Elite Dangerous: A Beginner's Guide
Elite: Dangerous, hereafter referred to as E:D for simplicity’s sake, is a space flight, combat, and trading simulator that was a key part of one of Microsoft’s E3 surprises. Though it was previously known to be coming to Xbox One, it’s one of two debut titles for the Game Preview program – a variation of Steam’s Early Access program for the console. Gamers who stick to consoles can be excused for thinking this is a new IP, but E:D is actually the fourth in the Elite franchise and has been available on PC since late last year.
In E:D gamers are given access to a starter ship, a bit of cash to fund their initial adventures, and a wide-open universe to explore – 100 billion star systems and 400 billion stars according to the FAQ – but it can be a bit overwhelming at the outset, so here’s some tips to get you started:
1) There’s a big galaxy to explore, but you aren’t going to have much fun until you know how to get around it. The game provides a tutorial mode…make use of it, particularly the docking, supercruise, and hyperspace tutorials. At the outset, the game isn’t that heavy in combat (unless you want it to be) so get the movement down before you move on to combat training.
2) A big part of the early learning curve is docking with a new station. After using hyperspace to travel to the system, target the station by using the nav map (click the right stick, then look down and to the left to find that expanding panel) and engage supercruise (hold A and hit UP on the d-pad) to travel to it quickly. Accelerating and braking is easy enough – right bumper speeds you up while left bumper slows you down – but there’s some complexity here as well. Go too fast and you’ll blast past the entire system – never mind the station – and have to loop back to it.
You’ll notice a couple of blue indicators that play a key role in hitting your marks. The first of these is a blue band in the speed display found just to the right of center in the lower part of the screen, keep your speed in the blue band and the ship will automatically slow down as you get closer to your target. On the lower left of the screen is the target indicator. When you have the station targeted you’ll see a pair of horizontal bars – distance and speed – that have blue bars as well. When both meters hit the blue you can again hold A and hit UP to drop out of supercruise and into normal space.
Now you’re close to the station and still only half done the steps needed to actually land on it. The next step is to get close enough, about 7.5 km from the station, and then hail it to request permission to land. Just right click to look around the cockpit again, look back at that panel to the left and then right bumper over to Contacts. Select the station and request permission. Just that easy.
Oh yeah, now you’ll have to actually LAND on the station – and at the proper landing spot to boot. Fortunately when you request permission – should you receive permission to land, the station can be too busy (or your ship too big) for a landing – you’ll see the proper landing strip illuminated. Line yourself up carefully, you have about 10 minutes to get things sorted out so take your time, and use the right stick for fine maneuvering. Remember to extend your landing gear (hold B and press DOWN) before dropping onto the deck. If you’re down and it looks perfect but it’s not docking you with the station, you may need to spin around and face the other way. Just click the left stick to enter alternate mode, then hold left/right on the left stick to spin around.
3) You can be anything you want, but you’ll have a better time with the game if you decide what that’s going to be early on. If you want to be a miner, investigate and invest in equipment that’s going to help you toward that goal. Piracy a more attractive option? You’ll want to make sure you have good weapons and an interdictor – a device that knocks targets out of supercruise and into normal space. Want to hunt pirates? Get yourself the best weapons you can find!
4) If you want to be a trader, find a good route. Learn what materials can be purchased cheaply in one area and sold for a profit at another, then refine your route so you can maximize your profit. You don’t want to spend a ton of time traveling in supercruise, you want to drop in from hyperspace, sell your cargo and get back into hyperspace ASAP. You’ll do pretty well at the start by simply looking at the commodities market and seeing where goods are imported from.
5) You’ll face the question of whether or not to upgrade your starter Sidewinder or replace it with a new ship like the Cobra or Python. Your best bet as you’re learning the game, which will take a considerable number of hours, is to stick with the Sidewinder. It’s a good all-around ship that can fit almost any role you want to play, and it is replaced for free – though you’ll have to pay for any upgrades you’ve installed – should you be destroyed in combat. After that point you’ll want to switch to an Eagle or Viper for combat-heavy roles and a Hauler for mining or trading playstyles.
6) Always, always, ALWAYS check the bulletin board at your destination before you sell off cargo. You may find a mission that will reward you a lot more for that load of scrap metal.
7) At the outset you’ll find it easier to simply do delivery missions, taking cargo from one point to another, than any other mission. These aren’t glamorous runs, but they’ll give you a bit of coin and a much better awareness of the universe. When you’ve improved your ship and skills a bit, then take on the more esoteric missions like eliminating targets or finding specific loot.
8) If you find you can’t make a jump straight to another system that you need to get to, explore the galaxy map to see if there’s an intermediary jump that will make the trip possible. You might need to refuel partway, but it’s better than simply abandoning a mission because the target system isn’t a straight shot from where you are.
9) Need to escape combat? Switch power to engines by hitting UP on the d-pad, then boost away by tapping the B button. If you catch your attacker by surprise you can open up enough room to get away.
10) Don’t spend all your money. You’ll want to keep enough credits on hand to pay for your insurance costs should your ship be destroyed. You’re always able to respawn in the starter sidewinder, but losing your prized weapons and accessories can be a painful pill to swallow.
Hopefully there’s enough there to get you started and on your way to space domination. If you’re a fan of games like Wing Commander or Freelancer, be sure to check out Elite: Dangerous. It’s been out on PC for several months and just hit Game Preview for Xbox One.