Elite Dangerous – Beginners’ Guide

Tips and hints for new players

You may well know that I have a huge amount of love for Elite Dangerous. As an ambassador for Elite with nearly 3,000 hours in the chair, I’ve had beautiful experiences in-game and IRL. One thing I noticed lately is that most of the beginners’ guides for Elite are videos. These can be amazingly helpful, but sometimes (if you’re anything like me) you just want to have a read. In no particular order, here are my top tips to starting in (and sticking with) my favourite game. If you need any additional Elite Dangerous help or recommendations, just get a message over on Facebook or tweet over on Twitter.

Tutorials are your friend

It may seem like common sense, but the tutorials really are the best place to start in Elite. There are a number of training simulations, challenges and videos available from the main menu when you load up. These will offer guidance, but more importantly they provide a space for you to get things wrong with no consequences. Elite has 8 training simulations, 9 challenge scenarios and 26 videos available at the time of writing. I do heavily suggest that you spend some time here, especially with the initial simulations.

Hutton Orbital. There’s nothing free there, and it’s too small to land a large ship. But it IS a rite of passage

Join a Squadron

Squadrons within Elite are the best place to find folks to help you get started. As well as this, a good squadron will also provide short and long term goals. Squadrons are player groups, and are these days available directly in game. You’ll also often find that they communicate using Discord, Facebook, WhatsApp and other real world solutions. You’ll also often find real world connections, as well as people to play with just within Elite.

Of course, I’d recommend our own Pixel Bandits Squadron, the PBSF. We’ve been in game for a number of years and operate over all Elite platforms. However we’re not the only ones out there. For a friendly and welcoming group who provide support and friendship, I’d also highly recommend

Don’t be afraid to ask

Outside Squadrons, there are some pretty epic groups on Facebook and Discord which can offer help for new players. Places like the Elite Dangerous Community on Facebook have thousands of experienced commanders to give advice on your journey, ships, projects and more. These are also brilliant places to share your adventure, throw up some screenshots and share news and opinions on Elite.

Don’t fly without a rebuy

This is a hugely important part of Elite, and probably what I’d say is the most important. If you don’t have the credits to cover your current insurance premium, ships are gone forever if they are destroyed. The cost, referred to by most as “your rebuy” is based on the cost of the ship and modifications made to it. The rebuy cost is listed on your right hand “systems” panel home screen, right next to your credit balance. If your ship is destroyed (by other commanders, NPCs or often yourself) you will need to pay this insurance premium, and your ship and all modules will be returned to you, at the nearest starport to your unfortunate termination.

If your current bank balance is less than the rebuy cost you have a couple of options. Firstly, you are able to take out a small loan to cover the cost, which is then taken automatically out of future profit until paid off. Secondly, you can deselect modules in order to lower the rebuy cost. This means that the modules you’ve deselected will not be returned with the rest of the ship, and must be repurchased (and re-engineered if you have modified them). The last option, sadly, is to simply lose the ship, and purchase it again at full price.

It is of course easier to just ensure that your credit balance remains above your current rebuy costs.

Pick up a HOTAS

On both PS4 and Xbox we are a little limited here (though the Thrustmaster T.Flight is still a great option) but on PC there is a huge selection of HOTAS’ available. HOTAS stands for Hands on Throttle and Stick, and it is simply the most immersive way to control your ship in Elite. I would definitely say it’s worth hanging on a little while before purchasing one, just to ensure that your investment is well served and that you don’t spend a fair whack of cash on a game which you may find isn’t for you. However if Elite has pulled you into it’s loving arms as it does with so many, HOTAS controls bring so much to the title over and above a controller or keyboard and mouse setup.

Don’t forget the codex

The Codex is available on your right hand “systems” homescreen, and is a great window into the galaxy. As well as holding your own in depth statistics the Codex also contains a huge amount of game lore, and information on interesting things to see in game. In the codex you can read up on a host of different topics, to properly understand the background of Elite and the story which has been woven so far. You can also listen to this as you are playing, by adding to your playlist which will accompany you as you go about whatever it is you love doing in the game.

The Discoveries section is also a great way to find interesting things within the absolutely huge playing area. Whether you are looking for alien ruins, life forms, geological structure and galactic phenomena, it’ll be listed in here. Viewing on a per galactic sector basis, this makes it really easy to find these exciting areas within the galaxy, which are otherwise very easy to miss.

A stunning view I was lucky to catch near a crashed Cobra

Bigger is not always better

We all start the game in the same ship. The exotic, the tantalising, the somewhat broken but holding well enough together with duct tape Sidewinder. It’s easy to set your sights on larger ships such as the Anaconda, Beluga or Cutter, but I would stress that it’s important to enjoy the smaller ships in themselves rather than using them as a stop gap. As well as having much less financial cost if you lose them there’s a lot to be said for small and medium sized vessels. I would definitely recommend taking the time to explore the different options available rather than simply grinding away to get the largest ship you can.

Engineering can be vital

Whether you are taking part in PvP, exploring the furthest regions of space, or simply want to make your ships straighten up and fly right, engineering can be a worthwhile step in game. In order to take advantage of engineers (always located on a planet’s surface) you’ll need the Horizons expansion. However as mentioned already, this is definitely a recommended purchase. Engineering can be thought of in the same way that you may think of tuning in titles such as Need for Speed or Forza. It’s all well and good buying bigger and better weapons and modules, but you won’t reach peak performance until they are fully engineered.

You’ll unlock Engineers in various ways, and each will specialise in different areas. As well as making modules better overall, they can often also add experimental effects, to further benefit your play style.

Follow the community greats

As well as Frontier’s own social channels for Elite and overall, it’s worth keeping an eye on the influencers. Content creators over on the various platforms can act as a great source of news for the title, broken into bite size chunks. It also of course comes with a heavy smattering of opinion, both negative and positive. I don’t always agree with their opinions myself, but am able to make some great recommendations. If you’re looking for some independent factual, helpful and constructively critical voices, have a look at;

A future settlement for humanity, perhaps?

Don’t buy the Asp Scout

Seriously. Just don’t.

Keep your needle in the blue

Having your throttle in the blue zone brings you to the most maneuverable speed. As well as being great for throwing your kite around the place, if you keep it in the blue during supercruise you are much less likely to overshoot your target destination. If you really have to get somewhere fast, stay at full throttle until your timer reaches around 7 seconds, and then pull it down into the lower half of the blue zone to avoid the Loop of Shame.

Follow your Navball

It took me quite a while to fully decipher the Navball, but it’s a great little piece of kit. This little globe compass reminds me of those floating compasses you used to get in 90s cars, only it’s actually useful. Most will already know that when searching for your targeted system or planet the navball reads with solid in front and hollow behind. Even with just this in mind it’s well worth keeping an eye on. It took me over 2,000 hours in game to realise (because another commander pointed it out) that it also points to your landing pad while docking! What a nifty bit of kit!

Slow down

When flying around crowded space stations, ensure you keep your speed below 100m/s. This is the speed limit within the station and in the immediate vicinity. If you crash into any ships going above this speed, then you incur fines and possibly worse. If a collision with your ship destroys the other vessel, you’ll be wanted for murder no matter how accidental it was.

Practice Docking

Docking is difficult. Really! There’s literally a book dedicated to it. It can be tempting to throw on a docking computer, god knows I take full advantage on my Beluga, but I would absolutely suggest getting practice on manual docking while you’re fresh to the game. Everybody does it their own way, using controls which suit them. Whichever way you do it, learning to smoothly dock and depart manually gives muscle memory which can help out in many different situations too. It’s definitely worth trying to get to grips with this while you still have your sidewinder. While every ship is a little different, having the minimal rebuy cost means you can perfect things with little to no risk.

The sinister INRA Stack base

Supercruise Assist is beautiful

This is especially true if you, like me, love a bit of exploration. The supercruise assist module is a great asset for ensuring that you don’t fly past your intended targets. For exploration however, it really comes into its own and provides valuable benefit. Namely, you are able to use the detailed surface scanner module while orbiting bodies using SC assist. For larger gas giants, sometimes you will be unable to due to the speed required for orbit, however 99% of the time SC assist will fly you around the body while you map it.

Don’t eject all cargo

If you are playing on PC then you will have a default keyboard mapping for the Eject All Cargo function. Needless to say this is very very silly, and you should unmap this at once. With the times you would have use for it being very few and increasingly far between, the danger of accidentally relieving yourself of precious cargo is simply not worth it. Unmap this as soon as you get in game, to make sure you don’t accidentally pirate yourself.

Third party sites

Elite is a beautiful game and god knows I love it, but I will fully admit that it doesn’t contain all the info for commanders. With this in mind, there are a number of third party sites which can help you get more out of the title. These sites can help track your progress, build ships, find items in game, share your adventure and more. some of them such as Inara and EDSM can even pull your data directly out of the game on both PC and console. For third party sites, I’d heartily recommend;

Don’t flip out if you get killed

If you play in Open, you will likely experience the best and worst which the galaxy has to offer. Elite is a game where as long as you’re playing within the rules, anything goes. This includes attacking and destroying other commanders for any reason or no reason at all. There are Solo or Private Group modes where your dangers in game can be minimised or eliminated entirely, but I do think Open play is worth dipping into.

The biggest tip I can give if you get blown up by another commander, is not to post about it online. Typically, the type of commander who is whaling on newer or weaker players is one who is looking to upset folks. Salt Miners such as this only get more kicks out of seeing their victims post online to complain about getting wasted in game. The best thing to do to minimize your upset (and believe me on this, I’ve faced a fair amount of this sort of thing over the years) is ignoring it and getting on with your day.

Life is out there to be found among the stars

Dealing with Interdiction

One thing which you can do to help minimise your danger in game is learning to properly handle interdictions. When you are being interdicted there are a few things you can do to better your chances to escape. When you are being interdicted, I recommend the following steps;

  • 1 – Check the Radar: If it’s solid it’s an NPC and you can fight or run as you like. If it’s hollow, it’s a commander. You best bet is to follow the next steps
  • 2 – Submit: Lower speed to zero (submit to the interdiction)
  • 3 – Power Distributor: Set 4 pips to shields, and 2 to Engines
  • 4 – Evade: When dropped, turn 180, boost and set throttle to max
  • 5 – Plot a system: In the Navigation menu, get to the first in range system you can, select it and engage hyperdrive
  • 6 – Fly right: Make sure you are pointed at the system, fire chaff or heat sinks if you have them, and hope for the best

These steps can help in a few ways. Step 2, submitting to the interdiction, means that your FSD cooldown is much shorter when you drop. Following step 3 will mean your shields have the best regenerative power they can. Step 4 means that when your attacker is coming for you, they have to perform a sharp turn which they are likely not expecting and which will take time. Step 5 may actually be the most important. If you jump back up to local space there are two major problems. Firstly you can be mass locked by large ships when jumping locally, but as a high wake you don’t suffer the same penalty. Secondly if you jump to another system, it would take the commander much longer, or maybe make it impossible for them to track you.

Follow the socials

Frontier’s social media accounts for Elite and overall development are definitely worth following. Keeping up to date with these will ensure that you don’t miss any official Elite news. You’ll also find information on their other games, giveaways and more here. With all this in mind, it’s always worth keeping in touch in this way wherever possible.

Use the right tools

With thanks to CMDR ApexMutilation

As a beginner, the weapons to select for your loadout can be a little confusing. It’s worth taking some time to plan this if you’re looking at a combat oriented ship. While there are a lot of variables between weapons, there are some basics to consider when putting your ship together. Firstly, having a good mix of thermal and kinetic weapons is essential. Thermal Weapons have a distinctly better damage rate for shields, while kinetic weapons produce better hull damage. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to get a mix of both for your first unengineered combat vessel. Separating them between triggers and fire groups is also a great start.

As well as this, if you are anything like me, you’ll struggle to hit any target in your first days. Fixed weapons suck for aiming with, and even after a little practise and many hours in game I still don’t like them. Gimballed weapons will increase your chances greatly, as they automatically track your target to a large extent. Fitting gimballed weapons to your hardpoints, where they are available, is a great first step at increasing your accuracy in battle.

That said, it’s definitely worth practising when you can, to get better at hitting with fixed munitions. While gimballed or turreted weapons will do a lot to help you aim, they both come with damage penalties. Essentially, the easier it is to target your foe, the less damage you’ll do. It’s not hugely noticeable, especially when the hard hitting weapons don’t hit at all, but worth considering as your skills improve.

Avoid VR

If you are on console this is easy as Elite has no VR capability. If you’re on PC though this becomes a little trickier. I definitely recommend that you avoid VR on PC. If you fail to do this, you may lose all contact with your family and friends. You will also almost certainly lose many hundreds of pounds from your bank and every waking hour from your days. Elite is an absolute flagship VR title and immersive beyond what you could imagine. You will lose everything. It would be worth it.

Switch out the boost button

Especially prevalent when playing on console where Boost and Landing Gear functions are very similar. I have lost count of the number of commanders I have seen accidentally use boost instead of lowering their landing gear. Remap the boost function as soon as possible to ensure it’s something you can’t hit accidentally. This is of course something I have never ever done myself, no sir. Not me. Nuh-uh.

Explore Efficiently

With thanks to CMDR hood117

If like me you are heading into exploration, there are a couple of things you can do to make your life easier. The first thing is ensure you have a button mapped for “target next system in route”. This means that while you’re following a programmed route, you have a tether to pull back to when you (inevitably) get sidetracked by something shiny. With this mapped, you are able to target bodies or points of interest in the system, visit, and then instantly flick your target back to the next jump.

Another step for explorers is to fit the Supercruise Assist module. This is so great it has its own separate section which you should already have ready through above

A damaged and abandoned fighter, discovered in deep space

Watch your fuel

Elite is a very simmy sim, and if you don’t keep an eye on your fuel levels you could be truly stuck. Without fuel you can’t jump, and eventually even life support will run out. there are a few different aspects to keep on your mind here. Firstly, when plotting a route on the Galaxy Map a solid line indicates a journey which you can complete with the current fuel load. A dashed line indicates a plotted route which you do not have enough fuel for.

Fuel Scooping

Secondly, it’s worth having a fuel scoop for any journey of a decent length, or which takes you outside the bubble (human inhabited space). Where you don’t get humans, you don’t get space stations (or the other way around) and so you’ll have to siphon fuel from the stars themselves. Even if you do have a fuel scoop, only certain stars can help to recharge your tanks. These stars are all of class KGB FOAM. When viewing a route on the Galaxy Map it will point out your “fuel star” this is the last KGB FOAM star which is within your current range of fuel.

Fuel Rats

Lastly, if all else fails and you are sat there with no fuel waiting for your CMDR to die, the Fuel Rats. This is a group which formed early in the history of Elite Dangerous, dedicated to helping stranded commanders. If you have run out of fuel, head over here to request help. They will dispatch a pilot as soon as possible to come and refuel you and let you get about your journey.

It’s hard to speak about them without enthusing about how great they are. The Fuel Rats have been in gaming news, and saved thousands of commanders both near and far. I’ve performed one rescue with them myself, and having seen the inside of the machine (sadly don’t have the time to dedicate at the moment) I can personally vouch that these commanders are truly dedicated and caring.

Don’t chase money

It’s always easy to go for the next bigger thing, and chasing credits is a part of that. I would definitely suggest avoiding things like mining and other cash heavy pursuits until at least a little way into your game. These days it’s fairly easy to work as a new player, and earn enough to purchase the largest ship in the game within a couple of days. However I believe that this does detract from overall enjoyment of the title, and is a bad step for new players to take.

I have approaching 3,000 hours in the game at the time of writing. It’s more than a few, and also less than a few so I am not saying that I’m a true Elite authority. However I do think one thing which has led to having so many hours in game is simply doing what I’ve felt like instead of chasing after funds. Enjoy the smaller ships, enjoy the sights and the gameplay. Elite has a lot to offer you, and in my opinion very little of it is based on the balance of your bank.

That’s about it!

That just about covers all the tips I can think of for new players. It’s definitely worth checking out the content creators listed above, as they will have many more of their own. As well as that, they’ll be able to show you the more nuanced aspects where little actions can help improve your game. I hope this has been helpful, but if you think I’ve missed a great tip, make sure you get it in a comment over on facebook or twitter.

Alone, surrounded by the darkness of deep space
Pixel Bandits