EVE Online: A Look at Command Ships
MMORPG.com EVE Online COrrespondent Andrew Wallace writes this overview of command ships in CCP's EVE Online.
Commanding a fleet can be challenging enough, even without having to worry about your own vessel taking a beating, and there are few ships up to the task. Interceptors can use their speed to avoid a lot of trouble, but there are times when you'll have to break away from the fight due to drones, energy neutralizers, or other anti-frigate ships. It's the same with Electronic Warfare ships; even if you are engaging from a distance the enemy will still make you a primary target. Battleships are good, but even better are the Command ships.
Fleet Command Ships
Specialised Tech Two variants of the tier one Battlecruisers, these ships are the perfect choice for anyone wanting to lead their fleet. They offer not only the ability to fit fleet boosting warfare link modules, but have strong enough defensive capabilities to keep them on the battlefield for the length of the fight. Of the two types of command ship, the Fleet Command ships stand out, with the ability to simultaneously fit and use three warfare link modules.
Damnation: An armour tanking vessel with bonuses to armour tanking warfare link modules results in a beast of a tank. Absolutely exceptional in any armour tanking battleship fleet, and even better with remote repairing battleship fleets and their masses of armour hit points that are so common in EVE right now.
Eos: A fearsome combat ship that even rivalled its Field Command sibling, the Astarte, until it was brought into line with the other fleet ships. Even with the ability to launch five heavy drones removed, the drone bay is still big enough to fit a flexible contingent of drones to support the fleet while you are boosting. You can even leave the damage to your drones entirely and use the spare fitting space that would have been used on guns for other uses, such as tank.
Claymore: The strong point here is not the ship itself, but the boost it gives to skirmish warfare links. Where the Damnation is a boon for any armour tanking fleet, the Claymore is the ultimate fleet booster for faster, wolf pack groups, with more speed, longer scrambler ranges, and low signatures for everyone.
Vulture: It's tough being a rail gun platform, and the Vulture is easily dismissed by missile focused Caldari pilots that aren't looking to cross-train into gunnery. However, it does have an equal amount of slots for both turrets and missiles so you can fit either one and be roughly as effective, but weapons on fleet command in general should be a secondary concern. Ridiculous range with missiles or rail guns will keep it out of a close range fight, but even then it can fit the kind of "mega-tank" that Fleet Commands are known for.
The problem with the Fleet Command ships is that they are still seen as combat ships, and some players aren't willing to let go of the basic PVP modules (like warp scramblers), or damage output. This is what made the pre-nerf Eos so popular; it could devote most of its fitting to a tank while dumping the Warfare Links in favour of more firepower. The Eos became a perfectly capable solo PVP ship, which wasn't what it was designed for and lead to it being struck with nerfbat.
Field Command ships
The opposite of the Fleet Command is the Field Command. These mean fighters lead from the front and are capable of dealing out and taking fearsome amounts of punishment. Yes, they can fit warfare links, but without any ship bonuses there's no real point when you can just fit them to do what they do best. Field command ships are combat orientated enough to find themselves targeted first in a fight, due to their damage output; the Fleet Command ships are simply better if you want to focus on boosting the fleet.
Absolution: It needs the Command Ship skill fully trained to be able to match the damage of a Harbinger, but improved resists and the tanking bonus of the Prophecy give it deadly mix of offense and defense.
Astarte: An utterly fearsome blaster ship, built onto the already formidable Brutix hull. An Astarte can potentially match the raw damage most battleship class vessels, with a full rack of guns and drone support, while maintaining a steady active tank for as long as its cap charges last.
Slephnir: It might not boast the stupid damage of its peers, but with its shield boost bonus it has, potentially, the best active tank in its class, especially if you go as far as to fit it out with faction modules.
Nighthawk: Unlike the other Field Commands, that are close range fighting ships, all I see when I look at the Nighthawk is a nasty anti-support ship. The bonus to missile explosion velocity makes its missiles better at damaging smaller targets, and one of these with the right missiles is going to ruin any frigate pilot's day.
Now, despite what I've said about them having fearsome tanks, Command ships aren't unstoppable monsters. The Field Commands generally use active tanks with Cap Boosters, so enough Energy Neutralizers will see then unable to repair damage. A fleet command ship in particular is only good with a fleet to boost, and those ships are likely to be much less hardy. They can also be killed by massed firepower, but the issue that arises is: do you want to waste time breaking through their tank while other, more dangerous ships are running amok? Whether you want to lead the fleet personally into the heart of the enemy in a blaze of glory, or command from the security of a small floating fortress, Command Ships have something for every aspiring leader.