The Ascension release has enabled large numbers of players to either return to the game or new players to enjoy the Eve universe without having to financially commit until they are ready. However, something that most people may not realize is that not all Alpha clones are the same. There are some crucial differences that lead me to wonder, ‘Are all Alpha clones created equal?’
Every Alpha clone has the ability to train into frigates, destroyers, and cruisers of their faction including the navy issue ships. They are unable to train any ships of any other faction other than ORE frigates, but not mining barges. This division is the most obvious way that alpha clones are separated, and so choosing your faction immediately limits you to fly select ships. There is another major difference for each faction of Alpha clone which is the skills that are available for them to train. I will go through each faction and explain what skills are unique to them and some of the effects that might have.
The Amarr faction generally has ships that focus on armor for defense while using drones or energy weapons for offense. This is reflected in the skills that are available for their alpha clones, including energy weapons and drones along with a limited number of support skills to go with each. Shield rigging is completely locked out as well as missile skills, other than the soon to be released new defender missiles. For a while now, drones have been a very strong part of the meta and are extremely effective at both PvP and PvE. The ability to not only launch five drones, but to have many of the drone support skills trained to IV allows for their drones to be truly viable. The other unique set of skills that Amarr clones have at their disposal are energy weapons. While energy weapons have certain advantages, they also have very an obvious disadvantage in that they require a lot of capacitor expenditure. This can be made even worse when using heat sinks to increase the damage per second (DPS) because firing faster also means using more capacitor. Most of the time, Omega clones can mitigate much of this by having maxed engineering skills and ship skills that generally give bonuses to help. Alpha clones are limited in the engineering skills which limits overall capacity and recharge time, as well as ship skills which can sometimes reduce consumption by an additional 10% per skill level. Because of these handicaps, Amarr Alpha clones will have a harder time using energy weapons and will be subtly nudged towards focusing on drones. For these reasons, I believe that most of these clones will end up using Dragoons and we will possibly see a rise in the use of Arbitrators.
Caldari Alpha clones have skills that are specialized for the traits of their faction ships. This means that they can train hybrid weapons and missiles with decent support skills, but only have the bare minimum in drone skills and lack the armor rigging skill. This means that while a Caldari clone can launch five light drones, they will not have any bonuses from support skills and won’t do as much damage since the ‘light drones’ skill can only be trained to level one. While hybrid weapons do use capacitor, it is significantly less than energy weapons and therefore are not quite as skill dependent. In addition, Caldari clones have access to missiles which require no capacitor to use and have the advantage of selectable damage types. With frigates, Caldari has some popular ships including the Kestrel for missiles and the Merlin for hybrid weapons, along with navy ships that specialize in each for players to use as they grow. The Corax is not used as often, but could find itself becoming more popular as missile Caldari clones look to upgrade their ships but not yet reach cruisers. Cormorants will probably continue to be popular as sniping ships and I would not be surprised to see fleets of alpha corms finding their way into battles. With regards to Caldari cruisers, Caracal fleets have always been a thing and will probably increase as these become an alpha clone staple. There is even good upper tier development available in the case of navy issue Caracals and Ospreys which are both solid missile ships.
The Gallente Federation has an emphasis on armor ships with a combination of drones and hybrid weapons, and once again, their Alpha clones have skill limits to match. They have all the same limitations and benefits that the Amarr clones have except they use hybrid instead of energy weapons. As I mentioned before, hybrid weapons are more forgiving when it comes to capacitor issues. While Gallente and Amarr clones share the same skill availability when it comes to drones, I feel that their ship selection makes all the difference. To start things off, Gallente clones have access to the Tristan which is the only standard frigate to be able to launch a full flight of bonused drones. The Tristan has sat at the top of the frigates for a while now, and I don’t see alpha clones changing that at all. Next come the destroyers with the Algos being another excellent drone boat and the Catalyst being a favorite for ganking. It is likely that both ships will continue to be used heavily, and since CCP has decided not to lock Alpha clones into always having their safety on, Catalyst ganking could become one of the all-time favorite uses of Gallente Alpha clones. When it comes to cruisers, the Vexor is a solid ship that is good for both PvP and PvE which will continue to be popular with Alpha clones. The Gallente Navy Issue ships are some of the most popular with the Maulus being an excellent tackle ship, the Comet for pure DPS, and the Vexor being a great ratting ship even for Omega clones. Even the industrial ship selection can easily be considered superior than the other factions with the diversity and specialization in cargo bays.
Last but not least is the Minmatar Republic whose ships use a mixture of projectiles and missiles and can be either armor or shield tanked, though they tend to lean towards shields since armor can be too heavy for their duct tape. Their Alpha clones are steered towards shields as they lack the armor rigging skill and have the same limits on drone skills as the Caldari clones. Minmatar clones have the benefit that neither of their weapon systems, missiles and projectiles, use capacitor and therefore are not really effected by the engineering skill limits. They have access to one of the original high volume but low skill ships, the Rifter. I would not at all be surprised to see more swarms of these ships roaming around as Alpha pilots discover how cheap yet effective they can be. The Talwar has always had a fleet presence, and the Thrasher will continue to be popular as well as the Alphas’ alpha ship for ganking and other forms of PvP. When it comes to the cruisers, the Stabber and Rupture have been more of a high-sec and low-sec ship usually used for chasing down smaller ships or just applying quick DPS. The Scythe is often one of the first logi ships that pilots fly, and it will be interesting to see if Minmatar Alpha clones are pushed in that direction. Even though the Fleet Issue ships that are available to the Alpha clones are decent, they still tend to be more niche ships than mainline for most fleets.
So What Does This Mean?
To summarize things, I feel that most Eve veterans who are creating a free alt already know about most of these differences or quickly figure it out and are able to adjust as needed. Newer players will probably find themselves creating multiple new characters in order to try out each flavor for themselves before settling on one. Overall though, I suspect that most of the new Alpha clones that are created and find consistent use will be Gallente, followed by Caldari, with Minmatar and Amarr trailing behind by quite a bit. While I like how the opening character creation tells you about the history of each faction, if the true goal is to inform new players about what kind of character they are choosing, that part of the beginning needs to be updated. This is because, my own answer to the question I started with is ‘No’, not all Alpha clones are created equal.