I don't often mess with EVE Online's PvE content. I've covered why at length. ;-) But I've decided from now on when I do mess with it, I'll document my impressions. I keep saying that EVE's PvE content is sub-par, so perhaps it will help someone if I give my impressions why.
So let's talk about some PvE that I did this week, the drone complex "Radiance".
Being an EVE player in California often means that you have systems to yourself late at night. Theoretically, this means that available complexes should be an advantage to the California (and by extension, the AUTZ player). One evening after everyone else went to bed I casually decided to scan a couple of nearby systems looking for complexes. The Syndicate region is notoriously poor for this sort of thing, but every once in a while, my alliance-mates get lucky. "Radiance" was the only scannable anomaly in three systems and not having run any drone complexes since the Great Drone Alloy Nerf of earlier this year, I decided to run this one. Drones give bounties, so it seemed a relatively easy way to make some ISK and get an impression of the changes.
The anomaly itself wasn't very difficult to scan down. Call it a "4" on a scale of one to ten for difficulty. The first thing I always do after scanning down a complex is to look it up on Google. Unsurprisingly, the second link (for me) was eveinfo.net, which is to complexes with EVE Survival is to missions: a great (if slightly outdated) site with an overview of what I could expect.
Glancing through the list of opponents, I decided to use an active-tanking six-launcher Tengu. It's a nice basic choice with a good tank, DPS, and GTFO capabilities. There's nothing particularly strong about it, but there's nothing particularly weak either. The fit that I used is a fully active fit with a faction Medium Shield Booster and four Ballistic Control Systems (three of them faction). The particular fit I used tanks about 275 DPS, goes about 635m/s on afterburner, is cap-stable, and does about 700 DPS with Fury missiles after I traded a bit of tank for a Target Painter. With so many cruiser-sized drone ships, I judged the missiles would need the extra help.
The site information stated that the complex is gated. This made me smile because critics of higher-value high-sec PvE such as incursions are always going on about how "risk-free" it is. There's nothing anywhere in EVE more risk-free than a gated PvE complex. Once through the gate I could scan for ships within a million kilometers of me and have plenty of time to warp off before any adversary could even enter the first room... even assuming they could scan the complex down in the first place. Stuff like this is why I always smile sarcastically when I'm told how risk-free high-sec PvE is.
The "Radiance" page at eveinfo.net was essentially accurate. It was most accurate when it defined the first room as "easy". My Tengu made very short work of it. Even though Fury Scourges were somewhat non-optimal against drones, with the Target Painter supporting, most of the cruisers fell in a single volley.
That led me to the second room. The only thing about the description that concerned me even slightly was the phrase "missile batteries". CCP mission designers usually overdo it when it comes to these things, using 20 of them when ten will do. Radiance turned out to be no exception; there were missile batteries all over the damn place, about a dozen total.
I had my one and only "bad" moment in this complex after clearing off about 2/3 of the batteries. While I was dealing with them, a small group of frigs landed on me. Two of them webbed me and one of them pointed me. This greatly reduced my speed and made my Tengu much more vulnerable to the remaining batteries. I quickly cleared the remaining batteries, then was swarmed by about a dozen or so high-damage close range drone cruisers. My shields were about 80% or so and boosting well but I could see them bleeding at about 1% every three seconds. It left me with the choice of reloading to standard Scourge to clear off the web frigates, or reducing the incoming DPS by taking out some of the cruisers first. I decided on the latter but there was a stressful minute or two as my shields dropped to about 60% while I implemented this strategy.
Once that was done, though, my shields never dropped below 95% for the entire rest of the site, including during the battleship waves. I employed the Tengu's strength at kiting, sweeping in close from time to time to save missiles by making sure I was close enough for one volley to hit before the next was launched. This also had the effect of greatly increasing my transversal against the drone ships, which I was able to herd into little blobs and so reduce the group's aggregate tracking and therefore, DPS.
Despite what the entry states, I never had to destroy or approach any structures to complete the site. Spawns seemed to appear on timers despite any actions I might have taken. I was amused at the very large number of ships in the second room, but not so amused at their bounties. I didn't expect to make a lot of ISK at this and in this I was not surprised. Most of the cruisers had bounties of somewhat under 200k ISK each and there were a lot of them. Still, eventually a small number of battleships arrived, including the noted "Sentient" model that had a bounty of about 10 million ISK. Total bounty from this complex was about 36 million ISK and it took about 30 minutes to run at my 700 missile DPS.
Once the site was complete, I experimentally destroyed the drone hive and was rewarded with five additional drone frigs. That was all.
While I was running it, a large roaming gang entered the system where I was working. I kept the directional scanner running during this period and nothing came within one million kilometers of me. In due course the gang bumped out. However, even if the entire gang had landed on my complex entry gate, they had no chance of catching me. By that time, I was in the second room, the entrance for which was 60km beyond the entry gate in the FIRST room.
I did not receive an escalation, and even if I had, drone complexes do not offer dead-space loot. Drone kills do not increase sec status. All three of these things are ridiculously dumb, incidentally. As far as I'm concerned, every null-sec complex should escalate to at least the first level to encourage null-sec PvPers to leave their home systems once in a while. The fact that drone complexes do not offer sec status or dead-space loot has been covered as a weakness by players already and I add my voice to the complaints on both counts.
Out of curiosity, I book-marked both rooms and salvaged the site. I shouldn't have bothered. The Sentient drone dropped some (apparently worthless) drone components and some T2 salvage that wasn't much better. The rest of the drones didn't do any better, dropping a rather feeble collection of T1 salvage components that were not worth the time I put into the job. Drones of course no longer drop alloys, nor any other loot.
Overall, my impression of Radiance is that it was PvE content not really worth my time. It was not difficult or challenging despite my never having run the site before. It wasn't bad, per se, but it was dull. The pay-off in drone bounties was not the equal of other PvE options in EVE, including high-sec mining. Still, the risk factor was essentially zero. There was no chance at all of my being caught in the complex. As a result, Radiance can be essentially judged as a low-risk ISK faucet requiring no special skill or preparation.
If I see Radiance again, I'll run it one or two more times to see if I get an escalation. If I do, I'll update this post with my impressions of the additional sites.