An Epic Cycle

I currently would really like to write more regularly, but I have a bit of a writer’s block. I can’t think of topics that would lend themselves to posts, and even the “this is what I’m playing” ones aren’t really coming together as I would like them to. So I went through my backlog of half-finished posts and looked for something I could transform into something vaguely interesting. Thus, I present you: my impressions of the EVE Online epic arcs.

The epic arcs are long chains of storyline missions. Each of the four Empire factions (Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, Minmatar) has one. They are level-4 missions, so they’re what constitutes “single player PvE endgame” in EVE. Their stories add some additional insight into how each faction ticks. You also have one or several branch points in each epic arc, which allow you to steer the story as it develops, and sometimes influence the rewards at the end of each arc. Speaking of which, those are quite nice: typically rare items you can sell on the market or use yourself if you’re so inclined, and, at least as important, lots and lots of faction standing. There is also the introductory arc in EVE by the Sisters of Eve, and two pirate faction arcs, and while I’ve also run two out of those three recently, I want to focus on my impressions on the empire arcs here. You need reasonably high standings with either the corresponding empire or the corporation that starts the arc, and you can only run them every 3 months. Anyway, primarily for future reference, I collected some short remarks on each one.

Amarr Empire: Right to Rule

amarrThis was the first epic arc I did, especially since I vaguely remembered doing it once before without too much trouble. It starts with an agent from the Ministry of Internal Order. Along the arc, you are introduced to the way of Amarrian politics. Them being a techno-feudal society, you learn of powerful and less powerful houses, fiefdoms and political intrigue. Of all faction, The Amarr Empire reminds me most of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which can only be a plus. You initially get hired to investigate the disappearance of another investigator, and quickly learn that one house is fast to hire pirates to prey on other houses. The Ministry not being to hot on pirates roaming around sends you after them, naturally, but at the same time sends you to figure out who might have hired the pirates, while making it look like somebody else did, to discredit whoever they in turn might have siphoned money off.

When you finally catch the pirate commander, you have to make your choice: tell the authorities to “extract” information about his contractors from him, or suggest he be executed immediately. Because, you see, he’s actually a capsuleer, too, so the second the blade cuts off his head (or whatever technique they might use in the Amarr Empire), he’ll wake up at another point of the galaxy in a clone. Definitely better than being exposed to advanced interrogation techniques. I figured that sounded like a nice turn of events (plus I had decided to have a peek at the final rewards for each choice). The pirate commander is quite happy with me, and him being such an expert on clones, he manages to procure one of an Amarrian house leader, which we manage to “install” via a well-timed ambush on him, which he “miraculously” survives due to my “valiant” defense at the last second. The Empire is happy, the Sansha pirates are happy, so who’s to complain?

Mechanics-wise, the arc wasn’t very special. Most missions were comparable to standard level 4 missions. The only special part came at the end, when the Sansha pirate choice led me to low-sec. Since it didn’t seem very prudent to go to lowsec in a slow battleship, and since I had a Taranis in a system close to that lowsec pocket, I decided to use that one. That, in retrospect, wasn’t the brightest idea, because it took me a long time to kill the ship in the final lowsec mission, mostly because the guy liked to neut me. So I ended up pulsing my guns whenever I had capacitor; I had to overload them in the end to break his tank. Next time I will bring an assault frigate instead.

Gallente Federation: Syndication

gallenteIf the Amarr Empire is basically Frank Herbert’s Dune, then the Gallente Federation is western dystopia. Over the course of this arc, you will meet actors who got their first set of plastic surgeries at 14 to better appeal to the pre-teen girl audience, child sweatshops and brothels (and at least hints at child brothels) which recruit their workforce from Amarrian slave traders or impoverished parents, and a lot of “Freedom!”-thumping over mass media to gloss over that. You get recruited for a holoreel (EVE’s version of 3D movies, I presume) company to escort their teen star (the aforementioned “improved” one), which promptly goes sour and ends in an abduction. Your job is to find out who captured the boy. Preferably also why, but in the end, like in a film noir, it often turns out it’s better not to know, or at least not to say.

I liked this epic arc because of all factions, the Gallente Federation is often portrayed as maybe the most relatable to us. The epic arc spotlights the extreme sides of their world view, and the ugly, dark corners that come with it. It was also relatively easy for me to follow the story, a point that will come up again in a bit.

This arc is definitely the most brutal in pure damage output (fitting for the Gallente, who seem to have the nastiest weapons of all factions… if you manage to apply their on-paper damage…). There were two missions in which I had to warp out because my Raven could not tank the damage. And while part of that might be because my DPS is somewhat anemic, the tank comprised several Pith C-Type shield hardeners and a shield booster of the same quality. The last mission was bad enough that, even with a micro jump drive, I was barely able to kill one of the extremely nasty Veteran Battleships each time before I had to warp out again to recover; the first round, with everything alive, naturally was the most brutal, and got me low into armor and almost into structure while I waited for the warp alignment to finally finish. Tense seconds.

Minmatar Republic: Wildfire

minmatarThe Minmatar Republic has always been the odd one out for me. I don’t like their preferred weapon system’s concept (projectile weapons? How quaint in a universe that has lasers!), and most of their ships look like garbage. Besides, they have this weird tribal thing going, which reminds me of Mad Max. Or at least of what I think Mad Max is about, I never actually watched it… born a few years too late for that.

What is cool about the arc is the focus on Archaelogy. Not so much the in-game skill (though there is a bit of that, too), but in the story. You are sent to recover artifacts, ambushed, sent around to recover them again, find out they were broken up and need to be reunited (yay gaming tropes!), and generally try to figure out who is interested in these old items for what reasons. It seems to have something to do with the fact that the Minmatar only broke away from the Amarr empire relatively recently, and now try to find historic proof of their history and culture before their time of enslavement. Well, in the end, it turns out that these specific historic artifacts show that there were Minmatar groups that were pretty happy with the state of affairs under Amarr rule. Whether that was because their feudal ruler was benevolent, or whether they had a bit of Uncle-Tom-ism going… who knows.

Mechanics-wise, this was my least favorite arc. It was probably the easiest of the four, even easier than the Amarr one. All missions are exclusively highsec, and most felt somewhat repetitive. On top of that, you have to be very carefuly not to collect ugly standing hits with the Amarr while doing this arc. I resorted to eve-survival to check whether there were specific ships that I could skip killing in the missions to keep the standing loss manageable. The arc’s only saving grace is that the choice in the final mission felt “more right” than any other one in all the arcs. The artifacts belong in a museum, after all!

Caldari State: Penumbra

caldariThis was the last arc I completed, and for some time, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do it at all. I had cheated and looked up some information about it, and it seemed like it could be very annoying. I’m glad I decided to do it: it was worth it.

First the by now obligatory background: the Caldari State is for the most part run by a number of powerful megacorps which form uneasy alliances against each other. There’s lots of scheming, intrigue, and infighting. Cyberpunk in space, basically. Story-wise, this arc is probably the deepest, or the most convoluted, whichever way you want to look at it. You have several chances to betray you employer and switch allegiances, and the way through the arc and the missions you get offered depend on these choices. I wish I could say more about the story, but I’ll admit that I got lost halfway through. There was at least one too many ruptures in the storytelling; add to that the fact that EVE often isn’t doing a very good job of telling stories through their missions. I often feel like half the story is missing, and wonder whether there is some secret extra mission text that I don’t know about that makes everything clearer.

Anyway, you are a mercenary for… some corp, doing… something. Or maybe the other thing. Well, it involves blowing up spaceships, which I’m all for, as long as it isn’t mine. And thankfully it wasn’t.

Where the Caldari arc really shines is when it comes to its mission. No other arc has such a large number of different mission types. Sure, it has its fair share of typical level-4 missions: lots of battleships and smaller coming at you. Whip out your battleship and kill them all in a slow, drawn-out battle. But there are also hauling missions (transport bulk cargo from A to B), courier missions (get a small item from A to B, where either A or B is typically in dangerous space), exploration missions (scan down an anomaly and hack into the found structure), and the infamous final mission, “Across the Line”. You can have detours into low-sec and even null-sec, if you’re inclined to.  I think I used about half a dozen different ships and fits (not counting the standard “adapt your tanking modules to the expected damage” shuffling) on this arc. I really loved that, because it meant the arc had some well-deserved variety, especially if you compare it to the other arcs. I ended up using interceptors, industrial haulers, and covert ops frigates in addition to my trusty Raven.

One more thing…

One more word about “Across the Line”. The mission is known to have the strongest jamming you’ll see in any mission. Ridiculously high, at that. High enough that typically, you cannot target anything at all, and will just throw your hands up in disgust.You’ll have worked through the long, long epic arc, only to be kept from your juicy rewards by the final mission. Probably some of the pathological ECM haters (“nerf ECM in PvP! Nerf it TO THE GROUND BABY!”, to borrow a phrase from WoW) were born in this mission.

Now here’s the thing: I like ECM. I really enjoyed flying blackbirds back in the day as Uni newbie. It’s a terrific force multiplier. So I decided I wanted to show all those whiners that there’s nothing bad about it if you prepare well:

[Raven, caldari epic anti-jam]

Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Ballistic Control System II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Gravimetric Backup Array II

ECCM – Gravimetric II
ECCM – Gravimetric II
ECCM – Gravimetric II
Pith C-Type Kinetic Deflection Field
Pith C-Type Thermic Dissipation Field
Sensor Booster II, Targeting Range Script
Large Micro Jump Drive

‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
‘Arbalest’ Cruise Launcher I, Scourge Cruise Missile
Drone Link Augmentor II

Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I
Large Warhead Rigor Catalyst I
Large Warhead Flare Catalyst I

Yes, ladies and gents, that is a very non-blingy raven with the ridiculous sensor strength of 167. To put that into relation, without those ECCMs and Backup Arrays, the Raven’s sensor strength is 26.4. And since, generally speaking, those sensor strength modules are utter crap, you can get them on the market for practically nothing (less than 1 million ISK per pop).

Now, the thing is… people weren’t joking about the ridiculous jamming power of those Nugoeihuvu Elite Cruisers. I still got jammed. Which really surprised me, because, seriously? But they only managed to successfully jam me twice. Which gave me more than enough time to target those jamming monsters between jam cycles and rip them to shreds. After which I went back to the station, replaced the ECCMs with something more sensible, and went medieval on those battleships. Done. If you ever think of running the Caldari Epic arc, don’t be afraid of choosing the Hyasyoda path. Gimmick-fit your ship, be happy, and never whine about ECM again.

One thought on “An Epic Cycle

  1. I don’t play EVE nor do I have a particular desire to, but I just wanted to say that it was interesting to see someone post about the background/in-game mission side of the game, as you rarely see anything but spreadsheet calculations or fleet ops/politics being discussed on most blogs. 🙂

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