Monday, 23 March 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - The Vulture


Hey Space Cadets, What is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the Outfitters!

The Vulture is one of the newer ships and plenty of people have had their say about its handling, performance, price and whatnot. I'm not going to go into detail about the exact outfitting of the vulture as I've only flown it for a few hours and I don't have a handle on the options yet.



The role of the ship
The viper is a fun ship to fly, and the vulture turns all the dials up to ten providing a similar outfitting and flight experience.  Like the Viper, the Vulture suffers from an undersized reactor and you won't be able to power everything you want to so a good loadout is about compromising and specialising the ship.

This means there are decisions to make and you'll never be able to "Class-A" your Vulture all round, some systems will have lower ratings than others.  Outfitting a Vulture is going to become a matter of personal taste.

I've gone for Class-A Reactor and Power couplings, and Class-B Thrusters. Everything else could afford to shrink a size class to spare some power so I can squeeze in A4 shields too. There are plenty of options to play with, but those were my priorities on this build.

Safety Features
Being power limited you are likely to compromise on lower that top-spec shields, and since your vulture will be taking a lot of heat those shields will feel a lot weaker than they are.
With lower shields you won't be able to hang at medium range and slug it out with other ships while you exchange fire.  Sure, Eagles and Sidewinders won't be able to touch you but those big ships will tear you up at mid range. That means you have to choose between long-range and point-blank.

At long range, you have to rely on your big 5A Power Couplings to recharge your guns and shields enough to turn in for another pass before your opponent has recovered. Relentlessly lancing in and then boosting out engine-to-engine like this will wear down one of the bigger ships.

However at point blank range your turning circle just can't be beat, and this is where you will do a lot of your damage. Holding High-Six on an Anaconda thrusting down toward its engines will keep you out of a lot of fire arcs, and able to target any hardpoints that can cover. It'll also put its Power plant front and centre of your gimbals, for a devestating take down. Its only chance is to pull away to mid range and bring those big guns to bear, and when it does you'll either stay high on its stern or boost away to long range and prepare to lance in and find a good angle.

Exactly how you outfit the ship is going to depend on what your Wing are doing and your personal flying style.

Wingman Vulture
Since power is your currency I spent a lot of mine Gimbal Burst lasers.  The Gimbal burst lasers empty their banks quickly and get hot fast so aren't good for sustained fire, but they do reach a high damage per second while they fire and can either slam into shields or can be used to pick off modules on the enemy ship.  The sacrifice here is that you'll have weaker shields, as you've had to put a lot of power into weapons and that doesn't suit every situation.
The Vulture builds in a similar way to the Wingman Viper where I've put all of my power into weapons over shields.  Its just not a slugger and you are better off tagging and getting out than slugging away and relying on tanking shields.

Fixed beams are also out of the question.  I tried them for a while, they really pack a punch but you have to be a dedicated combat pilot to score reliable hits, and even then its much easier to target modules with gimbals. Because of this, I found I had a much higher effective damage with gimbals.
The power consumption of beams is also sky high, and you'll be sacrificing around 15% of your shield strength compared to burst lasers.

I'm discounting the other fixed weapons - Rail and Plasma - for the same reason that I didn't get on with fixed beams. The module tracking in gimbals is too much to sacrifice.

Hurting Bombs.
Being limited to two large hardpoints feels like it discounts running missiles. Missiles don't play to the strengths of the vulture, which excels at point blank range damage dealing. Missiles have their place on a less maneuverable ship when you have a six pack of them, or even quad-linked, but in a space superiority starfighter like the vulture it's a waste of hardpoints.
I also didn't see any Size-3 missiles for sale, so I'd be stuck with the same missiles I'd have on an Asp - minus four hardpoints - just not an option.

Frag Cannons cause me to worry about ammo limits, too. They still have have a quite high power drain, which is something we are trying to avoid. If you are flying fighter escort for a pair of T7s, then the powerful fraggers probably aren't your cup of tea.
I've dealt so much damage with A2 Fraggers in my Red Venom Viper which packs a huge punch for its size so these are super tempting.  If you are bounty hunting in a wing then speak to your CAG. It could be worth having one ship with frag cannons which excel at punching through those larger hulls. The high damage per second Frag Cannons are ideal at the point-blank range that suits the vultures flight characteristics.

Cannons will significantly reduce your power consumption giving you better shield options and still have reasonable ammo counts. With stronger shields you can get to point blank range and sit there scoring hit after hit.  You won't out damage those big ships, but can duck out of their fire arcs and keep the pressure up.
The fixed forward cannons are dirt cheap, and although you will pay over the odds for the turreted version they are highly recommended so you can target modules.

Multicannons are a popular option, although I didn't get a chance to try them. But they have a low power consumption and you would probably be able to equip one MC and one Beam, switching over after the beam has dropped some shields.

Overall, I can see this is a viable option - run one Beam/Burst laser and have your choice of Cannon, Multicannon or Frag Cannon on the secondary fire. I think this sort of combo will work really well in pairs too, where you can keep up the pressure by tagging on and off to stop your lasers overheating and then both open up the whole nine yards as soon as those shields drop.

Conclusions
Without doubt, I had most luck with dual Gimbal Burst lasers. This loadout is biased because I spent a lot of time in a combat zone and the ammo limits of the cannon were costly. They pack quite a punch against hulls and despite heating up quickly, as long as you fire in short controlled bursts they will keep dealing damage as long as you need them to.

Capable as a lone wolf or pack hunter, the Vulture has been more fun to fly than the Viper although as a small ship it has to be outfitted with a lot less than Class-A. It'll be interesting getting back into the cockpit of a smaller ship although I'm more than a little apprehensive in going up against a vulture. I'm looking forward to bringing the big guns of a Python against the Vulture, where it'll be touch-and-go whether I can keep the fighter out of my blind spot.

If you've got more to add on the Vulture, any tips on power management or how to get the most out of its shields I'd love to hear from you.
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang of the Alliance, Fly Casual everybody.