Monday, 4 May 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Combat Sidewinder

Hey space cadets, what is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In this article we'll be looking at the ultimate underdog, the Sidewinder, and the upgrade choices I've made recently.  Since starting from scratch again I've flown the sidewinder for a lot longer than I did first time around, but its quite a system shock to be in the ship.

The shop floor sidewinder has class-E components across the board, dual pulse lasers and is a 4T vessel with a 6.96 - 7.56 Light year range.  While the ship was initially free, for fairness of comparison its got a purchase price of 32,000 Credits.

With only 1000 credits to my name I took this Class-E sidewinder out to a local conflict zone and shot up some bad guys to earn enough for upgrades.  I gave a review of the Class-E sidewinder in my first article and this will carry on from there.

Flight Feel
The sidewinder is the eternal underdog, and starting from Class-E doesn't help, but you have to fly it to its advantages - little as they are.  You have to get into point blank range to stay out of fire arcs, which is a dangerous place to be when it goes wrong but you can't outgun or outshield other ships to repeated lancing attacks are never going to go in your favour.
Corkscrewing around your enemy at point blank means vary carefully matching speed, tapping flight assist on and off when you need it and making boosts if you have to. You'll spend your whole time staring at a ships top surface or underbelly that will near fill your view but that's just peachy. Larger ships with turrets will tear you a new canopy, and I haven't found a way to deal with that yet but tight turns with fixed forward pulse lasers will do the damage against everything else.
Because of the way angular velocity works, if you are close enough you should be able to stay in the sweet spot for long periods of time. As you increase your distance you'll find they can turn quickly enough to level weapons at you, and your only response to getting shot at is to get closer.

Power Distributor
The first problem I has was my laser banks empting, so upgrades went into the power distributor to try and get more bank for the buck. Each grade above Class-E gets you about 10% more, with the Class-A getting you 40% more capacity and a 50% higher recharge rate to weapons and costing 20,000 credits.  The extra power to engines and shields is a well received bonus here - The class-E shields aren't enough to keep you safe if you get tagged, and its impossible to boost to safety with the shop-floor ship.

Even with a Class-A power distributor, and flying like I was in a vulture, I found that I still got hit in combat zones. Sometimes you'll approach a ship that you didn't expect to have turrets, or take hits from a second ship on your six. In these cases, you've lost your proactive stance and have to read the situation and react.
The Class-E shields are rated at 52MJ, and you get an extra +4 out of each class upgrade. Its not that significant but every little helps.  The Class-D is a snap at 6000Cr, and even the Class-C is affordable at just under 18000Cr.  The step up to the Class-B shields is a massive 53KCr... So here comes the science bit...
The Class-C shields with a OD Shield booster in your utility slot will cost 40K, and get you a 64.8MJ shield strength compared to the 53K you have to pay for the same protection from the Class-B shields on its own. The same goes for adding a second Class-D shield booster - cheaper and better protection that those big old Class-B shields.
However, You'll need to upgrade your Power Plant to Class-D for an extra Six Thousand Credits to be able to run the C-Shield and D-Booster combo. But its still cheaper and well worth it.

Mathmatical Madness?
I know it looks like I was overthinking the Sidewinder outfit, but I had plenty of time to think. Every few kills I scored, I'd get scratched up and it only takes getting destroyed and loosing your earnings a couple of times before you realise you need to dock, repair, and spend your pittance finding the most cost effective next upgrade.
My Power Distributor and shield setup is a 90K ship, and I viewed each purchase as the most important next thing to buy. Your experience may vary, but this is what mattered to me.

Obviously I'd love to spend the money on top-spec shields, but that spend comes in at about a million credits - ten times as much as my current bank balance, although I suspect even a top spec sidewinder is going to be a difficult ship to keep safe.

For the record, a Class-A sindewinder isn't going to cost much more than a million credits as the shields and power systems are going to be your biggest purchase. I know 1M sounds like pocket change to experienced pilots, but when you start out it's a daunting milestone.

Internal Systems
I found myself buying other ship systems one at a time as I could afford them, and not worrying too much about the exact build. The importance of the Power, Shields and Weapons took priority over everything else, and had I really focused on shields it would have cost every credit I earned.

The dual laser pointer setup of the stock sidewinder quickly gets tiring, but the other options aren't super inspiring either.
The gimbal pulse lasers have the same power consumption as the fixed-forward, and although my fire arc wasn't a problem they do make it easier to target subsystems and take a little pressure off of the turn.
The fixed forward beams cost about 37K each - half as much as the gimbal beams and after getting used to pulse lasers for so long the extra damage output is really appreciated and you've just about got the energy to run them.
My biggest problem with the pair of small hardpoints was the lack in killing blow. The dual beams will take down shields - maybe slower than you are used to but they manage it. The problem is they take several sustained bursts to slice through all but the smallest hulls and I found a number of enemy ships fleeing the battle and making the frame shift jump.
Fitting one beam and one cannon or frag cannon is a problem in the sidey, as the projectile weapons require different target leading to the laser. Even at point blank range this can still make a difference, and for this reason I'm going to recommend one gimbal and one fixed if you don't want them both on gimbals.  I found that a fixed beam and gimbal cannon felt pretty good.
The beams cost 37K for fixed and 74K Gimbal.
Cannons come in at 21K for fixed and 42K for the gimbals
The 1E Fraggers are 36K and 54K for the Gimbals.

I didn't try multicannons, and while I know they are favourites of some pilots I've never really got on with them. The choice here starts to become a personal one, although I usually recommend frag cannons for escort fighters and cannons for conflict zones.
The cheapest option, 37K fixed beam and 42K Gimbal cannon, works surprisingly well and I liked that a lot - and not just because of my limited funds. I found most ships that fire chaff do so fairly early, so the gimbal beams lost track early and slowed down the initial fight. This pilots choice award goes to the beam+frag combo rather than the straight cannon because I liked the additional damage per second and didn't mind the trips back to the station to re-arm as I could claim some bounties.
The downside of the extra time taken to break down shields can be a problem

With its fragile hull the combat sidewinder is a dangerous way to earn a living, but you can still pick up bounties as long as you don't overcommit. Conflict zones are a lot more dangerous than single bounties because you aren't equipped to deal with more than one ship at once and the sidewinder gets outnumbered quickly. Unlike the larger fighters, life in a sidewinder can switch instantly from full shields to punching your ejector seat so I'd recommend cashing in bounties frequently and repairing even small scratches in your hull - overconfidence doesn't just cost you your insurance payout, but you lose bounties which is the larger tragedy.

The sidewinder is a much more competent ship that I'd previously given it credit for and while it's no match for a vulture you can still deal the damage if you can stay out of trouble.  The insurance cost is very low although repairs, insurance and ammunition do add up when you are on the poverty line.

I've more than answered the question "why does anybody fly a sidewinder?" although I'm very unlikely to switch back to one once I have the couple of million needed to buy and outfit a Viper. I'm not sure if I'm going to stay in my trusty sidey until then or switch up to the Eagle and repeat the process.  I suspect the Eagle is going to earn money faster than the sidey, and with a bounty hunting community goal this week every it'll pay to take every advantage I can get.

Any other thoughts from dedicated sidewinder pilots? Have you every gone back to the Sidey for a bit if wing-and-a-prayer space-flight?  Which loadout did you settle on?  If you have any outfitters articles you'd like to see, thoughts feedback or comments then let me know.

Don't forget to like, share, favourite, follow and subscribe. I'll be back soon with a review of that Eagle. Until then, fly casual.