Mask of Arcadius: Paladin
The Paladin is your first Ryder to have serious firepower, comparable to the Sunrider itself. It's slightly more versatile than the Seraphim as well, though its struggle to strike effectively at a distance makes it a bit more specialized.
It's also your toughest Ryder, able to take multiple cannons to the face without necessarily dying. This helps offset its need to get comparatively close to do useful work, contrasting with the Phoenix being even more close-combat oriented and yet painfully frail.
40 Energy used per tile of movement.
Yes, the Paladin is even worse at moving than the Sunrider. Ideally you'll usually have the Bianca drag it where you need it.
The Paladin is by far your toughest Ryder. It's actually decent competition with the Sunrider, thanks to having much more Evasion!
This is enough Armor to substantially blunt Missile volleys and ensure the Paladin needs to be quite beat up before Assault weaponry starts doing real damage to it.
18%, Range: 1
No, I don't get why it's not a multiple of 5 like the other Flak ratings are, either.
It's sufficiently unimportant I tend to actually forget the Paladin has a Flak rating at all. It's not something I factor into my plans, after all. Just a nice bonus when it crops up.
Poor Evasion for a Ryder, but not by as much as you might expect. The Paladin will dodge semi-regularly, lasting longer than you might expect, though unlike the Phoenix you shouldn't plan around it managing to dodge things.
Energy: 60, Damage: 400x1, Aim: 70
This is the big thing about the Paladin; it's your second source of big guns. It's also your second source of good damage that doesn't care about shields or run out of ammo. (The Seraphim's base damage is much lower) Its base statline is the same as the Sunrider's with the exception that its Energy cost is 10 points lower. Realistically you've already invested a fair amount of cash into the Sunrider, so initially the Paladin will be behind, but it doesn't take much money to get to the point of double-firing the cannons. And the Paladin can do so fairly reliably while engaging in battlefield maneuvering thanks to the Bianca's Gravity, where the Sunrider you have to either be willing to waste Command Points on a jump or arrange for the numbers to work out so the Sunrider has 30 Energy to spare after firing its cannons twice, which is a tall order.
With the Paladin a part of your force, cap ships cease to be a problem-by-default. With a little money put into damage plus getting to double-firing, plus an All Forward in place, the Paladin can outright one-round PACT Cruisers by itself!
One flaw with the Paladin, though, is that its Aim is poor enough even cap ships can have a chance to dodge at a moderate distance, and the Paladin's alternatives suck for taking on cap ships/suck period and the Paladin doesn't have any 'cheats' like the Sunrider's Command-based teleport to offset the Aim problem. This is, unfortunately, not something the game provides any tools to offset. Putting money into Aim helps a little, but since Aim upgrades are percentile the Aim gains are poor since the base Aim is poor.
Energy: 30, Damage: 14x10, Aim: 70
Literally the only reason you might ever use the Paladin's Assault weaponry is that it shares upgrades with the cannons and so the process of making them better makes the Assault weaponry suck less.
The Paladin's Assault weaponry is actually stronger than the Sunrider's -14x10 damage instead of 12x10- while otherwise having identical stats, but it's still fundamentally Assault weaponry, and the way the numbers work out the Paladin will rarely be in a situation where Assaulting is getting some use out of a last bit of Energy that can't be spent on anything else.
That said, you'll occasionally find it useful to have the Paladin break out Assault weaponry to finish off weakened targets. Not very often, mind, as you've got tons of options for handling that where the Paladin's cannons are one of a handful of options for taking out cap ships in a timely manner, but it's something to keep in mind.
Energy: 20, Damage: 80x5, Ammunition: 2, Aim: 120
The Paladin's Missiles are unusually good! Their Aim is 10 points below the Sunrider's, but they use up 2/3rds the Energy, do technically less overall damage but more per hit and so are much better at hurting moderately-armored targets, and come with a base ammunition of 2 shots without increasing the cost for adding another shot. As such, the Paladin is the one and only unit in the game where it's seriously worth considering investing more than a cursory amount of cash into its Missiles, especially since the Paladin itself seriously struggles to do damage to far-off targets. Investing some cash into its Missiles can let it one-shot uncovered light ships from quite far away, and the Energy cost is so low it's really easy to justify letting fly with a couple of Missiles opportunistically.
I'd still rather Missiles functioned radically differently in general, but within the framework the game is operating in the Paladin is at the lower end of competent design as opposed to outright awful design.
The Paladin is your last Ryder, which creates a weird curve where the portion of the game you're collecting recruits in has cap ships as basically minibosses that the Sunrider tends to be preoccupied fighting because nothing else can do good enough damage to them -or is the Seraphim, which is usually better used one-shotting the more durable Ryders and light ships like missile boats- and then you're done collecting recruits and suddenly the game threatens you primarily through huge swarms of Ryders, with cap ships being more significant for their defensive properties (Flak, shielding) than for being a tough and hard-hitting target.
This is further exacerbated by the mercenaries, though we'll get to them.
The game seems to be aware of this, too, as the game shifts gears from treating small numbers of cap ships as a big threat to instead treating swarms of Ryders as the big threat of the game. Which, you know, they are.
Next time, we check out the purchasable ships.