Miss part 1? Learn more about control and flight mechanics in Star Citizen here before diving into weapons.
Star Citizen’s weapon systems are almost as complicated as it’s flight mechanics. Projectile types, fire rates, ranges, mounts and more all come into play when not only planning out your equipment, but how and when you engage with them.
First off, I strongly encourage you to bookmark Erkul.games DPS Calculator; this not only helps you plan out your weapon DPS, but gives you information on all the parts of your ship, where to purchase, and more.
Let’s dig into the space combat weapons guide with projectile types first!
Star Citizen Space Combat: Projectile Types
There are three main projectile types in Star Citizen when it comes to space combat. Each of these has specific advantages and disadvantages which we will outline here.
Additionally, while you may end up finding that most weapons have the same or similar DPS, in future versions of Star Citizen more unique aspects (such as a mix of distortion & regular damage) will become present (again).
Lasers are fairly classic and simple to understand and use.
Each laser weapon has a regenerative pool of “ammo” to pull from. The more power you provide to weapons, the larger the pool is and the faster it regenerates.
This advantage is countered by the fact that shields block lasers entirely, so in order to damage a ship you’ll need to bring the shields down in the area you’re firing at before you can actually begin to cause damage to the target itself.
Distortion weapons in Star Citizen are like lasers, but a little more unique.
Like lasers, distortion projectiles draw from a regenerative pool of “ammo”, and the size of that pool and the speed at which it regenerates is controlled by the amount of power fed to weapons.
What makes them unique is that they do not cause any actual damage to ships, and instead are designed to take down shields and systems.
Systems have a special “distortion damage” health pool; once you hit the max amount of distortion damage on a system it reboots, bringing it down for a specific amount of time. This is incredibly useful if you’re looking to disable a ship, rather than outright destroy it.. Or just make your target stop moving so you have an easier time taking it out with more traditional weapons.
Be sure to read the note on distortion damage at the bottom of this guide.
Ballistic projectiles in Star Citizen are exactly what they sound like: A physical round like a bullet or cannon shot (we’ll cover missiles/torpedoes later, FYI).
Ballistic weapons have (very) limited ammo, and that ammo pool doesn’t regenerate. Additionally, applying power to weapons has zero impact on ballistic weapons.
Where ballistic projectiles stand out in the mix – especially with version 3.19 of Star Citizen – is that a large percentage of damage with ballistic weapons bypasses shields entirely, directly damaging the hull.
Weapon Types in Star Citizen
Beyond the projectile types, there are 4 different types of weapons in Star Citizen that we’ll describe below.
Note that all weapon types can be found for every kind of projectile; you’re not limited to ballistic cannons or laser repeaters.
Cannons are the big, powerful weapons in Star Citizen. These shoot a high-damage projectile that can be absolutely devastating when they land. The disadvantage of cannon-style weapons is that they have a slower rate of fire, which means you’ll want to ensure you can make the shot before you take it.
Repeaters are the more traditional “well-rounded” weapons. They have an average amount of damage as well as an average rate of fire, and are good general weapons to go with for all engagement types.
Gatling weapons in Star Citizen are a lower-damage, higher rate of fire weapon. Each shot may not do much damage, but they can put a lot of rounds out at once, making them a popular choice vs. fast moving targets. They do take a brief moment to spin up, however, so that should be kept in mind; you’re most likely going to use a spray-and-pray approach with gatling weapons in Star Citizen.
Scatterguns in Star Citizen are basically the ship-based shotgun type; they fire a spread of projectiles and are best used at close range. Their effectiveness is severely limited at longer ranges, so putting these on a fast moving ship is always going to be better than on something slower moving.
Star Citizen Weapon Mounts
Mounting weapons on your ships in Star Citizen is a simple prospect: You have a maximum size mount (hardpoint) you can attach a weapon to.
For example, the Aegis Sabre can mount 4 size 3 weapons. You could also mount size 2, or even 1, but in most cases you’ll want to equip the largest size available. In most cases, the larger the mount size, the greater the damage and range.
Additionally, you can equip a gimbal in a mount; Gimbals give you more freedom when targeting a ship because they’ll adjust the point of aim for the individual weapon mounted to it within a specific cone the weapon faces. The disadvantage to gimbals is they reduce the hardpoint size by 1, so if you have an s3 hardpoint and attach a gimbal to it, you’ll only be able to equip an s2 weapon to it.
This leads us into missiles & torpedoes.
Star Citizen: Missiles & Torpedoes
Much like standard weapons, missiles & torpedoes are limited based on the maximum hardpoint size; A size 4 hardpoint can equip any missile rack that is also a size 4.
What’s interesting is the amount and type of missiles you can equip is based on the missile rack; For example, you can equip an s4 missile rack that can either support 1 size 4 missile, 2 size 3s, 4 size 2s, or 8 size 1s.
Torpedoes are just a larger size of missile; Once you reach s5 size in missile racks you actually begin to talk about torpedoes (although, as of writing, torpedo racks are not interchangeable).
Torpedoes are high-damage projectiles that can be fired at a much longer range, but they are also exceptionally slow, making them easier to evade.. Which leads us into the lock-on mechanisms of missiles & torpedoes.
Missile Guidance Systems
There are 3 primary guidance systems for missiles & torpedoes. Each of these are guided based on the amount of signature output the guidance system focuses on.
EM, or Electro-Magnetic, gain a lock-on based on the EM signature of ships. Infrared locks on to the IR (heat) signature. Cross-section focuses on the specific physical size of the ship.
Additionally, missiles can be targeted directly with ship weapons; most missiles will be difficult to hit, but slower-moving torpedoes can be shot down by a skilled pilot (typically with a gimbal as well).
Let’s finish out by talking about defensive and other combat systems.
Defensive & special combat systems in Star Citizen
There are 2 primary defensive systems in Star Citizen: Decoys and noise fields.
Decoys are used to distract incoming missiles and torpedoes; a common strategy is to deploy a handful at once to ensure the missile is deviated quickly. In most cases a burst of 3 decoys will cause any missile or torpedo to lose it’s lock on you. These basically shoot out from behind your ship as EM & IR-heavy objects.
Noise fields are designed to disrupt initial targeting locks; these burst out like a cloud of signature-disrupting confetti. If your ship is stealthy enough a noise field can be effective allowing you to escape, but for ships with a large cross section, IR, or EM signature they will have a much lower amount of effectiveness (if any at all); additionally, you carry much fewer of these as opposed to decoys.
There is one final combat system to discuss here.
Some ships can be equipped with a special EMP/distortion pulse system; this is used to cause a high amount of distortion damage within a radius of the ship when triggered (the amount of damage is related to how close a ship is to your ship when you deploy it). Like we noted in the projectile type guide, distortion damage doesn’t directly damage the hull, but instead forces components to reboot, disabling them (and, in this case, the ship) for a specific amount of time.
The EMP/distortion pulse system requires a certain amount of time to charge before it is effective (although you can deploy it early for reduced damage), so care must be taken to trigger it at the right time. Additionally, you’ll need to be fairly close to your target in order for it to be effective.
A final special note about distortion damage
Distortion damage is first absorbed by the shields, which is why it’s important to charge up your EMP/distortion pulse as much as possible before deploying.
Additionally, the amount of time a system is disabled is related to the amount of power deployed to it: If you have all your power to shields when the pulse hits, your shields will be down for longer (supposedly; I haven’t been able to verify this yet, but this is the way the mechanic is described).
Additionally, if a system is powered down when a pulse hits it will be unaffected, so you can then immediately toggle it on without any negative impact.