Dark Nebula upgrade guide
Hades' Star: DARK NEBULA is the next update to Hades' Star. It will release later this year, completely replacing the current live version of Hades' Star. Your existing Hades' Star account will be transferred over to DARK NEBULA.
Depending who you ask, DARK NEBULA is an identical clone of Hades' Star with slightly different graphics, a radically different game, or somewhere in between. All these viewpoints, coming from players who have experienced the original game with different patterns and over different timeframes, are correct.
If you are worried that things have changed too much, or the changes you saw or heard about in the Early Access builds are too overwhelming, this post is a good place to get started with Dark Nebula when it releases.
Shipments and Yellow Star Economy
Dark Nebula redesigns the shipment progression using the following principles:
1. With so many other diverse activities in the game, doing Shipments should be optional, especially at the early game. The new Relay reflects that, allowing players to deliver all their shipments in less than a minute, with selectable bonus levels, and without requiring any other star types to be played first. Manual shipments have still been re-designed to offer a resource management challenge to players who want better bonuses and lower Hydrogen usage than the Relay.
2. Hydrogen should be the primary constraint for delivering shipments efficiently. In the original Hades' Star, Hydrogen was practically unlimited for players who had a lot of free time and the ability to run alt accounts.
3. Shipment volume (the total number of shipments generated in the star system per day) should be a properly balanced parameter that grows in a slow and controlled manner as players progress through the game, in line with expected upgrades for the ships and technology used to manage that volume. In original Hades' Star, the sudden jumps in shipment volume at the moment players colonized a new planet was a key reason shipments became frustrating for many players, very early in the game.
4. Shipment bonuses (awarded via shipping modules and the Shipment Relay) should be much more impactful in daily income, encouraging players to upgrade their technology and infrastructure as they progress throughout the game.
Delivering Shipments in Dark Nebula is an exercise in maximizing delivery bonus, without completely blowing out Hydrogen usage. You need to pay close attention to Hydrogen, especially if you weren't before. See the next section on Hydrogen changes, and how to ensure you are maximizing your daily Hydrogen income.
When it comes to delivering your Shipments, the Shipment Relay is super easy to use, and at higher levels, also super easy to instantly eliminate your entire daily supply of Hydrogen. This is the reason why you're able to select bonus level when using the Relay - if you do not have enough Hydrogen and still want to deliver shipments instantly, you'll have to pick a lower bonus level when activating the Relay. For better control of bonuses and Hydrogen costs, you can focus on upgrading and using the relevant Transport modules (Trade Burst, Shipment Computer, Shipment Drone, Rush). Make sure to read the new Module descriptions carefully and start with small experiments that show a strategy's credits per hydrogen ratio, before scaling that strategy to the entire star system. With the Relay bonuses becoming very expensive (in terms of Hydrogen) on higher levels, you will need to do at least partial Shipments towards the late game if you want your Credit bonuses to remain high. The game has been designed so the vast majority of players will need to do a combination between Relay and manual shipping after RS6.
Yellow Star economy has also changed in respect to Planets. Instead of artificially limiting some planets to very low maximum levels, Dark Nebula allows all planets to be upgraded to the same maximum level (you'll notice that those planets were automatically brought to a higher upgrade level after your account was upgraded to Dark Nebula). Use the new Planet list UI (in the Star info page on your Yellow Star) to easily see all current planet levels and what planet you need to focus on next. The same UI will also emphasize building and upgrading Trade Stations (something that could easily be overlooked or ignored previously, because of very high up-front costs).
You will notice that daily Credits income and expenses have changed. These changes put a proper control to the progression rate for all players, and fix serious issues in the previous Hades' Star game, like extremely slow early progression to RS6 and inconsistent times to reach very high Red Star levels. If you feel like it takes longer to start start planet upgrades in the new environment, go through the following checklist to ensure you are maximizing your Credit income:
- Transport modules that give bonuses (Shipment Computer, Trade Burst and Shipment Drone) should be upgraded at least to the same level your Red Star Scanner is at, and used daily to increase bonuses. If you are late RS10 or RS11, those modules should be upgraded to the maximum level. You can not ignore bonuses if you want to progress reasonably fast in the game.
- You are completing your daily Objective
- You are collecting a Rich Asteroid Field in Red Stars every day
- You are running enough Blue Stars each day to fill your Credits reward bar
In Dark Nebula, Hydrogen has been completely redesigned with the following principles in mind:
1. The only reason Hydrogen exists is to give a resource management challenge when doing Red Stars and Shipments. Game systems that effectively give unlimited Hydrogen are broken mechanics that should be eliminated from the game.
2. Hydrogen production and collection should feel like a growing process that scales as your Empire becomes bigger;
3. Hydrogen should never be putting limits on what Modules are upgraded, or how Battleships are maneuvered.
When your account is upgraded to Dark Nebula, you may notice that your Hydrogen cap has been reduced, and Hydrogen costs for certain things are very different. Here's the key points to keep in mind to navigate these changes:
- Your Hydrogen cap represents *roughly* the amount of Hydrogen you are expected to produce in about 1.5-2 days, assuming you are playing trying to maximize your progress (40-50 minutes per day). In the previous Hades' Star version, Hydrogen Cap was an arbitrary number that didn't mean anything.
- Hydrogen Costs for jumping ships to Red Stars are no longer negligible, they're one of the key costs of running a Red Star. You can no longer jump unlimited ships for the same tiny Hydrogen cost. Keep an eye on the number of ships you've already jumped - they will increase the cost for the next ship of that same type jumping in. This cost also intentionally addresses previous undesirable "strategies" like bringing in new ships with refreshed modules to work around cooldowns.
- Your yellow star system will always produce 100% of the Hydrogen you can collect. Hydrogen in Red Stars now serves a different purpose, and can not be brought back to the Yellow Star. It is no longer possible to mine other player's yellow star systems.
- Many Hydrogen costs have been removed, such as most Modules (excluding modules directly related to running Shipments or Red Stars), moving Battleships in any star type or moving Transports in White Stars.
In Dark Nebula, the sources of Hydrogen have been redesigned so they are predictable and consistent for all players. You will no longer be able to get unlimited Hydrogen by mining inactive player systems or running Red Stars indefinitely. The hydrogen generation modules have changed or are no longer usable in Yellow Stars. To maximize your daily Hydrogen income in this new environment, go through the following checklist:
- Try to maximize the base amount of Hydrogen stored in your base asteroids by unlocking as many sectors as possible
- The HYDROGEN REPLICATOR module generates additional Hydrogen every time you deliver in your Yellow Star system. Make sure you have it upgraded as high as you can, and equipped on all the miners tasked with collecting Hydrogen in your Yellow Star.
- GENESIS can generate a fixed amount of Hydrogen per day in your system - make sure it is unlocked at the highest possible level, equipped in one of your Yellow Star miners, and used daily.
- If you do not have enough blueprints for GENESIS or HYDROGEN REPLICATOR to take them at least to the same level as your Red Star scanner, researching MINING artifacts should be your highest priority.
- The RUSH module affects your Transport's fuel usage and should be upgraded as much as possible.
- The Star Harvester building should be upgraded as high as possible and used daily.
- Blue Stars offer significant Hydrogen income, especially in the early game, at no risk to other resources even if you never win a game.
Red Stars have been intentionally balanced around a player clearing one max level planet sector near their gate, and retrieving all 4 Artifacts from it. A single player taking 10+ Artifacts from a single Red Star is now more difficult. Even when possible, taking a lot of Artifacts from a single Red Star will appropriately increase the total Hydrogen expenses for that star.
The difficulty in Red Stars has been affected by numerous tweaks to map layout, time to supernova, Cerberus strength, and player module stats. The goal is that the overall difficulty in Dark Nebula should stay similar to the previous same level Red Stars, but with important caveats. Using all available Modules will be more important now, and with cooldowns globally reduced, Modules are now expected to be used far more frequently in Red Stars. Loading Artifacts has been intentionally made harder, requiring management of important resources (battleship HP, modules and time until supernova) throughout the Red Star's lifetime. Previously the Red Star gameplay was more or less over the moment the planet sector was clear, with little incentive to keep using most modules. This is no longer the case - starting at RS4, your Transport ships will be under constant threat until they leave the Star, and you need to plan on protecting them. Time management is a new variable to consider in Red Stars, that wasn't really there before. In higher level Red Stars, upgrading and using the Red Star Life Extender module has been designed to be mandatory.
The end result of all this is that if you approach Red Stars with the same tactics and modules you used in Hades' Star, they will likely feel much harder or impossible until you adjust. Here are some hints for adjusting faster:
- In Dark Nebula, module slot numbers and all the available modules have been carefully designed to enable interesting strategic choices in every Red Star level. This also means that many lazy "3x" loadouts (i.e. equipping the same module on all 3 Battleships) no longer work and will make your job in a Red Star harder. If you are having trouble in Red Stars, the first thing to look for is for Modules that don't really help you during the match (i.e. are you equipping 3x Teleport on all your Battleships because it actually helps you with a tactic, or because that's how you had it in Hades' Star?). Removing and re-installing Modules is now free, and with Battleships not getting destroyed from Combat you can afford to experiment more. (Note that ships will still get lost if they get caught in Supernova).
- The Sanctuary module has been removed from the game. If you are like the vast majority of Hades' Star players, this frees up a slot from all your ships. If you are struggling to clear a planet in your Red Star level, think carefully about how to maximize utility from this free module slot.
- Teaming up with other players is still your best shot at getting artifacts easier. As in the original Hades' Star, we have designed the regular Red Stars to be much easier when there's more than one participants. You can also use new features such as the Friends system and Red Stars in progress to ensure you're not running a Red Star alone.
- Do not ignore the Transport modules that work in Red Stars. Some of them require a loaded Artifact to activate, so consider looting a lower level planet first.
- The original Hades' Star game did a very poor job of making all modules useful in Red Stars. This led many players to completely ignore unlocking or upgrading certain modules. With the way Dark Nebula carries over progress, this will lead to those players having certain modules under-developed for their Red Star level. They will have less options when deciding module loadouts, and may need to work on their module upgrades before they're comfortable doing a Red Star at their current level (especially if they're on a high Red Star level). Because of the way Dark Nebula artifacts award Blueprints, running lower level Red Stars is not as punishing any more. While you do lose out on Blueprints for the higher level Red Star modules, you are still gaining Blueprints for all other Modules at the maximum rate. If you are struggling with Red Stars at your current level, running lower level Red Stars until your technology is more upgraded is now a perfectly reasonable strategy.
Every Module in the game has been rethought from scratch, in order to make all game modes live up to their true potential. In the original Hades' Star game, some Modules were disguised game systems and were either not upgradeable at all (Recall, Sanctuary) or punished the player by making basic game functionality harder to access until they were upgraded to some minimum level (Time Warp, Teleport, Barrier, Remote Mining).
Instead of piling on this unstable foundation, Dark Nebula has done all the hard work of extracting game systems out of the modules and into the base game itself. This new foundation is a much better starting point for eventually making all modules equally desirable, and for making all module upgrades desirable as well. With Dark Nebula's module lineup, this can now be achieved via much simpler number updates in the years ahead. This new environment also makes it possible to introduce new modules that don't break when combined with older modules. It is a vital change to ensure the game's longevity.
After upgrading to Dark Nebula, you will find an Inbox message detailing which Modules were converted to new ones, and which ones were deleted.
Here are some key examples of how and why some modules have changed. This list does not include everything. Make sure to carefully check in game descriptions for ALL modules, even ones that at first glance seem unchanged.
- Time Warp has replaced by Weapon Amplifier, a module that amplifies *ALL* weapons in range. Previously, Time Warp was responsible for severely breaking both PvP modes, and for making Yellow and Red Star gameplay slightly less frustrating by speeding things up (this speed up has been baked into the core game where needed).
- Sanctuary is deleted from the game and its effects mostly baked into every game mode, excluding Dark Red Stars and supernova on any star type. Losing ships to supernova (or Dark Red Stars) is intentionally much cheaper in the early game and more expensive in the late game. Previously, this mechanic was unavailable to early players, who were the ones who needed it the most.
- Teleport is now a Battleship-only Module, restoring the importance of route clearing and planning in Red Stars, and making time management as important as it should have originally been.
- Barrier is no longer the mandatory "pause" button, without which nobody could find success in RS10 and over. It's a now a useful, but not mandatory, module that can help manage waves of enemies and projectiles in higher level Red Stars.
There are now 6 types of Artifacts, up from 3 in original Hades' Star. Each type of Artifact awards Blueprints for one specific type of Module (TRANSPORT, MINER, WEAPON, SHIELD, COMBAT and the new DRONE type). COMBAT modules (previously SUPPORT) can now only be equipped on Battleships.
Doubling the number of Artifact types, along with making modules more desirable across all types, aims to make player Trading a more vital part of the game. Players who are only looking for a specific type of module to research for the month are less likely to keep finding enough supply of that module type in their Red Star runs.
After the very early game, Artifacts now award Blueprints at a fixed rate, regardless of their level. For example, a Level 6 WEAPON Artifact retrieved in RS6 will yield the same amount of DUAL LASER Blueprints as the RS5 WEAPON Artifact. The difference is that the Level 6 Artifact will also yield blueprints for the BARRAGE module, whereas the Level 5 won't. You can focus your research towards the modules you want and engage with horizontal trading with other players (meaning trading of Artifacts of the same level but different types), without feeling forced to run high level Red Stars unless you want the higher level Modules.
Blueprints are now the main constraint for upgrading Modules. The maximum module level has been increased to 15. For most modules, it will take a lot of effort to collect all the required Blueprints for the later levels. There are new game systems that provide bonus to Blueprint yield, such as the White Star Corporation bonuses and the ARTIFACT BOOST module. You should not overlook their importance.
Artifacts found in Dark Red Stars also provide significantly more blueprints, but come with risk of Credit loss for ship replacements. Endgame players who no longer have much to spend Credits on can consider that route for reaching the level 15 Blueprints requirements faster.