Tuesday, 2 February 2010

In Search of the Epic Experience

Every now and then, I bounce around in our favourite space sandbox looking for the next thing to try. This time I settled on trying out one of the Epic mission arcs.

All the talk lately has been about the new pirate faction interceptor-friendly ones, but as I'm still only flirting with low-sec like a big girly-girl and I've spent the last 18-months really upsetting the Guristas et al, I'll have to try out one of the original ones.

Epic Destinations: A secret depot in 0.0 space.

As I'm only really skilled-up to fly Caldari ships, it made sense to me to attempt the Caldari arc in the hope that I'll earn some useable reward out of it. After spending the last few weeks slowly improving my standing with Expert Distribution in order to achieve the required standing of 6.8, I was finally able to get the Penumbra arc started. I was quite looking forward to the opportunity to undertake some missions I hadn't done a thousand times before - I really no longer care if Professor Delainen wants to be a battleship and elope with an asteroid and if those miners aren't prepared to defend themselves perhaps they should consider a different line of work.

For the epic missions, I was actually looking forward to the storyline and hoped to feel some level of immersion and involvement. I had already moved my missioning wagon train (Raven Battleship, a hauler full of ammo, kit for loadout changes and some disposable scouting frigates and shuttles) into the vicinity of the Josameto system. Although I had researched the arc a little (I'm not sure how else a player would find out about them), I had been careful not to look to far into things as I wanted to be surprised by events.

I wasn't disappointed. Like everything in EvE, a little effort on the part of player results in a rewarding experience. I was soon embroiled in a plot that I have no intention of giving away here - there are plenty of spoiler-riddled walkthroughs out there. Suffice to say that now I'm nearing the end of the arc (I think), I'm a bit confused as to which corporation I'm actually working for and who I've agreed to stab in the back.

There were some impressive sights to be beheld in some missions, chief amongst them has to be one particular agent's Chimera carrier, one of the ships on my money-no-object wishlist. It was the first time I'd seen one outside of the market preview tool and I enjoyed flying around it and being dwarfed by it.

A Chimera carrier in the Astoh system in Black Rise.

There were a couple of challenges that threatened to impede my progress through the arc:

One agent's insistence that I would need a covert ops frigate or an interceptor for a future mission meant I had to fly halfway across empire space to recover my Crow, only to find out on my return that the mission involved carrying a message into 0.0 via the notorious FD-MLJ/PF-346 pipe. Pah, like I was going to waste a tech II frigate on a suicide mission. I clone-jumped into an unimplanted clone and did the outgoing trip in a shuttle. I took an indirect route to my target system where I completed the mission. Out of curiosity, I returned the short and dangerous way, just to see if I was right to be cautious. No sooner did I jump into FD-MLJ did I get bubbled and podded by several members of the Solar Fleet alliance. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Zidrik and co for proving me right and saving me a dull 25-jump trip home.

Another problem that arose in one mission was the requirement to hack into a detention centre. The mission in question required me to scan down the site, so another trip back to my home system was in order to pick up my Buzzard covert ops frigate. Once the site was found and a couple of other hoops were jumped through, it turned out that my Hacking skill was of an insufficent level. It was going to take at least ten hours to learn the next level before I could complete this mission and that was assuming that Hacking level 3 would be enough. It turned out that it was, so it wasn't the end of the world.

Now I believe I'm on the last mission - it certainly has the hallmarks of a final showdown. It's bastard hard for starters. An uber-tanked Nugoeihuvi Caretaker battleship that can absorb everything I can throw at it and can travel at over 1000m/s, four elite cruisers capable of ECMing me from over 100km away, a horde of torpedo-hurling battleships and several elite frigates that are staying out of drone range at the moment, but you know they'll scramble me as soon as they get close enough.

Now I think of it, the behaviour of these NPCs is a bit Sleeper-like. I wonder if CCP have started to migrate the AI over like they threatened to.

The S.S.S. Big Boomstick Chucka takes a pounding from disgruntled NOH employees.

I had managed to whittle away at them and kill the ECM cruisers but I had to stop for downtime, so I bet they've respawned now. Oh well, it's been a lucrative arc, so even if I lose the Raven, I reckon I'll still have made a profit. I'm going back in.

Wish me luck.


The end of the line?

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