I was drawing the classic blank on what to write about this week. It was bad, really bad, the kind of mind wipe that leads Hollywood producers to make a picture like, Superman IV or the blank that clearly phased Lucasfilm when they did, Howard the Duck. Yeah, kind of like that.
So I decided to do something really stupid. Why the hell not, let’s fly a Tier 1 shuttle craft through the level 50 gauntlet of the Top Gun Patrol Kings. I thought about just flying my original Tier 1 starship, but that thing only has 10k hull and the shuttle at least scales to 18k with level. So I used the USS Loch Carron which is Admiral Sager’s Delta Flyer shuttle. You can make a solid argument that it is the best shuttle craft in the game. The Admiral has that shuttle decked out with all Mark XIV gear and über purple and ultra rare stuff. It only has the Ferengi Shuttle Metaphasic Shields however, which are cool, but really weak on capacity.
So this wasn’t the first time the Admiral ran Japori and Carraya with this shuttle, but last time was back before season 11.5 and the Admiral didn’t have the shuttle nearly as badass as it is now. You can read the review of the Delta Flyer here. There was a learning curve and I think I could shave a bit of time off those I posted on Top Gun Patrol Kings. I had the shuttle with Admiral Sager’s standard Ancient Omni-beam and Fleet Photon launcher. You only get two BOFFs and they both have to man Ensign stations. Yikes! That Delta shuttle gives you a science and a universal. I had science team and beam overload. The Admiral has every reputation maxed and just about every trait in the game He has five slots in the ship traits, five in the space rep traits and five in the active rep traits so he is loaded for bear on that front.
Let there be no mistake, I had no delusions of grandeur about how these patrols were gonna go down. I fully expected to see the fireworks created by my own warp core explosion, and see them I did. The last time I ran the shuttle through Japori and Carraya, I was cautious with a dink and dunk style that took forever to get through the missions. This time I was goin’ all in on stupid and took an aggressive approach getting in to the stinky shit a few times.
I started in Japori and died once when I got involved in a cluster f**k fight and all the enemies decided the little shuttle was a pest that needed exterminating. Just as the cooldown timer on evasive manuevers was expiring so did my hull. Even with the delay created by a respawn cycle I manged to rip a respectable 498 seconds. Hey, stop laughing, it’s a freaking shuttle, cut me some slack. I know 498 seconds is like more than eight minutes. But that was one of the better times.
Next up was Carraya and I was nervous. Those damn Mogais love to drop those frickin’ tractor mines. I hate tractor beams and when you have no damn BOFF abilities they are death in cold dish. I managed to only die once and it was in fact whilst being caught in a tractor beam. Carraya was much tougher for the shuttle and the time showed it with 614 seconds.
I flew over to Narendra next, to kick some Hirogen ass and managed to die once in that Patrol as well. Guess how? Tractor beam! That mission went better as those big Apex ships don’t turn much, so you can get the shield facing down pretty fast. The Admiral managed a decent 554 seconds on that run.
The final stop on the tour of death was the most surprising of all. Beta Thoridor has a bunch of Klingons in there and I was happy that none of them employ tractor beams, but I also remember the Raptors are pretty tough. I really thought I would get through this one without an afterlife moment. Well I died in here too. But not just once, I had like four or five warp core light shows. Those Klingons get a lot of criticals. The stupid little BoPs that I destroy in a nano-second with a real ship, manage to hang around long enough to get on the shuttle’s six and light my sorry ass up with raider flanking and a crit or two. That is all it takes to deep six a shuttle craft. But much to my surprise I had the fastest time in this patrol. What the hell? Yes the shuttle craft got killed a lot but, it also was able to clear out the waves of baddies faster than any of the other Patrols. The Admiral ripped a slice and dice 437 seconds. In fairness, by the fourth patrol I was starting to get the hang of flying a weak ship in a sea of angry aliens. One of the things I did effectively in the last two patrols was using the “threatening stance” ability in the non-threatening position and applying heavy use of the Strategist ability “Diversionary Tactics”. That applies a nice placate and has a short cool-down.
So what the hell did I learn by this exercise, besides how flippin’ long it takes to dispatch the baddies in a shuttle craft? Honestly, it was enlightening. I discovered things about how the NPC enemies attack, how often they crit, and use powerful abilities. When they had a successful attack on me I saw it, I felt it! When I run these missions in my big bad Andorian Kumari, I dust their dingle so fast I don’t even see what they are doing. Even when I run a slower tank through there, the successful attacks don’t really do any “real” damage so I never really “felt” what was happening. I felt the living crap out of it flying in the little can.
I decided that the torpedo launcher was useless with so little BOFF abilities and so I loaded a dual beam bank Mk XIV on the ship and flew Japori again. Managed to trim the time down to 422 seconds. How much of that was my improvement in the shuttle and how much was the weapon change? I don’t know, but I like the no torpedo setup better. I felt like I was putting more pain to the enemy.
In the end I think flying in the easier missions with a weaker setup can help you learn to overcome certain types of attacks, so when you are actually in a hard mission with your best setup, you can avoid problems. I would do some of this in some PVE missions but the other 4 players in the PUG might be a little pissed when I show up in some crappy little under-powered ship.