Let's talk about something that seems to have been neglected by many people, Combat Robotics! Namely I want to talk about the Defender Capsule and how it is awful. And also how the other capsules are pretty meh!
In 0.16, the Defender was a cheap entry level combat robot only requiring gears, electronic circuits, and piercing ammo. The unit itself can be equated to a flying pistol (that fires 25% slower than the player pistol) armed with an infinite supply of yellow firearm mags. As everyone should know, the pistol and yellow mags are absolute trash for dealing with anything more than a half a dozen small biters. Having a flock of 5 defenders (the base follower count) is useful but hardly anything to write home about. And while they only require red, green, and military science, Defenders are pretty deep down the research tree after Flight. Depending on your research speed and priorities, you might already be dealing with medium biters which make the Defender obsolete. Basically they're cheap and useful only if rushed.
With the 0.17 release, the Defender now requires a robot frame as an ingredient without any other changes to the unit. I can understand why they made the change as it is thematically correct; but they're still an automated pistol (but worse) armed with yellow firearm mag. Making them require chemical infrastructure pushes their timing back enough to ensure that they're outclassed by enemy resistances by the time they're obtained. They are also competing against other red-green-military-only techs that require chemical infrastructure such as lasers, basic rockets, and flamers. No one is going to bother researching them in this state or automate their production thus denying any desire to go further down the combat robotics line, which is a shame because the other drones are somewhat useable.
Some things to note:
- Defenders benefit from both physical shooting speed and physical damage researches but their poor base values (5 damage, 3 shots/sec) means this amounts to little benefit.
- Distractors do laser damage and benefits from Laser Damage Research, but only after the tier 4 research. And they receive them at a lower magnitude compared to Laser Turrets. By the time you get your first combat robot laser damage upgrade, Laser Turrets do 42 damage/shot verses the trio of Distractors doing 36 damage/salvo. The DPS is even more in favor of the Laser Turret because Distractors do not benefit from Laser Shooting Speed research.
- At full upgrades it takes 7 capsules of Distractors to equal the DPS of an equivalently upgraded Laser Turret.
- Because the Combat Robots clump up, Spitter AOE will damage all of them at once. This isn't an issue with the mobile robots because they can dodge most attacks but Distractors are no longer tanking damage because they all go down together in the AOE. Thankfully they can be spammed but this is definitely a huge hit to their utility.
- Defenders and Destroyers scale with Robot Follower Count Research, but unlike other weapon bonuses, there is a scaling resource cost associated with utilizing it.
- Tangentially related: the Personal Laser Defense counts as a Laser Turret so it benefits from all Laser Turret upgrades and has very good base values to boot.
- With all damage and follower count researches complete (before infinite), a full pack of 50 Destroyers deals 3000 DPS. A single Personal Laser Defense deals 1267 DPS. A laser turret deals 633 DPS.
- Regardless, Destroyers are still usable. Just wish they stuck with the player better.