Choose My Adventure: Fumbling through the stars of Elite Dangerous


It was a pretty close call in terms of what my first task in Elite Dangerous would be for this edition of CMA, but I’m glad that exploration got the nod. Mostly because it helped me learn to crawl before learning to walk… or in more specific terms, learn to navigate the galaxy before doing literally anything else.

While I did mention that I had some flight time in Elite Dangerous to get most of the basics sorted out, this first in-depth foray into the game illustrated that not all of the basics had been covered. There was still a lot to learn about basic navigation, keeping my ship topped off and managed, and delving deeper into the galaxy.

As everyone does in this game, I started off in a little Sidewinder single-seat ship that I’ve affectionately named “Cheesewedge.” What I had first assumed upon starting my CMA adventure was that heading to a location would introduce me to a guide to tell me more about exploration. What happened instead was a mess of UI elements at the specified starport and no real way of knowing who or what to do. So, since I was bumbling about the UI, I decided to do a cargo transport mission.

What I didn’t count on, though, was considering the jump distance from point A to point B. The Sidewinder has a hilariously short jump range and the target destination was on an entirely different plane of the star map than the one I was docked at. For the longest time, I tried to figure out why I couldn’t just navigate to where I needed to go.

After some frustration and a ticking delivery deadline clock, I did the sensible thing: I deleted my save and started again.

After my ragequit and reset, I took a closer look at the details that were in front of me. I paid closer attention to my ship’s loadout and its maximum jump range. I carefully scrutinized the parameters of the tasks laid out on the mission board. I even took care to upgrade my ship a wee bit, increasing its cargo capacity.

The mental reset mostly worked. I found a cargo delivery mission that was only two jumps away from where I was docked and it was offering a beefy money reward besides. What I didn’t pay attention to, however, was the cargo delivery size: 21 units to my 4 unit hold. This basically meant I had to zip back and forth between two stations several times. On the bright side, though, I’m really good at landing now.

After the job was done and I got my six-figure credit payment, I decided to call it a night and come at the game fresh tomorrow with keener focus on exploration.

The next day, I tackled my chosen task with greater aplomb. I did some research on just what I would need to start exploring Elite Dangerous properly, reading up some guides and watching at least one really good video. Armed with my new knowledge, I loaded up the Cheesewedge with the proper kit, including a bigger FSD, and headed out to what I assumed was an interesting location.

Upon my first couple of jumps, however, I was hit with yet another curveball. Scanning wasn’t just a matter of engaging an equipped sensor and “honking” at the void. Now there’s a whole system called the Full Spectrum System Scanner (FSS), which turned exploration into a minigame. It also necessitated some keybinding and effectively tossing some of what I had just learned out of the window.

Once I got all my buttons working and the system figured out, however, I quickly found that the FSS was much more involved. Granted, I wasn’t exactly trailblazing, but I was still unlocking new things and otherwise getting into the hang of properly exploring the Elite Dangerous galaxy.

Plumbing the depths of space by tuning into frequencies was only part of the exploration dance, however. There was also the delicate matter of learning how to scoop fuel from stars. It was here that the guides I read actually came in to some use as far as navigation is concerned, making diving into the galaxy much less intimidating and frustrating.

Skimming the surface of a star at speed for jump drive fuel is just about as insane as it sounds, but it also ended up being an engaging activity. Riding the corona of a sun to power up my ship for the next jump like a sort of interstellar skateboarder doing a rail grind was equal parts impressive from a technical standpoint and worrying as my ship’s innards cooked when I got too close.

By the time I had made my tenth jump or so, I was getting better. Not good enough to slurp up star juice like a pro without becoming a nicely baked potato, but it was improving. Better yet, by the time I had made a couple of destinations, I had some data to sell, which stocked up my coffers pretty handily.

Overall, pursuing exploration was both a lucrative venture and an educational one. I’ve ended up with a little over 435,000 credits to my name and a tiny bit of reputation as both an explorer and trader to “mostly aimless” and “peddler” respectively.

With all I’ve learned, however, there still seems to be so much more to figure out, so I’d like to reach out to you fine readers for aid. I recall the last CMA had a few commenters offering to help me further learn the ropes, so I’ll be sure to reach out to anyone interested. For the record, I’m currently docked at Remek Platform in Anapos and play on the Mobius PVE server, though I’m not entirely against going into Open Play should the need arise.

Of course, this being CMA, being a commenter isn’t the only way one can help me along. Which means it’s poll time!

As I mentioned before, I’ve got some money burning a hole in my pocket. I’m almost positive it’s not a lot of cash in the greater scheme of things, but coming from the last game I played, Elite Dangerous feels significantly more rewarding. So, where should I invest my newfound wealth?

Where should my money go to in Elite Dangerous?

  • A new ship. Suggest one in the comments! (75%, 91 Votes)
  • Improve the Cheesewedge. Stuff that little fella with new toys. (25%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 121

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Next is my current course of action. I’m feeling pretty confident that I can work through more of what Elite Dangerous has to offer, which means a fair bit of the game seems to have opened up to me. That said, I definitely wouldn’t mind some guidance here.

What should be my next pursuit in Elite Dangerous?

  • Make money. Focus on fattening that space wallet. (37%, 40 Votes)
  • Chase reputation. Run missions for some faction love. (11%, 12 Votes)
  • Space Truckin'. You've got a ship and a cargo hold, use 'em! (15%, 16 Votes)
  • Keep exploring. You've sorted out how to use a map. Time to push the depths. (38%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 109

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As ever, polls close at 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, January 11th. Until then, here’s to further adventures in the digital Milky Way with less ineptitude and hard resetting. Seriously, this was tough to work through.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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