Combat, at least in my opinion is probably going to be the toughest and longest grind of the three main career paths. The reason for this difficulty is that progress towards your rank for each kill is determined by both the enemies combat rank and yours so after starting out at the base rank of Harmless you would get 'XP' for any kill you make regardless of enemy ranks but once you reach the fifth rank of Expert killing enemy ships ranked Harmless will result in no XP gain at all. The point of this is that you always need to take on enemies close to or above your current level or the grind will be extreme. For a visual guide you can look at the following table.
As combat is easily the slowest way to build a solid income (income can be non-existant depending on the method you go with) I would highly recommend going through to Elite rank in either Trading or Exploration to build a healthy bankroll so that you can easily purchase ships and modules for them. Building a combat ready ship can quickly become expensive because combat ships need to have a lot of power to handle their shields and weaponry, especially in endgame ships.
The rewards for combat, especially the main portion of it in Bounty Hunting can be a slow earner as payouts are determined by the ship you destroy and not the rank of the enemy. Destroying a Sidewinder for example will usually payout roughly 10,000Cr where taking out an Anaconda will see you earn 250,000Cr+ but bigger ships are less common unless you go into more daring areas without any sort of backup (in the form of the security forces AI or in a wing with other players).
The ranks for Combat are as follows
When you reach the rank of Expert you will unlock:
Unfortunately as far as I have been able to tell there are no definitive or even estimated values regarding how much XP overall is required for the grind from Harmless to Elite. For a rough idea of the amount of time this path will take you, to go from Deadly to Elite requires roughly 2,225XP. At this level if you were to focus solely on only taking out enemies with a rank of Elite you would need 1,780 kills.
As with the other two main career paths once you hit Elite rank you may unlock one of the two following achievements depending on if it's your first rank or third:
Reach a rank of Elite in Exploration, Combat and Trading
If you are coming to Combat first before tackling one of the other main career paths then it can be fairly slow going at first. If you are coming here after finishing up Trading, Exploration or both then you can probably skip ahead a bit after I explain the basics.
The main methods of combat are Contracts you acquire via the Mission Board on a station, Bounty Hunting at Navigation Beacons and Resource Extraction Sites and pursuing Combat Bonds in Conflict Zones. Contracts come in Assassination and Mercenary flavors and both are started by accepting missions from a station's Mission Board (more in depth info on these can be found on the Factions & Missions page). These missions, while a little slower, can be good if you want to work on building up reputation with a faction at the same time as starting in on combat. Its also beneficial as the resistance you will meet is minimal compared to combat scenarios in open space. Bounty Hunting is the next simplest method to get progress toward your Combat Elite and takes place in a few different places. Navigation and Compromised Navigation Beacons are found at the entrance to a system. These are transportation hubs and you'll find pirates here to shoot. Navigation Beacons offer support from the system's police force. Compromised Navigation Beacons do not have police support, but have a higher percentage of ships with high bounties. You can also Bounty Hunt in Resource Extraction Zones. There are a few ranks of this zone (Low, Regular, High and Hazardous) which refer to the size and rate of ship spawns in the area. Although Low ranked areas have fewer ships, its worth noting there are also less that may be helpful in a combat situation. Sometimes more ships is a good thing since you are less of a target among the greater battle. Conflict Zones are similar to Resource Extraction Sites in that they have varieties. There are Low and High Intensity zones which refer to the size of ships you will find in the area. Where you decide to hunt is greatly dictated by how you want to fight and the capabilities of the ship you decide to use.
This section of the walkthrough will guide you from the very beginning in your Sidewinder and help you work your way up to a more reasonable fighting ship like the Python which is a great all rounder and doesn't require any faction rankings or other conditions to own it.
You should begin your game in a station within the system LHS 3447 if you just have the base version of the game, or Asellus Primus if you have Horizons in your Sidewinder which should be equipped with two Pulse Lasers. Our first objective is going to be a ship upgrade which will be paid for through bounty hunting which is one of the main methods of combat available to you.
Press + to open your Navigation panel and select the Galaxy Map option. When the map opens up you want to press which will take you to the route plotting interface. If you are in LHS 3447 go to the Search field and type into it Asellus Primus then hit enter and it will zoom over to the system for you and highlight it. Next press and hit and the game should automatically plot the best possible course for you based on your ships hyperspace jumping capabilities.
Launch from the station you are currently docked in and begin the trip to Asellus Primus. If you happen to start running low on fuel feel free to dock in at a station in a system along the way to purchase more (it's very cheap), to do this just open up the Navigation panel and in the large window it will list all the stations in the system you're currently in so just select the closest one and fly over to dock.
Once you're done refueling open up the Nav panel again and in that same larger window scroll down until you see a list of other systems, one of which will have a zig-zag like symbol next to it, just select this and choose to lock onto it to get back on course. Once you arrive at Asellus Primus open up your Navigation panel once again and select Beagle 2 Landing and dock there briefly, this will become your home for a little bit and as you have docked here it will be where you return should you die.
Select the Outfitter here and select Hardpoints then choose either of the pulse lasers and select Browse Shop. If the station has a cheap Kinetic cannon or Multi-Cannon (preferably a gimballed one that automatically tracks enemies) then select it and if you can get it super cheap or even free/with money back by trading in your laser do so, if not then just remember it for later. Next go to Utility Hardpoints and select one of the empty slots, this time you are looking to see if the station carries a Kill Warrant Scanner and make a mental note of how much the cheapest one available costs. If there is none available you want to visit https://eddb.io. Once on the page select the Station and enter the following into the fields available
Station Sells Modules - 0E Kill Warrant Scanner
Reference System - Asellus Primus
Once these are entered hit Find Station and the page will automatically generate a list of stations that sell the desired module based on location and their distance/time to travel to for you and usually you will be able to find one even within the same system. You won't be able to buy it yet so just keep a mental note of where it's located.
If you were able to purchase a cannon you would have been urged to assign your fire groups. To do this press + to open the Status panel and press to reach the Fire Groups tab. Here you will see your available hardpoints on the left and when assigned the fire groups will be on the right where a 1 should be. In the fire group 1 column you want to press on your laser so that it has an orange 1 next to it, this means that the laser will fire when the is pulled, next go to your cannon and press until it has a blue 2 while still in the same column as the laser which will assign the cannon to . The end result should look like this:
When you're ready to leave open up the Nav panel and in the large window to the right you want to look for any listings called Resource Extraction Site (Low) and lock onto it. If the area you arrive in is not within an asteroid field then open the Nav and select the next site (make sure it is listed as Low) and try again.
Once you do reach an asteroid field fly around the place and press to lock on and scan ships, if there are none appearing other than police force ships then exit the game and load back in as this tends to help spawn them. If when you scan another ship they come up as clean leave them alone but if the come up as wanted you may want to engage them under the following conditions
They are in a ship classed as Sidewinder, Eagle, Adder or Hauler
They have a danger rating of Harmless, Mostly Harmless or Novice
If you were unable to get a cannon and only have your lasers right now simply follow the enemy ship for a little while and the 'police force' ships in the area will eventually begin to attack them, when they do just join in and you will get some of the bounty when the enemy is destroyed. If you have a cannon and pulse laser then you can go ahead and attack on your own, remember if the enemy has shields up then just use your laser and use both weapons when the shields are down. If you are finding that your lasers run out of power quickly then tap to dedicate more of your ships power to your weapons. This is referred to as 'Pip management'. Let's dig in a bit deeper to how these affect your ship.
The D-Pad is set up to change how power is distributed in your ship. You can see your power management in the lower right area to the left of your fuel readout. You can have a maximum of 4 pips in any given area and have 6 total to assign. Reset this to default at any time by pressing (default is 2 pips to each)
SYS controls shields and the more pips placed in it, the stronger your shields will be.
ENG controls the power to your engines. This also determines the rate your boost recharges.
WEP controls power to your weapons. This is a capacitor and when empty weapons will fire at a very reduced rate. Additionally, weapon strength is increased when additional pips are assigned here.
A few strategies are also worth noting. Simply jousting back and forth with your target will eventually accomplish the task but if you want to get the work done with less effort and damage to your own ship, consider the following
- Make good use of the pips to ensure you deal maximum damage and take minimum damage. That means having 3-4 pips to WEP when firing and 3-4 pips to SYS when taking fire. ENG is actually the least important area in combat as it mainly controls your speed and the rate at which your boost capacitor fills up. Good pip management can help keep your shields up longer and your weapons firing.
- Assist off turning. This is an advanced maneuver that involves turning off flight assists to enable a faster turn. Why this works is because the ship naturally is trying to maintain level flight. If you disable those assists, it won't fight against your turn. This is great when you want to face another ship directly. This is definitely a situational tip... it all depends on what you are flying and what you are targeting. Default control to disable/re-enable Flight Assist is +
Once the enemy is destroyed you will be alerted to the bounty reward in the top right of your screen and you should see some bits of loot floating around in the general vicinity where they died, you can collect this loot with your Cargo Scoop which you would have learned to use in the training missions. Collecting these items will give you progress to achievements, but I will cover these in the Engineers portion of the guide.
After three or four bounties you want to return to Beagle 2 Landing to turn them in. Always turn in your bounties every few kills because should you actually lose a fight and be destroyed you will lose any you racked up and won't be able to collect.
When you arrive back at Beagle 2 Landing select the Contacts option and here you can collect your bounty rewards. If this is your first career path and your first time collecting a bounty you will unlock:
With your newly acquired funds go ahead and purchase a cannon if you were unable to before then go and buy your Kill Warrant Scanner from wherever it is located. You will now need to open up your Fire Groups screen and assign your KWS (and cannon if you didn't get one before). My preferred way to go is to have the KWS bound to and my laser to in fire group one then create a second fire group with the laser on and the cannon on . Remember when flying you switch fire groups by pressing +.
Once you've completed the initial scan to determine if its wanted or not, you can lock on to a wanted ship and fire your laser at them to weaken their shields while you scan them with the Kill Warrant Scanner, then once the scan is done press + to switch to your laser+cannon combo to finish off the fight. The KWS is extremely important as it allows you to find out if the wanted ship has bounties in other systems as well as the one you are currently in which can increase rewards greatly.
Continue flying out to the REZ (Resource Extraction Zone) and back to Beagle 2 Landing until you build up a bankroll of 250,000Cr. Once you have this and you are docked at Beagle 2 Landing go to the Outfitter and select each of your hardpoint weapons, your KWS and any other modules you want and choose to store them (mandatory modules can't be removed) then back out and go to the Shipyard. Here purchase an Adder by trading in your Sidewinder towards it which will unlock:
Then go back to the Outfitter and load it out like this
This build should serve you well, you can sell any other stored modules that you aren't using.
Once you are ready to go you want to make your way back to the Resource Extraction Zone and continue to focus on the same types of enemies as before. Your firepower will essentially be the same, you just have a tougher ship to survive a lot longer. Your next goal is to save up enough funds for a Cobra MkIII, for this we are going to need to save up roughly 1,500,000Cr. Using https://eddb.io search for the closest station selling the ship (Beagle 2 should have it) and head over.
Repeat the process of storing all of your modules then trade your Adder in for the Cobra MkIII and outfit it with the following loadout
The Cobra MkIII is a decent multi-role ship, meaning it can perform well as a trade ship, a mining rig, in combat and for exploring. From here in it becomes more about personal preference in regards to what ship you use. Most ships that cost 10,000,000Cr or less perform fairly similar with some relying more on speed to maneuver around enemies or more armour to tank incoming damage. The site https://roguey.co.uk/elite-dangerous/ship-builds/ can be a decent resource in finding a build for the ship you decide to use. If you want to aim for a great combat vessel on the cheap, check out the Vulture. It doesn't have a large amount of power so it will require some finesse learning power management. For the price to get it combat specced (ballpark of 15 million credits) it does a great job of being a fighter on a budget. Given its power issues, if you take this route, its a good candidate for Engineering to give that Power Plant more oomph. See the Engineers section for more on this.
Once you have the Cobra MkIII your next main goal should be the Python. A reasonable combat focused loadout (shown below) will see you need minimum 80,000,000Cr, but you should have 100,000,000Cr to make sure you have multiple rebuys in the bank should the worst happen.
As you continue working on combat you can purchase higher graded modules, it is also recommended, but not necessary (at least for a while) to look at engineering your ships modules for that extra DPS and survivability which you can find more information for over on the Engineers page.
For a rough idea of an 'end-game' PvE build HERE is my Anaconda. It is quite expensive and requires a fair amount of engineering, but it is a great and tanky ship that can handle any NPC enemies. It's important to note that I was able to afford this build immediately as I came to combat after getting Elite ranks in both Trading and Exploration, which again is something I highly recommend doing so you have the disposable income to get to a build like this quickly.
Once you have a strong ship that you are confident with you will want to start going to High and Hazardous Extraction Sites, an excellent system for this is I Carinae as there is a starport extremely close to both. These for the most part have the best enemy ship spawns and will regularly get Dangerous, Deadly and Elite ranked enemies, Elite's are especially important as they provide the most XP and you need to kill 200 Elite enemies for two achievements.
I would suggest starting in the High sites first as they still have local security forces to back you up, but sometimes spawns can be slower and occasionally the security forces will kill an enemy ship before you get a chance to reach it (you need to have at least contributed to damaging a wanted ships hull to get credit for killing it).
If you are feeling confident you can move up to Hazardous sites which have a very high wanted ship spawn rate, but there are no security forces at all so you will be on your own. If you go this route try to avoid Wings of wanted ships if you can and work yourself up to them. If you find Hazardous to be a bit too difficult then drop back to High as the XP rate is pretty much the same.
NOTE: If you want to speed things up I would highly recommend fighting Thargoid Scouts which each give the same XP as killing an Elite ranked enemy, you can find more information on the Thargoids page.
Once you have your ship and a good bounty hunting location this will be your life for at least a couple of weeks (even if putting in 5+ hours a day). I would highly suggest if using multi-cannons that you take some time to stock up on ammo synthesizing materials (specifically Iron, Nickel and Sulfur) to reduce the time wasted by having to fly back to a station to restock etc.
That is essentially all there is to combat, it is primarily camping in one or two different Resource Extraction Sites and just destroying ship after ship after ship slowly building up your rank until you hit Elite. Along the road you will get yourself following achievements:
If this was your first Elite rank you will unlock:
If it's your third you will unlock:
Reach a rank of Elite in Exploration, Combat and Trading
That's almost all there is to it, we have just two more combat specific achievements to go. In your system you need to look for things called Conflict Zones which come in two varieties - Low and High Intensity. Lock on to and drop into a Conflict Zone (at this point in your career it shouldn't matter which you go to). Upon your arrival you will see a lot of NPC ships doing battle and you are about to join in.
Go into your Systems Panel (+) and go over to the Functions tab. At the very top you should see a Faction option, press on this and choose one of the two sides fighting it out, as soon as you do the side you didn't choose will immediately become hostile, but most will be preoccupied. Now that you have chosen a side start attacking and destroying hostile ships, doing this will earn you Combat Bonds. After say 5-10 kills of decent sized ships (Cobra and up should be fine) you can head back to the nearest station.
When you arrive enter the Starport Menu and go to the Contacts option. On the next screen go to the Combat Bond Contact and collect your rewards, you only need to collect 100,000Cr in bonds to get the achievements which are:
Cash in combat bonds worth 100,000 credits
With those last two achievements you have completed the combat focused portion of the game.
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