It’s a vestigial mechanic from the fleet-building RPG-Esque skirmish mode from the first game.
The trouble was that as popular that mode was with the single player crowd (and rightfully too) it was a massive pain in multiplayer. They tried to make it more multiplayer friendly in this game with the current system, but it’s still a clear descendent of what came before without capturing the old feeling in singleplayer. A roundabout of compromises to make one mode for two different flavors of play. Understandable for a team with limited time and resources, still non-ideal for the players.
I think they directed most of their resources into the campaigns instead, which are quite good.
If you double tap alt to get the extra ui details one of the things it adds is little colored pins of light that come up from damaged components to make them easier to spot at a glance, as well as highlighting of damaged model bits on some weapons.
It's something I wish was default but it is in there. You can also pull it up momentarily by holding alt, but I prefer the always on double-tap.
As far as I know there's no menu to show it when the model is obscured.
I don't know about adding torps to any existing ship, but I'd love alternate patterns that have torps instead of novas. The original Admech rules only say cruisers 'can' take a nova cannon, not that they 'must'. I'd like to see some of those 'plasma boosted batteries' mentioned in the rules that increase 30cm weapons to 45cm (which I think is from 9000 - 13500) for those alternate patterns.
Vortex torps would be tricky, as we've seen what ubertorps do on the Eldar. Perhaps they could be more like partial Damage + Speed reduction (cause of gravity distortions) or Damage + crew damage. I could see a slowing torp having a support role for an admech fleet, as they do want to keep anybody from getting close.
Chaos lances aren't good weapons right now, so stay clear of them. Tau protector cruisers are all carriers, so they tend to smash less numerous wings if that Player uses them to cover their torp salvoes, which are fully capable of erasing ships. Also, most chaos carriers have lances as backup weapons, which makes them quite piddly in dps for their cost in general and non-ideal in this matchup specifically, unless you dedicate your whole fleet to overwhelming fighter numbers so you can get the fighters and the torps, too.
Tau have heavy armor on the front hull, at least until the generator is crit out. They also can put all their fire downrange while facing you, ideal for focus fire at longer ranges with their best armor eating return fire.
Tau are weak in that they have poor top speed, and their morale isn't great. To exploit these, you specifically need to get close and wrap around so you have good dps ships shooting into the rear with some ships still out front to draw their fire, or force them to take rear shots if they turn. Boarding to take down the generators removes that heavy armor in the front and makes direction less important. The boarding combined with ramming (not into the heavy front, ideally) depletes morale and makes them vulnerable to mass rout if you focus the admiral out.
Slaughters and Carnages work because they've got good dps, speed, and boarding to exploit the tau weaknesses, while being distributed enough that no single ship can be focused down on approach and cripple the whole formation. Any other solution you develop will need to mimic those advantages.
I'm pretty sure the unlockable portraits are the ones they use for the randomly-generated admirals, so they probably show up. I got the default portrait as an admiral once.
Don't think there's any voice-changes though, not like Spire himself tells us when he's going ALL AHEAD FULL!
Disruption bomb knocks out their stealth for a bit, as you said ping works, the scout probe admiral ability gets a larger radius when it stops moving so target it close to your forces to create a no-go zone for the deldar.
When their stealth is temporarily disabled, spam some fighters on the one you want to kill. They can mark him for your guns. Tau are great for hard countering deldar because you ping them, have lots of fighters to deploy, and then spam guided torps on the fighter-marked target. When you can perpetually knock out their stealth deldar melt under coordinated fire.
Be sure to mark the engine component for crits, they can't run well once it's out.
I think torpedoes are in a good place, for most factions.
Oh, they are undeniably weak on the corisairs, firing only four from a cruiser, but for everyone else they're pretty great.
My favorite fleets so far have been IN torpedo fleets. The fastburn upgrade makes them terrific! Also, while the Gothic is an otherwise sad ship, it gets a unique prow that fires its torpedoes really close together, so mixing one or two as a big torp boat is worthwhile.
Nova cannons have that long windup and damage scaling around the center, if you want ideal hits you have to guess where the enemy will be when the windup ends and whether he's burned his mobility already. Torpedoes are a close-in weapon and as such I have a much higher hit ratio on torps than novas. I wish the Mechanicus had alternate ship options that took the plasma enhaced macros upgrade rather than the nova upgrade, just so I could get torps with them too.
The guided torps on tau, if preceded by a fighter wave to absorb turret fire, are amazing for smashing targets even at the midrange. Worth using the piddly chaser guns on the merchants to hold position for a good salvo.
Ork torps aren't da best, simply because orks aren't nimble brawlers and have fewer opportunities to use them. Orks are otherwise amazing, though, so just having the option for when those shots happen to come up is worth it.
Space marines get some good torps as well, solid narrow salvoes with the guided alternate boarding torp, very flexible tools depending on how you want to kill a target, and cheaper than most of the other bow options.
I like torps. Torps are good. when they run out, you still have solid broadsides to finish the job.
Edit: melta torp damage isn't affected by brace, set those fires watch him buurn.
The poor Gothic class has the prettiest of prows, but the worst of the broadsides. The Lunar doesn't know what it wants to be. Chaos lances essentially have to win on caps because they can't kill fast enough to win otherwise.
Push their behavior to extremes- Give the imperial short ranged broadside lances +2-4 damage, and the chaos long ranged broadside lances increased fire rate. Macro weapons can be fun but they're currently the right choice in every circumstance, let lances have a situational role too.
One of the screen shots in the steam devblogs about campaigns featured the eldar in battle, so I always assumed an eldar campaign was in the works. They aren't my ideal choice but that would cover three factions right off the bat.
Tau are the next best choice because they have two factions, two birds with one stone. Also, the weaboos love them. I imagine you could have a horde based campaign where the merchants gather resources and negotiate supply lines and the protectors have to cover them.
Chaos would be awesome, because of how complete their lineup is. Orks as well, I'd like to see a green tide campaign.