This guide is explicitly not titled “Ship buyer’s guide” as I will not be providing specific tips here as to which ships you should buy, but rather provide tips and information on how ship buying, CCU, insurance, gifting, store credits etc. generally works and how they can be combined to your benefit. Personal opinions will be covered to a greater extent elsewhere. I’ll say this, though: if you’re just starting out, read the next three paragraphs, get one of the cheapest game packages that contains a ship and possibly Sq42, bookmark this article and read the rest of it when you have some perspective on what you eventually want to do in the game and how much you’re actually willing to spend. Remember, nothing more than the base package is required to play the game, and all ships will be obtainable in game when the final SC release is live. So, without further ado…
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The main thing – kind of the base – that you need, is a game package. Without a game package you will not be able to play the game, even if you’ve bought a $350 standalone ship. Currently the three cheapest game packages are all valued at $45, where one of these gives you access to Sq42 only and the other two gives you a ship and access to SC multiplayer but no Sq42. For each of the two cheapest ship pledges there are variants which include Sq42 for a total of $60. In the future SC and Sq42 are planned to be separated into their own, individually priced AAA-titles.
Disregarding the Squadron 42 standalone pledge (which I will keep on disregarding through this article) every game package include at the very least a ship, some ship insurance, a hangar, some starting money, and access to the SC universe as well as a digital SC manual. Some may include additional content, like a digital star map, a soundtrack, decorations, and/or a Greycat Buggy. The more expensive combo packs contain several ships as well as lots of extra stuff as mentioned before.
Again, the two cheapest game packages (the Aurora MR pledge and the Mustang Alpha Pledge) are available both as “plain” pledges at $45 each, or as a “combo” pledge with Sq42 at $60 each. No other pledge pack is available as a combo, but for all other pledges you get the option to add Sq42 for an extra $15 at checkout. An interesting thing to note is that currently all pledges priced below the Constellation Andromeda pledge have a price difference of $15 between the standalone ship it contains, and the pledge itself. For instance the Cutlass Black pledge is $115, but the standalone Cutlass Black is $100. In general, if you want a particular ship that is not sold as part of a pledge pack, you should get the “best” pledge containing a ship whose value is less than or equal to the ship you want. I’ll cover ship upgrades in a minute. For instance: if you want the Constellation Taurus (currently sold at $150 standalone), you should probably get the Cutlass Black pledge (currently valued at $100) or Freelancer pledge (currently valued at $110) pledge rather than the cheaper Aurora MR pledge or Mustang Alpha Pledge pledges, as these contain shorter insurance, cheaper hangars, less starting money and generally less of the “good stuff”, still at the same price in total (also you should never buy the Aurora MR pledges if you plan to upgrade as they’re valued at $5 less than the Mustang Alpha although their pledge packs are priced equally). The price difference between the Constellation Andromeda ship and the Constellation Andromeda pledge is $50. You better decide for yourself whether or not the added extras are worth it ($275 total), or if you’d rather just upgrade to the Constellation Andromeda (or whatever) from a cheaper pledge like the Cutlass Black pledge ($115 + $125 = $240 total).
In general you can always upgrade from one ship to any ship with the same or higher value, so long as the ship you’re upgrading to is currently available. You can’t direcly downgrade to a cheaper ship, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The price of an upgrade is always equal to the price difference between the two standalone ships. For instance an upgrade from a Cutlass Black ($100) to a Freelancer ($110) will cost $10 – but you can’t downgrade the other way and get $10 back. Ship upgrades (CCU) can be bought at the ship upgrades page on the RSI website, and you can also use this page to find the current value of any given ship, even if it’s not currently available. It might become available again later, possibly at that price. Ships in both columns are listed by price, but in the right hand column you will only find currently available ships.
A ship upgrade isn’t applied to a ship automatically, instead it appears in your hangar/inventory, and you will have to manually apply it which is an irreversible process. Keep in mind that if you have a legacy pledge pack like the free license that used to come with some AMD graphics cards a while back, it may be really-really irreversible, so think long and hard before you do any kind of altering of a legacy pledge.
What is also worth mentioning is all upgrades preserve the unsurance period of the original ship as well as the hangar, meaning if you upgrade from a Mustang Alpha in a pledge pack (containing 3 months insurance and a SelfLand hangar) to a Constellation Taurus (usually containing 6 months insurance and a Revel & York hangar when sold stand-alone) you will keep both the SelfLand hangar and the 3 months insurance. However, hangars will be obtainable in-game at a later point, and insurance will of course also be extendable and inexpensive (but not free, although only cost in-game money).
There is no limit as to how many times you can upgrade a particular ship. Some CCUs are also free, in the even that you upgrade to a ship with the exact value of the ship you already have, like for instance the “regular” Freelancer and the “regular” F7C Hornet. There is also nothing stopping you from securing (buying for free) such free CCUs when they are available, so that you have the option to get one even after they’re no longer sold – if another ship at the same price is still available. Upgrades that you already have can be applied until the game is out of alpha, even if they in the meantime stop selling the ship you’re upgrading to. I’ve actually been fiddling with sort of a price tool for CCUs myself, which is currently located at ccupricetool.transversetheverse.com. Hopefully more functionality to come.
If you already have a game package and you want a second ship, you would probably want to buy one stand-alone, rather than paying more for an extra game package. A complete list of all current ships can be found here, although several of these (like for instance the Carrack) are usually unavailable. A stand-alone ship will not allow you to play the game by itself without a game package, but they also come with their own insurance period, their own hangar, and at times some decorations. Stand alone ships can be upgraded in the exact same way as a ship contained within a pledge.
“Melting”/refunding (for store credits)
Every pledge, standalone ship, addon etc. can be “melted” (returned), and you’ll get the exact amount (in USD, ex taxes) you spent on whatever you melted as store credit. This is a nice way to let backers try out different things before they settle for something. However, if you upgrade a ship (either standalone or pledge) to another, you can’t just melt the upgrade and keep the old ship. You will have to melt the whole package – and every penny will be returned – but you will not have the original pledge/ship that you upgraded from anymore. If it’s still available, that’s no problem – you can just buy it over again. For unavailable ships that you’ve previously owned, there is the buyback option, although this is rather limited. I’ll get back to buybacks in a bit.
Store credits in general make life easier for us backers to compose the hangar you dream of at the lowest cost possible, or even with the best possible extras, but there are in particular two drawbacks of using store credits; the main drawback being anything purchased with store credits (partly or fully) can’t be gifted to a friend anymore. As soon as you’ve melted something, that something’s value is forever stuck to your account. The second part is, during the 2016 anniversary sale CIG released a few so-called “warbond” ships and pledges. These warbonds would be regular ships at a slightly discounted price, but only available with “fresh” cash – no store credits (and possibly no gift cards, I’m not sure). For instance, the Gladius Valiant LTI was priced at $110, but “only” $100 if bought as a warbond ship. Its value (when upgrading) would still be $110 either way, but if melted one would only receive the paid price as store credits, naturally.
If your pledge ship is a Freelancer (value $110), you have a standalone F7C Hornet (value $110), you want a Redeemer (value $250), and are willing to sacrifice both your ships for it, you can melt the F7C Hornet and spend the store credit plus an added $30 for the upgrade – but then you won’t be able to gift it anymore (which in this case would require you to gift the entire pledge anyway).
There is no limit as to how many times you can melt something. The only limitiation is, you can’t melt something until you’ve had it in your inventory for 24 hours. And again, when you melt something you get back exactly what you paid (ex taxes), so if you melt a free legacy pack you’re basically deleting it. If you melt an Avenger Stalker (worth $60 stand-alone or $75 as a game package) that was initially upgraded from legacy Mustang Omega (valued at $55, came free with some AMD GPUs), you only get back the $5 that you paid for the CCU as store credit, meanwhile you lose a pledge containing a ship and Sq42 (because that was included is all game packages back in the day) worth $90 total. Somewhat similarly, if you have a warbond game package that you paid a reduced price for, you only get back that reduced price.
No matter what currency you use, or whether or not you paid taxes on your initial purchase, when you melt something you get the store credit in USD excluding tax. Then you also won’t pay taxes off of the store credit you have next time you spend it. Also, CIG use pretty much fixed conversion rates between the different currencies (USD/GBP/EUR). For instance, at the time being 100 GBP = 125 USD – and for the record, VAT is 20%, so that if I claim a certain ship is $100 (ex taxes), it would be £96 (100*1,2/1,25) if you’re in the UK, paying in GBP.
On the “buy back pledges” site under “my hangar” you get the option to buy back anything you’ve previously melted for store credit, even though the item is not available for purchase anymore – with a few exceptions that should be listed there. This is intended for backers regretting their decision to melt something, but this is also something to keep in mind whenever they’re selling (inexpensive) ships with LTI. I currently have the option to “buyback” an 85X LTI because I briefly had one during the 2016 anniversary sale, which could come in handy if I ever wanted to buy another ship priced at $50 or above – I could upgrade from the 85X to that particular ship and keep the LTI for my new ship, although I would also be stuck with the 85X’s SelfLand hangar. It’s a pretty neat way of getting “free” LTI for a new ship, even at a time when no ships are even sold with LTI.
You should also have one token to be able to spend store credit when buying back a pledge, meaning if you have two buyback options that you’d like to get back, you can only get one of them by spending store credit. You can buy back as many as you like using “fresh” money. These tokens refill every three months (ish), but you can only have a maximum of one such token at any time.
Please note that this does not imply you’re able to buy back a certain ship several times, it’s only the opportunity to spend your store credit rather than real money on buybacks.
What are we able to gather from this wall of text I just wrote? Well, there are lots of things that may seem unimportant to you at this time, but even if you’re not interested in spending a lot of money on ships right now, that may change in the future. $0 CCUs are great, since it’ll possibly let you upgrade to a ship that isn’t necessarily available later on. Also, if you plan on big investments you should probably wait for the next anniversary sale before you spit in tons of “fresh” money that won’t be “fresh” anymore after they’ve initially entered the RSI system. For instance you would save $45 on the warbond version of the Esperia Prowler over the non-warbond one during the 2016 anniversary sale, but then if the money was already pledged you’d have to pay full price. But then again the Prowler’s value is $425, so unless you want that ship or an even more expensive one, you wouldn’t really benefit from that particular discount anyway – but there would also be cheaper variants which would save you less, but still save you something.
If they release warbond version of upcoming concept ships that would probably be something to consider, at least if you’re pretty sure you want a ship in its price range or above. Concept ships tend to also come with LTI, which is not necessarily a game changer that you should consider paying extra for, but if it comes with the ship at its normal price (or lower) anyway…
And as always: if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask us for tips!