I planned to post this yesterday, but as it turns out, there's a rule against posting similar discussion topics more than once per day. I'm going to comply with these rules, although I don't really agree with the approach. As such, I'm limited to one honest opinion per day. Sorry!
Ah, the Explorer. This lovely little ship was my very first medium vessel, and for a good reason: I had stayed up all night making plans, doing research, looking into what would be the perfect next upgrade from my Viper Mk IV, and I came to the conclusion that, for what I wanted to do, the Asp Explorer was perfect. I grinded out courier and massacre missions for three whole weeks, then flew down to my local starport, and boy oh boy was I excited to get started.
As always, this is not a statistics showoff or showcase of facts and knowledge, this is an opinion piece, and I hope that it will be treated as such. Now let's dive right in!
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have a little bit of bias here, so let me acknowledge it right now: the Asp is not for everyone, and just because I'm about to sing my praises of this ship for the next hour doesn't mean I believe it to be the best ship there is. I'm just overly fond of this ship, somewhat out of sentiment, somewhat out of preference. Now back to the opinion!
TL;DR: The Asp Explorer was my first medium vessel, and arguably one of my favorite ships, period. It can do a little bit of everything, regardless of the name, and I would happily recommend it to any new commanders looking for a flexible, agile, jack-of-all-trades vessel. The canopy, while nice to look at, is a huge disadvantage in combat, however.
Though the ASPX is the 3rd ship I ever purchased, it's the 2nd ship I bought and kept for longer than 10 minutes. I went from the Sidewinder to the Eagle (for like 10 minutes, as said earlier), then back to the Sidewinder, skipped a few ships to the Viper Mk IV, then the ASPX. It was a real grind to get to it, but in my opinion, I'm glad I stuck it through: it's the ship I ended up using the most, before getting to where I am now.
Firstly, as a freighting vessel the ASPX is a relatively inefficient, but perfectly usable option at 130 tonnes maximum. With a shield and docking implements, you can reach a modest 112 tonnes, which is no laughing number. Combine that with a considerable attack profile (which I will get to in a moment) and you have a ship that's relatively hard to steal from, and can carry a nice haul. In my experience, I didn't use it much for freighting, as that would come later, but it's a perfectly viable option.
In my opinion, the ASPX is one of the single best bounty hunting vessels early on. Notice how I said bounty hunting, and not combat as a whole: I'll get there soon. With 6 hardpoints, you have a lot of flexibility in your loadouts, and unlike the DBX, you don't have such severe power management issues. You also carry 4 utility mounts, which is more than enough to carry boosters, chaff, a KWS and whatever 4th peripheral you desire. Additionally, the ASPX is rather fast, and boasts some formidable maneuverability for a medium vessel, on par with the likes of the Alliance Chieftain (I believe) or the FDL (which I have never flown).
And of course, per its namesake, the ASPX is a very viable alternative to the DBX, if you desire more comfort over utility. While the DBX has theoretically higher jump range, the ASPX has a significantly easier time keeping itself powered, and has much MUCH more space for all the QOL modules. A C6 fuel scoop will get you filled up much faster than a C4!
As a mining vessel, the ASPX is usable, although it's a little inefficient. It's particularly hard to defend yourself: if you equip one of each necessary mining tool, you only have 2 small hardpoints for defense, which is hardly enough. That said, you can carry a modest amount of refined material, and still fit a shield. Still, I would recommend something more tailored towards mining.
That said… the ASPX has some glaring issues.
Firstly, the ASP struggles to control its heat. Unlike its Diamondback brother, the ASPX has no power management issues, but runs much hotter, while the DBX runs like an ice cube, but can't power itself. Additionally, the ASPX has noticeably lower jump range than the DBX, but balances this by being able to carry a C5 Guardian FSD Booster, compared to the DBX's C4 cap.
Furthermore, while 6 hardpoints sounds like a lot of firepower, all of these modules are either small or medium, meaning that against a Large ship, the ASPX is reduced to almost half of its base DPS, and that's before accounting for armor hardness and resistances! At a comparable price, one could obtain a Vulture, which would be much more suited towards anti-large combat.
Which segways into arguably my biggest issue with the ASPX, and what I believe nearly prevents it from being useful in a CZ: the canopy.
Aside from looking cool, the canopy is a nuisance. It protrudes so very far from the body of the ship that one well-placed cannon shot would shatter it, and this has happened to me numerous times – particularly in Conflict Zones. At least in my experiences, the CZs are no joke, compared to the Haz Res sites I'm used to. If your shields go down, you're in for a rough time, and the ASPX is the worst example of this: your canopy is nearly guaranteed to break. Now aside from putting you on emergency oxygen, losing your canopy also cuts down your HUD, making it very VERY difficult to fly, and nearly impossible to track your targets, guns, and missile alarms. Generally speaking, if I lose my canopy in a fight, I tend to just run, because it's easier and safer.
This, combined with the fact that the ASPX has relatively soft armor and not-exactly-fantastic shields, makes for a ship that can be tricky to use in pure combat. It's definitely not impossible, but I would strongly recommend a better suited ship for Conflict Zones. High(ish) DPS is an attractive prospect, but the ASPX is a bit of a glass cannon.
Regardless, the ASPX is a capable vessel, and I'm glad it was my introduction to the Medium ships. About 3 months after I bought it, I stripped it for parts, and sold the chassis to buy a Krait Mk II, a decision that, in hindsight, perhaps wasn't the right one. Still, Ganymede lives on in my Krait, as the FSD hasn't been changed at all. The ASPX served me well, and it is still to date one of my personal favorites. While I can't really advise it for raw combat, it will perform adequately against pirates – or even as a pirate – and can get some nice jump number while still affording all of the luxury modules, to include an SRV.
That concludes my review for the day. Thanks again for reading, and I look forward to reading the comments. Stay safe, and Fly Dangerous. o7