Stealth bombers were originally advanced frigates aimed at an ambush predator role. They launched cruise missiles at foes from a distance and dealt very high damage to small ships like cruisers and other frigates. With the changes in the recent EVE Online expansion, they've been re-focused into an anti-battleship role. They now fling massive torpedoes that deal impressive damage to large targets but poor damage to smaller ships. In addition, they were switched from an ambush predator role intended to use normal cloaking devices to a pack hunter role able to warp while cloaked using a covert ops cloaking device.
It's all very well to speculate, but how well do the new stealth bombers actually perform? I took a gang of stealth bomber pilots out on the town for a tense PvP test drive. In this gallery article, I show a visual record of our adventure and go on to give my opinion on the new stealth bombers after a night of EVE PvP.
The strategy for a stealth bomber gang is simple. Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole like I did when taking on a frigate. Your target will be large ships, the bigger the better. The gang must remain highly mobile and cloaked until it's about to make its move or the enemy will have a chance to escape. While that's all fine in theory, we had a number of difficulties when putting it into practice. The primary problem was finding viable targets. Finding a lone battleship to gank is rare. Any group of players large enough will have several small ships or drone ships that will make mince meat out of your stealth bombers and drones will kill you very quickly.
Almost every time we found enemies, I found myself disappointing the rest of my gang by pointing out the few ships with them that would easily destroy us. The next major problem was keeping the targets still long enough to kill them. You'll need to either bring a dozen or so stealth bombers and instantly pop the enemy or bring tacklers. Our lack of a specialised tackler ship caused us to let a jump freighter target get away, which I'm still kicking myself over. The golden rule for stealth bomber squads seems to be to bring a lot of bombers and a few good tacklers.
The new stealth bombers certainly are a change from the old but after using them, I'm struggling to see the appeal. The initial appeal of being able to gang up on much larger ships quickly evaporated when we realised we were unable to deal full damage to a Drake and a Rohk despite having three or more target painters active. These ships have a typically massive signature radius and even they weren't taking full damage as long as they kept moving. Stasis webs would have helped here but getting the stealth bombers close enough to use them puts the bombers at great risk. Without a few good dedicated tacklers, a bomber squad isn't going to do much damage. The ideal tacklers will be force recon ships like the Rapier as they can also warp while cloaked.
The real kicker comes in the cost. A fitted stealth bomber will cost you from around 50 million isk, and that's before even thinking of putting expensive rigs on it. At that price, you could afford to lose a well-fitted battleship or several tech 2 fitted cruisers. The cruisers would deal more damage to targets you'll typically encounter and they'll be able to engage mixed groups of enemies without worrying about being instantly popped by an enemy assault frigate. Sure, a stealth bomber can technically deal 500 damage per second, but a Tech 2 fitted Thorax or Rupture can exceed that and it can hit for full damage against almost any size of ship. I can't help but think a cruiser gang would be universally more effective and more fun.
Have you tried out the new stealth bombers? Do you have any tips for our readers (and myself) on how to get the most of them? Drop a comment and let us know.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com.