I'm not going to lie to you friends: pulling myself away from the beautiful and complex world of Skyrim to bring you a recap of the last two weeks news from EVE Online is going to be, at best, as challenging as breaking up with the love of your life. And at worst - the horror of facing certain terrifying death. That's how much I love Skyrim right now, I'm not kidding. And as much as I'd love to sit here and ramble on for hours about how I just delight in spelunkin' in Tamriel; alas we must first do business with the daily goings on in New Eden.
Sufficed to say, the last two weeks have been relatively calm and quiet. Each powerful beast sleeps with one eye open an even then the eye is glazed and unfocused. The powers that be across the starmap settle comfortably into their beds and try to get as much sleep as possible before Highfather Gift-Man CCP-Beard brings the winter expansion to the base of our Railgun-decorated seasonal Holiday vegetation. I suppose I'm trying to avoid using the word Christmas here for the sake of being politically correct but gosh darn it it's too hard and the references I have to make are running so deep that even I can't keep a handle on them. Makin' a long story short: Wintersa' comin' and Santa's bringin' guns! Dec the Halls with Large Armor repairers because Gallente's the new fashion. Now that I think about it I could make Christmas references all day.
CCP decided it was going to flash us some leg this week by putting a lot of the expected changes on the test server known as Singularity or 'Sisi' for short. Players rushed in their droves to wrap their minds around the up and coming changes and potentially prepare for either glorious combat or terrible disaster. Right away players were immediately undocking either Gallente hulls or the new Battlecruisers to try to get a handle on them; right away I was there in my Proteus looking to smash some skulls.
Hybrids have been significantly overhauled, the power-grid and CPU requirements to fit Hybrid weaponry have been lowered allowing for greater flexibility on the hulls they're meant to be mounted too. In addition to this, several Hybrid hulls - mainly Gallente hulls - had their manoeuvrability and their agility increased, allowing for greater base speed and attempting to negate the speed penalties applied via fitting armor modules such as Trimark Armor Pumps or Armor Repair Systems.
Immediately I noticed an increase in handling and speed when it came to Gallente hulls, almost all of them were nippier, though not so fast that they became game-breakingly quick. Capacitor requirements for Hybrid weaponry have also been reduced, allowing for greater longevity in combat when using active armor modules. Rail-guns, specifically those using Javelin ammo are, in reality, powerfully vicious. The improvements to Javelin tracking makes for a deadly short-range ammunition type, rivalling auto-cannons in tracking and damage. It feels as though this was the intent, to turn a long-range weapon type's short-range ammo variant into something that works like a short-range weapon type. That might have sounded like nonsense, but trust me, it wasn't.
I shied away from getting into one of the newer Battlecruiser hulls, but was eager to put my newly theorized plated rail Proteus up against them, and after mowing through heaps of them with glee I sat down to take stock of what I'd learned. Not eager to fly them, but rather to kill them, I feel I gathered a perspective that other's hadn’t bothered to acquire. So here we go!
The Talos feels like it was designed to pack all the punch and gusto that a Megathron has. When fit with Blasters it's a force to be reckoned with, capable of dealing out terrifying amounts of damage at very close ranges. It also unfortunately has the same sort of manoeuvrability of the Megathron, i.e. fat and slow. When you let your Microwarp drive spin up a bit you can pull some respectable speed out of it, but the Talos certainly wouldn't be too hard to pin down and slap. In fact if you dare to fly this thing on Tranquillity, you can be that swarms of Rifters are going to sting you to death immediately.
Admittedly I didn't see too many people flying this one, but those that did had no idea how to fly it, save for the occasional Amarr pilot who had figured out that the ship is set to becoming a powerful laser sniping boat. From a distance the Oracle can unleash truly vicious amounts of damage and it's also fairly fast for an Amarr ship. The Oracle certainly shouldn't be flown at close ranges, as it'll easily be bogged down and simply torn asunder, much like the Talos.
One thing I noticed about the Naga was that it was arguably the only one of the four that could field a respectable buffer, or at least the pilots I tackled with had managed to do just that. The Naga is designed to be both a Hybrid and Missile platform, but I'd say it wins out with torpedoes more-so than anything else. Every time I engaged a Naga with my Proteus I was barraged with heavy, fat torp blows like sluggers to the side of the face and its tank just kept on holding as I tried to pierce through it with Javelin. That being said, many are complaining that the Naga will not be a valid Hybrid weapon platform, and that it would be best left to the Oracle to fill out things like sniping roles.
Arguably the most anticipated, and most famous of the four, the Tornado is a vicious beast of a ship: capable of doing remarkable damage with artillery and auto-cannons and fielding a small yet not entirely irrelevant buffer. But what makes the Tornado live up to its name is its break-neck speed. The ship is fast, absurdly fast for a hull of its size and it most likely won't carry that speed to Tranquillity and if it does it'll easily give the Hurricane a run for its money in terms of Battlecruiser favourites for many players.
And while all of the new Hulls are interesting and unique in their own way, they're all fatally flawed. Most of them aren't particularly fast, save for the Tornado, and all of them have paper-thin buffer tanks to counter their vicious fire-power. They bring a whole new meaning to the idea of 'Glass Cannon' and with none of them being able to field drones, quick and nimble hulls like the Vagabond and the Rifter will easily be able to nip under the range of their large turrets and decimate them up close.
These vessels will be highly situational at best, and may make up for lost DPS in small gang groups, but I doubt many bloc-level Alliances will be developing core doctrines based on using these hulls, as they're prone to crumpling under even the slightest pressure. Structure shooting, sniper support and small-gang heavy hitting will all find uses for these hulls, but - as I said - don't expect to see great fleets of them descending upon you any time soon.
Away from the bloodshed and molten tritanium ingots, CCP also displayed their updated visual wares. Rather than refrain from updating their engines visuals in order to continue to appeal to a wider audience, CCP has always acknowledge that its game is appreciated by enthusiasts and older gamers, and have used that as leverage against a higher visual quality budget. With this in mind, CCP deployed the new Nebulae system, which is set to absolutely revolutionize the way you see EVE Online.
As I flew through Syndicate, the region that CCP tends to congregate Singularity testers in, I noticed off in the distance a large supernova remnant. It turned out this nebula was Verge Vendor, and flying directly towards it increased its presence in the sky, until I made the region jump directly into Verge Vendor which sets you at the heart of the blazing fire of this remnant. It was beautiful. All around me the sky weaved into fiery reds, burning oranges and then into deep grotto-pool blues. Back into Syndicate to view it from a distance, and I noticed a great green-blue ring of light directly above the solar plane - Cloud Ring! I barked excitedly, and set a course for it. Several jumps later, and one region jump and I was at the heart of this ancient and beautiful nebula, running all around the skybox was a shining fabric of stars and glowing dust. It was beautiful: EVE is - as usual - gorgeous.
But the adventure didn't stop there it was only after de-cloaking for a moment in my Nemesis - a Gallente Tech II bomber hull - that I noticed a high detail logo on the wing. That wasn't there before - Wait? 'Oh my god!' I thought, as I saw the nebula reflecting in the shimmer of the logo. The whole thing had been redone, but it wasn't just the Nemesis, all Gallente and Caldari hull textures have been upgraded to CCP's new 'V3' texture/shader system, which does not necessarily alter the models of the ship but changes the quality and color of the textures and effects on the hulls themselves. Every tech II variant now appropriately carries the color schemes and logos of their respective manufacturer, at least for the Caldari and Gallente anyway. Either way, I was stunned and spent the next hour going through every single Caldari and Gallente hull and soaking up all of the new shiny. It was glorious.
All in all, this is shaping up to be arguably one of the best expansions CCP has ever put out for EVE Online. A true return to form for the company, setting a fire in their own hearts and using their passion for their own game to continue to inspire both their customers and their competitors. As Winter approaches, the future seems clearer - and that future is at the end of a Railgun barrel.