How do I get good at PVP combat in Elite: Dangerous?

There is a galaxy full of stuff to do in Elite: Dangerous, including trading, mining, exploring, and fighting. When it comes to combat, you can choose to go up against computer opponents (PVE), or you can go up against other human pilots in what is know as player-vs-player (PVP) combat.

To help you survive longer in this ultimate form of space battle, here are eight tips and tricks you can employ immediately.

Know your scanner like the back of your hand

Scanner

When engaging another ship (or ships) in combat, you need to always know where the enemy is located. Keeping a ship in your sights at all times means you can fire on it, and it usually means the other ship won't be firing back as much unless you decide to go for a face-to-face tank battle.

The small orange triangle in the center of the scanner denotes your ship and the way it's facing. That cone heading out from the front of the triangle is your current field of vision. Any other blips on the scanner represent extraneous bodies, whether ships, stations, or anything else. If the blip appears above the scanner, it is located above you. If the blip appears below the scanner, it is below you. Red squares denote enemies and green squares denote allies.

When engaging in PVP combat, you generally want to keep your eyes on what is going on outside the ship, so learning exactly how to read the scanner should be your first priority. Go out and practice targeting neutral entities until you can read your scanner with nothing more than a brief glimpse.

Choose as suitable ship

Vulture

Dogfighting in a frigate designed for trading just won't do. In order to become a feared pilot, you need a ship that can keep up with your skills.

When starting out, however, you probably don't want to spend a bunch of money on something that will in all likelihood be destroyed rather quickly. In the role of budget combat ship is the Viper Mk IV. It has a lengthy jump range, thick armor, and costs about 400,000 credits for a base model. This is a great ship to experiment with, and some players will indeed stick with it for a long, deadly career.

If you're looking to upgrade once you've mastered the advanced art of PVP combat, the Vulture is a top choice thanks to high agility, thick armor, and decent shields. If the money is there, you can also always go for one of the big three: the Anaconda, the Federal Corvette, or the Imperial Cutter.

Wondering what ship to use for other purposes? Be sure to check out our guide to picking out a suitable ship.

These are the best ships in Elite: Dangerous

Keep power to your shields

You ideally want to keep all power to System

One big mistake PVP noobs make is diverting power from System over to Engine or Weapons in the heat of battle. Maybe the other ship is outmaneuvering them or they feel like their weapons aren't hitting hard enough; whatever the reason, you should always keep pips in System.

Having four pips in your System column is pretty much always required if you don't want to get fried, as it will make your shield last about twice as long. Once your shields go down, it's pretty much game over.

Invest in SCBs

SCB

You have a fancy ship ready for PVP combat, but you don't equip it with modules suitable for combat. Big mistake. Piggybacking off the previous tip, you should invest in Shield Cell Banks (SCB) to bolster the strength of your shields.

While this module will not repair a shield that has completely failed, it will repair a shield that is taking damage. It takes five seconds for an SCB to deploy, so it has to be used in a timely manner. If your shields fail in that five seconds, nothing will happen when it deploys.

Because SCBs produce a lot of heat, you probably also want to invest in a Heat Sink Launcher (HSL). These collect heat from your ship before being launched into space.

Outfit your railgun with a Feedback Cascade

Feedback Cascade mod

To help combat against SCBs and their shield recharging abilities, the Engineers update to Elite: Dangerous brought the Feedback Cascade modification for the Railgun. When used properly, it can be quite devastating.

It works like this: if you can hit the enemy in the five-second window that an SCB is preparing to deploy, it will completely lower the enemy's shields. It can be very difficult to time and hit on small, fast-moving ships, but big ships that like to tank can be brought down way easier if you happen to have a Feedback Cascade mod on board.

Don't ditch your chaff launchers quite yet

Chaff launchers

In Elite: Dangerous, there are three different ship attachments for weapons: fixed, gimbal, and turret. Gimbal mounts mean your weapons can move independently, unlike fixed mounts which require you to be right on target. Turret weapons are basically the same as gimbal-mounted weapons, except they usually fire autonomously.

"That sounds great!" you might be saying. The downside of the gimbal and turret mounting systems is that they can be confused by chaff — similar to flares — which in that case become pretty useless. You might hear other PVP players talking about ditching their chaff launchers for heat sinks for their SCBs, but you probably want to hold off on that.

Many players still use gimbal and turret weapons, and without chaff, you'll have a much harder time getting in more damage than the opponent.

Learn how to fly with flight assist off

FA off flying

All ships in Elite: Dangerous have flight assist (FA) enabled by default. If they didn't, you edging your ship's nose up a bit would cause the ship to continuously rotate backward until you moved it in another direction. Frustrating but realistic.

Because Elite: Dangerous strives to accommodate a wide swath of players, you can disable the flight assist in your ship. Piloting a ship with flight assist off takes a lot of practice, but it can be useful when engaged in a dogfight; specifically, you can fly backward at a high speed to keep the enemy in your sights.

Flying FA-off isn't usually a primary mode of flight, as there isn't a huge advantage outside of some combat maneuvers. Before heading into combat and turning off flight assist, go find a quiet spot in space and practice flying. It will likely take you a long time to master, but it can set up the foundation for some dirty tricks that will surprise an unsuspecting enemy.

Join a PVP group

Nothing beats getting some hands-on instruction when it comes to PVP in Elite: Dangerous, but it can be hard to make friends when people shoot first and ask questions second.

There's a subreddit devoted entirely to PVP combat, in which there is a thread with collected information about PVP groups. It's a great place to find where other combat-minded players hang out so you aren't always going into battle without a wingman.

See a list of PVP groups at the Elite_PVP subreddit

Your Elite: Dangerous career

Have you tried out PVP combat in Elite: Dangerous? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below!

For more information to help you get started, check out our complete beginner's guide to Elite: Dangerous.

A Beginner's Guide to Elite: Dangerous

Don't yet have Elite: Dangerous? It isn't too late; new players are joining every day.

See at Oculus | Oculus Rift

See at Steam | HTC Vive and Oculus Rift