EVE Evolved: Getting ready for EVE Online’s Abyssal revolution

If you’ve seen the news recently coming out of EVE Fanfest 2018, you’ve probably heard of EVE Online‘s upcoming expansion: Into the Abyss. Pockets of a bizarre and twisted underspace called Abyssal Deadspace have been discovered all throughout new Eden, and players will be able to venture into them and encounter an all-new enemy: The Triglavian Collective. This new form of solo PvE is limited to cruiser sized ships and is the first form of technically instanced combat gameplay EVE has ever had, sending players into short 20-minute dungeons with incredibly stunning new visuals and deadly NPCs.

The rewards from this new gameplay include powerful player-controllable Triglavian ships, a new type of weapon called the Entropic Disintegrator, and organic Mutaplasmids that can be used to modify existing modules with random stat variations. The sites are currently playable on the test server but aren’t in their final form, so a lot could change from now until the feature is released on May 29th, but there’s enough information available to begin analysing the the effect the expansion will have and the strategies that might work in Abyssal Deadspace.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig down into the debate about the game balance of randomised stats in EVE Online, give some early advice on fitting a ship for Abyssal Deadspace sites, and strategies that should work in this upcoming form of PvE.

The “Enchanting” debate

Part of the EVE Online community has been up in arms over the idea of mutaplasmids and random rolls in loot and complaining about adding “enchanting” or “vaal orbs” to a sci-fi game. It’s often hard to unpick valid feedback from the hysteria regarding balance changes to any game, but there are definitely some valid concerns for CCP to address before the expansion goes live. Mutaplasmids essentially represent a controlled widening of the existing module tier system, allowing the creation of modules above officer-grade and below tech 1, but the variations don’t exactly follow the standard tier system with regard to balance.

There’s a reason that the top tier deadspace and officer armour repairers take up more power grid than their tech 2 counterparts, but an Abyssal version could end up with both better repair rates and lower power grid requirements. Some of the mutaplasmid variations will allow for fittings and strategies that simply aren’t possible today, and some of those fits and strategies could be unbalanced. It’s become clear that the range bonus on tackle modules can be increased far too much, for example, and CCP’s already begun tweaking some of those numbers down on the test server.

Another concern that does deserve some attention is that the chance of rolling high-value modules may appeal to players with gambling addictions, who could fuel that habit with cash by buying PLEX to turn into ISK. I’m not sure what CCP could do regarding that, but just ignoring it wouldn’t seem wise. Players are also concerned that Abyssal modules will make it hard to know a ship’s combat capabilities before you engage it, but this is already kind of the case. You don’t know whether that Orthrus you come up against in lowsec is deadspace fit or tech 2, Abyssal modules will widen that knowledge gap but they certainly didn’t create it.

Shaking up the meta

EVE Online has a long history of throwing a spanner in the works when the PvP meta begins to settle, be that in the form of balance changes or new ships such as Command Destroyers with their Micro Jump Field Generator mechanic. What always follows is a ship design arms race across the game as players struggle to adapt to or exploit the changes, with new players and strategies coming out on top and an entirely new PvP meta being established. Abyssal modules will be no different in this regard, and modules of the quality to heavily disrupt the meta will by their nature be highly sought and extremely valuable.

The cost of reliably generating modules that work for specific fits means we’ll probably not see Abyssal modules becoming a standard part of large fleet doctrines, but they’ll definitely be used in small gang warfare and wormhole PvP where ship numbers are small. I suspect that we’ll see several new ship fittings that rely on specific minimum rolls on certain modules, such as kiting fits that need to roll a certain range on their stasis webs and warp scramblers. We’ll also see small gangs revolving around one or two modules that only need an extreme roll on one particular stat, such as a Lachesis with an extremely long range warp disruptors. Solo PvP players who already spend billions on extreme ship fits will make out the best in this.

Fitting your ship for Abyssal Deadspace

Access to Abyssal Deadspace is restricted to tech 1, faction, and tech 2 cruisers exclusively, and the challenges inside have been balanced around this. Heavy Assault Cruisers will be the ideal ship for the higher level filaments, with their high base resistances and damage output. Their bonuses to microwarpdrive signature penalty will help you stay alive when approaching Drifter battleships, and the Assault Damage Control will give you 15 seconds of super tank when the ship hits the fan. Heavy Interdictors seem surprisingly well-fit for the job too, with large tanks and a spare high slot for a Salvager etc..

Damage in these sites can come thick and fast until you kill enough ships to even the odds or get close enough to Drifter battleships to evade their damage, so you will need some buffer tank and some kind of active response. Any passive shield tanked ships should fit an Ancillary Shield Booster as they will get below 30% shield at some points on the higher tier abyssal sites, and armour tanked ships should include cap injectors or large capacitor batteries to counteract energy neutralising drifter cruisers. It would also be prudent to stock up on Exile combat boosters for active armour tanks and Blue Pill for active shield tanks. These last for at least 30 minutes, so you can inject one before going into the site and if you get any crippling side-effects then you can wait out the withdrawal timer and try again.

It’s a race against the clock!

But you can’t just tank your way through abyssal pockets and you can’t afford to slowboat around these huge maps — after 20 minutes, the site will implode and destroy both your ship and escape pod! Every ship realistically needs a 50mn microwarpdrive or at least a 10mn afterburner. Due to the time limit and the fact that you can only go in solo, it’s extremely important to bring heavy damage and be able to apply it effectively.

Short range weapons such as blasters look great on paper but will have real trouble hitting the small rogue drone targets without a stasis web or two slowing them down, and you’ll spend a lot of wasted time not applying damage while managing range. Tech 2 blasters with Null M ammo will give you about 10-20km range, which should be considered the bare minimum to make the fit work, but railguns may just work better.

Amarr cruisers should do well with Heavy Pulse lasers and Scorch M for long range and Conflagration M for the battleship targets, but may suffer from a lack of mid slots for webs on some ships and lack of drones on others. Missiles may be more useful than turrets due to the difficulty turrets will have tracking the Rogue Drones and ability to choose damage type, but any weapon with small capacity and long reload time can actually be a serious disadvantage due to the timer limit. Packs of rogue drones can be kited to keep them out of their optimal range while you pick them off one at a time, but if you encounter a Drifter battleship you’ll need to get into close orbit of it as quickly as possible to evade its damage.

Use the local effects!

There are five types of Abyssal filament, each one leading to pockets with a different site-wide effect that applies to both your ships and the NPCs inside. These are the only variables you have in your direct control, because you can choose which type of filament you’re going to use (assuming you’re buying them from other players on the market). Fit your ship accordingly, compensating for the resistance penalty while trying to use that damage type to kill enemies faster. Missile and drone ships will again have the advantage here as they can pick which damage type to deal, but many pockets will have Triglavian structures that attack missiles and drones which get too close.

  • “Dark” filament: Gives a bonus to ship velocity and a penalty to turret range.
  • “Electrical” filament: Gives a penalty to EM resistance and a bonus to capacitor recharge rate.
  • “Exotic” filament: Gives a penalty to kinetic resistance and bonus to scan resolution.
  • “Firestorm” filament: Gives a penalty to thermal resistance and a bonus to armour hitpoints.
  • “Gamma” filament: Gives a penalty to explosive resistance and a bonus to shield hitpoints.

Once you’re inside the sites, you’ll also spot small pockets of gas and Triglavian structures, both of which will have powerful effects on the field that you’ll need to deal with. One cloud type boosts signature radius by 300%, for example, which makes you easier to hit but also lets medium turrets more effectively track enemy drones if they’re inside the field. This is another reason that all ships should be fitted with a 50mn microwarpdrive, as getting to and using these gas pockets to your advantage can turn a fight around.

Abyssal Deadspace is sure to be an interesting addition to EVE when the Into the Abyss expansion launches on May 29th, but there are still concerns for CCP to address before it does. The current version on the test server seems very promising (if a little straight-forward and formulaic) and the time limit presents a real challenge at the high end. The sites also look absolutely amazing, though the gas clouds have undefined edges and use an ugly billboard particle effect that kind of ruins the Abyssal aesthetic when you get close, so I think some work there would be welcome before release too.

To those who are worried about Abyssal modules shaking up the PvP meta and making it harder to determine the engagement profiles of ships, I say “tough luck.” If you’re the kind of player who will only engage in PvP when you know for a fact that you have the upper hand, or you’re uncomfortable adapting your current fits and strategies to a changing PvP meta, you’re in the wrong game. This is EVE Online. It’s survival of the fittest, and you’re about to become extinct.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!

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So instead of buying a lockbox you hope contains a more powerful module you are buying a mutaplasmid you hope will transform your existing module into something more powerful. I’d say in the current climate of anti-gambling mechanics in video games this is a tone deaf and dangerous move by CPP. Why don’t they just paint a giant bullseye on their back?

Whether you love or hate RNG in games… its basically become impossible to put an item RNG mechanic into any game with RMTs without the line being drawn to gambling. And this is a pretty straight line.

EDIT: instead of dreaming up ways to convince people to buy PLEX, CPP maybe should just charge whatever monthly rate they need to be profitable, and not have to run a side-casino to get by. People will have to decide if they want to pay to play because it looks like all these side-casino tricks are going to be legislated out of games. And it’s about time. The game companies are as addicted to them as the players are.

Bango on Laurelin

As a long-time Eve player (started in 2010) as far as I am concerned this change is not going to end well. I want to play in a sandbox where the economy is driven by player manufactured items being used to destroy other player manufactured items in a single universe that is accessible to everyone. Not some pseudo fantasy RNG enhancement obtained from an instanced “dungeons”.

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At the words “solo instanced” for a hot second there I was saying “y’know” then sanity reasserted itself and I’ve pretty much written this off as a non-starter.

Gamble-box concerns aside I left SW:TOR in disgust (again) because of that crap RNG gearing system Galactic Command. Wildstar was terminally addicted to RNG in the gear department, something I attribute to its failure. I’ve read the reactions in /r/Eve and it’s not pretty.

Relevant and very chilling. Perhaps some of the VC’s are pressuring Hilmar/CCP to adopt mobile tactics. Hilariously bad timing considering the legal climate wrt lootboxes in the EU.

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Tobasco da Gama

This is one of the few instances where EVE should have taken a cue from Elite: Dangerous instead of the other way around. Almost everybody hated RNGineers, and eventually FDev gave up on it and replaced that system with one that has a clear and fixed cap that everyone can eventually reach if they pump enough mats into their modules. And even more casual players can get pretty close.

Player-to-player trading and permanent module loss on death might make that less of an issue in EVE, but it’s still gonna stick in a lot of craws.