, shooting down lots of players and bombers and AI, but still losing and not feeling like they are having a meaningful contribution to the game. These tips will hopefully ease some of that transition period pain. I’ll break them down into three primary concepts: Using your Life Wisely, The Sacred Timer, and What you Should be Doing vs What you Can Do.
This is primarily an Offense oriented guide, as I feel Defense is a bit more straightforward for people to understand, and I see quickly flipping offenses to be the more common occurrence for new players.
Using Your Life Wisely
The idea behind this is fairly simple in practice, but can be easily lost in the moment to moment of a heated battle. Getting shot down, especially repeatedly and quickly, is the fastest way to lose a fleet battle. Very few things outside of coordinated AI farming on defense will flip the morale bar faster in your enemies favor. This means that anytime you respawn, it’s very worth it to think about what you did in that life to further your teams progress and what lead to your demise.
This also means that you should not under any circumstance over-chase almost dead opponents that have run into the Danger Zones, or over commit to killing someone under the guns of their cruisers or flagship if you are on offense. Pushing someone out of an engagement zone and living afterwards, is massively more worthwhile to your team then destroying an enemy player if you too will also be destroyed.
Note the enemy player part. It CAN be worthwhile if you destroy a Cruiser in the process, or heavily damage it just before a morale flip, or destroy a subsystem on the flagship. It is important to value your life, but if you too timid and do negligible objective damage, your team will fall behind to a team that takes more risks. Anytime you are not actively hunting an enemy player or getting shot at, you should be at least attempting to do strafing runs on the enemy objective, no matter what your class is.
The Sacred Timer
This is a concept that allows you to properly gauge what your active threat level is, and give yourself a more easily relatable tool to properly get behind using the prior concept. The idea is this, anytime you are actively away from your “safe” zone, two clocks start ticking. Specifically, the time before an enemy notices you and actively begins pursuit, and the length your power systems will last.
They will start ticking at different times in an engagement, and should dictate your tactics, strategy, and movement at any given time.
The first timer to start ticking the moment you get into the active combat area, is the time it will take before someone decides your their next kill. This timer reaches zero when an enemy is actively firing at you and you begin to take meaningful damage. The main concept is to shift your awareness and priority depending on where the timer is. If you have just entered the engagement zone and your timer is “high”, focus on applying damage either to the enemy objectives or the enemy squadron. You will have a window of opportunity where few eyes will be on you, and you will be more likely to apply significant damage. When the ticks past whatever you judge to be a “halfway” point, your perception should shift to your avenue of escape back to your fleet, and begin making preparations to do so. When the inevitable attack occurs, you’ll be ready to bug out, and your enemy will have a much harder time pinning you down. Never plan on being in an area until you die, UNLESS you plan on destroying a subsystem, directly destroying a cruiser, or saving a higher priority team mate such as a bomber or support. Always plan to accomplish something and leave the area.
The second timer that starts ticking is your subsystem power levels. This is somewhat different for Rebels and Imperials and I’ll try to explain the differences. The two teams spend their time on the way to the engagement in different ways. New Republic teams will be actively managing their power subsystems to try and front load as much of their power into overcharged systems. Once in the engagement and actively using those power systems, either boosting, firing, or taking damage to shields, a timer is running on how long you can be effective in the combat area. A good rule of thumb is to be ready to bug out if and when one of those subsystems is drained of power. Use your natural staying power advantage and when your weapons are dry, retreat for a long enough time to allow your shields and your weapons to reach nominal levels. Imperials follow a somewhat different, but inherently similar strategy. You are not as beholden to your power levels, and will instead be focused on if any one of your subsystems is charged, because either will allow you to do exactly what you want to do at that moment, whether it be apply more damage, or bug out. It is important to never let them both run out, as an Imperial ship without the ability to convert power is usually a slow, toothless sitting duck.
An example for me using this would be if I were about to engage the enemy Cruisers in the first offense, with them being at full shields. More often then not I will utilize one run entirely to strip the shields off of one target and bug out, realizing that for one, most of my payload and weapon energy will be spent, and I will have possibly multiple enemies angling to kill me all the while the Cruisers pound me.
What You Should Be Doing vs What You Can Do
Fleet is a very fluid game mode, and while each ship class does have priorities that emphasized, strictly adhering to them is an easy way for an enemy team to exploit your plan of action. If I’m in a TIE Bomber and my current goal is to nuke the enemy Cruisers, I’m not going to actively ignore an opportunity to help my team on the way there. Quickly identifying targets of opportunity and knowing how to most effectively act upon them is one of the easiest ways a solo player can meaningfully effect the game around them. An easy way to encourage this to happen in your games is to NEVER be rigidly locked in on your “favorite” ship, and refuse to change even if your team is losing. Having a somewhat balanced composition of ships will force the enemy team to switch tactics depending on who they are engaging, and that can set up for easy kills for your wing mates. A TIE Interceptor targeting a Y-Wing is a much easier target overall to destroy than that same Interceptor on a X-Wing or A-Wing, because they will need significantly longer to accomplish their goal, and sacrifice the majority of their maneuverability to have their guns remain on target. Likewise as an Interceptor, it’s your job to NOT need help more often then not, instead being able to get yourself out of trouble and quickly turn it around for a blind attack on an unsuspecting enemy or a number mismatch.
I hope these tips help some fledgling Fleet pilots out there!