[Top 7] EVE Online Best Exploration Ships From Early To Late Game

Stare into the eye of the wormhole—we promise it won't bite.


There are an innumerable number of ways to make ISK in EVE: Online, but perhaps none are as easy and accessible to new players and veterans alike as exploration. Exploration in EVE can mean many different things, from wormhole delving to relic and data site plundering (and even Sleeper caches for the especially daring player). 

In this article, we’ll be ordering the seven main groups of exploration ships from early game to late game.

It’s important to choose the right ship for the job, because specialized exploration ships have bonuses that will make your exploration experience much smoother and more enjoyable! These bonuses range from increased scan strength and faster scan times to cloaking technology and hacking module strengths.

 

1. Tech I Exploration Frigates: the Heron, Magnate, Probe, and Imicus (Early Game)

The Heron at a Caldari station

The four empires’ Tech I exploration frigates are almost always the first stepping stone for any new capsuleer looking to dip their toes in exploration. They have next to nothing in the way of self-defense, so replaceability (due to their dirt-cheap price tags) is your insurance in the face of danger.

As one might expect, they’re not particularly strong at exploration either. But for a new player starting in high-security space, where data and relic sites are not as difficult to hack into, that’s usually not an issue.

Because these ships can’t defend themselves and will fall to an ambush quickly, it’s recommended to only use them in high-security space or friendly/allied space.

Ship Bonuses per level of Racial Frigate:

  • 7.5% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength
  • 5+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength

T1 Exploration Frigates’ strengths:

  • Cheap: highly replaceable due to low hull cost
  • Speed: these frigates are fast, but not particularly agile
  • Skills: no special skills are required to pilot these ships, only Racial Frigate

Hull Costs: 680K-700K ISK (Jita)

 

2. Metamorphosis (Early Game)

A Metamorphosis in space. It's loooooong.

The Metamorphosis represents a direct step-up from the T1 exploration frigates in terms of scanning and hacking strength, agility, and looks. 

But most importantly, it’s compatible with the Covert Ops Cloaking Device, an advanced cloak that allows for warping while cloaked. This module makes exploration in unsafe areas much less risky, allowing players to escape gate camps and slip through space unnoticed.

The Metamorphosis is one ship in the line of SoCT ships, which are known for having little to no skill requirements and being good at everything. And we really mean everything; just take a look in-game at the humongous full list of bonuses! 

We’ve only listed bonuses related to exploration for this article.

The Metamorphosis is cheap enough to be used without a Covert Cloak though, so players of all skill levels can use the ship to its fullest.

Flat Bonuses:

  • 100% reduction in Cloaking Devices CPU requirement
  • 37.5% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength and deviation
  • 10+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength
  • 2+ bonus to ship Warp Core strength
  • 50% bonus to Drone hitpoints
  • Can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device
  • Cloak reactivation delay reduced to 15 seconds

Metamorphosis strengths:

  • Agility and Speed: a fast hull that aligns quickly
  • Skills: no skills needed at all for the hull!
  • Price: still affordable for many players at the entry level
  • Covert Cloak: slip by enemies undetected and avoid hostile situations

Hull Cost: 42.1M ISK (Jita)

 

3. Astero (Midgame)

We suspect the Astero is probably based off of Alcubierre drive. Neat, huh?

The Astero is very similar to the Metamorphosis, sharing the same bonuses (albeit lacking a 2+ warp core strength) and very similar niches. It’s also compatible with the Covert Ops Cloaking Device.

We’ve placed it after the Metamorphosis due to superior self-defense characteristics and a better slot layout for exploration.

Although the Astero is technically also a Tech I frigate, it’s a special faction ship handed out by the Sisters of EVE NPC group. Faction ships typically require two racial skills to operate, and the Astero is no exception, benefitting from both Amarr Frigate and Gallente Frigate skills.

The Astero also receives bonuses to tanking and drones, so it can pack a punch if need be. The downside, of course, is its price tag; costing nearly a hundred million ISK, the Astero remains decidedly out of reach for many newer players. It’s also difficult to justify using an Astero without the Covert Cloak, so the skill requirements can be intensive.

However, it’s the best ship available to Alpha clones, and so represents a sort of final frontier for non-Omega players.

Ship Bonuses per level of Racial Frigate:

  • 20% bonus to Drone hitpoints, per level of Gallente Frigate
  • 4% bonus to all armor resistance types, per level of Amarr Frigate
  • Flat Bonuses:
  • 100% reduction in Cloaking Devices CPU requirement
  • 37.5% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength
  • 10+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength
  • Can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device
  • Cloak reactivation delay reduced to 15 seconds

Astero strengths:

  • Agility and Speed: a fast hull and one of the only able to instant-align as Alpha
  • Skills: no additional training needed for the hull, only the Covert Cloak
  • Tank: bonuses to armor strength
  • Covert Cloak: slip by enemies undetected and avoid hostile situations
  • It looks beautiful!

Hull Cost: 80.2M ISK (Jita)

 

4. Covert Ops Frigates: the Buzzard, Cheetah, Anathema, and Helios (Midgame)

Cheetah cruising through Minmatar space

The Covert Ops frigates are directly modeled on the hulls of their Tech I counterparts. They have better bonuses for exploration at maximum skill levels compared to the Astero and Anathema, though they noticeably also lack in agility as the T1 hulls do.

Each Covert Ops frigate requires Racial Frigate 5 and Electronics Upgrades 5, a prerequisite for the Covert Ops skill.

The main benefits of using the Covert Ops frigates is the quick cloak cycling delay and their warp speeds: starting at 8 AU/s (compared to 5 AU/s for standard frigates), these make traversing the galaxy much quicker and reduces downtime between system scans. To compensate for the increased frequency of warps, they require less capacitor to initiate a warp.

Ship Bonuses per level of Racial Frigate:

  • 5% reduction in Core and Combat Probe deviation
  • 15% reduction in warp drive capacitor need

Ship Bonuses per level of Covert Ops:

  • 10% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength
  • 20% reduction in Cloaking Devices CPU requirement

Flat Bonuses:

  • 10+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength
  • Can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device and Covert Cynosural Field Generator
  • Cloak reactivation delay reduced to 5 seconds

Covert Ops strengths:

  • Warp Speed: blazing fast warp speed decreases time spent idling
  • Scanning: stronger bonuses than Astero and Metamorphosis at skill level 4 or above
  • Cloak: only 5 seconds to cycle cloak, compared to 15 on T1 hulls
  • Covert Cyno: can light specialized cynosural fields for Black Ops battleship jump drives
  • Covert Cloak: slip by enemies undetected and avoid hostile situations
  • Price: cheap enough to lose a ship every once in a while

Hull Costs: 23.0M-27.9M ISK (Jita)

 

5. Pacifier (Late Game)

CONCORD promotional poster for the Pacifier

The Pacifier is a Special Edition Covert Ops Frigate, so it shares many of the bonuses that the normal Covert Ops Frigates have. 

For exploration purposes, the main difference and attraction of the Pacifier is its unusually high warp speed. For parties not interested in the warp speed (or that don’t have too much money for their own good), the Pacifier is pretty underwhelming for the truckload of cash it retails at.

Ship Bonuses per level of Covert Ops:

  • 10% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength
  • 10% bonus to ship warp speed

Flat Bonuses:

  • 10+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength
  • 100% reduction in Cloaking Devices CPU requirement
  • Can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device and Covert Cynosural Field Generator
  • Cloak reactivation delay reduced to 5 seconds

Covert Ops strengths:

  • Warp Speed: warp speeds up to 12 AU/s
  • Scanning: stronger bonuses than Astero and Metamorphosis at skill level 4 or above
  • Cloak: only 5 seconds to cycle cloak, compared to 15 on T1 hulls
  • Covert Cloak: slip by enemies undetected and avoid hostile situations
  • Covert Cyno: can light specialized cynosural fields for Black Ops battleship jump drives

Hull Cost: 306.7M ISK (Jita)

 

6. Stratios (Mid Game)

The Stratios - you'll find the "warp ring" on all of the SoE ships

The Stratios is the larger sister ship to the Astero, both being distributed by the Sisters of EVE. 

While it can certainly be used for hacking relic and data sites, its larger size makes it less efficient to do so compared to any of the frigate-sized offerings.

The Stratios’ niche is actually in wormhole exploration and sleeper cells, where it boasts the active tank, cargo size, and flexibility to adapt to the situation at hand and take on the hazardous conditions found in sleeper caches.

Ship Bonuses per level of Racial Cruiser:

  • 10% bonus to Drone hitpoints and damage, per level of Gallente Cruiser
  • 4% bonus to all armor resistance types, per level of Amarr Cruiser

Flat Bonuses:

  • 37.5% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength
  • 10+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength
  • Can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device
  • Cloak reactivation delay reduced to 15 seconds

Stratios strengths:

  • Agility and Speed: a fast hull and one of the only able to instant-align as Alpha
  • Tank: larger ship means a stronger active repair and tank platform, plus resistance bonuses
  • Cargo: big cargohold capable of carrying mobile depots and various refits
  • Covert Cloak: slip by enemies undetected and avoid hostile situations
  • Like the Astero, it’s a really beautiful hull!

Hull Cost: 233.5M ISK (Jita)

 

7. Strategic Cruisers: the Tengu, Loki, Proteus, and Legion (Late Game)

The Caldari Tengu. The ship itself changes appearance depending on the subsystems fitted.

The Strategic Cruisers are quite possibly the most unique ships in EVE: Online. Instead of being one ship designed to do one job, they’re more like an empty frame that the player can engineer into doing any job using subsystems. Specialized subsystem bays and a unique ability to remove rigs without destroying them allows each Strategic Cruiser to refit to the task at hand with no drawbacks.

One of these jobs, of course, is exploration. And what’s especially powerful about Strategic Cruisers is their unparalleled offensive and defensive strengths while booting an exploration loadout.

Strategic Cruisers are best used for dangerous and unknown situations, such as Superior Sleeper Caches, Forgotten/Unsecured relic and data sites, and wormhole delving. The Strategic Cruiser is the only ship on this list capable of resisting attacks from other players head-on, but stealth is still an equally viable option with a covert cloak.

In exchange, Strategic Cruisers require in-depth knowledge of the game to both fit and fly. It’s also got intensive skill requirements, with separate required skills for the hull and each subsystem.

Bonuses listed are for Covert Reconfiguration defensive subsystem

Ship Bonuses per level of Racial Defensive Systems:

  • 7.5% bonus to Armor Repairer effectiveness
  • 7.5% bonus to the benefits of overheating Armor Repairers
  • 10% bonus to Core and Combat Probe strength

Flat Bonuses:

  • Various ship characteristics changes, including slot layouts, HP, capacitor capacity, cargo capacity, and signature radius
  • 10+ bonus to Relic and Data Analyzer strength
  • Can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device and Covert Cynosural Field Generator
  • Cloak reactivation delay reduced to 5 seconds

Strategic Cruisers strengths:

  • Flexibility: refit to any situation at hand
  • PVP: a ship that bites back and can hold its own
  • Covert Cloak: slip by enemies undetected and avoid hostile situations

Flyaway Costs, including Hull and 4 Subsystems: 350M-400M ISK (Jita)

 

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Luke soars around the galaxy of gaming—that of both software and hardware—in his Malediction, playing a variety of different genres, sometimes giving his opinions to the Goons and Hordes.
Gamer Since: 2010
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