I’ve been practising my Arnie accent but I still can’t get that line quite right šŸ˜‰ But – that’s what you buy a Vulture for isn’t it – burnin’ Vermin? This evening I’d intended to shrug off Redgauntlet and head off to some nearby systems in Humourist to, for want of better words, catalogue planets and stars that remain unexplored. But a quick check on the bulletin board at Roth Hub revealed a mercenary mission in the adjacent Medzoijin system to eridicate 20 pirates with a cash reward of close on Cr503000. I did mention in my previous Elite post that the HR 783 system was surrounded by a high degree of lawlessness, but even so I wasn’t expecting anything quite so potentially profitable as this! Kill 20 Pirates… Just what the Vulture is designed for – mapping gaseous anomalies in the Cobra – shelved šŸ™‚

It took around an hour to fulfill this mission’s requirements – every Unidentified Signal Source turned up at least one Pirate. I did find that I had competition on several occasions – the local law enforcement were doing their best to reduce pirate activity too (which is their job – I should add) and there were times when I had to hold fire as the plod cut across my field of fire. Hitting ISS or Fed ships at a minimum gets you a warning – hit them with the sort of lasers I’m carrying in Redgauntlet will get an immediate bounty on your head and you’ll find yourself instantly under attack šŸ˜¦ So holding fire is a good skill to learn! It’s amazing how many times you find someone complaining about the police targetting them after they accidentally hit a Fed Viper – A little restraint goes a long way to a happy Pew-Pew session and, if you’re using cannons or other kinetic weapons, the plod are saving you money by assisting taking the bad guys down with you šŸ˜‰ There is another good reason to target with care and fire with restraint – big lasers use a lot of power and get hot quickly. So waste-not, want-not – stray bursts cost you power and do no damage… It’s worth remembering.

Not every Unidentified Signal Source… I’ve hesitated to use the USS abreviation on the basis that some readers may immediately think Enterprise and Star Trek but having clarified…! Not every USS is a Pirate. Favourites among the non-pirates are Ariel, Tech Aquisitions and The Mineral Magpie – these are the sharp dealing ‘Trotter’s Trading’ Del Boy’s of the galaxy – though I’ve yet to see them running around in Batman and Robin costumes! They are 100% harmless and should be treated as friendly contacts. Then you find convoys of traders in large cargo vessels with the occasional escort – safety in numbers šŸ™‚

I did have a very unusual experience a couple days back that bears relating in case any of you out there are thinking that the Vulture is so invincible that you can fly without fear. Investigating another USS in the HR 783 system, I found an Imperial Clipper. The target scanner showed the vessel as Expert and Clean – just another local pilot going about their legal business I thought. I sheathed the lasers and prepared to move off in search of criminals. Blow me if he didn’t turn towards me and open fire!!! I was totally caught on the hop šŸ˜¦ There are ships you don’t want to tangle with and a well-armed and well-flown clipper is one of them! In the time it took me to react he’d taken half the shields down. The AI pilot proceeded to demonstrate the excellent manoeuverability of the Clipper and I was really struggling as he completed taking the Vulture’s shields down. Then I got in close and got his shields down too – but he was still winning the war of attrition. I tried the Cobra tactic of boost and run as we passed each other but he turned well and was on my tail. The Vulture cannot out run a Clipper – he was hitting me hard and I couldn’t fire back! So it was time to turn back into the fight and get as close in as I could. I got him down to around 5% hull strength when he took out my canopy which meant 5 mins oxygen left. The Adrenalin really kicked in then – I was damned if I was going to lose my new ship! I took him out with multiple hits in a head-on attack and then set course for the nearest starport – Rich Orbital – with around 4 and a half minutes of oxygen. I got to the station’s no-fire zone with 2:15 remaining and ignoring the speed limits got myself inside the station and into an oxygen atmosphere with 1:30 remaining. That definitely got the pulse rate going!!! Note to self – upgrade the Life Support module šŸ˜‰ That was a fight that could easily have gone the other way.

Anyway – back to the mercenary mision – I completed successfully without incurring any damage and netted nearly Cr317000 in bounties which, with the reward for the mission means that I earned close on Cr820000 in less than an hour of fun flying! Below are a couple screenshots of victims and one of a grateful trader whose attackers I had the pleasure of iradicating šŸ™‚

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 šŸ™‚

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.