Monday, 31 March 2014

The New Rifter: Pre-flight impresions

Well. I'd like to think I had some hand in the Rifter being updated, but with ship development cycles being what they are, I think the blueprints were being finalized by the time I made my thought experiment.

The final decision: 10% Fall-off range

And I couldn't be happier! At least in theory.

Short range faction ammunition now extends to beyond scram range (9km), meaning that rookie pilots can keep opponents at bay without needing T2 weaponry. This also means that auto-cannon (AC) fit Rifters are much more competitive against blaster boats, who before were out-damaging them at those ranges.

The loss of tracking accuracy may mean tougher fights against pulse laser boats, in that getting close as you can will mean some of your shots will miss. However, ACs will still have an edge over slower tracking pulse lasers. It also makes the fight a lot more forgiving if you can't quite close the gap between you and the scorch-pulse boat.

The Rifter now becomes a theoretical attack frigate hunter. Kiting ships are at much greater risk from Barrage loaded ACs. Tougher and reasonably fast, the Rifter has a good chance of applying damage out to much longer ranges. Still not as flexible as a Tristan, the Rifter now has a good role in targeting faster, lighter ships.

Also, an interesting build to consider now: AC kiter. You can comfortably hit out to 16km, and 20km if you rig for distance. The natural speed of the Rifter helps maintain distance, and you'll be able to fit a web to control distance. Not too bad, especially considering your ACs are still effective at point blank range (and actually better with the required Tracking Enhancer).

As for the standard, brawler fit... nothing much needs to change overall. Accuracy from tracking is now swapped out for accuracy in fall-off. I've swapped out the rigs for two nano-pumps and and a burst aerator as below. The extra repair outweighs the firepower. Similarly I've swapped out the capacitor warfare for a rocket launcher secondary. I feel this extra bit of damage is necessary to make the Rifter competitive with other combat frigates.

[Rifter, standard]
Damage Control II
Small Ancillary Armor Repairer, Nanite Repair Paste
200mm Reinforced Steel Plates II

1MN Afterburner II
J5b Phased Prototype Warp Scrambler I
X5 Prototype Engine Enervator

200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
200mm AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
Rocket Launcher II, Caldari Navy Inferno Rocket

Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Small Auxiliary Nano Pump I

There are some issues I have with the Rifter now though. It's mostly to do with the secondary weapon system. Like I said, the rocket launcher is needed to stay competitive with other combat ships. This is fine at close range, but rockets are much more limited in range vs. projectiles. This is the split weapon problem: they operate at different ranges, meaning sub-optimal performance.

This problem is now magnified by the Rifter's range increase. Whereas before, a rocket was comfortably in range of the AC sweet spot, now it falls a little short of the mark. Most other high-slot options (neutralizers or vampires) are woefully short of using the Rifter's advantage.

It's hardly a catastrophic flaw. I've never heard anyone complain about the often empty high on a Slicer. But still... feels a little foolish on the designers part to do this. Ships with drone secondary weapons get away with this, since drones are effective at all ranges (part of the reason why the Breacher is my favourite brawling frigate. You can still apply about 1/3 of your damage whilst trying to catch that kiter).

Like I said before, I still think the 4-gun Rifter is the best way to go. But this is a nice step in the right direction.

But let's try this out in space!

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