Whether you have the Federal Corvette bristling with hard-points or the lowly Hauler with its single small (lonely) hard-point, your choice of weapon is a life-and-death decision. Getting it wrong will most likely be your demise.
There is no best weapon in Elite, just good combinations - the trick is finding the best combination for your ship and play style.
Thermal or kinetic?
Most energy weapons are thermal (they burn), while projectile weapons do damage by striking a ship’s hull (bullets, missiles, torpedoes and cannon shells), but there are the exceptions that do both (Plasma Accelerator bolts and Rail Gun shells).
Energy weapons do more damage to shields, while kinetic weapons do more damage to hull. That’s not to say a multi-cannon won’t take down shields, but they won’t be as effective as a beam laser of the same class. The reverse is also true. The same multi-cannon will turn a ship’s hull into Swiss cheese while the beam laser will burn away for ages before the enemy is destroyed.
It is worth mixing weapons types for a more effective attack.
Weapons come attached to your ship in three flavours. Each variant has strengths and weaknesses.
- Fixed fires straight, must be aimed by ship’s nose position.
- Gimballed weapon will track target within forward view.
- Turret weapon will track all round and fires automatically when in range.
The amount of damage a weapon does decreases if they are gimballed or turreted, compared to the fixed version.
Fixed weapons fire in a straight line, so you can miss any moving target if you don’t anticipate, but equally your aim cannot be affected by countermeasures.
A gimballed weapon can auto-aim, so you’ll get more hits on the target.
The turret mount can fire behind you, or above you, even when you cannot see the target through the canopy. Turrets have three modes of fire:-
- Fire Ahead, in which the turrets act as fixed hard-points.
- Target Only, in which turrets will only fire on a target that you have selected and is hostile.
- Fire at will, in which turrets will specifically look for any hostile target. I call this mode "attract trouble" as to shoot at many ships without killing them, just gathers a crowd who gang up and kill you!
Fixed weapons would be effective on a fast fighter, such as an Eagle or Vulture, but a multi-cannon turret would be more useful on a Type-6 trader to shoot the bad guys behind you while you make your escape!
Types of weapon
steady fire rate. Does equal damage to shields and hull. Low power consumption. Low heat output.
faster fire in short bursts. Does more damage than pulse, but uses more power and produces more heat.
most dangerous laser. Pours on the damage like a hose. Burns through your WEP capacitor quickly and produces damaging amounts of heat with larger classes.
for breaking ore fragments from asteroids. This type of laser cannot be used to damage other ships, but is essential for mining operations. The better your mining laser, the large the ore fragments will be and the higher the frequecy at which they break off the rock being mined.
very effective against ship hull. Rapid fire. Doesn’t use much power. Very low heat. Runs out of ammo in sustained combat.
slow to fire, but causes a lot of damage. Next to no heat. Causes “splash” damage – it doesn’t just damage where it hits, but spreads the pain around! Very good at killing modules.
slow to fire. Low heat. Very short range, but does a lot of damage when close. Often described as “space shotgun”.
fires low speed projectiles. Does a LOT of damage. Huge power drain and produces almost as much heat as beam lasers.
super-fast projectile. Does lots of damage. Big power drain and makes lots of heat. Very slow to fire (over a second) so needs practice to use.
Missile rack (dumb fire)
very damaging kinetic weapon. Good range. Power use and heat are high.
Missile rack (seeking)
like their “dumb” counterparts, seeking missiles have the same strengths and weaknesses, but will lock on to a target and follow it, so are much harder to evade.
fires a single heavy yield kinetic projectile.
these can drop proximity mines that cause explosive damage, but also shock-mines which do very little damage, but throw a ship off course.
Energy weapons as primary and kinetic as secondary is a good tactic
Combat can be an elaborate game of “rock, paper, scissors” with ships having different weapons, armour and shields. But for every weapon, there is some kind of countermeasure.
these drain your ship coolant into a hockey-puck projectile and fire it from the ship, making your ship cold. How is that a countermeasure? Now your ship is (for a short while) radar invisible, while the heatsink is a radar blip. Fire one, change direction and escape.
this firework display from your ship scatters the aim of gimbals and turrets.
electronic counter-measures will deflect the tracking of an incoming torpedo or seeking missile.
this is a tiny auto-cannon that will attempt to shoot down any incoming missile or mine.
With the exception of point defence, all these countermeasures are totally useless against an enemy with a fixed weapon and a good aim!