You don't have to accept any missions in Frontier, but your game will soon descend into boredom if you don't. Missions are available from private contractors, the Federal Navy and the Imperial Navy. By far the most exciting are the navy missions. Espionage, spying, assassinations, bombing runs: read on for adventures unlimited!
There are four main types of mission:
'A completed delivery mission'
Delivery missions are easy. Just make sure you can deliver in time! If it's a neighbouring system (and it usually is) allow at least a week. Once in the destination system use the 'engines off' trick to get there hours, even days, earlier. Delivery missions may be boring, but they're a steady way to build up military rank, and if it's on your way (the Vequess-Facece trade route for example) then they are a bonus.
'Locating the target'
One problem with reconnaissance missions is finding your target at all. It should work if you approach the planet until it nearly fills your screen. If the military base is visible, you should see it as a grey pixel that can be selected. If you don't see it, fly to the back of the planet or simply wait a few hours (in accelerated time) until the planet rotates the base into your view. As shown here, simply select the grey pixel as your target and fly towards it.
The maximum distance to take photographs from is about 80km. As you can see in these two pictures, I took the photo at 18km and the result was only "OK" for the agents back home. If you take the photo from 10km or closer, you get an "excellent film", as you can see below:
Here are some tips for the recon missions:
- Use autopilot and maximum time acceleration until you arrive in the vicinity of the planet.
- Orbit the planet and lock on the target when it is at the horizon.
- Start to fly level-- if the planet has high gravity be extra careful.
- Continue towards your target accelerating time to speed it up.
- From a distance of 80km downwards you can take pictures. Take the photo (by pressing D or clicking on the camera icon) and swoop upwards.
- Jump out of the system ASAP, or if you are daring or fancy honing your fighting skills, hang around and dogfight with the military craft.
Reconnaissance missions to Imperial stations are most difficult because you are attacked by Imperial Couriers with 20MW beam lasers. If you fly very low between the buildings of a target station you must be extremely careful not to be hit by an enemy ship that suddenly appears directly in front of you.
If your first ever photo is excellent, you will be awarded the "Legion Of Honour" (with the Empire) or the "Blue Excelsior" (for the Federation). Funnily enough, to get the medal below those ones (Platinum Cross and Vermillion Crest respectively), you will have to purposefully do an "OK" photo.
- Don't arrive in your target system too early. If the police have enough time to investigate, the victim will be warned. This makes it very difficult to finish a contract where you have to travel 40 AU or more to the station. It seems to be okay to arrive at the target system about one week before contract time.
- Don't wait too long in front of the target station or port, the victim may get frightened and refuse to start. 15 minutes before contract time seems fine. There seems to be a way to force victims out of a station if they refuse to start. If you attack the station, the launch bay must be cleared for the police vipers. If your victim is in the station, he/she will be in the launch bay and get forced to start as soon as you attack the station.
- Don't wait directly in front of the station, the victim may run into you.
- Don't wait directly above a star port. If the launch bay doesn't close after your start, your victim cannot start.
- You should never try to watch the take off of your victim in accelerated time. In most cases your victim will sneak past you while you are dreaming your time away and be gone before you even know it.
- Don't attack too close to a star port or station, the victim may try to land again.
- If you have to attack near a star port, don't use missiles too early. If you do, your victim might try to evade the missile and crash in the process. If your victim kills himself, you failed.
- You can use missiles to prevent the victim from hyperjumping while you attack. If you fire a missile before you use your lasers, the local authorities will charge you only 600 Credits for illegal weapon usage. Otherwise you will get fined 10,000 credits for piracy and murder. One very nice attack method based on this trick is to wait at some planet far from your destination until you can spot your victim on the system map. As soon as it appears, target it and fire a missile. This is already sufficient to prevent your victim from hyperjumping and you can approach now and do what you came for.
- If the victim hyperjumps, use a cloud analyzer and simply follow. Select the arrival cloud and wait until the victim arrives or you can be sure it made a misjump. However, you must be able to outrun them.
- If you are too far from your victim when he or she starts, use the system map and watch for a ship mark on the map that belongs to your victim. Select it and proceed as usual. You can verify your selection via communication. Don't call, just verify the registration number.
- If you have more than one assassination on your list, collect the money for the first one before you try the next. Your employer seems to actively look for you to pay you and spreads rumors of your profession in the process. This obviously warns other victims.
- If you attack the ship on a landing pad too eaarly, it will take off without the person who are after inside (he/she won't have had time to ge in it yet) and you will find out that your mission is failed even if you destroyed it.
- This one is important. When accepting the mission from the Agent, always make sure you "Return To Mission List" and then "Hang Up" when you are done. If you just quit the bulletin board your mission is already failed!
For bombing missions, just do the same as you would with a recon mission, except fire the nuke instead of the camera. When you fire it is up to you.
If you have succeeded with reconnaissance missions and shot a lot of excellent pictures you will find bombing missions very boring. You can fire your nuclear missile from 500km distance or even more without adverse effects if the station lies within your line of sight. The crater that replaces the station after a successful attack is no hole in the ground. It hovers above the planet just where the station used to be. If you rough land at the position of the station you land actually below the crater. Very strange indeed.
Thanks to Tom Morton for the two bombing pics.