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Is there a good way of dealing with Slylandro Probes at the start of Star Control 2?

"Start" means: you have Precursor ship (generally very weak offensively/defensively but loaded out with engines and half-loaded with turning thrusters), with no upgrades yet; an Earth Cruiser or two; a single Spathi ship and 4 Pkunk Furies.

The following tactics seem to NOT work:

  1. Run away in hyperspace:

    "No upgrades yet" means that Probes are at least as fast as your ship is in hyperspace, so you seemingly can't outrun them without moving 100% straight line, for LONG distances (which I can't yet afford due to fuel limitations).

  2. Escape every fight once it's joined

    Not very optimal as it costs 5 fuel per escape (and several crewmen while the probe hits you since escape isn't instantaneous).

  3. Try to fight every single probe that attacks you. But how?

    • your main ship

      The cannon is too weak and ship's turning too slow to use the main ship to fight.

    • an Earth Cruiser

      Seems too slow to keep distance, and the probe easily evades the missiles.

    • a single Spathi ship

      No plausible tactics I can think of

    • 4 Pkunk Furies.

      Marginally effective, but I can't get anywhere better than trading 2-3 Furies per one probe with my tactics. NOT scalable.

Please note that this question pertains to the game beginning, before you have good cannon upgrades on main ship (which is how I remember killing the probes before) and before you have enough range to go meet Slylandro.

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  • As a side note - I'm playing "The Ur-Quan Masters" version, not sure if this matters.
    – DVK
    Feb 19, 2013 at 0:32

5 Answers 5

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The Earth cruiser, despite otherwise sucking pretty bad, is actually decent against Slylandro probes. Practice in quick battle mode for a while, just a lot of Earth cruisers vs. Slylandro probes, until you're good at it. The strategy I use against the probes:

  • Keep your distance. Basically stay as far away as the battle map lets you. The probes have no long range weapons, just the lightning thing that only works if the probe is right on top of you. Also, your missiles work better if they have a long way to travel (unintuitive but true!). 3 missile hits will kill a probe.
  • If it closes and blasts you a bit with the lightning, try to keep it away from asteroids. The lightning has a limited charge; a probe can't kill an Earth cruiser on one charge. It will recharge if it hits an asteroid, but it generally isn't smart enough to go get it. So once it's blown its wad, it sometimes just buzzes back and forth next to you without doing anything... as long as you stay away from the asteroids. Feel free to blast it with the point defense laser when it closes in, too.
  • The point defense laser can also be used to blow up asteroids, if you somehow beat the probe to them. Not sure how I recommend doing this.
  • Supposedly the probe will back off if you aim your guns at it; this allows the Spathi ship to be extremely effective with the BUTT missiles. I didn't know this but this source claims it is so.
  • Go visit the Slylandro planet as soon as you can manage it. They live in the north-west corner of the galaxy, on a gas giant planet. Prioritize fuel and speed upgrades until you can get there, and they'll give you the code to make the probes self-destruct. Alternatively, one of the exits from Quasispace is pretty close to the Slylandro planet, but you'll want to get the Portal Spawner first so that you can use Quasispace to get home as well. As an added bonus, the probes are the fastest NPCs in hyper (as fast as the Progenitor ship with 10/11 speed upgrades), so once you're fast enough to dodge them, you can run away from anything else in space.
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  • Slylandro home coordinates are 033.3 : 981.2, which makes finding the correct star. Spathi Eluders are also very effective, since they can outrun Probes and still keep firing.
    – Mandemon
    Feb 19, 2013 at 12:30
  • Please note re: last bullet point: the question explicitly was limited to "before you have enough range to go meet Slylandro."
    – DVK
    Feb 20, 2013 at 1:52
  • @DVK Sure, my point was just that, after visiting the Spathi, Pkunk, and maybe Zoq-Fot-Pik, this is probably one of the next things you want to do, by focusing on fuel upgrades. Because the asker is right: the red probes are a hassle and you really want to be rid of them before they reproduce out of control. The Earth Cruiser and the Spathi Eluder are the best ships against them, but even those two aren't that great.
    – Paul Z
    Feb 20, 2013 at 4:37
  • @PaulZ - my problem was being cornered by the probes while visiting Spathi. Wasting 5 fuel on escaping wasn't desired. By the end of ZFP, I can outfit the Precursor ship with enough turning modules and dynamos that it can kill the probes, netting me 550RU per head :)
    – DVK
    Feb 20, 2013 at 5:54
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Spathi Eluder FTW - unequivocally.

Make the probe chase you. Wait until it almost closes the distance and begins its "up-down-up-down" "impatient" dance as I call it. When that happens, use the Backwards Utilized Tracking Torpedoes (BUTTs) and fire off all three, and as many more as you can until the probe breaks away due to damage or because you've gotten too far away from it.

As soon as the probe starts to go away from you (to try to loop around the map and get you from the other direction) turn around and chase it until it either closes with you on your new back side, or it turns around to give chase again, at which point you turn around and let it chase you until it starts doing its "up-down-up-down" thing again.

Continue until probe is destroyed, without suffering any damage. If you use the slow Earthling Cruiser, your missiles could miss and the probe could hit you with its matter reclamator.

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  • 2
    The Spathi Eluder is good for one thing, and one thing only: running away while firing BUTT missiles as quickly as possible. And screaming. The screaming is not optional. (Modulating how quickly you run away is important, though.) Feb 3, 2014 at 4:43
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Befriend the Pkunk as quickly as you can, the ZoqFotPik as soon as you get their distress call, and the Orz next. All these ships are capable of taking down the probes in the early game. Only use your flagship against one (in the early game) if the probe has only one or two crew left.

Among the early-game ships, I favor the Pkunk against probes, because they are fast enough to force the probes to waste lightning without hitting you, and you can actually outrun them. Also you can ram them and unload a volley. Two volleys can kill a probe, one if you're lucky. Also, once the probe exhausts battery it will go find the nearest asteroid. If it gets you down to half crew, use its refuel run as an opportunity to get some distance between you and escape that fighter. Pkunk is the only low-crew ship that can feasibly escape from a probe.

Using the Orz, rotate the main gun to your 6 o'clock and fire as you run away from it. The probe will not come straight on when you do this, reducing the speed differential a bit. Send out vac-suit attackers also to disrupt its attack pattern - no more than two at a time. Use the gravity well to your advantage also; with vac-suits in play it may actually ram the planet a couple of times.

Using ZoqFotPik, (as in any situation where your ship is slower than the enemy,) stay close to the gravity well. Ram it at the correct time and use the stinger attack. If you hit it with the stinger, it's one and done, but it takes skill and a little luck. Also, since the probe will run away when you point your gun at it, with practice you can use this fact to "pin" it between your gun and the planet.

However, there is no need to fight the probes at all until you're ready for them. With full thrusters (easy to get early) you can outrun them in Hyperspace. It's easy to tell which ones they are from their speed, and you can always keep enough distance that they can't catch you even when you visit a star system. Once you have upgraded main guns and at least one homing device on your flagship, probes are no longer a threat; kill 'em all!

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and before you have enough range to go meet Slylandro.

I'm pretty sure that with enough planning and some loading/saving it's possible to go meet slylandro on your first trip out of Sol system. So just doing that is an option :-)

Just selling your weapon and a storage bay is more than sufficient to get you 110 fuel capacity and fuel. Everything else found in Sol could be spent on engines or ships (but you already have 2 of those). Probes are only going to be an issue during the first quarter of the trip. The second quarter is in Q-space, and you already have the destruction codes on your return trip, so every probe is free money.

There's a Melnorme trader near Arilou Lalee'lay territory, which can resupply you with fuel for your bio data. There are enough stars on your way to get some bio data, since 1 data is 2 fuel. A short detour through Beta Ptolemae I (37 biodata according to wiki) should be more than enough to replace all the fuel you spent getting there. You need close to 60 fuel in order to get to the trader at Alpha Octantis, considering the detour to get bio data and allowing for one landing.

From there you can take the Quasispace portal almost straight to Slylandro (And visit Airlou while you're in Q-space, cause why not). From here onwards probes are already issue of the past in your game :-)

Note that you want to meet at least one probe on your way there and converse with it, otherwise you won't be able to get the self destruct codes from Slylandro.

You can get back through the portal as well, possibly arriving back in sol with over 40 fuel (if you have started the journey with full 110 or visited the rainbow planet on your way back to SOL and visited the trader again).

Even if you come back to SOL with 0 fuel and no minerals to sell, you have 550 R.U. you got fighting that one probe on your way to Slylandro, which is enough to refuel and start getting minerals. You get 500 R.U. for selling the fuel tank you don't need right now, buy a storage bay for 750 and remaining 300 gets you 15 fuel. Should be enough to get some early minerals, but you can always scrap your cruiser - with probes gone there's no danger in nearby systems.

Well, I convinced myself, can't wait to try it :-)

Only things that I can see going wrong: 1. you get swarmed in hyperspace and can't exit the trader/bio data system safely. 2. you get bad spawns fighting with the probe and need to reload.

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Playing a game now and I immediately attacked every probe I see. Ive never talked to them so they never went hostile. I can ESC and flee while the probes dance around me without firing.

Not sure if its a one time glitch thing, but if its repeatable the key is to NEVER talk to them.

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