An addition to stock for my Elite: Dangerous fleet – The Imperial Courier…

I had been contemplating one of these vessels since I achieved the required rank in the Empire but there were always challenges that I set myself that called for different ships at the time. Now, finally, I need again a fast ship to carry messages and light cargoes on behalf of the Empire. That ship has to also be good in the field of battle as befits a ship of the empire… And she is! I have named her ‘God Speed’ for, as any Imperial Citizen will tell you, the Emperor is God and it is right that I request that our Emperor grant my ship speed as she goes about her duties on behalf of the Imperial Society and in the Emperor’s service.
God Speed departing Rich Orbital

All Hail to our Emperor, Arissa Lavigny Duval – Bask in Her Glory!

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 returning from my last exploration trip to the area around the LBN 623 Nebula, I decided to buy a Lakon Diamondback Explorer. So I stored my Cobra III, Humourist, at the HIP 8859 system (not too far from my home of HR 783) and stripped out the advanced scanner and surface scanner. I then configured the Diamondback for long range exploration – which entailed visiting a number of local systems to get the necessary modules in addition to the scanners which I refitted in the new ship. Once configured the Diamondback has a jump-range of 33Ly’s – 10 more than the Cobra in my chosen configuration. But one thing I will miss about Humourist is her top speed – 435m/s – The Diamondback is 100m/s slower. That’s about the same speed as Humourist in full multirole configuration! All of which means that I will have to be very wary of pirates when I return with my scanned data. Apart from greater range, one of the selling points in favour of the Diamondback is how rugged it is and how cool it runs. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been wafting smoke away in Humourist’s cockpit after scooping a lot of fuel from a star 😦 The other thing I wanted to introduce to my exploring was landing on planets – that’s where the ruggedness comes in. As a ‘retired’ IRL pilot I have a very healthy respect for Cumulograniticus – hills and mountains that you can accidentally fly into – so while other Elite: Horizons players rushed to embrace the new ability to land on floating bits of rock, I’ve been a bit reticent – only landing at a couple of planetary bases. The other thing that Horizons introduced was the Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle (SRV). I wanted to get a feel for the new ship, so I didn’t fit one for this trip but I will for my next outing! A ship should have a name – To me the Diamondback looks a bit like a cubist’s small bird and having painted her in desert sand livery I decided on Rosefinch.

So, I’m out in the black, deep below the Galactic plane again – currently around 1000Ly’s from Earth. It’s a good place to discover new systems that no one else has seen before without travelling very great distances. Here’s a typical large single star system from that region…SWOIWNS HV-D C2 System
You will notice that I have highlighted the 12th planet – a Gas Giant. You may be wondering what it looks like when you’re close to the rings…
Rosefinch at SWOIWNS HV-D C2 12 with the Milky Way
Rosefinch climbing away from the rings of SWOIWNS HV-D C2 12
How about planet landings – well you can’t land on Gas Giants and currently you can’t land on worlds with an atmosphere so the choice is a little limited. Any of the planets with a blue arc in the system map can be visited. Over in another system, SYNUEFAI QE-D B56-0 (apologies for the unimaginative designations but it’s hard to find individual names for 400 billion star systems), I found a rather enticing High Metal Content planet with craters very much like Tyco Brahe on our own moon…Approaching SYNUEFAI QE-D B56-0 A 1
…I tried landing in the smaller of the two but I couldn’t find any suitable ground…Investigating the Crater - SYNUEFAI QE-D B56-0 A 1…Notice how hazy it is down there in the crater and the nasty rocks that could make for a very bad day at the office if you collide with them! I gave up on that one 😦

Then, in the next system – SYNUEFAI PE-D B56-0 – I visited the 3rd planet – another High Metal Content world. This time I was able to land successfully in a medium sized crater…
Approaching crater on SYNUEFAI PE-D B56-0 3
Rosefinch inside the Crater on SYNUEFAI PE-D B56-0 3
Rosefinch departing the Crater on SYNUEFAI PE-D B56-0 3
…That was fun! Note the brown streaks in the rocks – possibly ferrous compounds to be found there?

So now I’m on the long drag back to HR 783 with my data – Not sure how long it will take to get home.