As you all are likely aware, Cryptic released a new line-up of starships last week. They call these new ships “Pilot”. They are available in three varieties for each faction for a total on nine new ships.
The name pilot is derived from the pilot specialization that was one of the original specializations launched with Delta Rising. These new T6 ships are also equipped with hybrid BOFF stations Commander Tactical/Pilot and Lieutenant Science/Pilot. The pilot BOFFs are trained the same way as Intelligence and Command BOFFs with a training manual you craft after achieving ten ranks in the pilot specialization or buy on the exchange. I must say, one of the very best changes Cryptic ever made to this game was the current BOFF system. My original character, Admiral Sager has 24 BOFFs. Back in the day you couldn’t easily swap out skills so I had a BOFF for every scenario. Now you can have a set of 8-10 BOFFs with a wide variety of abilities that you simply switch on the fly anywhere.
OK back to the ships. I decided after several days of deliberation to buy just one ship. I think the Romulan version is probably the best over all ship since it is the only one with a battle cloak. The Klingon ship is undoubtedly the best looking. It quite literally looks like it was ejected from Hell because the Devil was afraid of it 😉 But unfortunately it is equipped with a near useless standard cloak. The Feddie version has no cloak at all.
I bought the Tactical Pilot Escort for my Starfleet toons. I did it because I get the most mileage out of that choice. I have 11 characters of which 7 are either Federation or Romulan with a Starfleet allegiance. Honestly if Cryptic offered a 3 for 2 mix and match I would have gotten three ships one for each faction. In the end I will likely end up with three ships but I will take my time with it.
So a quick overview. Each faction gets three ships and they are basically all very similar. Each of the three ships is identical except for Consoles and BOFF seating. It is very similar to the Andorian Kumari series of ships in terms of the subtlety of the differences. Each ship has a slightly different design. They are designed to lean towards Tactical, Science or Engineering. These are escort ships, so don’t expect anything more than an escort in terms of survivability. The difference is this:
Among the three Starfleet Pilot ships I thought the engineering version was the most interesting looking. I chose the Tactical ship because I felt that a speedy ship like this needed enough abilities on tactical to always have attack buffs activated. Being able to manuever quickly is fine unless you have no attack buffs ready, then what’s the point? You don’t want to be all lined up for badass attack run with your tac BOFFs on cooldown. This is very important if using a Pilot specialist. Larger slower ships don’t need as much tactical because once they make an attack run it takes a while to get back into position to make another, by which time the cooldown has reset. These Pilot ships are the fastest turning Federation or Romulan ships ever made. For the KDF only the BOPs are quicker on the corner. A Starfleet character will only have access to one ship in the game that is faster and turns sharper and that is the Risian Corvette which has 21 dps base turn and 0.25 impulse modifier
I have tested the ship with two of my toons thus far. Both are Tactical Starfleet caps. First is Admiral Sager, he is by far my most advanced character having achieved a great deal of abilities and such. Next is my newest toon, Delta Recruit, K’Rod a Klingon Starfleet Admiral at level 55. For K’Rod I don’t have any Pilot BOFFs, I set the ship up like a normal escort. Admiral Sager loaded up the two Pilot seats with Pilot BOFFs. I noticed that K’Rod was dealing more damage and it came down to having more tactical abilities active, more often. I swapped out the Lt. Commander Subspace Boom Pilot ability for another instance of Scatter Volley and Admiral Sager was in business. I do like the Subspace Boom ability but I found my self on attack runs with weak sauce cannon fire too often.
One of the cool things about these ships is the special Pilot manuevers available. They work just like the roll ability on the ground. A double tap on any direction key performs a manuever that gives a temporary immunity to damage and causes the enemy to lose target lock. These recharge reasonably fast so they are quite useful. Cryptic allows the double tap feature to be turned off and a mouse click on a HUD directional pad can be used instead, or a hot key setup. I’ll admit that I do occasionally double tap on accident.
I believe that the Romulan ships will benefit greatly from this ability. Imagine performing the manuever then using the battle cloak immediately after. The temporary immunity of 2 seconds keeps you from suffering the death by cloak problem when the shields drop during the cloaking.
OK so the Starfleet Mercury Class is the tactical leaning ship and I have run a number of the Iconian PVE queues as well as a bunch of Romulan Patrols to build up mastery levels. Admiral Sager is working on the fifth level of mastery so I can try out the ship trait that auto fires a micro torpedo every few seconds that you keep a ship in the 90 degree forward arc. The ship performs very well. It is surprisingly resilient largely due to the manuever ability that gets you out of trouble. The tactical version of the ships regardless of faction have the same special console which is a missile launcher that requires no target. It is kind of similar to the Ferrengi Swarm Missiles, but maybe better. I did not set these ships up with all my best stuff so the fact that I avoid death flying them is pretty cool.
The Romulan and Starfleet versions have a hull strength that lies between Raider and Escort, so it is somewhat fragile. The KDF versions offer 8% more hull. The Starfleet ship’s only advantage is a shield modifier boost of about 8%; 1.05 vs the Rommy and KDF at 0.97. My take on it was this: If you really like the battle cloak, the Romulan version is the only one that offers it and combined with the Pilot maneuvering it can be very useful. If the battle cloak isn’t your thing then the Starfleet version offers the shield perk that will definitely help. If you want hull resiliency the KDF version is the only one offering a decent hull strength that compares to other Raptors.
The comparison to other tactical ships is hard to avoid so I prepped a chart taking some of the hottest Feddie and Cross-faction escorts to task. Against the Fleet versions of Tactical Escort Retrofit T5-U, Patrol Escort T5-U, and T6 Intel Phantom along with the Andorian Kumari T5-U, and just for fun the Jem’Hadar Strike Ship. I am comparing the Fleet versions because they are available and cost about the same, all is fair in love and war…ships.
I still think the Patrol Escort has the most badass rear flank attack in the game! The Andorian Kumari has the most hard-hitting frontal assault in the game. I still wipe stuff out with that Kumari faster and more efficiently than any other ship I have flown. I recently set up Admiral Sager’s Fleet Phantom with a mix of Omega and Romulan gear and that ship is extremely well-balanced now, honestly it is probably the best all round escort I have. The Pilot Mercury is a lot of fun to fly and it is more than capable in combat. Don’t let the weak hull frighten you, the Pilot manuevers recharge quickly and definitely help to fend off attacker’s damage. This ship fights like it has fleet grade hull strength.
Admiral Sager set his up with two of the three pieces of the Special Set obtained by playing the featured Iconian mission. He will pickup the third piece tonight. The set is pretty tough. The torpedos are the first transphasic torpedo I have used that is really effective. I like this ship enough that I intend to equip it with some serious gear. Currently I have the Hirogen Trap console in the engineering section. It is a fun ploy but not as useful as a Fleet neutronium or Dyson defense console. I am trying to decide which reputation space set to use, Omega Assimilated maybe? Or I could just go all fleet with it. I’ll decide here eventually.
The analysis for this Pilot Mercury Class is that this is a fun ship that should provide nearly as much fighting strength and perhaps more than other ships in your arsenal. It is a worthy ship.