At Long Last :: The Assault Ship Buff

Everyone is talking about the assault ship changes posted by the same redditor who brought us an accurate preview of the tier-3 BC stats before CCP released any information on them.

I don’t know his/her methods, but apparently he/she is able to filter out relevant ship changes from the “Chaos Client cache,” using what I can only assume to be some sort of magical scrying stone.

I have a few preliminary thoughts on these changes…

 

(1) The MWD bonus seems highly ineffectual:

I think that the devs may be attempting to encourage the use of a “heavy interceptor” setup that can remain highly survivable while MWDing out to tackle targets for roaming gangs, or even in larger fleet battles.

However, this “heavy interceptor” role bonus really isn’t something that will be particularly useful to most gangs, or even most assault ship pilots.

Changes in fleet composition trends, game mechanics, and FC preferences over the last few years have caused frigate tacklers to fall out of favor, in both fleet warfare and roaming pvp.

The rise of idiot-proof probing has removed the phenomenon of 150km+ snipers (who cannot track frigs for shit) from 0.0, the popularity of close-ranged turret BS has made orbiting frigs into mere fodder, e-war immune super-caps determine the victor in most serious battles, and missile-spamming 100MN AB-Tengu fleets give absolutely zero fucks if you scram them.

The bottom line is, there is no longer a need for a “hero inty” to burn out to the enemy like we saw depicted in the Incarna trailer.

Even in smaller fleets, it only takes a few roaming fit-BCs to pop an MWDing assault ship in a single volley, before it can reach them at range on a gate or station.

The focus has instead shifted towards well-placed interdiction spheres, heavily-tanked HIDs, long-range tackling recons, and tech-3 “strategic” cruiser tacklers with faction mods.

These ships can provide better tackling, usually from further away, and can actually be supported by logistics on a reliable basis.

In solo PvP, with a few notable exceptions – such as Imperial Navy Slicers – solo frigs rarely run MWD-only fits today.

Almost all 1v1 frigate setups plan on fighting within scram range these days. Worse yet, mwd/scram/web frigs can often be escaped by AB/scram  frigs, with only web-bonused ships like the Daredevil being a consistent exception.

For this reason, most pilots fit to optimize their performance within scram range, rather than attempting to kite.

 

(2) Most people expected something else:

The two most popular theories discussed have always been an AB speed-boost (as a flat role bonus of perhaps 25-50%) or e-war resistance (such as web immunity). I would greatly prefer either of these bonuses to an MWD-related bonus.

Since interceptors already have the MWD signature bloom reduction, would it not make much more sense to give assault ships an AB-related bonus?

This would benefit assault ships in close-range tackling, further augmenting their defensive capabilities, without encroaching on the (already greatly diminished) territory of ‘ceptors.

I believe an AB-buff is what most of the player-base would have voted for, if given the chance. However, I would personally favor an even more dramatic change.

My suggestion is that CCP allow assault ships to fit medium weapons!

The game really doesn’t need yet another boring frigate-sized tackler, it needs original ship concepts that spur innovation and force battle-soured capsuleers to reconsider their dogmatic approach to warfare.

Where will the Amarrian God be when your fancy new Oracle gets tackled by an AB-fit Enyo with a rack of Heavy Neutron Blaster II’s?

I think that this would be in-line with the tradition of over-sized weapons established first by stealth bombers and, more recently, tier-3 battlecruisers.

I digress though. Back to the tentative changes.

 

(3) EHP values are going up:

The next general buff to all assault ships seems to be the addition of either 200 armor or shield, depending on the natural tanking predisposition of the ship.

Some have said that this will tip the balance even further in favor of assault ships against close-range faction frigs, which are already starting to go down in price (particularly Dramiels). I certainly agree with that sentiment.

However, I think this was done, more than anything else, to put comparatively-expensive assault ships (and I use the word “expensive” with a degree of sarcasm here)  in a better position against the recently (and rather unexpectedly) buffed T1 destroyers, which are very affordable.

The passive armor/shield buff also favors passive fits that can attach a multiplier effect to the added HP (such as a core defense extender or trimarks) rather than active setups.

However, I personally believe we may well see a golden age of active-tanked assault ships used by solo combat pilots due to the improved slot-layouts.

 

(4) Added slots and fittings space will create new possibilities:

Each assault ship will be receiving an added slot!

SHIP SLOT
ENYO +1 MID
ISHKUR +1 LOW
HARPY +1 LOW
HAWK +1 MID
WOLF +1 LOW
JAGUAR +1 LOW
RETRIBUTION +1 MID (FINALLY!!)
VENGEANCE +1 HIGH (utility only)

The biggest change here has to be the addition of a second mid-slot to the god-damned Retribution. A frigate with one mid-slot is just a fundamentally flawed design, and it’s a bit disappointing that we had to wait for a full overhaul of the ship class to get this thing modified.

These layouts, combined with some extra PG or Cpu here and there, should enable some dangerous new setups.

For example, the Enyo gains a slot that could be filled with a web, but I believe many will attempt to emulate the success of Garmon’s legendary taranis fit by opting for dual-prop layout.

The Vengeance in particular seems singled by these changes, and arguably has improved the least, but it was already so good at what it did that it hardly needed improvement. This hard-tanking frigate is the PzKpfw 38H735 (f) or “Hotchkiss” of Eve – a reference I suspect many tank-driving Eve players will agree with.

More relevant to my own tastes, CCP may-well have ushered in a the golden era of dual-rep armor tanking assault ships. I am very excited to experiment with cap-injected, dual-repping Ishkur.

 

(5) The Missing 4th Bonuses Finally Applied:

T2 ships, regardless of whether they have a role bonus or not, always gain two additional bonuses on top of their two T1 hull bonuses. That is, except for Assault Ships.

This shortfall has always vexed many pilots, and at last we have those missing bonuses.

An extra 5% or 7.5% per level can make a huge difference in a dog fight, and this will further cement the Assault Ship as the new kings of close-range frigate brawling.

 

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