If you were to think of a game series that successfully evoked the vastness of space then Elite – not No Man’s Sky – would probably sit at the top of many people’s list. And with the release of Elite Dangerous on PlayStation 4 a new crop of commanders will finally be heading out into the black to seek fame and fortune. With that in mind we’ve assembled some tips to help you get over the steep learning curve that’ll welcome you as you start your journey from harmless to elite.
Play the tutorials
This may seem like a pretty obvious first point, but it cannot be stressed how important it is to take advantage of the tutorials on offer. This is mainly because Elite does a pretty naff job in-game about explaining much of what is going on in its massive universe. While we’d recommend trying all the tutorial missions, those you need to make sure you focus on are those covering docking, launching, and travel, as well as those that teach you the basics of combat and flight. Getting a handle on these aspects will help you a lot in the early game, as travel will make up a large proportion of what you’ll be doing, and many a new commander has managed to crash spectacularly whilst trying to make it through the docking slot of an orbital station.
Should you be after more information, though, there are a number of non-interactive training videos on the Elite Dangerous YouTube channel – accessible from the games training menu – that can provide some pointers about many of the games other aspects. However, we’d recommend not overwhelming yourself too early with these, focusing instead on getting the basics right before looking to expand your knowledge too much.
On the main menu you’ll notice options for playing the game in either solo play or open play. In solo you’ll be in an instance of the game universe completely absent of other players, where you’ll be free to interact with NPC ships and go about your business without the worry of getting destroyed by another commander. Open play on the other hand puts you in the mix with other players, and while this is the best way to experience Elite Dangerous it can also be the most, well, dangerous.
Should you decide to start things off in an open instance then we suggest leaving the starter system ASAP as they’re the sorts of places guaranteed to see high levels of player traffic. As a result, they’ll provide attractive targets for the nastier commanders out there who will be looking to blow you up just for the fun of it.
Another good habit in open play is to keep an eye on your scanner for any contacts showing as hollow rectangles – these denote a player ship rather than that of an NPC. Always assume another player is hostile and if you see anyone making a beeline in your direction jump immediately to another system, as they’re probably not looking for a chat. There’s no shame in running in Elite: Dangerous, and while the cost of getting your ship destroyed at the start of the game – should you decide to fight – is virtually zero, it’s best to develop your survival instincts early on so can be ready for the point in your career when a death can cost you a chunk of credits.
Should the worst happen and you fall prey repeatedly to player pirates in the same location, then just log into a solo instance and leave the area before jumping back into open play. Whatever you do, though, don’t switch from open to solo when in combat as this is considered really bad form, and while there’s no in-game penalty for doing it you won’t want a reputation for cheating.
Let's make lots of money
Your first priority in Elite Dangerous should be to grow your bank balance from the paltry starting amount so you can get yourself into a better ship. While your starter Sidewinder isn’t a bad ship by any means, the small cargo hold, and limited space for additional modules, means that it does restrict your avenues for making money fast.
Probably the best way to get paid early on is to get involved in a touch of bounty hunting. To do this, find yourself a nearby high security system and fly to the nav beacon located there. If you’re struggling to find it they’ll always be listed as a point of interest in your navigation panel, and will be close to the star at the centre of any given system.
Nav beacons mark the area at which all traffic jumping into the system will arrive, and by targeting and scanning each new arrival you’ll find out if anyone is wanted by the local authorities. Any ships with a bounty will be noted as 'WANTED' in red letters on your target display, and all you need to do to claim the money is to be involved in the destruction of the ship.
The best way to accomplish this is to follow the ship but not to attack straight away. Instead, wait for the system security forces to show up and engage the wanted ship – this is very likely in a high security system. At this point you may be wondering how you get the money if the space cops get involved, but in reality if you do any damage at all to the ship’s hull just before it’s destroyed – no matter how small – you’ll get the bounty. As a result, you can wait for the police to do all the work, get in a couple of shots just as the target’s hull integrity reaches single digits, and wait for the money to roll in. Just be careful not to hit the police with any wayward shots as the last thing you want is their attention shifting onto you.
You can take out ships on your own if you want to, but you may want to limit your targets to ships that aren’t flying as part of a wing, and have a combat rating at the lower end of the spectrum – such as harmless, mostly harmless, or novice.
After you have a nice number of bounties to hand in, head back to a station in the same system and collect your reward. Once you have a little money it might also be worth investing in some upgrades for your ship so you can make your life a little easier.
Gimballed pulse lasers – which automatically track you target through a limited field of fire – are a good first choice as it’ll make it easier to put your shots on target when bounty hunting. That said, you might also consider a fuel scoop, which is a handy upgrade if you want to explore further afield.
With a scoop you’ll be able to refuel your ship for free just by flying close to a star, but you need to be aware it’ll only work on certain classes of stars. Keep the letters KGBFOAM in your mind – which are all the star types you can scoop – and you’ll greatly reduce the chances that you’ll embarrassingly run out of fuel in an uninhabited system.
Never fly without a rebuy
So, you’ve made a bit more money and you’re wondering what ship you should be looking to purchase next?
Well, if you’re looking for a combat ship then an Eagle or Viper are good choices. Alternatively, if you’re after a well-rounded, multi-purpose ship then an Adder is probably for you, though the limited visibility from the cockpit will annoy those commanders who like a nice view of the stars. Finally, if you want a trading vessel then a Hauler is a good pick, and will enable you to move enough cargo between star systems to make a reasonable profit.
Once you’ve saved up and got yourself out of the starter ship, the number one thing you’ll need to remember when playing Elite Dangerous is: never fly without a rebuy!
From this point on, any time your ship gets destroyed, you’ll need to pay an insurance excess in order to get it back. Fail to have enough money to pay the bill and you’ll be back in a Sidewinder with only the money you have left in your account – and any modules or ships you may have parked up – to help you build yourself back up.
Don't let the grind get you down
While there’s a fair number of different activities you can do in Elite: Dangerous, they can all feel like a bit of a grind if you end up doing any of them for a long period. When you notice your interest starting to drop in any one, stop, and do something else. So, if you find yourself become bored of the initial bounty hunting why not mix things up by running missions or gathering exploration data by scanning systems?
With a completely open structure – and no critical path to follow – it can be easy for new players to flounder. Always make sure you set yourself both short and long term goals so that each hour you spend in space has purpose. Whether it’s a new upgrade, a journey to another area of the universe, or trying to learn a new aspect of the game, giving yourself direction will help you avoid burn out, and make your Elite Dangerous life much happier.
Need more help?
Thanks to the excellent Elite Dangerous community, there’s a wealth of tools and information available to commanders who just need a little bit of help.
Some sites that are well worth bookmarking are:
- http://inara.cz - A central repository for a wide variety of Elite Dangerous information.
- https://coriolis.edcd.io – A helpful resource focused on all aspects of outfitting your ships.
- https://eddb.io – The first port of call when you want to know where to find something – be it a commodity, space station, or faction. It also has a tool to help you calculate trading routes.
- https://www.fuelrats.com/i-need-fuel/ - Heroes in the Elite Dangerous universe. These selfless Commanders fly to the aid of players who’ve run out of fuel – no matter where they are. Essentially the intergalactic AA.
And that’s it. We really hope you’ve found these tips useful and look forward to seeing you out in the black. Good luck Commander o7.