EVE Online: The Raw Power of the Harbinger
MMORPG.com EVE Online Correspondent Andrew Wallace writes this overview of the Harbinger warship and the best way to get the msot bang for your buck out of this vessel.
This is a story of a boy and his Harbinger, and possibly damage dealing setups. One of the fierce tier two battle cruisers, the Harbinger, is utterly Amarrian; a golden beast of a ship, with enough turret slots for a rack of seven lasers and space in the lows to fit damage boosting modules, as well as a bit of a tank.
I've flown this ship since its release in the Revelations update at the end of 2006, and I adore it. There is nothing I enjoy more than dropping out of warp and unleashing incandescent streams of laser death onto the enemy fleet. The damage potential of this ship is fairly disgusting and squeezing as much firepower out of it became something of an obsession as I started to perfect my gunnery skills; which leads me to the main thrust of this article: damage! So, despite me harping on about golden ships and lasers, this is a general article on getting the most firepower out of your damage ship, if you like that sort of thing.
Ships and Modules:
Not all ships are created equal, so take a look at the bonuses for the ship you want to turn into a carnival of punishment. In comparison to its tier one counterpart, the Prophecy, the Harbinger is clearly more suited to this role with its bonus to laser damage. The other thing to keep an eye on is the number of gun, or launcher, slots available. On a battle cruiser, for instance, seven is the most you can expect to get, with some battleships getting a glorious eight. Then there are the weapons, the integral part of any damage ship. In general, damage ships use short range weaponry (blasters, pulse lasers, torpedoes, autocannons, etc.) as these can dish out the most damage per second (DPS) and can hit more effectively at the brutally close distances that are common in EVE combat.
As an Amarrian pilot, I have a choice between fitting focused medium pulse or heavy pulse lasers on a Harbinger. The main difference between the two is the amount of power grid and CPU used, and although the focused mediums aren't as powerful, they are easier to fit. This leaves you with more room for other modules; specifically tanking ones, but I'll get to that later.
Any good damage ship will have tech two weapons fitted; as well as being superior to tech one they can also load tech two ammo. This is broken down into two distinct types, short and long range. With my Harbinger's tech two pulse lasers, I have a choice between Conflagration (short) and Scorch (long); I usually use the former as it does more raw damage, but being able to abuse the Amarrian range advantage with Scorch makes it just as useful. One thing to remember is that the damage types also vary between the two ammo types, with Scorch crystals doing substantially more Electromagnetic (EM) damage but less Thermal, making it less effective against armor tanks. It's worth checking the damage types of the ammo you want to use to get an idea of what it will be more effective at shooting. Each of the four racial weapon types also has its own damage module that increases the damage modifier and rate of fire stats on the weapons you have fitted. I fit my Harbinger with a minimum of three Heat Sinks; two is ok, three is the magic number, and four is overkill. Fitting as many as possible might seem like the best idea, but each additional damage module after the first is subject to a stacking penalty, making the bonus from fitting a fourth fairly minimal. Stick to three and make better use of the other low slots.
Not all of the various weapon skills increase your damage output, but having a little bit more range, or accuracy, can sometimes be just as good. Most of the weapon support skills are essential, while some are dependant on what type of gun/launcher you intend to use. Here's a summary of the gunnery skills:
- Controlled Bursts- Reduces the amount of capacitor used by weapon turrets. Utterly essential for Amarr, and even Gallente, ships but utterly pointless for the projectile turrets of Minmatar (which use no cap at all).
- Gunnery- Gives a rate of fire bonus and is required to open up all of the other gunnery support skills.
- Motion Prediction- While, in most cases, a damage ship is going to be firing at ships of equal size, it doesn't hurt to be able to have a better chance of hitting smaller targets.
- Rapid Firing- A boost to your Rate of Fire, because it can never be high enough.
- Sharp Shooter- Increases the optimal range of all weapon turrets. Lasers pretty much need as much optimal as they can get, but this skill is just as necessary for everyone else.
- Surgical Strike- A weapon turret damage bonus that, although it's not as good as the increase you get from the basic skills, is absolutely indispensable.
- Trajectory Analysis- Boosting the falloff range of all turrets, this is required for any ship fitting autocannons and, to a lesser extent, blasters, as they usually fight in falloff range. And just so the missile users don't feel left out, here are the missile ones:
- Guided Missile Precision- Increases the accuracy of guided missiles, which makes them more effective against smaller targets. Has no effect on unguided missiles such as rockets or heavy assault missiles.
- Missile Bombardment/Projection- These skills boost the flight time and velocity of all missiles, increasing their effective range.
- Rapid Launch/Warhead Upgrades- The Rapid Firing and Surgical Strike of missile launcher skills.
- Target Navigation Prediction- Increases the explosion velocity of all missiles, giving you a better chance of damaging fast moving targets.
And finally, the general weapon skills:
- Weapon Upgrades- This and the advanced version don't affect your damage directly, but they reduce the fitting costs of all turrets, launchers, and smart bombs, allowing you to fit a full rack of weapons more easily.
- Basic Weapon Skills- From Small Energy Turrets to Missile Launcher operation, these are your bread and butter. Needed for you to even be able to begin using the module, they also need to be fully trained before you can get the specialization skills. Training the basic missile skills is a bit different to gunnery; instead of needing a skill for each class of turret you just need Missile Launcher Operation to a certain level and a level in the specific missile type you intend to use (rockets, torpedoes, etc).
In order to be able to use the tech two ammo you need the specialization skill for that weapon. All you need is the first level to use the advanced ammo and beyond that it gives you a small damage bonus for each level. Is it worth taking the skill all the way to level five? Not really, the extra two percent is nice, but it just isn't worth the training time. It's not needed to unlock anything else and the time can be better spent increasing your other skills; for perfectionists only.
When one thinks of implants, the first thing that spring to mind are the various implants that boost your character's stats, along with the various pirate implants; but there's more: Skill Hardwirings. From propulsion to scan probes; there's a hardwiring for boosting the effects of almost every type of module in the game, including weaponry. Let's take a look at the two I fit for my Harbinger:
- Inherent Implants "Lancer" G2-Gamma- A whole five percent bonus to medium energy turret damage; beautiful.
- Eifyr and Co "Gunslinger" CX-1- A damage bonus to ALL turret damage; this is only the three percent implant as the best one was appropriately expensive last time I checked. Not bad at all for two implant slots. Of course, all the other gun classes have their own equivalents, and missiles have their own implants for explosion velocity, etc. The best thing is that most of them are relatively cheap, so you have no excuse.
The Other stuff:
- Drones- From Gallente to Caldari, with Amarr and Minmatar floating inbetween; depending on the race of your ship drones can be most of your damage or a little bit extra. The Harbinger is blessed with enough room to field up to five medium drones at once. As my lasers do a mixture of EM and thermal damage I complement them by using Valkyries (tech two ones, naturally), which do explosive damage.
- Heat- I was foolish enough to overlook heat when it first came out with the Revelations II expansion, and it wasn't until a few months later that I first started dabbling with it. The heat mechanic allows you to overheat certain modules to increase their effectiveness at the cost of the modules taking heat damage. It's not something you can use all the time, though, despite the presence of nanite paste, which can be used to repair damaged modules while you are in space. An overheated rack of guns can burn up very quickly, and if you don't pay attention they can be disabled completely, which can leave you dead in the water…or space. Conveniently, there are skills to reduce the heat damage or increase the amount of damage repaired by paste, which makes the experience less painful. I usually save overheating for emergencies, or quick fights, but with more players training heat skills and the possibility of tech three modules (that will supposedly have better heat dissipation) in the future, EVE can only get hotter.
- Tank- Yes, tank; it might seem inappropriate in an article on damage, but it's necessary. As a damage dealer you are a pretty major threat to the enemy, and any competent Fleet Commander is going to call you as the primary target, just after any Electronic Warfare ships. You need some kind of buffer, in the form of armor plates, or shield extenders, in order to stay in the fight as long as possible. If you've got room you can even fit the odd resistance module to fill any glaring gaps in your resistances. This is where the choice of guns from earlier comes into play; an old Harbinger setup I used to fly had focused medium pulse lasers fitted, which didn't give me the damage of heavy pulses, but it let me squeeze on two 1600mm armor plates (a hit point buffer that saw it through many hairy encounters that it might otherwise have not seen the end of). The key here is balance, dealing massive amounts of damage is awesome, but not if you don't last long enough to put it to good use.
Some of you eagle eyed readers will have noticed that I've left out rigs and boosters. Boosters I have no experience with, so I can't say how effective they are. As for rigs, there are some available that boost various weapon stats, at the cost of increased fitting costs. Honestly, though, I don't think they are worth it; if I feel like splashing out I'll throw a couple of trimark armour pump rigs on my ship to give me more staying power, but that's about it. Now, away with you; go forth and start some violence.