Ballistics are weapons systems that do damage by transfering kinetic energy from a projectile into a target. These weapons tend to do well in the mid game, but eventually find themselves outclassed by energy weapons and countered by armor technology. At that point, they fall into a role of heavy fire support with Siege Drivers and Impactors, the role of kinetic disruption with Mass Shotguns, Bursters, or Thumpers, or into that of a hard counter to shield utilizing the Shield Breaker.
However, Ballistics have upgrades available to them which push their relevance well into the mid to late game. Neutronium Rounds and Accelerator Amplification combine to give a total damage boost of 60% and VRF Technology gives all these weapons a 20% refire bonus. With these upgrades, a Gauss Cannon would do 72 damage every 4 seconds instead of 45 damage every 5, increasing DPS from 9 to 18. Most Ballistic Weapons see double DPS from base,. Further, most of them are rather inaccurate and benefit greatly from the 75% inaccuracy reduction from the Fire Control Section and the 95% inaccuracy reduction from the AI Fire Control Section.
Also notable is that the three core technologies in the tree, Gauss Driver, Mass Driver, and Heavy Driver all have a 100% chance of being unlocked. In the astronomicly unlikely, yet still possible, game where nobody unlocks any technology, Ballistic Weapons will still be options.
The technologies which push Ballistic Weapons as damage into obsolescence are the four armor technologies. This is because armor technology causes weapons which do damage by impacting on a target to have a chance of bouncing off harmlessly depending on the angle. More advanced armors improve this chance until even the mighty Impactor will bounce off on 50% of the angles.
At the very end of the game, there are still specific situations that call for Ballistic Weapons for damage. If the enemy is using Energy Absorber, specialized absorber hunter ships may be needed late game. This is because the Energy Absorber section can only use Polysilicate Alloys. Therefore, if ballistic weapons strike the absorber section, they're very likely to stick and deal damage. Ballistic weapons are also a viable solution for a dedicated Station hunter, as only the only station which can have armor applied to it is the Asteroid Monitor. Finally, nothing shreds a freighter faster than accurized ballistics. Whether this is used for commerce raiding or against a freighter fleet fleeing a furious fray, fast and ferocious fighters can exploit these ship's inability to apply armor.
In order of least expensive to most, the nodes in this tree are:
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