Getting started with Elite: Dangerous? Here's what you need to know!

If you're looking to start exploring in the deep void of space, Elite: Dangerous is the ultimate experience among both traditional games and virtual reality experiences. Here's what you should know getting started.

Update May 15, 2017: We updated this guide with some additional information for those wanting to get started with Elite: Dangerous and VR.

What is Elite: Dangerous?

Elite: Dangerous is space-based action and adventure game, giving players the chance the explore an entire galaxy from behind the controls of a spaceship. After being let loose in the game's expansive world with a low-end ship and few resources, players must work themselves through the ranks, earning their place in the harsh abyss of space.

Throughout your in-game journey, you can expect to take on a wide range of activities, from freight hauling and trade deals to intense interplanetary dogfights. However, make sure to watch your back for rogue players roaming the game's persistent online world. With truly open-ended gameplay, Elite: Dangerous is among the most immersive simulations available today.

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What's the game's end-goal?

Due to the open-ended traits of Elite: Dangerous' gameplay, there's no definitive end goal in your adventure. Not having a huge blockbuster campaign or set story, the narrative told by Elite: Dangerous is simply your own personal adventure.

Whether you choose to explore systems and uncover planets, buy a high-end ship or even become the best pilot in the galaxy – the game accounts for everyone's play styles and comes packed with light years of unrestricted content.

Is the game designed for VR?

One of the main differentiators of Elite Dangerous is its native support for virtual reality – a feature only a small subset of games is beginning to implement. While there are other popular titles that have introduced VR support, none fit the mold quite like Elite's open-ended sandbox.

Already being a hugely immersive title, virtual reality adds a new layer of depth and engagement to the game's world. Best experienced with a controller or HOTAS, Elite Dangerous is a truly unmissable experience for existing desktop VR users.

Read more: Playing Elite: Dangerous on HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift

Using Elite Dangerous in VR

With its roots as a traditional desktop-based game, Elite: Dangerous wasn't built from the ground up for VR. Available on both the Oculus Store and Steam, you'll notice some minor differences between the games depending on the platform you've chosen.

While the Oculus Store version of Elite: Dangerous works exclusively with the Oculus Rift headset, the Steam VR version appears to be a more ubiquitous purchase. With support for the Rift, Vive and OSVR, you'll have bought into a more flexible version of the game.

However, also offering a traditional non-VR experience, the Steam version comes with some additional complexities when first starting with VR. While the Oculus version boots straight into the Oculus Rift headset, you'll need to manually enable virtual reality support through the Steam version of the game.

When hopping into the Steam version of Elite: Dangerous, make sure to choose the VR Mode from the available options, rather than the 32-bit or 64-bit versions of the game. From here, the SteamVR should detect a connected headset and start the game in virtual reality. Although the game will utilize mouse and keyboard controls from the outset, the options to switch to HOTAS and a gamepad are available.

Read more: How to enable VR for Elite: Dangerous

Ramp up supersampling in VR

Once you've dived into Elite: Dangerous, supersampling is a must-try enhancement, provided your PC can manage the load. Essentially rendering gameplay at a higher resolution than the headset itself, this adds an extra layer of clarity to the outputted image.

With its roots as a desktop game, supersampling brings back a level of depth not possible with the out-of-box VR experience. Although the higher resolution can significantly knock down your framerate, supersampling shouldn't be missed on top tier rigs.

Read more: Make Elite: Dangerous look even better in VR with supersampling

Basic controls

When first getting started with Elite: Dangerous, one of the hardest aspects of the game can be the controls. Utilizing a majority of keys on your keyboard, it can be a challenge to learn them all off by heart. To give you a helping hand, we've brought together a table of common controls to reference on the fly.

Action Key Action Key
Yaw left A Primary Fire Mouse 1
Yaw right D Secondary Fire Mouse 2
Thrust left (strafe) Q Cycle fire group N
Thrust right E Target ahead T
Thrust up R Deploy hardpoints U
Thrust down F Toggle panels 1-4
Throttle up (acceleration) W Divert power Arrow Keys
Throttle down (reverse) S Landing gear L
Set throttle to 0% X Deploy heat sink V
Supercruise J Pause game P

However, for those playing in virtual reality, using Elite: Dangerous is also playable with a standard gamepad or HOTAS controller. Both these formats can make for a much more enjoyable and intuitive experience, without the need to fumble around to find certain keys.

Read more: Using HOTAS controllers in VR is beyond amazing

Getting started in Elite Dangerous

Once you're ready to jump into the world of Elite: Dangerous, the vast reaches of space can be extremely daunting. Here are some quick pointers to get you started.

  • Take the tutorials: Before jumping into Elite: Dangerous' barren galaxy, make sure to give each of the game's inbuilt tutorials a whirl. Not only will this give you the opportunity to experiment with the game's complex controls – the tutorial will also walk you through each of the core pillars of Elite Dangerous' gameplay. From simple tasks such as docking and cargo pickups to more complex dog fighting techniques – this is a great way to experience the game's offerings first-hand.
  • Set a goal and work for it: While Elite: Dangerous doesn't put any restrictions on a player's approach to its world, deciding on an area of expertise will benefit you hugely in the long term. Whether planning to be an expert miner, trader, or gunman, building up your skills around your preferences is a great way to end up on top. That's not to say you can't explore all areas of the game, but finding a focus will make credit hunting that extra bit easier.
  • Start with the Bulletin Board: When first starting up in Elite: Dangerous, you'll want to get some easy credits – and quick. The Bulletin Board is one of the best ways to do so, by quickly completing some short tasks in return for a few thousand credits. Although there are much faster ways of earning currency, the board is your best shot as a newcomer to Elite: Dangerous. To access the Bulletin Board, open Starport Services while docked and find a job that suits your liking.

  • Work towards a ship upgrade: After earning your first wad of cash, you'll want to consider upgrading your ship or replacing it entirely. While your trusty starting ship (the Sidewinder) can get you by, upgrading your ship is key before undertaking more challenging tasks. With an upgrade, you'll have the chance to increase numerous statistics, giving you an additional edge against hostile forces.
  • Take advantage of Supercruise: Supercruise is Elite: Dangerous' tool for inter-system travel, with the ability to travel significantly faster than the speed of light. Using your 'Frame Shift Drive', any player can easily enter Supercruise, as a method of quickly darting across the galaxy without hours of waiting. When traveling long distances, make sure to take advantage of the feature and avoid a week of non-stop flying.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide for going from zero to 100m credits in Elite: Dangerous

Have any additional tips?

Have any tips you'd like to share with those just getting started? Or have some questions? Make sure to let us know in the comments!