I just finished my THI campaign in Nexerelin. They're a pretty difficult faction to play, their lack of mobility mean they can't catch their target, even with their immunity to nebulas. It can be very infuriating watching a bunch of fast cruisers doing hit & run tactics on your fleet in all impunity.
The Nanzhong (brawler) is probably the most interesting THI frigate. It's slow as hell so it won't catch anything that don't want to be caught. But at more than 500 armor, they can take it and dish it out so spamming them early game isn't a bad idea. However, like every frigates, they fall off later against bigger threats.
The Laohu (lasher) is closer to an armored shuttle than an actual combat ship. It's not as weak as a Hermes but not as strong as the Lasher. May be interesting for very early game but i'll ditch it at the first occasion.
Not really thrilled by the Luoyang (hound) either. It's a hound, but without the utility of its reasonable cargo. The increased armor isn't worth the loss of speed in my opinion. The PD turret is also gone so missiles are even scarier. With careful piloting it can be an interesting starting flagship as unlike other THI ships, the Luoyang is fast enough to catch its target. But used by the AI? Probably a bad idea.
The Wujun (vigilance) looks like a tempting early game flagship with its single large mount. It's actually pretty damn bad. It's slow, it's fragile (narrow front shield) and doesn't have the flux to properly use its gun, the turret also have a -50% turn rate penalty. Its logistic cost is also significantly higher than its vanilla counterpart. Later on it may be interesting to have a few of those as support ships that can once in a while take a pot-shot at the enemy from afar. The vigilance is arguably a much better and safer option if your fleet need additional fire support.
For the destroyers, i was convinced i'd love the Hanzhong (enforcer). Two large ballistic mounts can't be bad, right? Wrong. I hate it.
Its overall stats are worse than the Enforcer, except for the armor and hull. It's slow and lumbering, waving its turrets helplessly in battle by overloading itself, before dying a miserable death. It's not an Enforcer, it's more like an oversized Wujun, or a weird cousin of the Sunder. It stay afar and fire a few shots before venting, hoping that nothing will come too close.
I found the flux limitations even more painful than the Wujun. It's not possible to mount something like a pair of gauss cannons or Hephaesteus as it will rapidly choke on the flux. There's not much choices outside of the Mark.IX and the new Mauler Battery.
The Tianshui (gemini) also have a hard time convincing me. It's a carrier, which means it compete with the Gemini for this role, and given the Gemini is very, very good, the competition is rough.
The lack of medium missile mount prevent the Tianshui from being an efficient fire support unlike the two other vanilla destroyers carriers. It need to go into the fray to use its guns, which isn't really the place of a carrier, even with the improved armor. The small mounts offer a fairly mediocre PD system compared to the twin medium turrets and drones of the Gemini. Overhall, it feel like a straight downgrade from the original for the same cost.
The other carrier, the Chengdu (buffalo) felt more interesting to me. Even with the additional armor, it's still a Buffalo, so it can't fight, even with its medium energy hardpoint. The good point? It's the cheapest destroyer carrier in the game, but not by that much. Like the Tianshui it can't lobe missiles across the map, so its use is only limited to resupplying fighters. It may have been a useful ship in the old Uomoz mod, where supplies were expensive. But currently? Not really.
THI's medium freighter, the Guandu (mule) is all about surviving. Very good PD coverage and improved armor. Can be an interesting back-bone ship for early to mid game, although with mediocre firepower.
For the cruisers, the Dingjun (venture) is the first and only missile boat of the faction. Unlike the Venture, it's a very mediocre brawler but with four medium missile mounts, it's probably the best cruiser for fire-support. It also have a launch bay, which you'll need because your other carriers are bad. What's not to love?
The other cruiser, the
Wuzhang is an interesting one. It does work fairly well as a flagship, not sure about the AI however, didn't found many of those in my campaign. It's also surprisingly fast for a THI ship.
About the capital ships. The Xiakou (atlas) feel like a big Mule, it can fight but it's not a dedicated combat ship. The numerous medium turrets allow it to be refitted as a pretty good long range weapon platform as it shouldn't get in brawling range. A crazy PD boat could work too. Personally, i like to deploy my Xiakou a bit after the rest of my fleet, so it wouldn't end up on the frontline but still would benefit my fleet from its good firepower. Medium Sledges guns are terrific for this.
And finally, the Xu (conquest) Pocket battleship. It's a weird one, the playstyle is a mix between the slippery Conquest and the brawling Onslaught. It is better as an AI ship than the Conquest, due to being more survivable and not requiring weird broadside maneuvers to fire its guns. The Xu is actually the only choice for THI as a back-bone ship. It felt reliable and tough enough for me to let the AI pilot it.
As a flagship however? It's a bit of an oddity. Like the Conquest, i dislike wasting half of my OPs with useless weapons on a side of my ship, so i went with an asymmetrical build at first.
It's not as maneuverable as the Conquest though, even with auxiliary thrusters. showing this side to the enemy also give them a huge profile to shoot at.
My other build was better at dueling with other capital ships.
Being mounted on the hardpoints, the 2 Mjolnir can't catch frigates as easily as the other build. However the profil is much thinnier, making it very good at dodging some projectiles. It also felt more maneuverable than the broadside version. It can brawl but it's much better when sitting at the edge of the target's range and slowly pounding it with the Mjolnir.
It's also with this build that i discovered how good the burst flak cannons were. Possibly a bit too good. It clearly lack the raw damage of the vanilla version but the pushing effect is incredible against bombers, pushing them out of their original trajectories. It's not a weapon for killing, it's more about preventing the enemy to reach you, and it does it damn well. Slow ships with large profile are usually terrified by Piranhas, but not with those guns.
I don't have much to say about the fighters, maybe when i'll try a dedicated carrier fleet. Never found a single armored drone though.
Overall, i think the faction is on the underpowered side. Nothing insurmountable but the destroyers/frigates make early/mid game quite difficult. Especially the Tianshui that just can't compete in any way.
Also a request : is it possible to add a subtle sound effect to the flux override system? Something similar to accelerated ammo feeder?
They're not as flashy as the other high-tech factions but i think they're a worthy addition to a game, even as enemies only.