This page contains my own thoughts on the various items of equipment available for purchase in FFE, and highlights any that I think are particularly useful. In the case of categories where there are a lot more than one type available (i.e. drives and beam lasers) I'll compare the merits of the various options.
Prices are approximate, most of those quoted were observed at Beta Hydri. Equipment tends to be quite cheap in the more high-tech systems.
Note that you can only sell/remove equipment where it is available to buy as the shipyard won't have the required tools (apparently, not every problem can be solved by hitting it with a Big Hammer).
While it has no use in combat, atmospheric shielding is, nonetheless, one of the more important upgrades you can fit. Once installed, it prevents your ship from burning up when you enter the atmosphere of a planet. While you could, in theory, do without ever going planetside (and therefore not need to fit atmospheric shields), the more lucrative missions often involve landing on or flying close to a planet's surface.
Once fitted, atmospheric shielding is 'automatic' and requires no action by the player to activate.
ECM Systems are the only real defence against missiles for those who aren't lucky or skillful enough to be able to avoid them. This ECM System, when activated, will destroy all incoming KL760 missiles and any mines. It is not effective against LV110 Smart Missiles or NN500 Naval Missiles, so you should only buy this unit if you cannot afford the more powerful Naval ECM.
This is the improved version of the ECM System. It does everything the standard version does, but can also destroy LV111 Smart Missiles. It cannot destroy NN500 Naval Missiles, so you're going to need to get lucky if a pirate is firing NN500s at you.
Shield generators increase the defensive strength of your ship by generating an energy field around your ship, through which weapons cannot penetrate. If you're under attack, your shield levels will decrease (how quickly this happens will depend on the firepower of the ship attacking you) until they are breached. After your shields have dropped, your ship will start to take hull damage until you manage to destroy the attacking ship, you escape, your shields regenerate or you are destroyed.
The more shield generators you have, the more shield power you have.
This device greatly increases the recharge rate of your shields, so it takes less time for your shields to return to their maximum level. It is especially useful if you have a lot of shield generators. The unit can often mean that you survive longer in combat, and is probably a must buy for any serious combat pilot.
You'll only be able to fit this into the bigger ships, but these are where HARS is most useful. If you're messing around in dangerous areas, or are doing anything else where you're likely to need expensive repairs, you should get this system. The HARS slowly reverses the effect of hull damage, and can completely repair your hull over a period of time. Although expensive at first, it soon pays for itself in repair savings. Your ship is also likely to last longer, and losing shields will not be as much of a problem. Remember, however, that shields recharge much quicker than the HARS can fix your hull so you shouldn't neglect them altogether since HARS works at a much slower rate.
When things are getting nasty, it's sometimes better to bail out. The escape capsule can be fired at any time, and also will automatically launch a spilt second before your ship explodes if you're unlucky enough to get blown away. The capsule can be flown towards the nearest starport, where it is exchanged for a new ship. Of course, if you're in a system with no starports, you're stuck - since the craft has no hyperdrive.
In Elite, when you had to use the escape capsule you could do so with the confidence that upon your safe arrival at the starport your ship would be replaced with one of an identical spec - minus cargo and escape capsule. In FFE, there is no such guarantee. When you arrive at a starport, you get the most bog-standard Eagle Mk I available. No compensation, no like-for like replacement, nothing. As you can imagine, if your ship was a multi-million credit Boa, this can be incredibly annoying. Fortunately, this is a computer game, so just reload the save before your ship bit the dust. Only buy the escape capsule if you are a completist or are playing 'Iron Man' style.
Several people have noticed that the plain text of the FFE program contains a number of references to insurance. It's probable that the intention was to allow you to buy from a range of insurance policies to cover you in the event of actually having to use the escape capsule. It would make sense to have a number of different types of policy going from some form of financial compensation right up to the old Elite standard of like-for-like replacement minus cargo and escape capsule. This is speculation, really, as there isn't a lot of information to go on. Sadly anything that may have been implemented was one of the many casualties of the publishers forcing a premature release.
Cost: N/A (only available from military)
In recent times, many military organisations have started to defend some of their installations with Military Defence Satellites (MDS). The main purpose of the MDS is to prevent enemy ships getting anywhere near the installation by summoning reinforcements both from the local defence forces and from outside the system. There are also persistent rumours, which have been denied, that the signal sent out by the satellites can detonate Standard Hyperdrives and the ships that carry them.
The Transmission Jammer automatically blocks these signals while you're in the same system as a MDS. You'll still have to deal with the defenders of the actual installation, but there won't be any reinforcements and you won't go bang (at least not because of the transmissions, anyway).
Note that if you leave the system without destroying the MDS (you'll need a nuke), it will resume broadcasting and hired killers will hound you to the end of your days!
Lasers are your main offensive weapon, even more so now that most ships can no longer be killed with a single missile. The range of models is vast, and every one has its own advantages and disadvantages. Generally, there are four factors involved when evaluating a laser:-
The ultimate weapon! You will need a large ship for this massive piece of kit, but once fitted you will have the most potent attacking force in known space. Tests revealed that a large plasma accelerator can destroy a Long Range Cruiser in just one shot, so destruction of smaller ships will also be easy. Not a weapon to get on the wrong side of, it makes me wonder why they bothered to ban the military laser.
Some 400t lighter than its larger brother, and a lot cheaper, many see the small plasma accelerator as the better weapon. It isn't as powerful, but the extra space freed by the smaller weapon can be quite useful, for example you could fit a hundred or so shield generators and cruise the galaxy in almost complete immunity! Even in the most pirate infested systems, you are unlikely to need the extra firepower of the large version as the number of pirates in Imperial Explorers is very low.
The biggest beam laser money can buy, the 100MW beam laser is a seriously powerful weapon. While not being as powerful as a plasma accelerator, this laser will give your ship serious hitting power. It overheats pretty quickly, but you will need a lot less shots than you would with the 20MW version. A good combateer will be able to erase just about any opposition in a pretty short amount of time. The size of the laser makes it only really practical for large ships, but it takes up a lot less space than a plasma accelerator so you will be able to fit more equipment in your ship or have more room for trading. Worth buying, but you may find the 20MW version is more practical in terms of space required and cost.
This is probably all the gun a normal pilot needs. While there are bigger lasers around, the 20MW has a lot of power and doesn't need a huge ship to put it in. It is a weapon worthy of respect, I had a ship with 1000 shield generators and an energy booster unit and encountered an Imperial Courier armed with one of these and was alarmed by the speed at which my shields were drained. The only drawback of the laser is that it can be pretty difficult to get hold of.
The 4 MW beam laser is a pretty effective weapon, and is especially good value for medium fighters such as the Cobra Mk III. It takes a while to overheat, and can knock down the shields of all but the most heavily protected ships fairly quickly. In the hands of a skilled pilot, it can be just as effective as the larger beam lasers. If you're fortunate enough to be in command of a very large ship, the laser is a good choice for fitting in your secondary mountings as its small size leaves enough room for a more powerful front laser, or more trading space. In addition, it's available just about everywhere.
This is the entry level beam laser, and it shows. There are only two reasons to buy this laser - it's cheap and doesn't take up much cargo space. The hitting power is puny, and you should only bother with this weapon if your ship is too small to fit the 4 MW version. If you're a good shot, you're probably better off with the 5 MW Pulse laser, which is more powerful and takes up less space.
This laser is a powerful pulse laser, which (as the name suggests) is mainly used for asteroid mining. When you fire at an asteroid with this, bits are chipped off, which you can pick up and sell. As well as this, the laser can be a surprisingly useful combat weapon, since it is very powerful. It is a good choice for small ships, due to the very small amount of space it requires. The only criticism that can be made is that the fire rate is much slower than a normal pulse laser. Of course, each shot can do a hell of a lot more damage than a normal pulse laser.
The 5MW pulse laser is a fairly effective weapon, being more powerful than the entry-level 1MW Pulse laser. While not as deadly in sustained fire as the 4MW beam laser, this laser is a good buy for commanders who have limited space in their ships, or who want to add weapons to turrets without compromising on the power of their main armament.
The 1MW laser is a puny weapon. The only reason to buy one is if your ship is so small that this is the only alternative to being unarmed. Avoid.
As the name suggests, the laser cooling booster assists in cooling your lasers. If you've got a high-power beam laser, the LCB dramatically reduces the amount of time you have to wait for your weapon to cool down. An essential buy for the serious combat pilot.
Missiles allow you to fire on targets that are outside of laser range, and can often force an attacking ship to retreat in order to avoid being hit. There are several missiles, and not all of them are dedicated to ship-to-ship combat. Some are even immune to certain types of ECM although this of course comes at a cost.
Cost: N/A (only available from military)
Due to intergalactic law, nuclear missiles are not available to the general public, and can only be fitted by military organisations. A nuclear missile can totally destroy planetary installations, and military defence satellites. They can only be fired at legitimate targets, so forget any thoughts you had of destroying the Guardians of the Free Spirit.
The MV2 is the most powerful missile available on the open market. Since it has recently been released, technical details are hard to come by at this time, although there are rumours that it has no immunity to ECM.
The MV1 assault missile is more powerful than the NN500 Naval Missile, but less powerful than the improved MV2 Assault Missile. It is believed that the MV1 is not immune to ECM.
As the name suggests, the Naval Missile was originally developed for use by the military. It is immune to all known forms of ECM and until recently was the most powerful missile available to the public. As a high-end product, the NN500 is usually only available at higher technology systems - particularly those in the core of the main political groups.
With the introduction of ECM systems, the already ageing KL760 Homing Missile was seen to be obsolete. Therefore, the LV111 Smart Missile was created. This missile is immune to standard ECM, and is more powerful than the KL760. However, it is not immune to Naval ECM systems. While not as ubiquitous as the KL760, availability is generally very widespread with the majority of the established systems having stocks. In general, the LV111 is a good buy for most circumstances.
As mentioned above, the KL760 Homing Missile is obsolete and can be destroyed by even the most basic ECM systems available. However, it is still an exceptionally cheap missile and therefore there is still a market for them and you can buy them pretty much anywhere.
There was a time when the Energy Bomb was the most deadly anti-ship weapon known to man. However, that was in the days before shields became cost-effective to fit in large numbers. The energy bomb, when activated, sends out a huge wave of power around the ship carrying it that can overload the drive units of nearby ships and can cause them to explode.
It is more effective against smaller ships, but can damage larger ships or at least reduce their shields. Note that the bomb cannot distinguish between hostile and non-hostile ships, so use with caution.
These items increase the electronic capabilities of your ship, giving you more information about your fellow pilots, or making your ship easier to fly.
Space, as you will realize, is big. Because of the nature of hyperspace, upon entering a system you will usually find yourself quite a distance from where you want to go. While it is entirely possible to fly all the way manually, this is pretty tedious at the best of times not to mention rather difficult. What you need is 'George', your handy automatic pilot. The automatic pilot handles flying the ship for you, all you need to do is select a destination from the 3D system map, activate the autopilot and then kick in the stardreamer and relax.
The only criticisms of the autopilot are that it can be a bit annoying trying to select a destination from the 3D system map, and that it is occasionally prone to the odd bad habit.
As the name suggests, the auto targetter will automatically lock on to objects that pass through your crosshairs (activate it by pressing T). In combat mode (red targeting square), the system targets ships. In navigation mode (green square) the system targets planetary bodies etc. Probably not the most essential bit of equipment there is, but the low cost and the fact it doesn't take up any space make it good value.
Complaints about the inconvenience of setting autopilot destinations resulted in the development of the Navigation Computer. It provides a friendly front-end to the autopilot, by displaying a list of recognised starports in the current system from which the pilot can select a destination. While it's perfectly possible to set your autopilot without one of these, the sheer ease of use and competitive price of the Navigation Computer have made it one of the most popular electronic upgrades on the market.
The scanner is probably the most essential piece of equipment, since without one you're almost flying blind. When a scanner is installed, all craft within scanner range are displayed on it according to their position relative to your ship, giving you a 3D impression of the surrounding area. Using the scanner, you will know which way to face so you can see what ships are in your area. Modern scanners now feature colour coding according to the mass of ships being displayed, so you can get an idea of how powerful opposing ships are.
Whether you need this or not really depends on what you're doing for a living. This is probably the most useful thing an assassin can own, but traders are unlikely to ever need it. Fitting a HCA immediately boosts the amount of info you can get on other pilots, since this device can tell you where a ship has hyperspaced to, and how heavy it was. For an assassin, this means that you can let your prey hyperspace, and know exactly where it's going, reducing the risk of you missing the kill. The only drawback is that the device can still be fooled by a forced mis-jump, so you could lose the target, but the relatively low cost and weight of the device far out weigh this. Go on, you know you want one!!
The radar mapper is a perennial high-scorer in opinion polls on the most useful bit of kit money can buy. Its ability to give you the lowdown on any selected ship means that, even if you're just nosy, you will know a lot more about your fellow pilots. It'll tell you what sort of ship the target is (useful if you're too far away for visual ID), if it's got shields and if so what level they are at, what type of hyperdrive it's got, and if it's got any equipment like a HCA. Most important of all, it'll tell you if there's a price on the pilot's head.
While the info may be interesting for a trader, it's pretty essential for a hitman or bounty hunter, since you can plan your attack according to the info you get.
You don't need a radar mapper to get credit for a kill (i.e. it still counts toward combat rating), but recent legislation prohibits the payment of bounty to ships not carrying a radar mapper in an effort to clamp down on rogue hunters (who would destroy certain types of ship on the off chance that there was bounty - this was a particular problem for Krait owners...). If you're a bounty hunter you won't earn anything without one.
The combat computer is something of a mixed bag. It is supposed to be an improved scanner, and gives you more info about the ships around you. This information is overlaid on your viewscreen, includes the distance the ships are from you, their shield and hull strength and what class they are. It is most useful when the enemy ships are still some distance away, especially if they are still outside of normal scanner range, as it shows you the information about all incoming ships rather than just the one you have selected as a combat target. Unfortunately, the combat computer can be a bit of a liability once your opponents get into laser range as the display zooms in and gets in the way. There is a sight provided, but it can be tricky to use and once you're in close range of the opponents, you're probably better off switching to normal view and using the more standard scanner and sights.
The auto refueller device, as the name suggests, automatically keeps your in-system fuel tanks filled up. This can be useful for long journeys where you don't want to press the refuel button on your cargo manifest every few AUs and also guards against the possibility of your tanks running dry in the middle of critical manoeuvres. This, of course, assumes that you have spare reserves of the type of fuel your drive uses in your hold - if you don't, nothing will happen and you may have a problem.
Weight: 6t - you must also have a fuelscoop mounting on your ship
Sometimes you may be unwilling or unable to buy fuel in a space station. Originally developed for use by explorers on long trips where there would be no spacestations to buy fuel from, fuel scoops allow you to scoop hydrogen fuel into your hold by flying into the atmosphere of a gas giant (assuming that there are some in your current system). It is also possible to scoop fuel from suns, but be warned that this is exceptionally dangerous. Despite the best efforts of scientists working for all sides, nobody has been able to design fuel scoops capable of scooping military fuel.
Weight: 2t - you must also have a fuel scoop fitted
It didn't take long for people to realise that fuel wasn't the only thing that could be scooped in deep space. Due to the increasingly dangerous nature of space travel, there are often times when a pilot could come across cargo canisters floating around. The cargo scoop conversion modifies the fuel scoop so that it is capable of scooping up these cargo canisters and storing them in your hold.
As attractive as scooping up free cargo may sound, it can still require a certain amount of skill. When fitted, the tractor beam reduces the amount of accuracy required to scoop cargo. The most useful thing about this type of scoop is that it is fully functional on its own, so you do not require a fuel scoop and cargo scoop conversion to pick up things - although you should note that you still need a fuel scoop to pick up fuel. The biggest advantage of the tractor beam cargo scoop is that you can fit one even if your ship doesn't have a fuel scoop mounting (i.e. the Imperial Courier).
Normally, cargo holds are unpressurised. This doesn't normally pose a problem - computers can't breath anyway - but if you're transporting live cargo then without some form of life support your expensive hold full of live animals quickly becomes a load of cheap animal meat once you enter space. As you can imagine, this is A Bad Thing™. For a modest outlay of cash, fitting life support to your cargo hold can increase your trading flexibility. Please note that trading in Live Animals and/or Slaves can be illegal in some systems (including most Federation or Alliance ones).
Not everyone is lucky enough to own their own ship, so there are always people who are willing to pay good money to commanders who are going to where they want to be. Each passenger cabin allows one person to travel in comfort, and is a lot more likely to attract paying customers than the prospect of hitching a ride in your freight bay with a load of frightened Verrix.
If you have a large ship, and you have the space, permanently fitting ten cabins should give you the room to take most parties. A word of advice - sometimes potential passengers may be being stalked by people who don't want them to reach their destination. They will pay more, which could make you very rich. The people pursuing your client could also make you very dead.
Although you can mine asteroids by chipping chunks off them with mining lasers, the MB4 allows you to set up your own mine on planetary bodies. When deployed on the surface, the MB4 analyses the crust for mineable seams. Sometimes you'll strike lucky and hit a seam of precious metals. Most of the time, you'll be more likely to be mining minerals. By now, most planets in the inhabited sectors of the galaxy have been mined out, but you can find better planets further away. Please note that it is illegal to mine an inhabited planet.
All 'Standard' Hyperdrives use hydrogen fuel to operate. This has several advantages, the most important of which is the wide availability of fuel at cheap prices. In addition, a ship fitted with fuel scoops can theoretically travel across wide areas of space without needing to dock to buy more fuel - they can scoop fuel by flying into the atmosphere of a gas giant. The only real disadvantage of standard drives is that the weight of them increases sharply as range increases.
The table below summarises the weight and cost of each class of Standard hyperdrive. Since the performance and attractiveness of a particular drive class depends on which ship it is fitted to, it is not going to be useful to look at each in turn. The largest drive that can be bought on the open market is the Class 7 - the Class 8 is only available as part of a large ship.
For an idea of how far your ship can go with each drive, see the Ship Reviews for more info.
As the name suggests, military drives were originally developed for use by the navies of the major powers. While military drives have similar performance to standard drives, they are much smaller. This allows you to fit longer range drives in small ships that would not be able to carry the equivalent standard drive, or to retain the same range and have extra space for trading or equipment.
Military drives do have a number of drawbacks, however. Firstly, they run on military fuel, which is expensive and produces radioactive byproducts which are illegal in some systems. Dumping of radioactives (or any cargo) in space is a crime which the authorities treat very harshly. In addition, military drives are not available to the public in sizes above Class 3, so are not suitable for larger ships. Lastly, they can sometimes be difficult to find, particularly in the case of the Class 3.
The hyperspace range of a particular military drive is identical to that of its standard hydrogen-fuelled counterpart, so the range figures given in the Ship Reviews apply in both cases. In practice, some ships do not actually have the space for a particular class of standard drive but can be fitted with the same class of military drive. A good example of this is the Saker - its internal capacity without a drive is 23t so the 25t Class 2 standard drive won't fit but you can squeeze in the 12t Class 2 military drive and still have space.
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