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I've a shameful confession to make: I'm terrible at FreeSpace 2.

I love playing space sims. I've played more hours in TIE Fighter than I think I can remember. I brought down numerous X-Wings, attacked capital ships in a TIE Bomber, and became part of the Emperors super secret funclub. I've played X3, and enjoyed it. But until recently, I've never gotten my hands on FreeSpace 2.

Turns out, I'm HORRIBLE at it!

I don't know what my issue is, but I can't play this game worth garbage for some reason. I'm using a Saitek x52 HOTAS (which was set up thanks to some nice help from these forums!), and I'm playing with FS2 Open. I've managed to get my way through the tutorials and the first few missions... But I find when I'm flying in a mission, one of two things will happen.

1.) My wingmen will destroy targets before I can even get in range. Sometimes missions are completed without my doing anything, because my wingmen wind up downing all the hostiles.


2.) I'll engage the enemy, only to be unable to land a single hit to them. I'm tracking and leading as best I can given the in-game reticles for leading the targets. I'm trying to match speed and navigation. For some reason, even though other space sims have given me no problems, FS2 just makes me feel useless. I can hardly even get a kill most of the time, and when I succeed in a mission, it's usually due to dumb luck! More often than not, the mission just fails when an escort objective dies and I'm 5 clicks away trying to land a hit on a target I've been chasing.

I realize that lowering the difficulty (I'm on normal) is probably the quickest recommendation that anyone will give - But in light of the problems I'm having, I'm just wondering if I'm playing the game incorrectly. Are there any tips for improving dogfighting technique? Anything in particular I can do to hone skills?

A weird and pointless question, I realize... But at this juncture I can't really enjoy the game, and I'd like to get better so that I can actually play the game I've purchased!
Tip 1: Accept low hit ratios - especially against maneuverable targets. My total average hit ratio for primaries hovers around 34% - it is more against heavy fighters/bombers/capital ships and less against light fighters.

Tip 1a: Never dogfight against SF Dragons unless you absolutely have to. Seriously, don't do it. They are incredibly agile and while their hulls can't take much punishment, their shields often recharge before you can get another hit on them. Take them out with missiles at long range or order your wingmen to take them on. Even if you eventually bring one down with primaries you will likely have wasted too much time engaging them.

Tip 2: Especially against fighters, get in close to your target. Use your senses to lead, don't just rely on the lead indicator.

Tip 2a: Maybe try turning your lead indicator, targeting, and the like off (for only a time). This will force you to develop better habits for targeting and leading. Once I was dogfighting a bunch of SF Manticores in a GVF Horus (I think - it was a GVF fighter, maybe a Seth) - I was down to a few percent on my hull and I had lost sensors. With no sensors, I had no targeting capability and lead indicator. With little hull integrity left, I couldn't afford to take hits. Whereas previous attempts at that mission ended in failure, I destroyed all 6 of them because I practiced better flying as a result of my damage. You can opt to turn of your targeting indicators.

Tip 3: Use your afterburners prodigiously for both offense and defense. Matching speed doesn't help you if your target hits its burners and burners can help you evade someone firing by providing jolts of acceleration in different directions.

Tip 4: Know your fighter's primary weapons placement. Different fighters have different patterns of primaries with different degrees of parallax on those primaries. You probably want your dogfighting primaries as tightly grouped together and near the nose as possible for easy aiming.

Tip 5: Practice. :) But it seriously it took me awhile to get a hang of playing this game - even on medium difficulty.

If I think of any others, I'll let you know. :)
Post edited July 16, 2011 by crazy_dave
Crazy_Dave's advice is spot on... I'd also say that it might help to go through the turorial's again so you can practice a little without too much stress on doing perfect. Also just give it some time. I recently played again and could hardly hit anything either but after a bit I tuned my own playing and got better at it again.

Also, don't take you wingmen taking out the enemy before you. I personally LOVE that it happens. I mean it's great that you're playing a game with teammates on your side and they are actually competent, unlike "every" other game. Personally it immerses me into the game more by having me be a part of the ongoing struggle and battle and not the one man army bound to win the war single handed. It's also great when you're about dead and they save your ass. And it gives me that much more of a thrill when I do get a kill, because I know I had to earn it in some fashion.
I agree crazy dave is spot on -- The other thing is that in options - there is joy stick sensitivity and a dead zone dots -- 1 dot is minimum and i think 5 is max - turn it right down - other wise you will be all over the place... turn the mouse off... (that way you can't hit it and end up all over the place)

make sure your Joystick is calibrated.... though doing that in win 7 is a pain...

remember that you can switch all power to engines!!!! that will help getting to combat - (i set it up so i had guns, shields, engines + and - on insert, delete, home end, end - page up page down for easy use)

in "kill the bomber" missions - there are a few where you protect ships - i find that lots of blind fire rockets are really handy (later dual trebrochet (sp) work wonders) -- I just use the joystick throttle to jump on top of a bomber and then hit guns and rockets on them at point blank.

I often end a mission with one or two kills - except on huge "protect ship - kill bomber missions where i think mu record is 19. Don't worry about that sort of thing. You're part of a wing in a desperate situation and all that matters is that you succeed in the mission.

I also played Xwing and Tie fighter and in an Xwing I could take out a squad of 10 or 20 tie fighters. But remember that the programming was simply no where as good back then. I seem to remember Free Space and Freespace 2 being easier - when i first got it. I wondered if i was getting old :) then it occurred to me that with the type of processor speed i have maybe the game AI is just better and faster or something.

Either way - hope that helps and you enjoy the game -- i just replayed 1 and 2 (in FS open) and was amazed by how much fun it is...
No shame in going to a lower difficulty level. Play on something easier for a while. When it starts to feel too easy, bump it up a notch. Continue until it starts to feel easy and then bump it again. You'll be up there in no time.
Post edited July 23, 2011 by Nomad_Soul
There's been plenty of dogfighting tips already, so I won't extend on those. But I'd like to add something else : remember that FS2 is not ONLY about dogfighting ! Your kill count or hit ratio should not be your main objectives : in the end, it's the mission objectives that matter.

So there comes an important factor, situational awareness. Even when you are knee deep in a tense dogfight, keep an eye on your mission objectives, wingmen status, and if applicable your escort/primary targets status. The FS2 HUD does a great job at providing you with all the important pieces of info at a glance, so make use of this. Once you've analyzed the situation, set yourself an objective. Destroying the fighter that is the closest from you is not always the best thing to do ! Actually, you shouldn't hesitate to break from a dogfight, even if you are getting the upper hand, when there is a more effective thing to do elsewhere. For instance, if one of the ships you're supposed to escort is taking a pounding, you need to defend it right now. If one of the capital ships you're supposed to destroy is making a run for the subspace node, you need to stop it by destroying its engines right now.

Remember : if the action gets really intense and you can't follow all the radio chatter, hit F4 (I think, I don't have the game installed on this computer to check) to pause the game and show the radio log. Take some time to read through all messages, particularly those from Command or important mission ships, and take a few seconds to think about your next move. Sure, it breaks the immersion, but for a beginner there really is no shame in doing it. The devs implemented this, it's part of the game, so don't be afraid to use it. You'll probably have to use it anyway in some user-made compaigns that do not have voice acting.

Then, once you've prioritized your objectives, you need to choose whether you'll achieve them by yourself, or with the help of your wingmen, or to let your wingmen do the job for you. In many missions, you'll have to achieve distant objectives simultaneously, so it won't be physically possible for you to do the job alone, you need to order your wingmen around. Most beginners neglect this, and it's a big mistake. There are quite a few missions that can be achieved by just stopping your ship in a quiet corner of the battlefield, and ordering your wingmen around wisely. Personnaly, I recommend ordering the wingmen wing by wing (not ship by ship), because the AI is most effective in groups and ordering ships individually is too time-consuming. When you have only Alpha wing available, or when you need all the firepower available, just use the 'order all' command. Learn how to use the different orders effectively : your wingmen do not only attack a target, they can also defend a ship quite effectively (they prioritize the bombers and heavy fighters just like you should do, and move back to escort the ship when the threat is eliminated). They can also defend your own ship efficiently, allowing you to concentrate on an objective that requires more skill (taking down a given subsystem/turret, etc...).

Once you do all that, your problem with being always far from the action should be gone. Because if your situation awareness is good, you will be able to predict where the action will take place and get there in advance. Don't forget that you can increase your speed by sending more energy to your engines (revert back to a more balanced distribution just before a dogfight). And use your afterburners to cover long distances, on some ships they are extremely effective (but let them recharge to at least half of their gauge before engaging in a dogfight, for evasive manoeuvres).

And one last tip : you might have noticed some colored filled circles at the right side of the brackets that highlight the ships on your HUD (in the main view, not the target view). They indicate the number of wingmen that are currently 'busy' with this ship, whether because your ordered them this way, or because the AI took its own decision. For a friendly ship, it indicates the number of wingmen guarding it. For enemy ships, the number of wingmen currently attacking it. This is an important piece of information : if a fighter is already attacked by 3 of your wingmen, don't waste your time and missiles on him, just move on to another target and let your wingmen do their job.
Hey guys, there is a full thread dedicated to this and a bit more fleshed out by a lot more opinions on the Hard Light Productions forums, I can't find it at the moment, but I've posted a great deal in that thread, as an experienced Squadwar pilot I do suggest you check it out.

For a more immediate impact though, it may be worth checking out some of my video playthroughs on youtube;
You will find FS(1)Port, and FS2s campaigns there in full on hard or insane.
Along with a few other campaigns (ST:R, AoA, WoD, and WiH(soon as they finish with the voice acting))