In EVE Online, size matters. Players covet its massive capital ships, which can cost the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of dollars. The MMO is known for massive battles, with fleets of hundreds of individual players all duking it out in space. But there’s one tiny ship that really punches above its weight class, and can be flown by beginners: the stealth bomber.
Stealth bombers are a specialized version of frigates, the smallest combat-viable spacecraft in EVE Online. In the game universe, Titans measure nearly 15 kilometers in length and represent months’ worth of construction. Stealth bombers are only about 100 meters long, roughly the size of a commercial airliner. But what they lack in size, they make up for in ferocity, with the ability to equip torpedo-class weapons that would normally require a ship 10 times their size to fully utilize. They’re also completely invisible, unless they are fighting, because of their ability to equip specialized cloaking devices.
Stealth bombers are also able to carry specialized bomb-launching devices capable of fielding one of the most devastating area-of-effect weapons in the game. These bombs deliver an enormous burst of damage to a large swath of space, and when used in concert with other bombers they can completely devastate enemy fleets.
These “little ships that could” allow players to fight odds that they would otherwise have no chance against. They are one of the many ways that EVE allows smarter tactics and precise planning to outweigh the advantages of superior, more expensive, equipment.
Bombs are not without drawback, though. Explosive devices have no concept of friend or foe and are completely unguided. They simply drift along the trajectory they were launched on for a certain distance, and explode. Almost every veteran EVE player can conjure up a story about when one of their allies misplaced a bomb run and ended up destroying a friendly fleet, or even a time when they themselves were killed by the very bomb their ship fired.
If stealth bombers put yourself and your allies at such a risk, why would a player choose to bring them to a fight? In a recent battle, a battleship fleet belonging to the DARKNESS Alliance learned precisely why. A 40-person fleet of Test Alliance bombers, led by fleet commander ProGodLegend, caught the DARKNESS fleet flat-footed, destroying nearly half of the fleet in the span of a few moments.
“Bombers are the biggest force multiplier in the game,” ProGodLegend told Kotaku. “40 people can kill a 200-plus person fleet in a few seconds. There’s nothing else like it.”
The bombing run in question happened during a fight in the D06H system in the game’s northern territories, as part of the ongoing war between the Imperial Legacy coalition and the collected Northern Alliances. Unfortunately for ProGodLegend, the server was not able to process all of the bombs going off in the midst of the larger protracted battle, and the server node began to crash as the bombs started landing.
“The server dropped off when the battleships started dying,” he said. “Out of 157 ships, we only killed 92. The next wave of bombs would have taken the rest out.”
Though disappointed with the server crash, ProGodLegend was generally happy about the day’s events. “Bombers are about being extremely patient,” he said. “You get one shot and the enemy might never even line up right for it. Low odds of success, but when it works it’s amazing.”