Friday, August 15, 2014

Byte: Elite: Dangerous - Ship comparison guide

Update: 29th March 2015: It turns out that the "considerable time" I mention in the January update below it would take to be in a position to review the other ships currently available in Elite: Dangerous wasn't as long as I feared. During the 1.2 'Wings' beta, Frontier sensibly decided to allow the playtesters to buy ships (in their base specifications) for just 100 credits apiece, which allowed me to go for test flights with all the ships (barring the Type 7 - I have no interest in flying a trading box ever again), including the new Vulture and Fer-de-Lance. So if you want to find out what I think about the Asp, Imperial Clipper, et al, you're going to want to make with the clicky here.

Update: 8th January 2015: For the benefit of people still visiting this article following the commercial release of Elite: Dangerous in December 2014, this article was originally written in the first stage of Beta 1. The game and the balance of some of the ships and weapons has changed considerably since then, but rather than make wholesale revisions to the article, I'm going to leave the original article as it is, and add "post-release" sections, so that you can have an update as to what the ships are like now, while still getting a feel for what the game was like while it was in development. My opening sentiment of the article remains true - I've had over 30,000 hits on this article alone since it was published in August, which is incredible. Thanks for the comments and kind words - it's nice to know that Commanders out there have found my inane ramblings useful. I shall endeavour to periodically to keep this article updated when major revisions to the game are made. I will also post ship reviews for some of the newer ships like the Adder, Type 7, Imperial Clipper, Python and Orca, once I have earned the cash to acquire them. Though please bear in mind that this might take me some considerable time!

tl;dr version: Fly a Cobra until you can afford an Anaconda. ;-)

It's been quite an odd sensation over the last two weeks - knowing that people are actually visiting (and maybe even reading?) my blog. To put that statement into context, I've been running this blog for over ten years and according to my blog stats I've had 10% of the total number of website hits for the entire lifetime of my blog in the last two weeks alone. Which obviously goes to show much of a select readership I've had over the last decade. That is, no-one. So thanks for boosting my hit count, and greater thanks for the people who've left comments. It is nice to know that the effort to write these posts has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. (Though if I can be really cheeky, if there is anyone who'd like to show just how grateful they are by setting me up with an Oculus Rift DK2 or TrackIR set so I can review the game with that, I would not be immune to that sort of bribery...) Please note: I am still open to bribery. Still no offers yet!

Since the pretty pictures and the starter guide has been quite popular, I thought I'd post a few further tips about the starter ships and weapons and possible module loadouts to help people get going at the start of the game, as I appreciate that not everybody has the time to plough their way through all the info on the design forums and at this early beta stage, in-game information on what all the stuff does is rather scarce. So here is my take on the first few ships you will encounter in Elite: Dangerous, with a few hints and strategies of how best to arm and use them. Please note that I will not be giving guidance at this point on the Lakon Type 9 Heavy or the Anaconda, for two reasons: 1) I've not flown them yet, and 2) If you've made the several million credits you need to buy and kit out a Type 9 or an Anaconda, you probably don't need advice from me! Finally, please note that ship costs are approximate 'raw' costs assuming you have a stock Sidewinder, since they are modified in game by your current ship and loadout. Update: Costs are now updated to reflect the price in the commercial release.

Cost: Free (for basic model with no modules and two C2 Pulse Lasers), or 1600Cr plus insurance for weapons and modules (typically around 3000Cr total) Now 32,000Cr from new if buying as a secondary ship
Recommended weapon loadout 1 (Beginner): x2 C1 Burst Laser (G)
Recommended weapon loadout 2 (Assassin): x2 C1 Multicannon (G)
Recommended weapon loadout 3 (Griefer): x2 C2 Cannons
Recommended weapon loadout (Post Release - General Purpose): x2 C1 Beam Laser (Fixed)
Recommended modules: Heat sink launcher & Kill Warrant Scanner
Recommended modules (Post Release): Frame Shift Wake Scanner & Kill Warrant Scanner
Why you should fly it: Well, you don't have a choice, really (unless you backed the Kickstarter), but it's a good ship to learn the ropes of the combat in the game. In fact, it should be almost compulsory that you should spend at least three or four hours raiding conflict or resource gathering zones in the basic, free Sidewinder until you've racked up about 50 kills and have at least a rudimentary grasp of how to handle a ship in combat and manage your six degrees of freedom in dogfights (the traditional four of pitch, roll, yaw and throttle, plus vertical and lateral thruster strafing - if you want to live in combat, you have to actively manage all six, constantly). A decent pilot in a Sidewinder can easily handle a well decked-out Cobra and even heavier vessels if you stay on the move, but Vipers are a challenge because they have so much of a speed advantage. The Sidewinder is slow, but nimble and a canny pilot will want to make use of that agility during dogfights, because as any real fighter pilot will tell you, speed is life. Once you can afford it, and while you are still struggling to hit anything with fixed weapons (and this will take a long time, especially if you aren't playing with a good joystick), you should seek to invest in some gimballed weapons as soon as possible. I highly recommend the Class 1 gimballed Burst Lasers as they're less heat and power hungry than Beam Lasers. Actually, I find it difficult to recommend beam lasers at all, unless you just like weapons that look awesome. In the early game, the best way to use a Sidewinder is to go on a gold hunt in the USS contacts in an anarchy system like Styx or LP 98-132 - being wary of the gold traps, where you get ambushed by three Cobras - as this is by far and away the fastest way of making enough money to get you out of the Sidewinder. I wouldn't recommend trying to trade your way out of a Sidewinder - with a poxy 4 tonne cargo capacity, that's going to take a long time - but you can make decent money using a Sidewinder in combat missions or assassinations. Once you've mastered combat with the gimballed lasers, upgrade to C1 gimballed mulitcannons. They have lower heat generation, do more damage, but are more expensive and have a limited ammo supply. Multicannons are arguably the best weapon for a player of intermediate skill, especially if they're gimballed, because they give you a wider range of fire and a large damage potential for relatively little heat generation. Finally, there's one last possibility of why you'd want to fly a Sidewinder: to annoy other players. Once you've put in a couple of hours' worth of trading in with a Type 6 Transporter, the Sidewinder becomes so low cost that it's practically disposable, allowing you to put on a pair of C2 Cannons, hang around just outside the no fire zone at Freeport and snipe other players for shits and giggles. I will speak more about cannons later, but for pirates they should be compulsory, if only for the historical reference, but suffice to say, cannons are ludicrous, if you can aim them. So don't try using them until you've really got a feel for the combat - after 200 kills, or thereabouts, because they are difficult to use well.
Why you should ditch it: It's the slowest of all the combat ships (it can only outpace a Hauler or Type 9), only has two hardpoints, a 4 tonne cargo capacity and a short hyperspace range. Theoretically, it's a small, cheap, multipurpose vessel, as you can outfit it with a combat spec and still have a hyperspace range that might allow you to reach half a dozen systems, but there are bigger, better, badder ships out there for you to fly into battle and make money with.
If the Sidewinder was a racing car it would be: A Formula Ford car
Post release update: There's a reason why the Sidewinder is the standard starting ship in Elite: Dangerous. In the right hands, it's a remarkably capable and versatile vessel. It has the flexibility to become a craft suitable for any role that suits your play style, whether that is as a bounty hunter, miner, rare commodities trader or explorer. You will still probably want to upgrade into something larger to make more money as soon as possible, but it's probably worth having one stashed somewhere near a combat zone or resource gathering site for some cheap, disposable carnage-based fun. A fully upgraded Sidewinder will still set you back upwards of a million credits, but it will give you a decent craft able to fulfil any possbile role you can think of, if not terrbily well. Even in the wake of the huge nerf given to cannons since this article was written, the much-needed revision of the heat-damage balance of fixed beam lasers means that the Sidewinder is still a viable combat craft, but the flimsiness of the hull makes it difficult to take on the most profitable assassination contracts. So while the Freewinder might be cheap fun, it's still worth upgrading from it as soon as possible.
Cost: 16,000Cr Now 44,800Cr
Recommended weapon loadout 1 (Beginner): x3 C1 Pulse Laser (G) or x3 C1 Multicannons (G)
Recommended weapon loadout 2 (Bounty Hunter): x1 C1 Pulse Laser (G), x2 C2 Multicannon
Recommended weapon loadout 3 (Large Ship Killer): x3 C2 Cannons
Recommended weapon loadout (Post Release - General Purpose): C1 Burst Laser (Gimballed) - on dorsal hardpoint - x2 C1 Beam Laser (Fixed)
Recommended modules: Heat sink launcher & Kill Warrant Scanner
Recommended modules (Post Release): Frame Shift Wake Scanner or Kill Warrant Scanner
Why you should fly it: There's only one reason to fly an Eagle: because you don't want to trade, but want to make with the space murder. The Eagle is lean, mean, agile and is an awesome fighting vessel, tailor-made for Elite combateers who want to jump straight into bounty hunting in resource extraction sites or Federation/Independent combat zones. With good flying and a decent weapon loadout, a well-flown Eagle can annihilate an Anaconda, but there are several trade-offs for this combat power. The most serious is the Eagle's piddling hyperspace range. If you buy an Eagle at LP 98-132 and put weapons on all three hardpoints, you won't be able to make it out of the system to buy a Kill Warrant Scanner, which rather defeats the object of buying one, really. So you have to either buy the scanner first and fly into the system unarmed to get weapons (from a limited selection) at Freeport, or find a different hunting ground. With three Class 2 hardpoints, the Eagle has much more damage potential compared to the the Sidewinder, but you have to consider your weapon choices carefully, because the power plant of the Eagle is very weedy and will not support three beam or burst lasers, let alone something really power hungry like a rail gun. To make the most of three hardpoints, you want weapons with a low power draw, especially if you want to be running modules as well on the ship. Gimballed pulse lasers or multicannons are fine to start with, if you prefer the aiming help of the gimbals, but the Eagle is maneouvrable enough to out-turn just about anything other than a Viper, so fixed weapons are viable, even for a pilot who's not so good at aiming. A decent weapon loadout for a bounty hunter in an Eagle is to have a gimballed pulse laser to strip the target shields, allied to a pair of fixed multicannons that can shred the hull. The gimbal on the pulse laser is necessary as the projectiles from the multicannons need to lead the target, so most of the time you should be able to keep that lead within the gimbal range of the laser. If you link up all three weapons into the same fire group, you can assign the secondary fire group to a Kill Warrant Scanner, boosting your bounty income potential, provided that you a) live long enough to collect the vouchers, and b) have enough hyperspace range to visit the system. Advanced players who want to quickly take down big ships like Lakon Type 9s and Anacondas will want Class 2 Cannons on all three hardpoints. At close range against big, slow targets, the slow reload time and limited clip capacity of the cannon really will not make much difference. Those cannons will be making ships go 'splode in no time. The Eagle is a great little ship, but not without its shortcomings.
Why you should ditch it: The Eagle is too short-ranged to be a viable ship in the long term, as the limited hyperspace range and capacity of the power plant is too crippling to make the best use of the Eagle's three weapon hardpoints. This might change a little bit once the uprated drives are introduced in a later beta or gamma version of the game, but if you're after a pure combat ship, a Viper is the better long term option.
If the Eagle was a racing car it would be: A GP2 car
Post release update: The Eagle underwent a massive revamp in Beta 2, up to the point where it became pretty much my favourite ship. Once the internal module upgrades were implemented, the Eagle turned from a short-ranged boondoggle into a refined throughbred. Of all the vessels in Elite: Dangerous, the Eagle is the most nimble, at the price of being the least resilient to damage. At the height of its potency in Beta 2, a top-spec Eagle could lay waste to Anacondas, yet still jump a massive 25 light years - its only weakness being a chronic lack of power, requiring careful module management. Today, the Eagle is a little less potent, but is still a fine entry-tier combat ship. With a range of 18 light years (with an A-rated Frame Shift Drive), it can speed around civilised space on assassination missions and lay waste to much larger ships with its manoeuvrability and firepower. Reactor power is still a bit of an issue - you can't upgrade everything to A-rated anymore and still expect everything to function when you deploy your hardpoints. Its only other real disadvantage is the paper-thin hull. You'll want a high-capacity B-rated Shield Cell Bank to absorb the beating you'll get from large vessels of a skill of Dangerous or better, and these days Elite Anacondas are pretty much beyond your reach, unless you're either very persistent or very canny in the way you manage the distance between you and your target to recharge your shields. However, for early-game bounty hunting and interdiction, you're not going to get a better ship than an Eagle. If combat is your thing, you'll be flying an Eagle for a long time.
Cost: Approximately 25,000Cr Now 52,720Cr
Recommended weapon loadout 1 (Sensible): None!
Recommended weapon loadout 2 (Idiot): x1 C1 Multicannon (G)
Recommended weapon loadout (Post Release - General Purpose): C1 Burst Laser (Gimballed)
Recommended modules: Heat sink launcher & Point Defence System
Recommended modules (Post Release): Chaff Launcher & Point Defence System
Why you should fly it: Money, and the making thereof. With four times the cargo capacity of a Sidewinder or Eagle and an improved hyperspace range, the Hauler is your portal to bigger and better ships. Do try to avoid investing every single credit you have into your cargo payload, because if you ever happen to meet with an untimely end, you'll find yourself back flying a free Sidewinder before you can say "rage quit". As the maxim goes on the forums: only fly what you can afford to lose. So hold some cash back for the replacement insurance cost of the ship, plus a few tonnes of cargo, no matter how tempting it might be to invest every last credit in sixteen tonnes of agri-medicines. The Hauler also only has one Class 2 weapon hardpoint, making it about as suitable for combat as a foam sword on a medieval battlefield. The Hauler is only good for one thing: trying to make money as quickly as possible. So don't try taking it into combat. You will die. Horribly. Ditch the weapons and the modules and fly it unarmed (or with the free loaned C2 Pulse Laser if you do insist on having a weapon) to maximise the ship's hyperspace range. When you do encounter interdictions, put all four pips in Engines and run like the wind. If you must take a Hauler into battle, make the best use of the single, badly-placed weapon hardpoint and get a gimballed multicannon. But don't say you weren't warned. Have a nice death!
Why you should ditch it: The Hauler is utterly worthless in combat and its utility as a trading vessel is made totally redundant as soon as you can afford a Cobra. It's an effective stop-gap ship, but that's all it is.
If the Hauler was a racing car it would be: A Ford Transit van in a banger race
Post release update: It's probably fair to say that I've pretty much bypassed flying the Hauler, given the opportunity. If trading or mining is your thing, rather than fighting, then you might want to consider buying one over the Eagle, thanks to its larger number of internal compartments and utility mounts. If completely stripped down, a Hauler will also make a decent enough exploration vessel, with a hyperspace range of nearly 30 light years, should you choose to abandon the niceties of things like shield generators or weapons. Most people flying a Hauler, though, will have it kitted out for trading, and the ship can pack in a maximum of 22 tonnes of cargo, which will allow you to accumulate cash pretty quickly on a rare commodities route. Personally, I'm not much of a fan, as the single small weapon hardpoint, horrible manoeuvrability and slow terminal velocity make combat in a Hauler an unwise proposition to say the least. It might be a ship you fly on your way to greater things, but I can't see it remaining in your ship hanger for the long term. Not unless you're overly sentimental or have difficulty letting go of material possessions, that is...
Edit: If you want to find out what I think about the Adder, you're going to want to click here. Screenshot_0368
Cost: Approximately 95,000Cr Now 142,931Cr
Recommended weapon loadout 1 (Bounty Hunter): x2 C3 Gimballed Multicannons, x2 C1 Burst Laser (G)
Recommended weapon loadout 2 (Assassin): x2 C4 Multicannon, x2 C2 Multicannon
Recommended weapon loadout 3 (Badass): x2 x2 C4 Cannons, C2 Cannons
Recommended weapon loadout (Post Release - General Purpose): C2 Multicannon (Gimballed), x2 C1 Beam Laser (Fixed)
Recommended modules: Chaff Launcher & Kill Warrant Scanner
Recommended modules (Post Release): Frame Shift Wake Scanner & Kill Warrant Scanner
Why you should fly it: Now you're fucking talking. At the current stage of game development, in terms of pure combat ability, the Viper is the ship to have. Hands down, fair dinkum, with a good pilot and the right combat loadout, the Viper has Mr Torgue levels of Badassitude. Nothing outruns a Viper (except maybe a Class 4 heat-seeker missile), and with two Class Four and two Class Two weapon hardpoints, the Viper has the greatest damage potential of any ship you'll get to fly in your first few dozen hours. You might be thinking "but the Cobra has exactly the same number and types of hardpoints", which is true, but the Viper's hardpoints have wider fields of fire, making gimballed weapons much more effective on the Viper, compared to the Cobra. I've flown both the Viper and the Cobra with the Bounty Hunter loadout above, and it's fearsomely effective on both ships, though more so on the Viper, as the nose-mounted Class Two mounts come into play more often than the underwing Class Two mounts on the Cobra, making the burst lasers more effective at stripping shields - so the Viper does get you slightly quicker kills. As you get better at the combat, you will want to ditch the gimballed weapons for fixed, and here again, the Viper's hardpoint placements on the hull make it marginally more effective than the Cobra, due to the slightly tighter weapon convergence point grouping. Fixed multicannons will shred small targets in seconds, and you can always use the Viper's phenomenal speed to give you time to recharge your shields against more resilient opponents. If, however, you're a hardened combateer and want to make a real nuisance of yourself, there's only one thing you should arm your Viper with. Cannons. Lotsa cannons. Back in the day (I'm allowed to say that, I'm old), I was a relatively hardcore Unreal Tournament player. I used to play the Onslaught mode a lot in UT2004 and my favourite weapon was the Flak Cannon. You know the one - close-range insta-death. Well, that's what putting two Class Four and two Class Two cannons on your Viper is like. At point blank range (less than 200m) you can destroy a fully shielded Cobra in two volleys. If that's not Badassitude, I don't know what is. As a pure combat vessel, the Viper is currently peerless.
Why you should ditch it: For the upwardly mobile pirate or bounty hunter, it's hard to see past the immense lethality of the Viper as being your ship of choice. For everybody else, though, the Viper does have a few problems. Unladen and unencumbered by weapons or modules, the Viper has a hyperspace range of 14 light years, which is further than a Cobra Mark III's. Unfortunately, as soon as you add weapons, armour and modules, the Viper's hyperspace range barely rivals that of a Sidewinder, which reduces its utility as an assassin's combat vehicle, as you might not be able to reach your target. The Viper is also more fragile than the Cobra, yet despite being smaller, is much more expensive to reinforce with armoured bulkheads. Military composite armour in a Viper will set you back nearly 430,000Cr (more than four times the cost of the ship!), while the equivalent armour in a Cobra is not even half of that (around 128,000Cr) and has less of a detrimental effect on the hyperspace range of the ship. Additionally, the Viper has a cargo capacity of only 8 tonnes, which means it is not suited to trading in any meaningful way, especially since trying to carry a full cargo with a combat spec reduces your hyperspace range to around 5 light years. Another disadvantage of the Viper is the power plant capacity, which is smaller than that of the Cobra. With the same weapon set and module loadout, you're going to find that the Viper overheats more quickly than the Cobra, so engagements with multiple opponents need to be managed a little more pro-actively, using your speed advantage to protect your more fragile hull. In my experience, a Cobra is more likely to survive an engagement with three Eagles or four Sidewinders, as a Cobra can use its enhanced shield and hull strength to go toe-to-toe with the enemy before having to withdraw to top up your shields. So taken in the round, I prefer the Cobra, as the Viper is only really suiting to trying to generate an income through combat missions, which is a much slower way of making money, compared to trading (though having said that, bounty hunting is a helluva lot more fun than doing relentless trading runs). If your ultimate goal in Elite: Dangerous is to get into an Anaconda as quickly as possible, bypass the Viper and jump straight from the Hauler into the Cobra.
If the Viper was a racing car it would be: A Formula 1 car
Post release update: Beware The Almighty Nerf Hammer! The Viper has taken a bit of a pounding by the developers since Beta 1, when it was a razor-arsed instrument of mass space murder. The Viper is still an immensely capable combat ship, with the highest non-boosted thruster speed of any vessel in the game and a well-balanced placement of weapon hardpoints. It's still the preferred combat vessel of many a bounty hunter, though I haven't flown one for a while, thanks to one of the strikes from the Nerf Hammer boshing the hyperspace capability of the Viper particularly hard. It was always a shorter-legged companion to the mighty Cobra, but now you have to make a serious sacrifice to your mobility around the stars if you want the ultimate combat power available from the Viper, because fully-kitted out, you're going to have a hyperspace range of 15 light years at the absolute most, which isn't enough to make the best use of one of the bounty hunter's new tools, the frame shift wake scanner. It still excels in the head-to-head joust, thanks to its high speed and small cross-section, though you will need to play more to these strengths much more now, as the agility of the Viper appears to have been reduced. If you're going to be grinding combat zones or resource gathering sites in the heart of civilised space, then you will probably want to be flying a Viper. However, if you want to be able to stretch your space legs into the hinterlands but still be a combat force to be reckoned with, you're going to want to fly something a bit more substantial.
Cost: Approximately 150,000Cr Now 379,718Cr
Recommended weapon loadout 1 (Bounty Hunter): x2 C3 Gimballed Multicannons, x2 C1 Burst Laser (G)
Recommended weapon loadout 2 (Trader/Coward): x2 C4 Missile Launchers, x2 C1 Multicannons (G)
Recommended weapon loadout 3 (Badass): x2 x2 C4 Cannons, C2 Cannons
Recommended weapon loadout (Post Release - General Purpose): x2 C2 Beam Lasers (Fixed), x2 C1 Burst Lasers (Gimballed)
Recommended modules: Frame Shift Wake Scanner & Kill Warrant Scanner
Recommended modules (Post Release): Frame Shift Wake Scanner & Kill Warrant Scanner
Why you should fly it: The Cobra Mark III is the iconic ship from the original Elite. It's big, powerful, well-armed, moderately nimble and is the ideal multi-purpose combat/trading ship. With 36 tonnes of cargo space, plus a fully-laden hyperspace range that outstrips the Hauler, the Cobra is probably the ship you'll make your first quarter-million credits in. It also has massive damage potential stored up in its two Class Four and two Class Two hardpoints. The placement of the Class 4 hardpoints on the nose means that you'll want really heavy-hitting weapons there. C3 Gimballed Multicannons are ideal, as they have a large tracking range on the nose of the ship, and will rip a Sidewinder to shreds in five seconds flat. The underwing placement of the Class Two hardpoints is more problematic, as they're so far back under the wings, even gimbal-mounted weapons won't be able to hit enemies more than a couple of degrees above your nose, which is something you have to take into account when you maneouvre your ship during dogfights, keeping enemies just underneath your nose, so that all four weapons can come into play. Do this effectively and the Cobra is almost as deadly as a Viper in combat, making it absolutely viable as the ship of a bounty hunter or assassin. For times when you want to concentrate on making money and avoiding combat, you can stick on a couple of missile launchers to keep enemies gainfully occupied while you make for the exit door in supercruise, but that can be an expensive way of saving your behind, as a full rack of missiles will set you back 10,000Cr apiece. In any case, unless your antagonist is flying a Viper, the Cobra can simply outrun any enemies anyway, making it one of the safest ships to trade in. An all cannon loadout is good if you want to go Type 9 or Anaconda hunting, as the Cobra is fast enough to let you put four power pips into Systems, and the heat generation of the cannons is so low that you can pound a large, less agile ship to dust before they've even broken through your shields. (Just be wary of the old ramming gambit!) The Anaconda (asking price aside) might arguably be the best multi-purpose craft in the game so far, but you'll get to fly the Cobra much sooner, and if you do get boiled, it's one heck of a lot cheaper to replace. Keep a fighting fund of 500,000Cr in reserve, kit one up and go stir up some trouble in one. You won't regret it.
Why you should ditch it: If you're happy to sacrifice hyperspace range and hull resilience for speed, then once you've earned enough money to give you a fighting fund and a fallback cushion, you may want to downgrade into a Viper, because it is the better ship for pure combat. Beyond that, unless you really want to quickly work your way up into an Anaconda, there isn't much incentive to swap out of a Cobra. It's relatively cheap, has a decent cargo capacity, a good hyperspace range and is moderately cheap to upgrade. Tack on a heat sink launcher, K-warrant scanner and some military armour and you've got an all-purpose trading and fighting ship that will suit almost all pilots and situations. It's a great ship, but if you do want to make the ten million credits or more that it will take you to buy, equip and afford to replace an Anaconda, you want to trade up as quickly as you can into a ship with a greater cargo capacity.
If the Cobra was a racing car it would be: A NASCAR
Post release update: As the Elite: Dangerous Google+ community's self-appointed Sucker Squadron Leader (yes, I did pay £10 for the Classic Wireframe skin), it's only right that I should state the case for the Cobra Mark III as being the most iconic, versatile and capable ship you will be able to fly in the game - at least until you can afford an Asp (which I can't!), an Anaconda (which I wish I really could - I miss you, Annie!) or an Imperial Clipper (for which I don't have the Naval Rank... yet!). The Cobra does have an ongoing issue with the placement of the small underwing weapon mountings, meaning that you'll want to use gimballed weapons on them, but I do prefer the Cobra to the Viper in combat now, thanks to my burgeoning love of beam lasers. Now that cannons aren't nearly as effective (read: overpowered) as they used to be, I'm all about the beams, about the beams (no trouble)... The medium weapon hardpoint placement on the Cobra has a narrower gauge than that on the Viper (making them better at taking down small fighters or target subsystems), and more importantly, high of the velocity axis, which allows them to track targets much more easily. Gimballed multicannons on the medium hardpoints can rip through opponents really rapidly, but I've gone off projectile weapons since the commercial release of the game, mainly because the ammo is so darned expensive, but also because if I'm spending the evening bounty hunting, I don't want to be constantly going back and forth between a starport and my hunting ground to reload. So laser weapons are now the order of the day for the discerning bounty hunter, as far as I'm concerned. With twin fixed Class 2 beams, I can take down a fully shielded Sidewinder in under ten seconds and with the right support tech (Chaff Launcher, Shield Cell Bank) an Elite Anaconda can be dispensed with relatively easily, making those 150k+ assassination missions a good source of income. Even if you're not interested in combat, the Cobra is a genuine jack-of-all-trades, having the internal capacity to re-spec the ship to fulfill any role you choose; be that pirate, trader, miner, bounty hunter, explorer or assassin. I'm going to be keeping my Cobra in my collection of ships, even after I'm able to afford an Asp or Imperial Clipper.
Type 6 Transporter:
Cost: Approximately 225,000Cr Now 1,045,945Cr
Recommended weapon loadout 1 (Super-Coward): x2 C2 Missile Launchers
Recommended weapon loadout 2 (Minor-Coward): x2 C1 Multicannons (T)
Recommended weapon loadout 3 (Nutter): x2 C2 Cannons
Recommended weapon loadout (Post Release - General Purpose): x2 C1 Burst Laser (Gimballed)
Recommended modules: Heat Sink Launcher & x2 Point Defence Systems
Recommended modules (Post Release): Heat Sink Launcher, Chaff Launcher & Point Defence System
Why you should fly it: Profit. Pure and simple, the Type 6 is a profit-making box with engines. Not a terribly good-looking box, but an effective one. The Type 6 has a more powerful hyperdrive than the Cobra, allowing you to make longer jumps, opening up trade routes that would take multiple jumps in the Cobra, saving time and maximising profit. It's also remarkably easy to land, thanks to the layout of the dashboard, that allows you to look down between your legs at the landing pad as you drop down into the docking bay, so as long as you remember to keep the nose slightly tipped up and land tail first, you don't even need to invest in a docking computer. With a 100 tonne cargo capacity, the Type 6 does its money-making thing exceptionally well indeed, but that's about all it does. It does have the virtue of being able to outrun Sidewinders and Eagles with four power pips to Engines, but I wouldn't dream of taking it into combat, especially with 830,000Cr's worth of gold on board. If you do get jumped in multiplayer, the 20,000Cr double missile "fuck you and fuck off!" gambit works quite well, but if you want a slightly less expensive way of warding off pirates as you make the jump to supercruise, you can always consider turrets. They're not terribly effective at anything other than making your ship overheat (especially the beam laser turrets), but if you're not willing to run without weapons, they're an option, though again, not necessarily one I'd recommend. If you fancy an adventure, however, try putting a couple of Class 2 cannons on your hardpoints and try your luck at the Anahit Ring. Just don't do it with a full load of cargo.
Why you should ditch it: As soon as you've made the money you want from trading, either you're going to want to liven things up with a combat-capable ship, or you're going to upgrade into a Type 9 to make enough money to float a gas giant in. But probably the biggest incentive for getting out of a Type 6 is the godawful engine burbling noise the ship makes when you're about to launch from a starport. It really does sound like standing next to a badly maintained, 30 year old Scania truck at a set of traffic lights. It's just a horrible, horrible sound. But the boredom of doing hours and hours of trading runs will probably get to you first.
If the Type 6 Transport was a racing car it would be: A BTRA MAN SE racing truck
Post release update: I've not flown much with the Type 6 since the wipe at the beginning of Gamma, but my spies tell me that it's still the gateway to serious trading wealth, which is also capable of doing some serious exploration, thanks to a hyperspace range of 30 light years, if you strip out all the excess mass of luxuries like weapons and shields, fit lightweight D-rated modules and put in a top-tier Frame Shift Drive. When I'm bored of bounty hunting in my Cobra or exploring in my Adder (a review of which will go online soon), I'll no doubt pick up a Type 6 to trade my way into an Asp and the heavier ships. Though I can't see that happening anytime soon, as I did so much trading in Beta that I want to work on my combat and exploration ratings first. If you do want to ever make it into a properly equipped Anaconda, however, the Type 6 is a necessary stepping stone - just don't expect it to be an exciting one.
[Edit: if you're saving up for a Lakon Type 9 Heavy or an Anaconda and wondering whether it's worth the trading grind or not, you can see what I think of them here.]
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