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Once you have a freighter, you can purchase frigates and send them on expeditions.
These expeditions consist of a series of encounters. Most, but not all, of these encounters will be of the same type as the mission (combat, exploration, industrial, or trade).
Each encounter, if passed (rather than failed), will award items, units and/or nanites to each frigate in your expedition.
If failed, each encounter has a chance to damage any or all frigates in your expedition and potentially add a negative trait to any of them.
Sending out frigates that have negative traits on them can cause encounters to fail more easily, and therefore pass negative traits onto other frigates.
Command of a large Capital Ship offers several benefits. High among these is the ability to command a fleet of Frigates.
Find and purchase Frigates to add them to your fleet. Recruitable frigates in a freighter group will be marked with an icon. Approach a recruitable frigate and speak with them on the Starship Communicator.
There are several types of frigate, and each individual ship varies in quality. While not on expeditions, frigates will perform tasks related to their abilities. Land on a frigate to collect the rewards from these tasks.
Trade frigates will accumulate wealth, science vessels will provide scans to ancient artifacts, supply ships will generate fuel, and mining vessels will collect minerals. Combat ships will come to your aid if you fight nearby pirates.
Organic Frigates are roughly the same size as traditional frigates. With the exception of The Leviathan (an Expedition Mode reward) they can only be obtained via random pulse drive Space Encounters after encountering the first one by building the Dream Aerial, which is a possible reward from frigate expeditions.
The type, stats & traits of this first living frigate are decided by your answers to a series of questions. Further frigates are simply randomised. Players can make it easier to find them by equipping an Anomaly Detector & using pulse drive until the icon & message specific to organic frigates appears.
The appearance of these living frigates can vary greatly, particularly with colouring, body shape & a variety of fins in various places, barnacles & tentacles in the rear.
If damaged, they cannot be landed on or teleported to in order to repair them and are instead repaired by feeding them via the Frigates terminal on the player's freighter bridge.
Feeding them when they are undamaged, results in the traits, stats & type of the organic frigate being randomised. The appearance remains unchanged.
In order to hire a frigate the player must travel close to the frigate's position and, once the frigate captain is open for communication, use their intercom (via quick menu) to talk to the captain and choose the option to hire their services. Not all frigates that spawn are available for purchase.
The fleet can have a maximum of 30 frigates. You can dismiss unwanted frigates using the middle mouse button on PC, or holding the left analogue stick on consoles.
Combat Specialist - Can assist the player during space combat by warping nearby and sending out friendly sentinel ships.
Exploration Specialist - Can activate its Artifact Scanner to find the location of an Ancient Ruin in the current system.
Industrial Specialist - Produces 2 Magnetised Ferrite every 30 secs up to 100 Magnetised Ferrite after 25 minutes. Land on frigate to collect.
Trade Specialist - Produces 2 Chromatic Metal every 30 secs up to 100 Chromatic Metal after 25 minutes. Land on frigate to collect.
Support Specialist - Produces 2 Condensed Carbon every 30 secs up to 100 Condensed Carbon after 25 minutes. Land on frigate to collect. Specializes in fuel supply instead of abilities. Useful on shorter expeditions to conserve fuel or small improvement of fleet strength in all areas without increasing fuel requirements.
FRIGATE EXPEDITION REWARDS
Game files clearly show that each expedition throws in encounters that are NOT of the same type as the mission, there will always be at least one of these. For this reason, try not to leave any of the 4 stats too low on the fleet selection screen.
Each encounter is shown by a line of dialogue when you debrief. Longer missions have more encounters. Each encounter, if successful, awards loot based on how many frigates are on the expedition (take more frigates to carry more loot back).
If unsuccessful, each encounter has a chance to damage one or more of your frigates, and/or make them develop a negative trait.
Balanced Missions return loot from any & all of the other 4 loot tables.
Including an Organic Frigate in your expedition can result in it bringing back tech, upgrades or storage slots for your Living Ships.