Doing Donuts on the Moon - The Tumbril Cyclone, Trail-Rated
Last time I waxed philosophical about the nature of the Stanton system in general, Crusader more pointedly, and Port Olisar specifically. I assure you, I stand by those words, at least as far as I plan to revisit them as soon as it is nostalgically profitable to do so. How bold of me, hm? Offering the observation that one day we will all look back and remember we were here, with the full intention of reminding you to look back and, well, remember we were here.
But if you've read any of my other bits and pieces scattered around Spectrum, you might be aware of a few additional facts about yours truly - namely, that I'm a technophile, and I worship devoutly at the Altar of Almighty Speed. With this comes a certain affinity for racing, and for the vehicles that people race in. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how gracious the Daymar Rally has been to host some of my writing for the forseeable future. So in this vein, and in the spirit of competitive technophilia, let's start off -- well, ah, let's continue -- with a bang.
Which is better - the Tumbril Cyclone, or the RSI Ursa?
Part of me -- the part that's sitting in the cockpit of Speedbird, my beloved 350R -- wants to reply, of course, neither. Speed is a sensation best observed in the most unshackled state possible - with technological wonders like aerospace thrusters, not stone-aged throwbacks like wheels. But the problem is that speed, on its own, doesn't equal racing. Racing needs a track, and all the environmental challenge that entails.
Another part of me declines to answer the question entirely - you see, as close as they are in both form AND function, the truth of the matter is that neither of our current terrestrial rovers of choice is even remotely a copy of the other. It's like comparing a shiny, open-air, high-performance apple with a dour, cramped, underpowered and ill-conceived orange. One of them can't possibly be better than the other. That's my story. Don't look at me like that.
So instead of an amusing, in-depth comparison of two vaguely-similar craft, using humorous challenges and skewing the results to fit my personal opinion, I've instead decided to give the Tumbril Cyclone a look on its own.
Tumbril certainly doesn't need much introduction - In one form or another they've produced the Nova, the UEE's mainstay tank, since the time of the Second Tevarin War. Of course, the tank in service today is nothing like its forbears. In the same way, the Cyclone has very little in common with what we once thought a planetary or lunar rover could be. It's small, yes - one absolute in rovers is that they need to be ship-portable and easily deployable. It's also open-air, like many of its ancestors, and takes advantage of terrain-gobbling features like four-wheel drive and independent suspension, since very few of the worlds it's likely to operate on will be conveniently paved. But from there, the comparison to the rover concept of old falls apart.
For one, the Cyclone is FAST. You see, one piece of the rover concept that's stuck in designers' heads is the fact that it's more of a mobile platform than an actual vehicle. Rovers by and large have been designed to safely carry a cargo of scientists and sensors to a location, then back. Considering the delicate nature of some intruments they might carry and the hostility of the terrain those instruments had to travel over, speed was regrettably never high on the rover priority list. The Cyclone, meanwhile, is built to travel - All its instrumentation is designed to augment the ability of its unique X-TEC tires and drive system - and to take a beating, while doing so.
For another, the Cyclone is useful -- or practical, at least. No, it doesn't have an array of sensors and analyzers and life-support systems, the things we think make a rover useful. But by stripping away the scientific gadgetry, Tumbril gives us a degree of utility that appeals to folks outside the scientific community. You won't be able to analyze the mineral content or water presence in that salt flat you're on. But you can do donuts on it, instead. Who says that isn't a worthy pursuit?
Tumbril is certainly proud of the versatility claims they make for the Cyclone, too. They've put their battle-tested stamp on the design with not one but three variants intended paramilitary use. In all honesty, though, their view is a little skewed -- by far, the best use you can get out of a Cyclone comes from the standard model's simple open bed - it's fit for a full SCU of cargo or a couple of extra buddies, at the very least, and the limits of that small but open space are up to the operator.
When Tumbril decides to fill that space with weapons, it gets a little laughable. The Cyclone is too small to be effective in either its patrol or anti-air variant, except maybe in those rare situations where aerospace power is unavailable - but in those cases, the Cyclone's open-air cockpit and systems are likely to keep it from performing up to par. The Reconaissance variant is a bit better, but again I can't see a situation where I'd prefer a ground-based platform rather than one capable of aerospace flight. Its long-range array and low profile could be helpful out in the wilds or on a scientific research mission, but in those cases you'd probably be better served by a traditional rover. And overall, the operating costs you save by limiting your arsenal to ground travel are overwhelmed by the vulnerabilities you accept. Honestly. Donuts. Did I mention donuts? I could forgive all this paramilitary foolishness, if Tumbril actually put together a ra---
-- ah. Wait. They did it, the Tumblr Cyclone RC. Combining all the base model's terrain-handling features with, well, MORE terrain-handling features, and a nitrous-esque speed boost when the terrain doesn't need to be handled. Well played, Tumbril, well played. You are forgiven.
Ultimately, the Tumbril Cyclone is the first in a class all its own. It fits where conventional rovers don't, does what conventional rovers won't, and moves like conventional rovers can't. In truth I'm even reluctant to call it a rover at all, because it doesn't feel like one -- it hearkens back to an earlier time, feeling more like ... an Ariel Astra, perhaps, or better yet a Can-Am Maverick, than a lunar exlporation vehicle. It's the craft of choice when your planetfall is less about taking samples and more about, well, practically anything else. You can do work in it if you really have to, and it'll certainly work hard, but when you strip all the work away from it, you're still left with something - something unique, and thrilling, and still somehow practical despite itself. It's worth taking a moment to consider filling your rover bay with -- well, something else entirely. Something fun.
I'll see you out there,
*In-game image by Corsaire62