Welcome to the part two of the Space Combat Maneuvering academics course! Today’s lesson will cover advanced space combat maneuvering mechanics in Star Citizen, particularly re-attacks and engaged maneuvering. As a reminder, these lessons take an in-depth look at the how and why the maneuvers shown in the exercise videos work; the exercise videos themselves then focus on applying the concepts. Behind-the-scenes information, like what is contained in this guide, will help you understand the mechanics behind space combat – which, in time, can allow you to develop your own techniques and adapt to changing tactical situations on the fly, as the ultimate goal is achieve creative and non-predictable flying, rather than just applying canned actions to every engagement. Finally, this is a more advanced course and time will not be devoted to discussing the default keybinds associated with maneuvering. If you are still uncomfortable with the control inputs for basic maneuvering, it is recommended that you return to the basic flight maneuvering course. If you have yet to see Space Combat Maneuvering, Part 1, you should do so as the concepts in this guide build on the ones introduced there.
In this lesson, we’ll introduce some advanced maneuvers called re-attacks that will keep you in the engaged bubble (affording maximum offensive potential). . . if the situation allows. We’ll also discuss this style of fighting – which is called “knife fighting” by some pilots – in detail, and explain how to avoid common pitfalls associated with its use.
In part three, we’ll show you how to combat two of the most common techniques used by new pilots – circle-strafing, and jousting. We’ll also continue to expand your toolbox of techniques to try in varying combat situations.
Re-attacks are optional maneuvers that can be performed at the closest point of approach in lieu of a blow through. The purpose is to remain within the engaged bubble to maximize offensive capability, if it is still advantageous to do so. The viability of a re-attack depends on many factors, including your ship and weapon type, your enemy’s ship and weapon type, the presence of wildcards, etc. For example, if you are in a 300 series equipped with long-range weapons like omnis, and fighting a slower ship like a hornet who is equipped with ballistics, it isn’t advisable to engage at close range, as keeping at range will drastically decrease the effectiveness of the hornet’s weapons.
The trickiest part of re-attacks is knowing when to perform one, as allowing for close-quarters dogfighting will almost always result in a reduction in situational awareness, energy (both kinetic and ship power), and defensive potential. It can, however, allow for the best opportunities to quickly dispatch an opponent. In general, re-attacks are best used if the target has not yet gained a firing solution by the CPA, if there is little danger from wildcards, and if the comparative ship performance characteristics favor the aggressor.
There are many techniques for executing a re-attack at the CPA. Like anything else, the best ones are also the most difficult and require the most precise control inputs.
A decoupled reversal is simply an instantaneous turn for nearly 180 degrees, executed after passing the target, in an attempt to boom in at the target again. It is a one-dimensional maneuver, meaning that your ship travels along a straight line the entire time; additionally, during the reversal (after recoupling), true velocity drops to nearly zero. You may remember that during the defensive maneuvering course, we learned that the some of the “tenets of basic maneuvering” include maintaining a three-dimensional, always accelerating flight path, maintaining true speed, and keeping your enemy in front of you. It makes sense, then, that, although a decoupled reversal is easy to perform, it’s terrible defensively and offers no real offensive advantage. As a result, we won’t even cover it in the exercises, but we will show how to combat it in part 3, as it is a very commonly-used tactic.
A turning reversal is a slightly more evasive form of a decoupled reversal, and is actually easier to perform. The only required action is turning back toward your target (without decoupling) after the CPA. Because decoupled rotation rates can be faster than coupled turn rates, the turning reversal will result in a slower “spin” than the decoupled reversal; on the other hand, the turning reversal can result in a faster flight path reversal due to the thrusters firing to effect the turn earlier than in an instantaneous turn. Because of both its intuitiveness and its limited usefulness, we won’t cover the turning reversal in exercises, either.
A buttonhook is essentially a blow through that continues as an arc until range is no longer increasing. It’s fairly easy to perform and is two-dimensional rather than one-dimensional, though it can easily be made three-dimensional by adding roll as in an arcing zoom.
The buttonhook is particularly effective when you are not being targeted and when you are engaging an opponent whose velocity vector is around 90 degrees offset from your velocity vector – in other words, your flight paths are perpendicular to one another
The most common pitfall of a buttonhook is that, when implemented against an opponent who is attempting to return fire, it feeds directly into a circle-strafe, which, while a fairly defensive position to be in, is very predictable. It’s best to use the buttonhook on unaware targets.
To perform a buttonhook, first, roll to line up your target’s flight path laterally relative to your orientation. In general, this means your target should either be moving left-to-right or right-to-left across your screen. Set yourself up in an aggressive skidded attack – you’ll need as much lateral displacement at the CPA as you can get to make this work. Next, clear the space you are going to buttonhook through. Usually, this will be behind your target as you pass him (assuming you are performing a skidded attack). Next, at the CPA, strive to keep your nose on the target as it moves past, and strafe in the opposite direction. Remember that lateral distance at the CPA will help to achieve this. Once you are orbiting the target, continue to attack, or, if you begin taking fire, transition to an arcing zoom and repeat the Boom and Zoom flow.
- “Roll to lineup”. Line up your skidded attack laterally.
- “Clear” the space you’re about to maneuver in.
- “Yaw into” in the direction that your target is moving across the screen.
- “Strafe away” from the direction that your target is moving across the screen.
A lag roll can be performed to maintain speed and prevent an overshoot. It is best used when your and the target’s velocity vectors differ in direction by less than 90 degrees – in other words, you are traveling in approximately the same direction. The lag roll will help you evade any fire you might be taking, keep your target on screen, and maintain good positioning for firing.
To perform a lag roll, once reaching the CPA, roll toward the direction the target is moving (this is always in the direction of target lead indicators, or in the opposite direction that the lag pips are pointing). Strafe in the opposite direction of your roll. This will widen your flight path, which will both reduce closure with the target while also making you more difficult to hit. While performing this maneuver, attempt to keep your target stationary near the edge of your screen and roll about it – just like in a barrel yaw. Check your closure and ensure that the likelihood of an overshoot has been reduced, and bring your pips back to bear on your target.
- “Roll into” the direction of the target’s flightpath.
- “Strafe away” from the direction of the target’s flight path.
- “Check closure” and, if able, end the maneuver.
- “Pips on target” for a firing solution.
A lead roll is slightly riskier maneuver that sacrifices speed to gain an advantageous orientation and position immediately following a high-speed pass. It is best used when you and your target’s velocity vectors differ in direction by more than 90 degrees – this is commonly called a high-deflection shot. The lead roll is somewhat of a trick maneuver – it can be used occasionally in specific situations, but is easy to botch.
To perform a lead roll, once reaching the CPA, roll toward the target’s direction of motion once again, but this time strafe and boost in the same direction. A fast roll rate will reduce the likelihood of G-LOC. Strive to quickly located the target and attain a firing solution.
- “Roll into” the direction of the target’s flightpath.
- “Strafe into” the direction of the target’s flight path with boost.
- “Pips on target” for a firing solution.
Another Legacy member “Audaxiom” has contributed another reversal method – something we’re calling the lag reversal. Audax’s maneuver may be slightly better suited for mouse users. To put it simply, it’s much like a lag roll, but performed during a high-deflection, head-on pass, much like the situations when you would use a lead roll. The key to this one is timing – strafe away first. When your TVI reaches halfway toward the edge of the screen, boost and roll, yaw, then pitch into the target’s direction. You’ll need to shift your pitching/yawing as you roll so that you continue to turn in the same direction (toward the target arrow), rather than spiral (this is why this maneuver is easier with a mouse – the cursor gives you a visual indication of the direction you are telling the ship to pitch and yaw). Nearing the roll-out point, remove the lateral strafe. The result is flight path almost reminiscent of a flat pirouette – as well as speed maintenance and a fairly aggressive vector shift that should make any kind of fire from an enemy nearly impossible to land.
A good way to practice this is using the planet’s horizon in Broken Moon Free Flight, so that you have a flat visual indication of which way to shift your yaw and pitch as you roll. This can be done repetitively until it’s muscle memory. I’m still working on perfecting this one, so here’s Audaxiom’s video demonstrating it.
Once you’ve performed a re-attack, you should reevaluate once again to determine whether staying in-close offers the best chance at survival and victory. If you have lost the advantage, zoom out; if you haven’t, however, now might be your moment to lay on some seriously destructive fire. If you are in a faster ship, consider enabling COMSTAB, and brace yourself for some fast-paced knife fighting!
Proper engaged maneuvering relies heavily on developed “monkey skills” (muscle memory), and no guide can adequately teach those. The only way to truly learn close-range fighting is by practicing. Generally, though, try to focus on this concept: pitch and yaw needs to be used exclusively for aiming/pointed toward target, while movement and evasion controlled with lateral/vertical strafe and roll. With super-maneuverable ships, heavy jinking and juking can be used to dodge fire, at the expensive of a firing solution for yourself; on the other hands, a smooth, steady three-dimensional flight may be enough to both avoid fire and dish it out.
Other than counters to circle-strafing, which will be covered in the next lesson, there are three primary methods for engaged maneuvering:
- Boom in for continued re-attacks when they are “off kilter” (mosquito effect). As soon as the enemy begins to point toward you or his gunfire begins converging toward you, use forward strafe to boom past, execute a re-attack at the CPA and resume firing while the opponent is still, once again, “off kilter”. This cycle is particularly effective against slower ships, but can be countered by an enemy flying backwards.
- Use lateral strafe and roll to create a “spiral strafe” – it should be fast enough to stay ahead of fire, but slow enough maintain a firing solution. This works with most ships, requires patience and very high situations awareness. Remember, the key for this one is steady movement of the TVI, rather than jerky – you are using pitch and yaw exclusively for aiming, and strafe and roll to keep the TVI moving steadily in a three-dimensional path so that you will avoid fire directed at you. Advanced – try to manipulate positioning to grey/blackout opponent.
- Use juking – this method is better for those with precision aiming (mouse), and for those who prefer twitch combat, like FPS players. It also relies on having a very maneuverable ship. To use this method, simply juke out of the way when being fired upon, stop juking and fire when not. While juking it’s not very likely that you’ll be able to return fire, although it is possible with gimbaled weapons and a precision control device, such as a mouse. Like method one, if done correctly, you’ll fall into a cycle of firing, juking, reacquiring a firing solution, firing, and then juking once again.
If at any point you lose the advantage during engaged maneuvering, you should attempt to escape. Two options exist: strafe directly into one of the zooms, or boom into your target, blow through and enter a zoom on the other side. Which you should choose depends on a number of factors, namely how close your enemy is to acquiring a firing solution (remember, the direction of his nose will tell you this), and the current state of your velocity vector.
Lots to consider and practice with this one. As we’ve said, the number one way to improve this this is to load Star Citizen and practice! It’s difficult to apply new concepts directly in the chaos that is Arena Commander multiplayer, so we also highly recommend trying these maneuvers out in Free Flight and Vanduul Swarm so that you can get the muscle memory down. That’s all we have for you today. Remember, pilots – fly safe.