Okay, so I might be in a little trouble here. Elite: Dangerous is proving to be rather addicting in solo mode.
Having spent all of Thursday trading my way up into a well-equipped Cobra Mark III, I made the rather expensive mistake of trying to take it into combat yesterday morning. I still had 72,000 credits in the bank, so I thought, perhaps not unreasonably, that if I did end up scragging my ship, I'd be able to afford the insurance, right? Well, as it happens, it didn't turn out that way. Firstly, I don't think I'd quite spent enough money kitting up my Cobra, because what I did kit it up with, while it was effective against things like Sidewinders, it wasn't capable of dealing with a Sidewinder and a Cobra Mark III simultaneously. (though frankly, neither were my piloting skills - I'm pretty shocking at the combat right now)
I think Frontier ought to make it a little clearer just how much the insurance costs are for each of the ships (I might be able to dig out the info on the forums somewhere, but this is info that should be in the game), because if I'd known that I didn't have enough money to buy back my Cobra, I never would have accepted the Eranin combat mission in the first place. You might be able to tell by now that I am a risk-averse character - I'm a Science teacher for goodness sakes, risk management is my business - especially in a room full of 12 year olds, chemicals and Bunsen burners! But I digress, as usual. So, having been reduced to a stock, free Sidewinder again, I spent all morning yesterday trading fish and agri-medicines until I could get by Cobra back. As I was doing this, I made a few observations and hit upon an interesting idea.
As I noted above, I'm rather terrible at the combat. With this new pilot, I have a poxy five kills to my name. In the premium beta, I wasn't much better, I think I got about 50 kills, for about as many deaths, in the conflict zones in Eranin with the free Sidewinder. So I need a lot more practice, preferably with gimballed weapons that help you aim. Doing this with a Cobra would be a very costly business, as I discovered yesterday morning, so I thought, why not just keep trading for a couple of hours, get a Lakon Type 6 transporter, make a TONNE of money, and then downsize into more affordable, even throwaway combat vessels I can trash in the combat zones?
So that's what I did. Now, I should point out at this juncture that the Lakon Type 6 is quite a nice ship. Not to look at (it's a box with engines), nor to take into combat (I wouldn't dare, as it's a poorly maneouvring box, with only two Class Two hardpoints, and if you want to upgrade the armour on sucker, say goodbye to a million credits!), but as a money-making machine, it's pretty awesome. It carries one hundred tonnes of cargo, so less than a quarter of the Type 9 (which will set you back three million credits), but that's nearly three times more than the Cobra, so a full load of Terrain Enrichment Systems between Aulin and I Bootis will net you a profit of 66,000 credits, which is not bad for five minutes work. An afternoon of trading in that, and you'll probably be ready to upgrade to an Anaconda. But that's for another day, because I'm starting to get a little bit bored of ruining the market for fish on Aulin. I have, too. I've run so many tonnes of fish into the place my profit margin has dropped from 380 credits to 290 credits per tonne in the last three days. Anyway, so having made enough money in the Type 6, I first downsized into an Eagle, because I'd not flown one yet.
As you can see, it's quite a cheeky little number, especially when it's fully pimped out with two gimballed multicannons and a gimballed beam laser, plus a point defence system to handle any incoming missiles. Now, I have to admit that I'm not especially fond of the multicannons. They're supposed to do more damage to the hulls of ships than lasers (from what I gather from the forums, and also being on the wrong end of one), but they do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time spinning up before firing, which usually means that just when you've got them lined up on your target properly, they run out of ammo and reload. More practice required on my part, most definitely, but this makes me more inclined to use lasers, at least until I've gained a bit more combat experience and start surviving engagements a little more regularly. I didn't stay in the Eagle for very long, however, because it has one slight issue. Hyperspace jump range. Even without cargo, it wouldn't jump the gap between I Bootis and Eranin, and since all the best combat is in the Independent and anarchist systems, not being able to get there was a bit of a problem. So I swapped the Eagle for a Viper, instead.
The Viper I'd not flown before either, and at the moment, I'm inclined to think that it's probably the best ship for someone who wants to be a bounty hunter or "cleaner" (an assassin, basically - the "Cleaners Wanted" missions on the Bulletin Board are for you), as it's got two Class Four hardpoints and two Class Two hardpoints, it's the fastest ship in the game (500m/s with full power to engines and boost - a Cobra Mark III will only do 400m/s). I kitted it out with two Class 3 gimballed multicannons and two Class 1 gimballed burst lasers, with nearly 150,000 credits to spare, and I imagine that's a combat loadout that could do some serious damage. As I made my way over to Eranin, however, it wasn't long before I started having second thoughts. The Viper's still a very expensive ship to trash, and I'm a relatively terrible pilot (I could blame my joystick, since it's well over ten years old and doesn't appear to be as sensitive or responsive as it once was, but only a bad workman blames his tools), so guess what? I'm back in a poxy little Sidewinder again. Only this time, it has gimballed burst lasers, a point defence system and a heat sink launcher. And I've got 337,000 credits in the bank to play with, so I can jump straight back up to a Cobra or Lakon Type 6, when I need to top up my funds again from trashing so many Sidewinders that I've paid out a small fortune in insurance costs. But hey, at least it will be more fun than doing relentless cargo runs between Chango Dock and Aulin Enterprise...