Combat is the most exciting part of playing Frontier: Elite 2. When you play the game, you are almost certainly going to run into pirates before too long. As soon as you move away from the safety of the inner core systems pirates start to harass you, no matter what you carry in your ship's holds. They will kill you for the fun of it and unless you can kill them first, it will be you who ends up floating in space in millions of pieces. This page will give you some top tips on how to go about giving combat in Frontier.
There is no 'Golden Rule' I can give you. Everybody fights in a different way. But there are essential tips that I can provide, because sooner or later, you will face combat, and you'd better be prepared!
Boom! Another ones bites the dust. There is nothing as satisfying as seeing the enemy blown into a million fragments before your eyes. Now, allow your lasers to cool a little, and proceed to hunt down another victim...
URGENT COMMUNIQUE: Asp Explorer (CE-562) on the starboard bow wishes to submit Commander Eardley's Combat tips.
Practice makes perfect
My first piece of advice is to practice fighting in a harsh environment. Load up Frontier, select Start location 2 (Mars, Sol), and try to annoy the local police force. You will soon find that you are surrounded by upwards of 50 Police Vipers with 1MW Beam Lasers, against your lowly Eagle. This is ideal; you will learn how to survive when vastly outnumbered and outgunned.
The best tip for fighting on planets is to fly low, always (by low I mean between 5 and 50 metres altitude). The Police Vipers are eager to get out there and they will fly out of the launch bays at a good speed. Stay at about 10 metres and you will be fairly safe from their lasers. Another good idea is to use solid objects as obstacles to shield you from fire. The best of these is the central control tower located in the middle of many starports.
A favourite tactic of mine is to switch to engines off and build up a good speed heading slightly upwards. You can rest assured that this momentum will carry you safely forward (and upwards) for some time, allowing you to leave the engines off and devote your attention to firing. You can rotate your ship as it glides silently through the air and snipe at the enemy as he passes over, under or beside you.
(Practice all day for) Accuracy
When firing at the enemy, you must be accurate with your lasers. This is difficult as ships move at lightning speed and tracking them in your Line of Sight (LoS) is very challenging. The only way to improve is through practice and getting to know how ships move and how they react. Try not to chase the enemy, let him come to you. Fire when he is close, and then wait for him to make another pass over you, then get him again. You can concentrate more on the accuracy of your fire if you're not worrying about flying. If you remain low or partially concealed, the police will find it very difficult to hit you with their own fire.
No Mr. Bond I expect you to die
Lasers heat up, so you must fire quickly, in short bursts (unless you have adequate cooling of course). Fire sporadically, and make every shot count. A good way to aid cooling is to avoid thrusting while firing. Switching to engines off mode will also speed up cooling slightly. Also, it's worth noting that if you have no fuel in your internal tanks your lasers will stop working.
Trying to hit a small target is much more difficult than hitting a large one. Fly over the enemy and swing round to blast his top, fly under him and blast his underside. Make sure you can get your ship into a position to hit him where it hurts. The enemy will often try to collide with you. Always pull up with a short burst of thrust, then switch to engines off and swing round to fire at him when he is vulnerable-- if you fly past him he will swing round straight away and while he is doing this you have a couple of seconds to fire at him without return fire, providing you can out-manoeuvre him. A laser will do a lot more damage against the wide side of a ship. Also, get as close as you can to the enemy. Lasers have an 8km range, but the closer you are, the easier it is to hit.
If you are taking hits, don't just sit there, move! Pull up, down, sideways, whatever you want, but don't stay where you are. Air combat is all about positioning yourself so you can fire upon the enemy. If enemy fire starts really damaging you, fly randomly all over the place to shake off him off. This is also the technique that should be employed when you are the target of an enemy missile. If you have no ECM systems (or the missile is Navy Class anyway) you should just fly like mad all over the place and hopefully you'll avoid the missile's path and it'll auto-destruct after a minute. A good way to avoid it is to always keep it in your rear sights and keep thrusting away from it with engines off. You can even try to shoot it down, but it is very difficult to hit such a small and fast moving object. An effective way to make the missile crash into the ground is to dive as soon as it nears you and at a low altitude quickly 'swoop' round randomly and the missile, after diving to catch you, will follow your movements and hopefully the ground will be in the way. Again, as with police, flying low ensures your safety against missiles. The enemy will also track you in the same manner as their missles, blindly 'following' your course. Practice 'Stuka' diving, pulling up at the very last second, and watch as the police fail to emulate you.
Know your ship, and know your enemy
Use your scanner
Despite what you might think, a scanner is a vital piece of equipment. Make sure you always fit one to your ship. Not only do they tell where enemy ships are in relation to your position (which is very handy), they also tell you the mass of the ship you are dealing with, which can help you determine its size and strength and possible armaments. Each ship will be shown as a coloured dot, the colour depending on its mass:
Get to know your ship
Make sure you know what your ship is capable of. If you have ECM systems fitted, you know that you can afford not to worry as much about missiles; If you have an energy bomb, you always have a last ace up your sleeve for when things get really desperate. You will need to know just how powerful your laser is. If you have a 1MW Pulse laser, you are going to have to be good at avoidance and shooting. If you have a plasma accelerator, you know you can wipe out most ships with a glancing hit. Also, it is important to know just how much punishment your ship can take. Shields and an energy booster will prolong the life of your ship under heavy fire, but it will quickly become a burning wreck unless you take action. Know how well your ship can manoeuvre and how effectively you can avoid enemy fire.
Get to know the enemy ship
This is where the Radar Mapper comes in. I also heartily recommend this piece of equipment. Even if you are experienced enough to recognise a ship from simply looking at it, you will never know what it has. A Radar Mapper can tell you vital information like the enemy's shield and hull status, whether or not it has an energy bomb, its drive and drive status. These pieces of information can help you a lot. Also, a radar mapper allows you to pick up bounties from enemy ships that carry them. (If you have a Rader Mapper fitted, engage it by pressing R once you have a vessel targeted.)
Each class and type of laser is different, and you should be able to recognise what laser your enemy has the moment he fires it. Never underestimate pulse lasers. Though they cannot damage your ship as effectively and as quickly as a beam laser, they can still do it damage and over time they can wear down your ship's defences. A 5MW Pulse laser is a deadly weapon in skilled hands. With just two accurate shots it can destroy a Police Viper. Bear that in mind. (If you have a ship with a rear laser mount fit a 5MW Pulse laser to it and fly upwards with the police chasing you-- you can pick them off one by one while you get away. It is brilliant fun.)
|Wattage||Colour of beam|
Combat in Space
Combat in space is very different to combat in the air, as you will soon learn. Now, obviously, the first tip is not to get attacked (unless of course you are looking for trouble). If you are heading for a planet or space station, it is often best to fly with engines off once you've built up your momentum. Pirates know you are there by seeing the bright flare of your engines so accelerating then cruising with engines off will help you keep a low profile.
When en route to a planet you'll often be woken from your reverie by the warning sirens of your ship announcing an incoming pirate. As soon as the alert sounds, and you drop out of accelerated time, switch to engines off and thrust about 90 degrees away from your current heading. Wait for about ten seconds, and then cease thrusting. This will shift your course enough to prevent incoming enemies lining you up in their sights.
They don't like it up 'em
Once your engines are off, spin around until the enemy is in front of you. Then target him and if you have a Radar Mapper hit R. Now, while you have the chance, blast him as much as possible. With any luck he will fly straight by, and turn around for another pass. Keep strafing your opponent in this way, and you should be able to destroy him quite easily. If another ship lines up on you and starts firing while this is going on, be ready to quickly activate your engines and thrust away at an angle from him. Once more, hold the thrust for about ten seconds and then turn off your engines before swinging around and continuing to fire. This simple procedure will keep you out of your enemy's LoS and will keep him in yours.
There seem to exist a lot of misunderstandings with respect to combat in space. The first one is that your movement vector has to point to your enemy to move towards him. This is not true. Your movement vector is shown as the vector of your movement with respect to the currently selected reference mass. This is totally insignificant for a fight, because only the relative velocities of the fighting ships count. This also means that you don't have to decelerate for a fight. Your attacker will have a similar velocity vector as you or he wouldn't stay in your vicinity for long.
Important are the tiny differences in your movement vectors that result in movements of your ships relative to each other. If you both fly parallel at 10,000m/s in the same direction and accelerate towards each other, this will have the same effect as when you don't move at all and accelerate towards each other. What counts is the resulting relative movement. Put simply, ignore your displayed velocity during a fight. It doesn't matter at all! What does count is your velocity relative to the attacking ships. You cannot measure it directly, but you can select an attacking ship and watch the distance change to get an estimate of your velocity. This is the only velocity information that helps you to manoeuvre during a fight.
- Always switch your engines off while fighting and use mouse direction control and acceleration/deceleration buttons for manoeuvring. Quick blasts of the engine should be effective enough.
- Ignore the indication of your velocity vector. It is insignificant for a fight.
- Be careful not to shoot yourself with your own turret mounted lasers.
- If you attack a ship with your front laser, aim 5 degrees past it, accelerate until near, decelerate and follow accelerating while it flies by. Shoot it from behind.
- You can shoot incoming missiles: evade with full thrusters, u-turn, select with annotation (to make the missile visible) and shoot.
There is a well-known standard sequence for fighting that uses a little cheating to compensate for the very poor HUD and the bad interface to the functions you need during a fight:-
- When the attack warning comes up, stop time.
- Switch off your engines.
- Select the outside view of your ship and zoom out as far as possible.
- Switch on the ID labels to identify the attacker.
- Move the outside view until the attacker rotates into your view.
- Select the attacker and activate your radar mapper to get his information.
- Remember the position of the attacker on your scanner.
- Switch back to the front view.
- Restart time.
- If you use your front laser, rotate your ship to face the attacker and use your engines to accelerate at the same time to evade the initial attack.
- Perform any manoeuvres necessary and shoot to get rid of the attacker.
- Select the system map and reselect your initial target.
Some players find it sufficient to use the ID labels, so they don't have to deselect the original flight target and select the attacker. I found the distance information the selection provides very helpful though. Especially when I have to use a powerful laser economically because it can be fired only a limited time until it overheats and needs time for cooling.