Other than trying out the hacking mini-game enough times to get a budding case of carpal tunnel syndrome and the occasional belt ratting to build up sec status after various low-sec misadventures, it's been about a year since I've done EVE's PvE. Come to think of it, other than the summer summit and the occasional CSM8 campaign question, it's been about a year since I've thought about EVE's PvE.
But it seems fairly public now that we're going to see more PvE improvements in EVE's future, and the upcoming ghost sites have me thinking about the topic again. So when a scannable site that I hadn't done before -- Serpentis Prison Camp -- appeared in Rote Kapelle's home system, I decided to dust off the old PvE ships and give it a spin. As with the last couple of times I did this, the rules remained the same. My ships of choice were two more or less identical active-rep after-burning HML Tengus, old school with small reppers cycling as fast as my home's electrical meter. Because I could, I looked up the site on EVE's wiki and found it to be an 8/10 with a very easy-sounding set of targets. And in I went, with occasional glances at local and a d-scanner running to check for anything warping in my direction.
My overall impressions of EVE PvE haven't changed: it's not engaging and it's not difficult. I would judge this site to be easier than the last three I ran last year. Call it a 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, about the same as a moderate Level 4 mission, Gone Berserk, say. The wiki's description of the site was quite accurate and at no point were either of my Tengus in any danger whatsoever. In room three, I got a Shadow Serpentis Grand Admiral spawn which was easier to kill than the room's Vice Admiral and dropped a Shadow Serpentis Neutron Blaster Cannon and a Shadow Serpentis Magnetic Field Stabilizer.
Unlike other Serpentis sites, missile towers were kept to a minimum and there were only a few stasis towers in the last room. The last room was the only part of the exercise that elicited any reaction from me whatsoever, a "huh" when I realized I was surrounded by six or seven groups of the highly inaccurate Serpentis rail ships, about 65 rats in total. This time, I didn't even bother try kiting them. I just set up camp around the room's final structure and orbited. There were only six scramming/webbing frigates and I made very short work of them with T1 missiles, then was faced with endless waves of destroyers and frigates each of which exploded in a single volley.
Meanwhile, the screen looked like a fireworks display as pretty much everything on the field "misses you completely" and "misses you completely" and "misses you completely." If I were the Serpentis, I would be embarrassed at my team's gunnery. Also unlike previous Serpentis sites, sensor damps also proved no trouble at all; I've encountered more effective damping from Guardian frigates in my home system's asteroid belts.
The site's major annoyance was it's final challenge: a structure equipped with very thin shields, very thin armor, and acres of structure. That was compounded with armor and shield reps that effectively cancelled out 1000 DPS or so. My two Tengus weren't quite up to the challenge. They could gradually reduce the structure but after a full volley of Fury missiles from both ships I judged that the number of missiles needed to do the job would be unacceptably high. I went back to station, traded in my Tengus for a pair of high-damage battleships, one shield-tanking Vindicator and one armor-tanking Armageddon Navy Issue. The final structure would occasionally launch a high volley torpedo and once the BSs landed on field, the Vindicator drew the station's ire in its entirety but even without any sort of active rep its shields dropped to about 85% and stayed there.
The two battleships were a lot more satisfactory about pushing through the active reps and popped the structure in about four or five minutes. The trip through the various acceleration gates took longer.
I've never been particularly lucky at site loot drops and this case was no exception: nothing except the 21st Tier Overseer's Effects, worth about 80 million. My two faction drops were worth another 200, and the site itself was worth about 45 in bounties.
Again for interest's sake, I salvaged the three final rooms to find the exercise wasn't worth my time: about 20 million in assorted low-end loot, a lot of that concentrated in the 8 million or so in T2 salvage from the single Shadow Serpentis wreck. Still, the new mobile tractor deployables would almost certainly make the exercise worth it come Rubicon. But you'll need three of them, one to anchor in each of the site's three rooms. If I ever do this site again after Rubicon drops, I'll remember to bring some along.
The next day, I was entertained by the notion that Clockwork Pineapple ran the last room of this same site with a T1 cruiser gang supported by T1 logi. Of course they got much better loot than I. I've just never been all that lucky... ah well.
At this point I think I've run all of the scannable sites available to me in Syndicate at least once so this is likely to be the last post in this series until I either join another alliance or Rote Kapelle moves to another region. ;-) Or at least, until the ghost sites start appearing.(1)
(1) As I was wrapping up editing on this post, I realized the name of this post -- like many of the things that I write -- has a double meaning. It could be the name of the site... or it could be a metaphor for Syndicate itself...