Before talking about the Phalanx in particular, it’s important that we go over some design philosophy and history.
The Federation technology tree has always been relatively linear. Consequently, as a player it’s easy to fall into a pattern of ignoring the earliest and usually weakest vessels in favor of later, but generally stronger vessels. Conversely, when ships don’t increase in power as you tech up, a player is more inclined to stay low in the technology tree. Thus, there has always been difficulty in making the last available Federation vessel types a staple of great games without negating less powerful ship types.
This creates a well-known predicament - how do you keep a player building low and high tier vessels throughout the game?
Whether in Version 3 or in Version 4, our answer has always been to try to build unique roles for each ship, which offer something important to a player throughout the game. Nevertheless, the end game roles for the Phalanx and the Sovereign have always felt a bit flat, as the community has noted.
While the Phalanx is a big nasty warship, she also should have a character all her own, as befitting Risner’s pride and joy. She’s not just an upgraded Defiant. In Version 4, the pulse and beam armed Phalanx is one of three Flagship classes. This fact is represented as a special passive, which creates a shared cap of 6. You can choose to have a mixed group of Flagships, or invest all your Federation might into just one.
The Flagship status isn’t just a way of limiting these powerful vessels however. Flagships also receive the benefits of any Federation synergies, thus making them a hands-off vessel and good for any fleet combination. They’ll synergize with almost anything you have, allowing you to focus on more strategic objectives, rather than within fleet micromanagement.
The Phalanx also receives a unique passive: the Blockade Breaker Phaser Array. This mouthful of words will strike fear into the hearts of nearby hostile Allround vessels. The Blockade Breaker specifically targets a nearby Allround vessel with a rapid barrage of sophisticated phasers. This passive can thus allow you to quickly thin a fleet composed of these more easily produced vessels. However, as the Blockade Breaker is only medium ranged, you’ll need to move your long-ranged Phalanx into harm’s way to get the full effect.
Lastly, let’s bring up an old-school special with a new function: the Magnan Phaser Cannon. An expensive research, this gargantuan exotic beam weapon does lots of area effect damage. However, its functionality has been completely overhauled, to fall in line with our cooler Version 4 specials and passives.
The Magnan Phaser is a toggleable weapon of immense power and its activation forces the deactivation of the Blockade Breaker Phaser Array and the Phalanx’s pulse phasers. Scientifically speaking, Magnan particles interact in a very unusual manner, taking on properties destructive or reparative to materials and energy fields to which they are exposed - while leaving different nearby materials completely unaffected. Of course, it must be noted that ships and stations of a given Profile almost always share similar construction materials and defensive screens…
Consequently, when trained on a target of a given Profile, the Magnan Phaser will damage nearby vessels of the same Profile - and only those vessels - within a short radius of the blast. However, friendly vessels in the area of effect have been instructed to modify their deflector arrays to collect Magnan particles. Those friendly vessels of the same Profile as the target can thus use the exotic Magnan particles to boost their shields.
As a consequence, the Magnan Phaser Cannon not only requires you to identify the most common enemy Profile type, but also requires careful positioning. Similarly, if your ships are of a different Profile type than the target, you may wish to switch targets to keep your fleet’s shields active.
As you might begin to see, the relatively late game Phalanx not only serves to absorb the specials of your fleet, but allows you to deal with mobs of hostile Allround vessels or to simply squash or re-energize a given type of vessel. It’s the last, best hope for the Federation.
See you on the bridge!