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More Dangerous Procrastination

Another inadvertently wasted bizarro weekend, piddling away my opportunity to do game development ambitions in an experience whose appeal I can't quite put my finger on.  But then, Elite: Dangerous has always made me feel that way, looking glorious on the surface but being a supreme redundant grind in practice.  I really wish I could find a way to enjoy this game!

In my despair, I decided that I no longer cared about piloting my Anaconda, The Ordeal or saving credits towards an Imperial Cutter.  I sold it off, losing millions of credits in the process, but so what?  When you're so tired of a game that you don't even know why you're playing it, losing a bit of progress is a small price to pay in order to try to find a reason.
I needed that many credits to try out the Type-10 Defender, which turned out to be the loveliest of the ships I tried.  Though technically less multirole than an Anaconda, more of a combat-worthy cargo freighter, this specialization might have lent to its character.  The cockpit is quite lovely, an elevated pilot's position that affords them an excellent view of everything going on around the front of the vessel.  I also love how it sounds: very high tech.

Even beyond the cosmetic details, the Type-10 Defender leaves little to be desired. Though its frame shift drive maneuverability was abysmal, in other respects it felt more nimble than I recollect the Anaconda or Type-9 as being.  In combat, it is somewhat a "hull tank," extremely durable, and I haven't even engineered it yet.  With 4 large hardpoints, 3 medium hardpoints, and 2 small hardpoints, the Type-10 has respectable armaments, but not enough to out-damage the "big three."  However, with its unbeaten armor and hardness, it might out-last them: the Type-10 Defender is a true flying fortress.

Overall, I think I enjoyed the Type-10 Defender more than my Anaconda, and consider it a viable fourth to the "big three."  However, I decided I had to let it go, as I could not afford to fully upgrade its components, and in its diminished state it was too much an insurance risk versus a smaller, nimbler ship.  A shame!  The only way I could have upgraded safely would be to mine with it, which it excels at, but I'm not going to shoot rocks for another 200,000,000 credits!
A release screenshot of the two newest ships: the Krait Mk II (left) and the Alliance Challenger (right).
Before I tried the Type-10 Defender, I tried the Alliance Challenger, basically a more combat-oriented retrofit of the Alliance Chieftain.  The Chieftain was already fairly combat focused, with excellent agility and an unusually rugged build, and the Challenger trades a bit of speed for even more durability, slightly more firepower, and a slight increase in optional internal component flexibility.

I felt that the best part about the Challenger is how unique it looks and feels, almost like it's out of an entirely different game, though it is essentially just a variant of the Chieftain.  Something that bothered me about the Challenger is that its slower speed meant it would have that much harder of a time escaping a fight gone awry.  I suspect the Chieftain would be a more fun ship to fly, but I did not bother trying one since it seems like an inferior versus the more-expensive Challenger.
I eventually decided that, whatever ship I pilot, I ought to have full class-A core internals so I could fully engineer-enhance them.  Further, it should probably fit on a medium pad for high mission completion flexibility.  These two conditions correlated nicely with the fact that I simply do not have enough credits to fully class-A any of the "big four." After much cognitive dissonance, I settled on a Krait Mk II.

I was resistant to the idea, as this is the same ship I tried out last week but abandoned due to its overwhelming blandness.  In many ways, the Krait Mk II is essentially a Python, the most generic multirole ship in the universe, right down to the identical hardpoint and core internals, except it swapped one of its three class-6 optional internal bays for more speed and the ability to launch ship-mounted fighters.  The Krait Mk II does not even sound all that unique; the flight noises sound a bit like a muffled Python or Anaconda, perhaps a nod at how Faulcon DeLacy made all three ships.  What could be the appeal?
Yet, the Krait Mk II is indeed quite appealing, earning glowing praise from most of the players, and for good reason.  The Python is probably a bit better at most things, but the Krait Mk II's faster speed and better cockpit layout make it a much more fun ship overall.  In combat, that ship-launched fighter should not be underestimated, as it allows for high speed interception, provides a distraction, and is another huge hardpoint of damage the Python does not have.  My initial tests in a Krait Mk II with fully upgraded core internals (not engineered) lead to some of the easiest combat resolutions I ever had in the game.

Along the lines of medium-pad-sized ships, the Python, Krait Mk II, and Fer-de-lance reign supreme, in order of increasingly more narrow combat focus; the Python is the king of multirole, the Fer-De-Lance is a combat specialist, and the Krait Mk II is somewhere in the middle.  The other medium-pad ships are a whole rank of potency less effective, with ships like the Challenger and Chieftain having smaller core internals and hardpoint layouts (and a price to match).  Generic or not, the Krait Mk II is an excellent min/maxer choice for anything that can fit on a medium pad.
The Krait Mk II's cockpit is possibly the most lovely in the game.
So, have I found out how to enjoy Elite: Dangerous yet?

Not really.  There was nothing to look forward to with my Anaconda but upgrade it and grind rank and credits until I can swap for an Imperial Cutter.  The switch to the Krait Mk II has not changed that.  If anything, these last few days have established that the Imperial Cutter was a lousy goal to begin with: there's no reason to ever need to upgrade to the "big four," as a smaller, engineer-enhanced ship can do just as much, if not more, in all respects but cargo haulage. 

Monotony is the Achilles' heel of any game that expects you to keep playing for a long time.  What I really need in Elite: Dangerous is both a wider variety of activities and the incentives to pursue them.  The developers added multicrew and thargoid fights, but these add precious little to the experience of a thoroughly introverted player like myself.  Instead, there's no gold at the end of the rainbow; there's no endgame, the most viable-yet-entertaining activities remain more or less the same as they did the last few times I burned out from the game: fedex missions, passenger missions, and farming minerals or pirates from resource nodes.

No wonder space sim players these days can't seem to make up their mind between Elite: Dangerous, Star Citizen, and No Man's Sky.  The first is a well-built game that can't seem to get anywhere.  The second is a runaway hype machine that's only escaping being vaporware by the sheer volume of money it hoovers.  The last was an over-hyped flop hobbled by a Playstation 4 primary target platform and the company being smaller than their ambitions, though it has been getting steadily better.  As far as these kinds of space sims go, players will see rocks and hard places everywhere!
There are alternatives, of course, but they're generally a whole class under those big three.  Especially since Egosoft messed up X Rebirth, and CCP's venerable EVE Online is not exactly a game.  Elite: Dangerous's appeal is mysterious: it sets the bar higher than those while not being able to fully support it.  Perhaps this magician's levitation trick is that the bar is in a vacuum.
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