Okay I've gotta admit, I'm really enjoying Avorion
. I usually can't get into these "Graffiti Kingdom-Likes" where custom design is the main feature, but it has just the right amount of SIM elements going on for a space shooter, in my book.
Obviously there's modular ship design from the basic premise, also faction relation management that's pretty in-depth for randomly generated existing groups, custom factions, all the trading and combat you'd expect. It's a bit of a drag in early exploration before you can get your hands on charts, afford gate travel, or know how to spot a likely wormhole from the map. But it manages to fall right in between a Starscape where you basically just upgrade and shoot, or a Starsector, where you need to remember to have your license prepared and broadcast the appropriate signals for the sector you're in before approaching a starbase (Or Elite Dangerous where you spend 5 minutes in warp going between stars, then wait another 2 minutes on line behind NPCs for docking clearance.
Early game isn't great. Basically you just mine for a few hours then hunt down a wormhole that brings you into at least the next tier of resources. You can find iron everywhere and some titanium in the start sector, and more titanium pretty close by once you know what to look for, but iron is basically worthless for building a ship, it feels kind of like a wasted step. But that's my only real complaint, otherwise I'm enjoying mindlessly exploring, trying to grow my flagship with a small mining crew financing me, while also mostly ignoring the 'quests' you can choose to take for various small tutorials and some amount of a main story that's there if I get bored.
Anyway, I recently learned that even thrusters and engines can be totally covered by armor without any issue and am actively stopping myself from just making a borg cube. I actually think the way armor works is it just increases some background number for total amounts of hull protection, but parking my masses of titanium in the middle of a fleet of pirates that are all firing into my while I take my time to pick targets seems to be going very well. Meanwhile when I think "oh that looks cool" on an enemy ship I immediate shoot that part and, what do you know, it takes a ton of damage and breaks.
If I can just find a decent quality turret mod or two, I'm almost at a point where I have 2-3 turrets positions to be able to hit any direction. So I'll be able to kill engines, turn on free look, and do a 360 degree circle of death on these poor, poor fools that were just "waiting for a friend".