Trading mining for missions, Gareth Harmer charges into combat.
New Eden is a vast universe, teeming with hidden riches just waiting to be discovered. Besides the planets and asteroid belts, solar systems might be home to hidden wrecks, pirate hideouts or even wormholes. And, as I continued to journey through EVE Online, I decided it was time for a change.
After earning a healthy amount of ISK from mining, I went in search of variety. The corporation I’d joined was full of chatter about how members go exploring or run missions when they’re not out mining the belts, and I was eager to find out more. With my mining barge safely docked, I headed into the depths of space in an altogether different vessel.
I’m told that exploration is one of the key themes to Odyssey, EVE’s 19th expansion. I’d not had an opportunity to try it out beforehand but, from what I understood, it involved scanning systems for hidden sites that would (hopefully) contain significant rewards.
To do this well, I’d need to dig out a ship I’d mothballed after those early days. The Imicus, a small frigate designed for scouting, was one of the rewards for completing the tutorial. After kitting it out with sensor probes, hacking tools and sentry drones for protection, I felt ready to explore the unknown.
Scanning for sites is easy enough – simply fire out the probes, put them in a standard configuration and let them sweep. After a short time they started reporting back with various cosmic anomalies, but I’d need to probe further if I wanted to know more about each one. This would be a gamble; a wormhole would be useless to me, while a data site would be quite valuable. With other capsuleers scanning for riches as well, I was racing against time. The first on the scene would get the rewards.
My luck paid off. The probes reported a nearby Serpentis data processing site and, with a little tuning, I managed to get a fix on the location. I hit warp in my Imicus, hoping that I’d be the first to discover it.
I was. Now for the tricky part.
Facilities like this are usually unmanned, but if I was going to get anything valuable, I’d need to hack in without setting off any alarms. Picking a comms tower at random, I carefully approached to get my Data Analyzer within range. The place was eerily silent, but anyone could arrive and puncture my fragile frigate. Acting fast, I fired up the hacking tool and started to pry the tower open.
Hacking a data site is a mixture of both luck and skill, and involves injecting a virus into the target’s computer system. The idea is to reach and neutralize the system core of each tower, while avoiding or nullifying the firewalls and other defensive measures. Get pummelled too many times and your virus loses coherence. Fail to beat the system twice and the tower will self-destruct, along with all that precious cargo.
My own hack went simply enough and, with a couple of beeps, the core was down. The tower’s cargo hatch immediately flew open, releasing a large number of fragile containers that couldn’t withstand the vacuum of space. Working fast, I scooped up as many as I could, but some were crushed by the dark. It’s why some hackers work in pairs, so that nothing goes to waste.
And the rewards? Several decryptors that would be useful to industrialists looking to enhance their ship blueprints. Nothing major, but they’d be worth a few million ISK on the open market.
While Exploration looked like a relatively risk-free way of lining my wallet, Missioning held a number of additional perks that had me swapping ships once again.
The NPC factions of New Eden control a number of space stations in what is termed ‘Empire Space.’ In return for high security and access to services, capsuleers pay a number of taxes. This might be a fee for placing an item on the open market, the minerals lost when refining ores, and so on. It’s possible to reduce some of these costs by running missions for the various agents that represent each faction and, as a bonus, earn loyalty points that can buy some serious rewards. Want that Navy Issue battleship for less than the market price? This is how.
After a bit of searching, I found a Federal Navy agent that specialises in security missions, giving me the chance to shoot at targets and earn perks at the nearby major trading hub. Knowing that I was going to face some action, I traded my Imicus for a Catalyst, a Gallentean destroyer capable of fitting eight turrets. With this much firepower, I felt certain I could handle anything the agent could throw at me.
Things started out easy enough; I’d kill a few pirates here, rescue some hostages there and retrieve stolen cargo from nearby criminal dens. I’d arrive at the instructed location, lock on to their ships and watch them ignite from a volley of railcannon fire. There was nothing that could stop my frigate-melting awesomeness
And then there were the drones.
I was sent to scout out a cosmic anomaly, which some miners believed could hold untold quantities of rare ore. It seemed harmless enough, so I entered the location and hit warp. As I entered the small pocket of deadspace, I saw plenty of asteroids but none of the precious ore the agent mentioned. It was just a lone rogue drone – probably a discarded mining drone – hovering in a nearby gas cloud. Being diligent, I warmed up the engines and chased it down.
As soon as I entered the glowing cloud, my screen filled with red as drones began swarming out of the floating rocks. They started to surround my ship, and I just couldn’t target them fast enough to get my cannons on to them. Their numbers were starting to overwhelm me.
The dashboard screamed that my shields were down, meaning the drones were starting to eat through the Catalyst’s armor. I hit the self-repair systems, but I knew they’d only last for 30 seconds or so before running out of power. If I was going to win this, I had to start cutting them down.
I switched from single target locking to spread targeting, letting the hybrid cannons chew more of the drones. It seemed to be working, with the overview giving me fewer targets to fire at. With a defeated beep, the self-repair gave out, but I still had targets to destroy. I rushed to keep targets locked and the cannons fed, refusing to give them any rest.
Suddenly, the cannons fell silent. No further drones emerged, and the region was still once again. I repaired what I could but, with the destroyer’s structure damaged, burning fuel was being vented into space.
Limping back to the space station, I handed the mission in to the agent. My ship needed repairs and I needed a breather, and drones would scar my dreams for weeks to come. But I kept at it, improving my skills in combat for the time that they would be needed. Little did I know that war would be just around the corner…