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This is a breakdown and analysis of all the ships in the game. It's designed to help new players understand how to use the various ships to their best advantage.

Merchant Ships:

Merchant ships are primarily used to run trade routes and ferry colonists to new biodomes. Merchant ships are generally slow and/or have poor fuel economy, but feature large cargo holds. Merchant ships often have secondary weapons designed for defense rather than offense. It is not advisable to try to fight in a merchant ship of any kind.

The most important statistic for any merchant ship is "cargo per fuel." This is how many cargo holds the ship has, divided by the amount of fuel it requires to warp with 0 Wisdom. Higher cargo per fuel means you'll make more profit on your trade runs while using less fuel, which is exactly the aim of using merchant ships in the first place.

Garbage Barge
Cost: 119,000
Max Shields: 4000
Max Cargo: 100
Top Speed: 5000
Turning: 60
Thrust: 700
Energy Regen: 4
Fuel per Warp: 11
Cargo per Fuel: 9.09
Secondary Weapon: Tractor Beam. The Tractor Beam locks an enemy firmly in place in front of the Garbage Barge, allowing the Barge to take free shots. It does not disable the combat ability of the enemy ship in any way.

Analysis: The Garbage Barge is named very appropriately. It's slow, one of the slowest ships out there. Its energy regen is horrid, turn speed is below average, and the Barge takes a ridiculous amount of fuel to warp between systems. The Garbage Barge barely packs enough cargo holds to qualify as a "merchant ship" in the first place, only allowing you 20 more holds than the much more versatile Merchant Freighter. Finally, the secondary weapon does nothing but assure you'll take an ass pounding, as it puts your enemy in prime location for an extended Graviton Beam session. On the plus side, the Barge is stupidly cheap, although it's a mystery why anyone would ever want to buy one.


Dreamsower
Cost: 195,000
Max Shields: 2000
Max Cargo: 200
Top Speed: 4000
Turning: 30
Thrust: 200
Energy Regen: 3
Fuel per Warp: 11
Cargo per Fuel: 18.18
Secondary Weapon: Flower Power. Flower Power fires an explosion of small pellets outward from the Dreamsower, dealing no damage but draining LOTS of energy from any ships it hits. Somewhat useful, not dominating.

Analysis: The Dreamsower has the most cargo holds of any ship in the game, which is its primary advantage. The Dreamsower is the best merchant ship to choose if you need to move a lot of resources around without warping... if you have a harvesting planet in a system and you want to move some of the resources to a new colony, for example. While the Dreamsower is actually the most fuel efficient cargo ship in terms of cargo per fuel, its mobility is sorely lacking when it comes to actual transportation. The Dreamsower is one of the slowest-moving ships in the game, and it has an abysmal energy regen and turning rate. 2,000 shields means you're a sitting duck, and Flower Power only serves to piss off whoever's shooting at you a little more. Many people use the Dreamsower to move colonists from Earth to their budding colonies. Don't, unless you're playing in the first three hours of a new game. This is a tragically weak ship that just happens to sport a bunch of cargo space. Unless you're doing a ton of same-system transport, steer clear of the Dreamsower entirely. The Dreamsower is a good bargain for the cost, but you're in real danger of getting shot down by the first person who decides to pick a fight with you. However, if you manage to hop into a game the moment it starts, you can usually afford to use a Dreamsower to populate your first few colonies with little trouble. Just don't dream about flying more than 4 hops from Sol in one.


Galaxy Whale
Cost: 595,000
Max Shields: 6000
Max Cargo: 160
Top Speed: 8000
Turning: 60
Thrust: 400
Energy Regen: 6
Fuel per Warp: 9
Cargo per Fuel: 17.77
Secondary Weapon: Repel. Pushes enemy ships away from you, allowing you more time to escape. One of the less useless secondary weapons.

Analysis: This is the ship to use for all of your intergalactic transportation needs. It has the most shields of any merchant ship and also has the best top speed, allowing a quicker getaway than the other two ships. Repel is actually a moderately useful secondary weapon if you need to escape a hostile player. What else can I say? The Galaxy Whale is the most expensive merchant ship by a wide margin, and for good reason. It does everything right, and I tend to spend the vast majority of my time in a Whale until I'm ready to upgrade to a Sethdar or Imperial Starcruiser.


Exploration Ships

Exploration ships are defined by their low warp cost, allowing you to move about the galaxy discovering colonies and spaceports without guzzling too much fuel. They're generally fairly weak in combat, so don't go trying to engage NPCs as you zip around.

Scout Marauder
Cost: 115,000
Max Shields: 2000
Max Cargo: 25
Top Speed: 8000
Turning: 40
Thrust: 300
Energy Regen: 4
Fuel per Warp: 7
Cargo per Fuel: 3.57
Secondary Weapon: Reverse Guns. Fires a peashooter-like weapon behind you in an attempt to dissuade pursuers. It rarely works.

Analysis: Cheap and zippy, the Marauder is the ship I use for all of my exploring needs. Sure its hull is paper-thin, but it has a nice top speed and a very low warp cost. Don't try to carry any kind of cargo around or do any fighting, the Marauder is used strictly for searching out trade routes, colony locations, and/or artifacts. Buy a Marauder when you want to have a look around, then immediately trade it in for a sturdier ship when you get back home.


Antarean SpeedStar
Cost: 850,000
Max Shields: 5000
Max Cargo: 90
Top Speed: 6000
Turning: 40
Thrust: 400
Energy Regen: 4
Fuel per Warp: 6
Cargo per Fuel: 15
Secondary Weapon: Anti-Gravity Bomb. Shoots a projectile which sends enemy ships flying backwards on contact. Useful for making your getaway, but does no damage.

Analysis: The SpeedStar has the lowest warp cost in the game, letting you warp between systems for as little as 2.1 fuel per warp with 10 Wisdom and the proper artifacts. The SpeedStar is actually a little slower than the Marauder, but it provides more shields, more cargo space, and better acceleration in return. The real downside to the SpeedStar is its cost, an almost prohibitively-high 850,000 credits. The SpeedStar is more of an all-around ship than the Marauder, but is it worth almost a million credits to get an average ship that happens to have a low warp cost?

As a side note, the SpeedStar is actually the most fuel efficient ship in the game for trade runs if your character has some Wisdom. With 10 Wisdom, you're moving 90 units of cargo for 4 fuel, a cargo-per-fuel ratio of 22.5. With 10 Wisdom, the Dreamsower only sports a cargo-per-fuel ratio of 22.22. Not a significant difference, but it's good to know that the SpeedStar is an incredibly efficient trading vessel if you're playing a character with high Wisdom. It helps justify the cost, anyway.


All-Around Ships

These ships don't have any one particular advantage. They have moderate fuel costs, can pack a decent amount of shields, and have some decent cargo capability as well. They're also both amazingly cheap. Usually, these two ships are used for a short time at the beginning of the game until you can afford to move up to something more suitable for what you're trying to accomplish, be it trading or combat.

Merchant Cruiser
Cost: 98,000
Max Shields: 4000
Max Cargo: 45
Top Speed: 4000
Turning: 60
Thrust: 500
Energy Regen: 4
Fuel per Warp: 9
Cargo per Fuel: 5
Secondary Weapon: Afterburners. Sends you flying forwards at an increased rate of speed for a short time. You can't turn the afterburners off until they're done firing, so don't overshoot your target.

Analysis: The newbie ship, you've all flown one of these before. Really, there's no reason to stay in a Merchant Cruiser very long. The Afterburners are nice, but the Merchant Freighter has a much better natural top speed. Do a few trade or taxi runs in your Merchant Cruiser, then upgrade as soon as you can.


Merchant Freighter
Cost: 144,000
Max Shields: 5000
Max Cargo: 80
Top Speed: 6000
Turning: 70
Thrust: 600
Energy Regen: 5
Fuel per Warp: 8
Cargo per Fuel: 10
Secondary Weapon: Point Defense. Shoots down incoming Negotiator and Nuke missiles. Kind of nifty to have.

Analysis: The Merchant Freighter is better than the Merchant Cruiser in every possible catagory. The low cost and well-rounded attributes of this ship make it an excellent first upgrade. I usually buy a Merchant Freighter with my starting money, or at least before I spend my first 200 fuel units. The Freighter is fairly quick, has a decent warp cost, and can hold almost twice as many cargo holds as the Freighter. It's worth looking into on your first day, even if you plan to upgrade past it almost immediately.


Combat Ships

Here are the meat and potatoes of the game, the combat ships. Most players spend most of their time in one of these ships. Some ships have excellent secondary weapons, while you may forget you even have a secondary weapon on other ships.

Tyrolean Falcon
Cost: 91,000
Max Shields: 6000
Max Cargo: 55
Top Speed: 7000
Turning: 50
Thrust: 300
Energy Regen: 8
Fuel per Warp: 9
Cargo per Fuel: 6.11
Secondary Weapon: Cargo Disrupt. Causes any ships in the vicinity to jettison some of their cargo into space, where you can pick it up. Seems like a very nifty ability for pirate types.

Analysis: The Falcon is a dirt cheap option for pilots who want to start combat early. Featuring average shields and mobility, the Falcon's primary strength is its quick energy regen. The best use I've found for this ship is to buy one on the first day and use it to disrupt all the Dreamsowers and Galaxy Whales trying to move colonists to their nearby cash farms. This isn't a particularly useful tactic, but if that's what you want to do, this is your ship. The Falcon is quickly made obsolete after the first day or two of play, when most players are able to afford the more extravagent combat vessels.


The Vulture
Cost: 156,000
Max Shields: 3000
Max Cargo: 30
Top Speed: 3000
Turning: 40
Thrust: 400
Energy Regen: 6
Fuel per Warp: 12
Cargo per Fuel: 2.5
Secondary Weapon: Surface Missiles. Fires a homing missile, similar to a Negotiator, that does very nice damage to Flak Cannons.

Analysis: Also called the Xbox Controller, the Vulture is your basic artillery ship. It's very useful in removing planetary defenses, able to fire homing missiles from around corners and/or out of range of those pesky Flak Cannons. The only problem is actually getting this puppy to the colonies you need to invade. With a top speed of 3000, a max shield load of 3000, and a warp cost of 12, you're going to have a bitch of a time getting anywhere further than 10 hops from Sol. And the Vulture is quite useless on any planet where the warp point is adequately defended, because its extremely low max shield limit means you'll get blown up before the surface missiles can do their job. With the stupidly high fuel cost and horribly low max shield limit, I can't say I'd ever really consider using the Vulture for much of anything.


Avenger
Cost: 210,000
Max Shields: 6000
Max Cargo: 45
Top Speed: 8000
Turning: 70
Thrust: 700
Energy Regen: 7
Fuel per Warp: 11
Cargo per Fuel: 4.09
Secondary Weapon: Cloaking Device. Makes the ship invisible to both sight and radar. Cannot be seen or locked onto with Graviton beams unless the attacker has a Battle Scanner.

Analysis: Affectionately referred to as the Newbie Slayer, the Avenger is a quick ship with a gimmick. The cloaking device allows the Avenger to avoid Graviton fire, and can allow the Avenger's pilot to win handily against newer player or players without a damaging projectile secondary weapon (Sethdars with Gravs, for example). Battle Scanners negate the cloaking device, but few newbies can afford such a luxury, and so the Avenger remains the scourge of the newbie grounds right around Sol. The Avenger can regain energy while cloaked, but at a much slower rate. Its high acceleration and top speed allow the Avenger to chase its prey from system to system fairly effectively.


Battleship
Cost: 250,000
Max Shields: 8000
Max Cargo: 50
Top Speed: 8000
Turning: 70
Thrust: 700
Energy Regen: 8
Fuel per Warp: 12
Cargo per Fuel: 4.16
Secondary Weapon: Carbonite Pulse Rifle. Fires a double-blast of laser fire, similar to a Fusion Blaster.

Analysis: The most powerful combat ship available to the general public, the Battleship has no particular weaknesses. Above average shields, high top speed, good maneuverability, and a useful secondary weapon all contribute to the power of the Battleship. If you're going to do some fighting after the first day or two of play, and you don't qualify to fly a Corporate Flagship, Starcruiser, or Sethdar, this is the ship you want to be in. The warp cost is especially high, however, so don't plan on cruising the galaxy forever in a Battleship.


Corporate Flagship
Cost: 720,000
Max Shields: 12000
Max Cargo: 130
Top Speed: 8000
Turning: 60
Thrust: 500
Energy Regen: 8
Fuel per Warp: 8
Cargo per Fuel: 16.25
Secondary Weapon: Supernova. Fires a very slow-moving projectile which deals moderate damage, much like an Explosive Charge Launcher.

Analysis: Similar to the Battleship, the Flagship is a well-rounded combat ship with no particular weaknesses. The Flagship isn't as strong as the Sethdar or Starcruiser, but it's a nice step up for those who need more punch than the Battleship can deliver. The Flagship is fast, fuel efficient, and features a very respectable shield cap. The Supernova is quite useless most of the time, so save your energy. The Flagship is only available to the CEO of a corporation, but you can start your own corporation and buy the ship if you're that desperate (there's no cost to start a corporation). Honestly though, the Flagship is only a good choice if you're too lazy or unwilling to manipulate your reputation enough to get into a Sethdar or a Starcruiser. The Flagship isn't cheap... it's too expensive to use as an interim ship while you're fixing your reputation. I say skip it entirely and do what you have to do to get into your Sethdar/Starcruiser.


Sethdar Cruiser
Cost: 1,250,000
Max Shields: 16000
Max Cargo: 110
Top Speed: 8000
Turning: 90
Thrust: 800
Energy Regen: 9
Fuel per Warp: 9
Cargo per Fuel: 12.22
Secondary Weapon: EMP Blast. Temporarily disables the target's thrusters. The enemy ship can still turn and fire, they just can't use their forward thrusters for a short time.

Analysis: Probably the most popular ship out there, the Sethdar Cruiser is one of the two best combat ships in the game. The Sethdar is only available to players with -1000 reputation or lower (which is fairly easy to get). The Sethdar has a very high shield cap and the best turn rate and acceleration in the game, giving it excellent staying power in combat. The energy regen is great and the warp cost isn't too tough. The Sethdar's only drawback is the relatively small cargo capacity when compared to the Flagship and Starcruiser, but that's not a dealbreaker for players looking to do battle first and tow cargo later.


Imperial Starcruiser
Cost: 2,000,000
Max Shields: 16000
Max Cargo: 150
Top Speed: 9000
Turning: 60
Thrust: 700
Energy Regen: 9
Fuel per Warp: 9
Cargo per Fuel: 16.66
Secondary Weapon: Photon Torpedo. Fires a fast-moving projectile straight ahead that deals good damage. The Torpedo deals splash damage, meaning it damages everything near the source of the explosion (including you if you're too close).

Analysis: The granddaddy of them all. Some people say the Sethdar is better than the Starcruiser. They're wrong. This is the best ship in the game (Intergalactics' Ship notwithstanding). The Starcruiser is not only the fastest ship in the game, but commands an impressive 150 cargo holds. The Photon Torpedos are a powerful weapon, quite possibly one of the best secondary weapons in the game. They deal impressive damage, offer an alternative to the Grav when fighting cloaked Avengers, and have longer range than Flak Cannons... so sit back and fire away, folks. The Starcruiser is durable, fuel efficient, fast, and useful in virtually every situation you will come across. This is a ship that performs extremely well for both combat AND trading. The Starcruiser requires you to achieve 5,000 reputation and apply for a U.N. commission before you can purchase one, and getting that much reputation is no small feat. Adding to a player's bounty can get you positive reputation in a hurry, but it's not cheap. All in all, expect to spend about 10 million credits fixing your reputation, buying the ship, outfitting it with cargo holds and shields, buying a Graviton Beam, and buying a scanner of your choice. You don't need to MAINTAIN 5,000 reputation to fly the Starcruiser, you just have to get there when you're buying one.

I hope this helps.