Monday, May 04, 2015

Byte: Elite: Dangerous - So you want to be... a bounty hunter? (Part 2: RES Prowler)

This is the role I've spent most of my gaming time in, while playing Elite: Dangerous. Last night I claimed my 2500th bounty - a figure that even Boba Fett would be proud of. Somehow, despite having more than 53MCr of bounties claimed, I'm still a Master and not quite yet Dangerous, but it's only a matter of time... Soon! Soon! I'm going to flag up a slight caveat here before I get into the three ships and their loadouts. Normally, I play in Solo or Private Group mode, which means that generally the only thing I have to worry about is either my own tiredness or a marauding NPC. With this as the case, I eschew the loadout of Shield Cell Banks and prefer Hull Reinforcement Packages (because they give you extra combat endurance without a power plant overhead), though if you're playing in Open, you might want to consider a balance between the two. NPCs very rarely get through my shields anyway, but on the rare occasions they do, I usually want extra armour, since FSD range isn't something you have to worry about if you're raiding a Resource Extraction Site (RES) for big game, I'm more than happy to sacrifice the FSD range for the extra durability that mass gives you. It should also be noted that these setups will work equally well for hunting at Nav Points, though I usually don't bother too much with Nav Point hunting unless I'm in an Anarchy (where everyone is fair game), as the frequency of Wanted ships at Nav Points is usually vastly outweighed by those you'll find in a RES. If you're going to be a dedicated RES Prowler, however, there is one thing you need to bear in mind, which is that eventually you're going to piss a faction or two off. Make sure that it's not the one in charge of the local space station, or you're going to have a lot of fun trying to dock for reloads and repairs... Once you're Hostile with a faction you do have to be wary of three Vipers in a Wing rocking up while you're already under fire from an Anaconda or another ship you're hunting. It can make things lively, to say the least. But that's what you get for being a hunter. Sometimes, you become the prey.
Prowler Eagle - 1.5MCr
If you've found a nice, productive RES site (Nu Tauri for the Federation and Beta-1 Tucanae for the Empire are good places), the one thing you really don't have to worry about is hyperspace range. Strip that FSD back to the bare minimum to get you into Supercruise, and save that power plant capacity for something useful, like thrusters, shields or weapons. I've flown the Eagle a lot with this spec and made millions with it. Even though the Eagle is relatively slow, it can still use its agility to run rings around larger opponents. Putting the gimballed beam laser on the dorsal mount gives you a massive field of fire, so you can keep laying down laser fire almost constantly on your target as they twist and turn to get out of your gunsights. Once their shields are down and your beam laser is drained, you can start laying into them with the low-power-draw multicannons, whittling away the hull percentage or sub-system health of a large ship's power plant. I've even stuck it out with Clippers, Dubsteps, Pythons and Anacondas when I've run out of multicannon ammo, and while it takes a little bit longer, the Eagle is still more than a match for large NPC ships at Master ranks or lower. This is definitely one of the best pound-for-pound fighter craft you'll fly for combat potency versus capital investment.
Prowler Vulture - 26.4MCr
I'm starting to warm a little bit to the Vulture. It's an unrefined brute and a bully, but it's almost peerless as a combat vessel. The FSD range isn't great to begin with, but if you find a good RES and don't need to fly it anywhere else, the low power plant capacity of the Vulture becomes somewhat less of an issue if you can downgrade the FSD to the absolute minimum. The Class 3 gimballed cannon is absolutely vicious and will rip through the power plant of an Anaconda in a single reload (provided you get direct hits each time) and you can dispatch opponents smaller than a Type 9 with just the Class 3 gimballed beam laser alone. You should be able to reclaim the insurance cost of this ship in under an hour, provided the RES you're in is being kind with drops of large Wanted vessels. I was averaging about 2MCr between reloads, when I was using a spec almost identical to this at Beta-1 Tucanae.
Prowler Anaconda - 616.3MCr
I wasn't sure whether to plump for a Python or an Anaconda as my ultimate RES Prowler, but upon reflection, it could only be an Anaconda. The Anaconda is an incredible ship - with enough power to blast anything out of the sky. When flown to its potential, nothing can touch an Anaconda. This spec has more cannons and armour than the USS Missouri, and is more than capable of reducing another Anaconda to scrap in a couple of shots. It doesn't come cheap, but if you can afford an Anaconda in the first place, that's not likely to worry you. The Class 1 and Class 2 hardpoints alone have the combat power of a Viper or Cobra and will handle most targets you'll find in a RES comfortably, but add in the delicious power of those gimballed cannons and you'll be turning a RES into a scrap yard in no time at all, because it'd take a small fleet of Vultures to get through those shields and armour plating... If you've never had the pleasure of flying an Anaconda in a combat zone, make sure you can afford a loadout like this before you do and you'll be in for one heck of a treat.
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