After 9 months of flying my Cobra I have finally convinced myself to spend some hard earned credits on a second ship. This was not a decision taken lightly and I have had a number of agonised discussions with myself and with one of my fellow commanders online. You see – Humourist is a good ship. She has excellent range, speed and she’s truly multirole which brings lots of variety to my Elite gameplay. Additionally, there is no way I am going to sell my Cobra – 1984 and all that!*. In which circumstances, there’s little point in me buying an Asp as that is the logical next step up the multirole ship ladder. Instead it was time to consider a specialist vessel.

Another thing to consider was where I should base myself. There is no point in buying a second vessel then flying off and leaving the first one in a system you’ll never come back to. It would be nice if the developers would introduce a ship transfer mechanic where, for a fee, the equivalent of the Air Transport Auxiliary would fly your other ship over to your current system. It is something that has been suggested but I can’t see it happening for a long time to come. I still have my Sidewinder over at Rakkaidi – which is a system I haven’t found a reason to revisit – and an Eagle in LHS 3447 which I never did fly (it was a freebie)! So a good base was going to be a necessity if I was going to fly two different ships and change between them at will.

I have been flying in the systems areound HR 783 for a while now. I like the mix of resources in a realtively small area of space. I have also found that there is a good level of lawlessness which results in a steady flow of bounties to add to my trading and mission profits. Another nice thing about HR 783 is that it sits on the boundary between Empire and Federation space which gives the ability to maintain friendly relations with two of the three major forces in the galaxy. So, apart from the lacklustre name, I think this is a good place to base myself for some time as I try to bring my Imperial Navy rank up to the equivalent of the Lieutenant rank I hold in the Federal Navy. As an aside – ranks pave the way to specific ships like the Federal Gunship or the Imperial Clipper.

Deciding what ship to buy was also a difficult choice – made easier by the generally well-rounded capabilities of the Cobra. The main weakness of the Cobra is its ability as a strike fighter. It defends itself well and can be made strong enough to fight most attackers to the death. But it’s not really a hunter. The ace up the Cobra’s sleeve is the ability to outrun everything else when in a tight spot – only the Federal Assault ship and the Fer-de-Lance come close! In a recent dogfight with an Assault Ship I was able to take its shields down really quick and do some damage before the heavy fire took down my shields and I had to use Humourist’s speed to put distance between us while my shields recharged. It was a game of Cobra vs Mongoose with the Cobra making the darting runs to kill the Mongoose for a change!

Whilst most ships can be made into a combat vessel of sorts, the true fighters of Elite are the Eagle, Viper, Vulture and Fer-de-Lance. The last of these is Ferrari money so out of the question. My Cobra eats Eagles for breakfast with a pair of class 1 beam lasers. The Viper is lacking in manoeuvreability and armour – though it packs a decent punch and you underestimate it at your peril (especially if there’s more than one flying in a wing). That really only leaves the Core Dynamics Vulture. I’ll start with what’s bad… It’s slow – once you’re in a fight you need to stay in close because running is not an option. The armour could be stronger but it’s best in class alongside the Fer-de-Lance. It only has two weapons hard-points. Balancing what you want against what the reactor can give requires careful thought – power management is essential. And, if you are thinking of going further than the shop on the corner…Forget it – the range is poor! Ok – so what’s good?

The Vulture is one of the most manoeuvreable ships available. It has very strong shields that can take a lot of punishment before they drop. It has Class 3 hard-points – These are the key to why it is a great fighter. A pair of D3 pulse Lasers can strip the shields off most small to medium sized vessels in half-a-dozen shots! Another 10 shots accurately placed will kill a standard Cobra (I’ve met three Vultures in my Cobra and fortunately they weren’t well flown and didn’t have these D3 lasers fitted or I’d have been running and praying very hard!). Upgrades to the Vulture are necessary to get the best out of it – improved power and distribution are essential alongside the upgrade from E1 lasers to those D3’s. But it’s an amazing bit of kit straight out of the box and it’s fun to fly. Something I’ve never mentioned about the Cobra is the sounds… That’s because the Cobra goes about its business quietly. Not so the Vulture – rapid changes in speed result in noises that suggest loose decking plates and there is an interesting whistle on more gentle changes in thrust that remind me of a Boeing 707 throttling back! It all adds up to make an enjoyable experience 🙂

So, without more ado, let me introduce you to Redgauntlet…

ps – although my Vulture bears the name Redgauntlet after the novel by Sir Walter Scott, she won’t always be painted red!

* In the original 1984 version of Elite everyone started in a Cobra so it remains an important part of what the game is about for those of us who played back then.