No matter what vocation you choose to follow in Elite Dangerous there is bound to be a time when you are going to be facing off against opponents and start using those guns. As someone who has lost an unfortunately large number of ships I can tell you it doesn’t get easier as the bigger and fancier your ships are the worst it feels when you lose one through making some bad decisions.
Hopefully some of the things we cover here will help you on your own travels and give you an edge. Another useful resource is the Elite Dangerous Wiki with pages covering a substantial number of topics within the game.
If you’re new here and looking to make a start, check out our first guide on Elite Dangerous.
Choosing the right ship is still important
From the moment you start playing the game you have to be mindful of having the right ship for the task at hand and that is just as relevant when you are duking it out with other ships in the galaxy. You might be comfortable in your own little vessel and its trading runs but if you aren’t prepared for when things turn nasty you might be saying goodbye to that hard earned vessel.
Weapons: fixed, gimballed or turreted?
When selecting thermal or kinetic weapons for your ship one of the options you might have to choose from is how they are mounted. Making the right choice can help determine your own effectiveness in combat so it is worth figuring out what works best for you.
- Fixed: forward facing, requiring aiming down the crosshairs. Most powerful.
- Gimballed: forward facing with limited target tracking.
- Turreted: full target tracking, limited only by hull position. Least powerful.
If your ship is nimble and you’re a VERY good pilot, you might want to consider fixed weapons as successful hits will cause the most damage. For pilots of less talent, gimballed weapons give you assisted targeting that can help you a lot when taking on ships with better manoeuvrability.
Turrets might seem to be the worst choice due to their lack of power but if used appropriately they can give any ship a decent chance to fight. The most important thing to keep in mind with turrets is placement; positioning them appropriately on your ship’s hull to give them a maximum field of fire will make them extremely useful. Having these on your ship’s belly or back can make fighting nimbler ships a lot easier. Once installed, go to Functions in your Systems menu and ensure that turrets are set to “fire at will” – this makes them fire and forget weapons that will keep going until they are depleted or your target is destroyed.
During combat, learn to roll the ship so that the turrets have full visibility of your target and they will continue to chip away at their shields as you turn around to bear your main guns on them. If you can get their shields down with your main guns early in a fight, your turrets can go a long way towards finishing them off.
Of course there’s more weapons to choose from than just lasers and cannons. Missiles, in both dumbfire and seeker variants, and torpedoes offer useful alternatives to your ship’s arsenal but I feel they are more better for more established players who can afford to keep their ship stocked as you have limited ammo and they are expensive to replenish.
Despite that, I do think having a “fire and forget” weapon available such as seeker missiles can be plenty handy to have and is worth considering as an addition to your regular complement of weapons if you think you can spare a hard point or two.
In what might rank as one of my dumbest tips ever, if the turns are getting too difficult in a chase consider that your ship can also fly in reverse. Slow down as best as you can until the reverse thrust kicks in; there will be a brief moment as the ship grinds to a halt and becomes a sitting duck but once you get moving again your opponent faces the prospect of pursuing a ship that now has all of its main guns pointed right back at them.
Perhaps not an ideal method of fighting near a station or amongst asteroids (what do you expect when flying backwards?) but worth experimenting with in deep space.
It’s all in the reflexes
Choosing the right weapons is one thing but being able to aim it is another. Getting those skills while also understanding the limits of what your ship is capable of will go a long way in ensuring your chances of survival remain high.
It’s important to remind yourself that outside of supercruise the blue zone in your ship’s velocity indicator (right side of the radar) shows the optimal speed to maximise your turning circle. Using your boost can help you get out too but remember it is a limited resource that is likely to be running out quickly if all your power is diverted towards weapons.
I know my own skills in manoeuvering a ship in battle needs work; it’s usually exposed when encountering other players in the game. Taking on a wing in CQC, Elite Dangerous‘ own take on competitive multiplayer, is likely expose my lack of flying talent even further.
Thankfully there’s plenty of useful tutorials out there like the one below that will hopefully have you and your ship spinning on a dime. Or at least turning with a little more skill than before. It definitely makes me realize I should be using thrusters for more than just docking.
Not always is fighting your way out of situations the best solution so it’s worth having a good escape plan in place. Interdictions which occur when pirates, police or other players attempt to yank you out of supercruise for scanning or worse can often put you at a disadvantage if you fail to counter it.
If your ship isn’t nimble enough to keep track of the on screen cursor and beat your opponent at their own game, it’s easier to submit to the process by slowing your ship down which automatically drops your ship out of supercruise. If you do so, you won’t be at a disadvantage with your ship spinning out of control and a long warm up to your frameshift drive. You’ll also be able to immediately manoeuvre your ship to your advantage which can turn the encounter to your advantage.
The video below is a great example of evading an opponent effectively with little impact on your travels and will be of great use for those players preferring trade to combat. Being effective in techniques such as this will certainly frustrate other players who take an interest in your cargo or any outstanding warrants you might have.
If escape is your preferred option in these cases, it is also advisable to look into equipping your ship with enough defensive weapons to reduce the damage inflicted on you as you make your escape. Items such as chaff launchers (disrupt enemy target lock) and point defence turrets (shoots missiles, torpedoes, mines and drones) can help make things difficult for ships pursuing you.
As with offensive turrets, optimal placement of point defence turrets on your ship’s hull will help improve their effectiveness. If there are limits to their positioning, practise rolling the ship when evading missiles to give the turrets an opportunity to target any incoming missiles, etc.
Of the guides I’ve put together so far, this is probably the one where I’d say there’s the most room for improvement or suggestions and will be updated more than the others. I’d imagine CQC fans would have plenty to say too on techniques as well. So feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below.
In the next part we’ll look at a few miscellaneous aspects of the game that have left us dazed and confused on occasion in Elite Dangerous.