The Rifter is an attack frigate, a ship class meant for front line fighting. It has good base speed, and a good weapon platform, but suffers from deficits in base armor and powergrid.
The Rifter has a particular advantage against many other frigates due to the falloff range bonus afforded to the weapon system. There are good 5MN and 1MN variants, with possible 200mm and 400mm armor options. In solo frigate PVP fights in EVE Online, falloff range can be the difference between missing the target entirely or landing steady, long range volleys from outside that targets range.
A Punisher-class frigate is an Amarrian T1 variant. As far as EVE Online ships are concerned, the Punisher hull comes with greater resources and more armor than the Rifter without any modular enhancements. They can be pretty evenly matched after full upgrades, with the differences between capabilites of each ship resting heavily on the ability of the respective crews within.
A big disadvantage of the Punisher is the slot layout; it has the room for only two medium power slots. This causes problems at times against the more versatile Minmatar frigate. Having only two midslots on a frigate means that there’s typically a propulsion module and a tackling module, but that’s it. Everything else is a high power or low power slot, excluding the actual installed rigs and whatever they can cram in the cargo bay.
Of the many things that the MLF Republic Frigate crew didn’t notice was that this Punisher had a 5MN propulsion module, meaning a stasis webifier is basically useless without also using the warp scrambler. EVE Online gameplay gives very little time to analyze familiar data in an uncomfortable format.
What was obvious was the Imperial Frigate seemingly cooperating with the Punisher, punching the throttle wide open and blasting overhead of the Rifter and far ahead as the enemy chased from behind.
It was something Hannibal had never seen an Imperial Frigate do; a flanking maneuvre seemingly to cut off the targets escape. The armor of the Republic Frigate was beginning to fail under the constant barrage of lasers from both enemy ships. The hull of the ship was starting to take damage.
Banking hard right saved the day, as the double plated Punisher skipped through space across the sky behind the Rifters sharp, 90 degree course correction. The speed advantage from the microwarpdrive was turned against the Punisher as it lost more and more control, sliding ever so slightly further and further out of range as the Rifters rate of acceleration increased more and more with each passing second.
The engines, already damaged from enemy laser volleys, were pushed beyond the manufacturer’s recommended maximum speed. The hull of the ship in the vicinity of the engines began to glow.
The range between the Rifter and both Amarrian ships had passed 5000 meters; by 6000, the entire exterior of the Republc Frigate rung a bright orange under the heat and radiation emitted by the overdriven rocket thrusters, which were now rippling with heat in pale yellow.
The Punishers were falling behind, but the pace was unsustainable.
The closest one was fit with two propulsion modules, presumably, and didn’t appear to be struggling to overcome the pace set by the Republic Frigate. It was powerless to intervene in the escape, however, having used both its mid slots purely for speed. It fired regular volleys from its primary weapons which were failing to hit the target with increased regularity.
The further one was equipped with the means to scramble a warp attempt, but dropped out of range to use their module. The officers aboard the Republic Frigate locked eyes under wrinkled forheads as the ships warp core stabilized itself. A moment of bracing for the slingshot over the straining of the afterburner, and the Rifter thumped safely into hyperspace. The crew of the Republic Frigate has fought, and lost; but lived.
And again they fought, on a recent patrol, and with another Punisher. This time, the Rifter attacked, instead of defending, and caught the Punisher completely off guard.
The Imperial Frigate patrolling the outpost was too far out of range to intervene as the Republic Frigate’s 200mm autocannons thundered to life, violently rippling the otherwise tranquil surface of the defending Punisher’s shields.
It retaliated instantly. White hot lasers flared menacingly through the shields of the Republic Frigate and made contact with the armor of the ship itself. The ancillary repair team sprung into action, welding shut giant polycarbon plates of armor into place onto the bulkheads of the ship’s port side. Weaving throughout the teeth of the warp acceleration gate, the Republic Frigate laid steady autocannon fire on the enemy from a comfortable 4 kilometer distance, evading the optimal range of the Punisher’s guns.
Having engaged on more favorable terms, the Republic Frigate was too much for this new Punisher; the damage it dealt was absorbed or mitigated, but its own defenses buckled under the assault.
Although the three Punisher-class frigates faced by the Republic Frigate were technically similar, their strategic applications were so different that they may have been considered different ships altogether.