Elite: Impressions – Adder

2015-01-01

Boldly Going Where No Reptile Has Gone Before

The second-cheapest Zorgon-Peterson design in the game, the Adder is a relatively new addition to the Elite: Dangerous lineup. Fluff-wise the Adder is an aged, near-obsolete design often found among pirates or pulling off cargo shuttle duty on backwater worlds – the big question is, how well will such an aged design serve up-and-coming commanders?

Appearance

The first thing one will notice about the Adder is how much it resembles the Zorgon-Peterson Hauler – in fact, the two ships are very, very similar in size, shape and general appearance, making it easy to mistake the profile of a distant Hauler for an Adder or vice versa. The general shape is, indeed, the same, a rounded, wedge-like shape with stubby wings rather akin to the Space Shuttle. However, on a closer examination, the Adder appears a little bit more sleek and ‘clean’. The Adder’s hull is a more rounded shape over the blockier Hauler, and where the Hauler’s frame is studded with extra handholds and external cabling/piping, the Adder has neat smooth armor plating covering its hull. A pair of diagonal stabilizer fins jut from the top back of the hull, along with a pair of rounded protrusions ahead of them – presumably sensor pods or something of the like. As a fun detail, the Adder’s already stubby wings fold up about halfway along their length once the ship comes in to dock, presumably to help the ship fit down more narrow landing chutes. The default paintjob is a cool smooth light blue, with a white vertical stripe running along the nose of the ship. All in all the Adder has a neat, no-frills, utilitarian look to it; it looks like a ship that’s designed to get shit done with a minimum of flair and fuss.

Cockpit

Like its little brother, the Adder’s interior is done in smooth, rounded shapes covered in pale creamy light gray plastic. Now the lightest two-seater ship available, the Adder’s pilot actually sits in the rightmost seat; being from a country where the cars are pretty much exclusively left-hand drive ones, this feels like a rather odd quirk. It certainly takes a bit to get used to, but ultimately it’s just one quirk that separates the Adder from the rest of the Elite lineup. Besides the interesting positioning of the driver’s seat, the Adder’s cockpit is neat and spacious. Everything’s done up in gentle smoothed curves, with what looks like a set of round AC vents or speakers for a bitching sound system jutting up from the center of the dashboard, between the pilot seats. Little recessed compartments dot the walls and the lower edge of the dashboard, presumably space for things like first aid kits and those little datachips/packages for courier missions. All in all, the Adder’s cockpit gives the impression of the cab of a big truck or similar; utilitarian, but comfortable enough to spend long hours hauling gear across the stars.

As for the view out of the cockpit, the Adder’s canopy is equally trucklike in its shape; wide and tall, curving slightly to the sides, with a sturdy vertical support beam dividing it neatly down the middle. You have an excellent field of view directly forwards – and a little bit to the sides – but sitting about midway down the height of the ship’s hull, there’s actually quite a bit of equipment (including what looks like a beefy AC unit) directly above you, limiting your field of vision directly upwards. All in all, the view’s nothing to write home about; basic navigation is simple and straightforwards enough, but keeping tabs on rapidly moving targets in a dogfight is going to be interesting with little to no peripheral vision.

Handling

Although the Adder’s definitely no interceptor, it’s still a light ship and handles surprisingly well for a ship of its relative size. You can certainly feel every ton of the ship’s mass – near 70 tons when dry, 83.8 T when fully fueled and loaded up with cargo – but the ship still responds to your controls smoothly and without fuss. Your turning radius is noticeably wider than that of a Sidewinder or Eagle, though, especially when loaded up. All that cargo mass is going to add a lot of inertia – I wouldn’t be trying agility flight anytime soon on an Adder, though I’m sure you could pull off interesting maneuvers if you absolutely positively had to.

Rather like its little brother, the Hauler, the Adder has a quite.. distinctive set of engine sounds. While the ship is almost silent when ‘idling’ and straightline maneuvering, firing off your maneuver thrusters generates a downright astounding variety of fluttering, droning, vibrating hisses, whispers and hums – somebody described it as ‘a robot scolding its son’ and I find the comparison apt. It’s not quite the ‘fell whispers from beyond the shadowed veil’ the Hauler is rightly (in)famous for, but comes close when you’re aligning yourself to dock.

When it comes to relative velocity, the Adder performs solidly in the middle of the pack – cruising at two pips to engine power in a stock Adder gets you to about 180 meters per second, increasing to 220 at full engine power. Hitting the boost, however, gives you a surprising surge of speed – boosting can kick you all the way up to 320 meters per second, momentarily. Although ships like the Eagle and Viper can certainly beat the Adder in a speed race, the boosters on an Adder are certainly much, much more powerful than you might be lead to expect – and should you come under attack, even a second or two of confusion can be the edge you need to survive.

As an interesting note, it turns out that the cargo scoop sits quite a ways back on the underside of the Adder’s hull, in fact near the very rear of the ship. Paired with the prominent nose of the ship, it makes scooping up cargo containers and chunks of ore a little bit less intuitive than you’d expect. Rather than aligning the cargo scoop targeting reticle directly on your target, you’ll want to aim just a hair above it instead – otherwise your prize might end up bouncing off the ship’s nose cone.

For longer-range travel, the ship is actually fairly well-equipped right from the get-go. The C3E frameshift drive module on the stock Adder will kick you a solid 8.47 LY in one jump – fully loaded – or 9.12 LY when fully-fueled but unladen. This is about average for a brand-new ship – and in fact, better than the Sidewinder and Eagle, and certainly much better than the eternally jump-challenged Viper – and the simple act of switching out the default E-grade equipment for lighter and slightly more powerful D-grade will up your jump range to a noticeably more impressive 11+ LY. The Adder also comes with an 8-ton fuel tank – twice as large as the Eagle’s, while sharing the frameshift drive class. This means a full fuel tank will get you in the neighbourhood of twelve max-range jumps between refuels, a feature very valuable for a long-range trader or explorer. Upgrading your frameshift drive will likely be one of your first priorities – more route options is always a good thing – but all in all, the Adder is a solid performer here.

Hardpoints

Since its introduction, the Adder has had the honor of being the cheapest and lightest ships to tote around a class-2 hardpoint – and indeed, the Adder can pack a downright impressive amount of firepower for a glorified cargo shuttle. Two class-1 and one class-2 hardpoint give the Adder in fact more firepower than the comparatively-sized Eagle interceptor (and about four times the firepower of its little brother) – if on a slightly clumsier chassis. Two class-1 gun mounts sit on the underside of the hull, behind the landing gear and near the bases of the wings;  meanwhile a rounded panel slides back atop the ‘hump’ between the ship’s top fins to reveal the C2 gun mount. All in all, the three gun mounts have a fairly good line of sight, although perhaps not an optimal one – the fins rising on both sides of the class-2 mount limit its line of sight to its lower side angles, while the class-1 mounts sit near the very back of the ship, on both sides of the cargo scoop, meaning there’s quite a lot of hull and wing above them. While the guns’ combined coverage is near-total, there are still narrow gaps one can approach the Hauler from in relative safety – although ending up directly in front of the ship and all its potential guns will hurt. While the arc where both the C1 and C2 mounts can fire upon the same point is relatively narrow, three guns of varying sizes can put a lot of hate on a target in short order.

For secondary equipment, the Adder comes with two utility slots. I was expecting the disc-shaped humps on top of the hull to be the utility mount spots, but instead the two slots end up on the bottom of the ship, squeezed between the landing gear and the cargo scoop. This does limit their arc of fire for point defense purposes, leaving the top half of the ship completely exposed, but having two of them does give you the opportunity to mount all sorts of other useful (and defensive) equipment.

Fitting

Ahh, the fun part. Honestly put, there’s not much the Adder can’t do – gun-wise the ship is a very, very solid contender for its size. Granted, it’s not the most maneuverable of craft, meaning you probably want to consider going with gimbaled or turreted weapons – but the biggest thing the Adder has going for it is its sheer flexibility. Being also blessed with a well-scaled reactor, the Adder can handle a lot of kit even in its stock configuration – including some of the more power-hungry weapons and equipment. You could go with a simple but effective setup of three gimbaled lasers or multicannons, or pack a mining laser and still pack a solid punch for your size to deter would-be pirates. Going with a full turret setup would be expensive, but essentially transform you into a pocket anti-fighter gunship to utterly frustrate your foes.

Of course there’s no discounting the fact that the Adder isn’t exactly an expensive ship – only marginally pricier than the Hauler, and about two-thirds the price of a Viper – and thus makes for the smallest and cheapest ship you can fit a C2 gun on. A combination of affordability and firepower makes the Adder a prime suspect for comedy/gimmick builds – mounting something like a C2 torpedo pylon would essentially make the ship into a two-shot bomber for taking out larger ships, not to mention packing something else silly like a C2 frag cannon, missile launcher, plasma accelerator, cannon or railgun. Suboptimal, probably, but just one C2 gun is a lot of firepower for a ship of this size, and I could see them used as a budget support option to get big guns on the field in a relatively cheap package.

Solid guns, average (if perhaps less-than-optimally placed) utility slots and finally – reasonable internal bays. Surprisingly, the Adder only has one more internal bay over the Hauler – but for a ship this size, it still has a rather generous compliment of two class-3 internal bays, two class-2 bays (where the Hauler has one) and a single class-1 bay. Combine all that together and the Adder is actually a very, very versatile craft – as long as you remember that you’re still flying a light ship, you can load an Adder up for damn near anything from light combat to exploring to hauling to mining. An explorer can easily fit a fuel scoop, discovery scanner and a surface scanner while still carrying a shield generator and a bit of cargo space for the occasional light haulage job; a combat Adder could totally and utterly frustrate enemies by making up for its relative clumsiness by packing shield cell banks, field repair units and ECM projectors or heat sink/chaff launchers. Loaded up for pure trading, you can carry about 20 tons of cargo AND a class-2 shield generator. A miner can easily replace one of the smaller cargo racks with a refinery and plonk a miner laser in a hardpoint of their choice. And so on, and so on.

As an interesting sidenote, the shield generator on the stock configuration is actually mounted in one of the C3 slots – rated for a ship of 55-110 tons of hull mass, where the hull on the Adder clocks in at a ‘mere’ 35 tons. If you believe you’ll end up seeing combat, there’s no harm in keeping it that way, but a class-2 shield generator is actually quite solidly sized for the ship and will net you a couple of more tons of cargo space (and spare reactor power) if you choose to downgrade.

Combat

I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t flown the Adder much in combat yet – I have an Eagle for bounty hunting, thank you. That said, I did get the chance to test my mettle against a couple of AI Sidewinders, and the mostly-stock Adder I was rocking performed fairly well – while I could definitely feel the fact that I had ten-ish tons of cargo bouncing around the back while piloting, I did end up dispatching my enemies while sustaining zero hull damage. The Adder is a bit sluggish to maneuver – especially coming from an Eagle, and especially on a full cargo load – but it’s still maneuverable enough to hold its own against other non-agility-based vessels. Being a clumsier and bulkier target than an Eagle, it’s liable to take more hits, but it also has a tougher hull and the capacity to mount a fairly hefty shield generator, meaning it can actually take a hit or two and keep on trucking. All in all, while the Adder isn’t a dedicated combat vessel, I’d say it’s perfectly sufficient for doing a tussle or two every now and then – at least, with the right preparations. The biggest problem with a combat Adder is the canopy, really – the total lack of peripheral vision means you’re going to be flying ‘blind’ in a furball.

Putting It All Together

The lightest true multipurpose ship. While a hull dedicated to a certain role will outperform an Adder in its chosen task, the ships remains a highly flexible, customizable, and above all, affordable ship, fit for any role you might desire with a bit of love and tuneup. Some commanders might certainly want to stick with the Adder, but whether or not you fall in love with it, it’ll do well as a stepping stone towards loftier goals. If you like the thought of the Hauler, you’ll definitely want to check the Adder out – you’ll essentially be paying a little bit of extra in order to get a Hauler+ with one extra internal slot and the capacity to mount some actual guns if you feel the need to.

Numbers

Zorgon-Peterson ‘Adder’ Light Multi-Purpose Ship

Price: 87,808 CR

Shields/Armor: 60/90

Hardpoints: 1x C2, 2x C1, 2 utility mounts

Internal Compartments: 2xC3, 2xC2, 1xC1

Mass: 69.8t (35t hull, 83.8 fully laden)

Cargo Capacity: 6 tons (max 26 tons)

Fuel Capacity: 8 tons

Jump Range: 9.12 LY unladen (8.47 fully laden)

Top Speed: 220 m/sec  / 320 m/sec boost

Power Plant Output: 8.00 MW (6.08 / 76%  used)

Default Loadout:

2x Class 1 weapon mount: 2x C1E Pulse Laser

Class 2 weapon mount: Empty

2x utility mount: Empty

Power Plant (Class-3): C3E

Thrusters (Class-3): C3E

Life Support (Class-1): C1E

Power Distributor (Class-2): C2E

Sensor Suite (Class-3): C3E

Fuel Tank (Class-3): C3 (8 tons)

2x Internal Bay (Class-3): C2 Cargo Rack (4 tons), C3E Shield Generator

2x Internal Bay (Class-2): C1 Cargo Rack (2 tons), Empty

1x Internal Bay (Class-1): C1E Basic Discovery Scanner

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by CMDR Zhor.

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