I know exactly how you feel. I've done the mission twice on my Fed character and I doubt I'll do it again. I felt it was a supper grind both times (second time we had players with better shuttle abilities then the first time) but it really feels like what a 10-player pve should be like.
I'm not a fan of this mission myself. I ran it once and that was enough for me. I was expecting to have the same NPC reinforcements as the story mission did, but it just seemed to be too much for only 5 players. I ended up doing kamikaze runs as well. No fun.
I know what the OP means, I didn't like this one much at first, and in general I dislike shuttle missions (running the vault episode on elite made me want to poke my eyes out).
After using a runabout for forever, I decided on a whim to grab a peregrine fighter during the ship sale. All I can say is that atmosphere assault is a whole new ballgame now. Fast and maneuverable, with dual cannons and built in rapid fire, this baby is fun to fly. After being used to watching ships whiz around my runabout ad naseum, it is quite gratifying to be able to chase down any target I want.
That being said, I've had some good teams that romped through assault and hit all the optionals, and teams where it was a grind just to finish. What's most important is the team sticking together and not taking on a walker and full fighter squadron by yourself.
I hate to say "just buy a c store shuttle", but they are only 500 zen and, for me, it is the difference between hating shuttle missions and actually being excited for them. I can't speak for the delta flyer or any of the others, but I love my peregrine.
I played the mission through for the first time outside of the episode today using a Ferasan science officer in a To'Duj fighter. I'm spec'd for interference/attack on Khitomer style missions and I thought that this mission is just plain buggered. I love the idea but I have compiled the following list of issues.
1- Elachi Walkers one-hit-killing with High Yield Torpedoes.
2- Un-targetable High Yield Torpedoes.
3- Invisible timers.
4- No briefing period.
5- Cloak doesn't prevent tracking weapons from gaining a target lock.
6- Buildings that are solid obstacles to player craft are clear terrain for Elachi shuttles and tracking weapons.
The mission is truly a wonderful idea, but as everyone agrees, it's far too grind heavy. So heavy in fact, that as a three-man mission it is nearly impossible to complete at all (two guys dropped out after we missed the third Optional Objective). we ended up with one guy dying just as the second reached combat and the third was on a respawn screen.
The mission is salvageable, but I do think these points need addressing. If they aren't I can see it slowly losing players; 25 minutes of game-play for 9 fleet marks is lame at the best of times.
I have issues with the small-craft and BOff systems anyway, compounding this with over-spec'd bad guys, inconveniences like the timers and bugs with the mechanics and I am not impressed with this mission. It was dreadful in a To'Duj, stupefying in a Scorpion and I despised it in my Delta Flyer. Lord help those players that have to put up with basic shuttles for it.
I think it might actually be quite fun if we could use vessels like the Long Range Science Vessel or the Klingon Raider classes, but that would require the player to have their own ship of a specific type.
Last night I joined Atmosphere Assault by accident (I'd meant to double-click on Azure Nebula.) I was interested to see how my Boratasqu' would perform but it dropped be in my active small craft (a DujHod chariot.)
My shuttle was not set up properly at all. I think every piece of equipment I had on it was bone-stock except the disruptor array, which was the reward item from the Vault mission. I did hot BOff-swap to get TS1 and started blasting Elachi.
I didn't die once. Another teammate also survived the entire mission. One guy in a scorpion fighter died a total of three times. We missed the fourth wave bonus, but we beat the mission with 70% of the city still standing, netting me a hefty pile of fleet marks.
I'd never tried this mission before, because I'd heard it was a waste of time, but it's actually a lot of fun. Today I'm gonna run in my fed tac with his Romulanized Peregrine.