With the release of the Horizon’s season of Elite Dangerous came the introduction of a couple of new ships. One of these, the Viper MkIV was available to everyone. The other was the Cobra MkIV and that ship was limited to existing Elite Dangerous pilots when they pre-ordered Horizons; so there is a certain exclusivity to the ship. That exclusiveness became much more pronounced when the pilots who tried it out in the Beta reported that it was slow, unresponsive and generally not worth the pixels it was drawn with. That should have been enough to put most people off!

The issues with the Cobra MkIV start with its predecessor, the Cobra MkIII. When you have a ship that is widely recognised as one of the best ships in the game then there is a natural assumption that the next vessel to bear the name will be even better. The MkIII is very manoeuvrable with a fast rate of pitch and roll though the yaw rate is poor. Any limitation in combat that lack of yaw may bring is more than made up for by a blistering turn of speed – the MkIII is the fastest thing out there bar none! Depending on how you configure the ship it can boost to 435ms in normal flight. Even as delivered from Faulcon Delacy’s workshops it will get to 402ms – no wonder everything else seems sluggish 😉 But the most important aspect of the MkIII is its flexibility. It is a truly multirole vessel capable of skirmishing with true fighters; shifting light to medium cargoes over long distances; exploring beyond human space. There is nothing it can’t do and I suspect the only thing it can’t do well is mining! Its only real limitation is size – it can’t shift huge cargoes which perhaps is a trading limitation. The final thing that makes the Cobra MkIII outstanding is its price – around 360KCr prior to any upgrades you choose to buy… That’s cheap: The next genuine multirole vessel is the Asp Explorer and that ship will set you back over 6MCr before you start upgrading it! I hope you can see why the Cobra MkIV had impossible shoes to fill?

With the new ability to land on planets delivered by Horizons I was looking for a ship that would be a good choice for that activity. I run on the cheap… Lots of CMDR’s out there with mega-Credits but I’m not one of them. I looked at the relative costs of ships within my budget that might be suitable candidates. It came down to the Lakon T6, Keelback, or the Faulcon Cobra MkIV. The T6 is a Trade specialist and its very good at that – it’s also a nice easy target for pirates. The Keelback is tougher and designed to land on planets, but that comes with a price. Sitting between them is the Cobra MkIV. When I weighed up the price for initial purchase and for the upgrades needed to get what I felt I wanted, it had to be the Cobra IV. I’ve now had quite a few hours of experience with the ship and it’s time to talk about my feelings.

Lets start with the negatives… This ship is slow! I’ve seen my Budgies flying backwards and they’re faster!!! The yaw is probably a little worse than on the MkIII Cobra. The roll is not bad but the pitch is much slower. So we have something resembling a duck wallowing around in space. This is not a ship you want to be doing combat with. And I think that sums up the main complaint of the early-doors naysayers. With that understanding you choose your weapons carefully – I’ve gone for 3x Class 1 Beam Lasers and 2x Class 2 Multi-Cannons; all gimballed to make up for the lack of manoeuvrability. That set up works well against most small ships and is pretty good on larger ones – until you meet a Federal Assault Ship (you’ll never get it in your sights)! You do need to be aware of the power draw – short bursts of the beam lasers only please! But I also feel that this ship is a bit tougher physically than the MkIII – so you can stay a little longer after the shields are down.

So, it’s not a fighter but can do reasonably well at defending itself. What about other roles? Exploring is probably not worthwhile – the jump range is too low. That said; in Human Space it’s probably a good option for planetary exploration. You can fit a double vehicle bay and still have 48t of cargo space available. I’ve been playing around with planet missions with this ship and it’s a joy to fly in and out. There are times when having a stable platform is a really good thing and planetary landings allow this ship to shine. It is a ship that just fits into a small landing pad and that reflects when you’re looking for a place to set down in a crater – larger ships might struggle to find good terrain! Ironically, it has been a lot easier to find rough terrain landing spots in this ship than in my Diamondback Explorer – and that is a measure of how good a planet landing specialist it can be.

Now here’s a shock… It can be a good wing-man for an agile large vessel. I had the pleasure of joining one of my friends in a mission to wipe out pirates in a HiRes – that’s High Risk Resource Extraction Site. He has a Corvette and a lot of experience in this sort of work. Me, I generally find my own way around and don’t normally go anywhere near a HiRes site. It was brave of him to invite me along. I even shot him once – fortunately with minimal damage to his shields! 😉 This unearthed one virtue of the Cobra IV – as a wingman it can burn shields off the opponent really well, leaving the wing-leader to carry out the final kill effectively. We did that on numerous occasions and walked away with a fortune in bounties. On one occasion we were in conflict with a Federal Assault Ship that had 4 Sidewinders as escort. The Sidewinders chose to pick my Cobra IV as their target and I wiped 3 of them before my Corvette colleague took out the last and we returned to killing the FAS. So there’s a combat role as a wing-man for the Cobra IV – it has the ability.

Summing up – I think this ship is a good low price trader and mission specialist with very good planet landing abilities.  I also believe, based on other people’s opinions, that it could be a very good mining vessel – something that the Cobra III never was.    It is not the multi-role that the Cobra III is. But then, how many of the other ships in the Elite shipyard are perfect… None I suspect 😉 Cobra MkIV is a much misunderstood ship. Find the balance that suits the style of play you want and I think you’ll be a happy pilot. I’m keeping mine… Let me introduce you to Dark of Night…

Dark of Night on Wuluwait B1

Dark of Night departing Bruce's Folly, Maiden System

After posting two shots of Class 20’s for Cee’s B&W Challenge yesterday with some basic notes about the type, I thought I would recreate a scene from the early 1960’s when Class 20’s or English Electric Type 1’s as they were then known, operated from Devons Road depot in Bow. In those days they worked as single units most of the time on trip freights between yards or on refuse trains – my first sighting of one as a child was on a refuse train passing through Hadley Wood. They also got roped in to work commuter services from time to time although the lack of a train heating boiler meant they were not ideal in the winter. I set up a train of vans in Railworks based on a photo from 1962 which depicts D8044 passing through Kensal Green. By some weird quirk of fate the computer chose to depict D8008 – 20008 of yesterday’s pair! Because the North London Line on Railworks is depicted in the modern era I chose to do a screenshot of the train passing Brentford Road Junction at Gunnersbury. So, imagine if you will, standing in the apex of Brentford Road Junction watching and listening to the distinctive burbling whistle as D8008 takes the line towards Bollo Lane Junction and on towards Willesden Junction with a Feltham to Temple Mills freight in the autumn of 1962…
D8008 at Gunnersbury