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Ships is arguably one of the objectives of the game, buy and upgrade your ship to the "best".
You start off in the game with a Sidewinder, multi-purpose ship. It is the cheapest in the game at 40,000 credits. If you die and do not have enough money to rebuy your ship then it's GAME OVER and you'll return to a Sidewinder with no money.
There is a variety of ships at a variety of prices that are geared towards different functions. Combat specific ships will not be very good at exploring or trading due to small cargos and limited ranges. Likewise, cargo ships will be terrible at combat due to their poor armour and limited turning ability.
It is possible to own multiple ships, but you can only fly one at a time and you have to physically go to where you left the ship to swap it over. It makes sense to keep your ships in one location to avoid having to waste money on buying a ship especially for the task of transfering to a location where you have another ship located.
There is a 10% deduction on the value of your ship when you try to sell it back. The exact number depends on how much of your modules you can strip down and sell first.
Your ship can be customised through modules. Some of them are mandatory (engines) and some of them are optional (weapons). Each module slot in your ship will be able to take certain types of modules of a certain size.
Each module has a classification made up of a number and a letter. e.g. "3A". The number indicates the size of the unit where normally bigger is better, but is limited to the maximum size your ship's slot will take. And letter relates to the performance of the item within it's size-class.
Many items do not have different lettered variants. Weapons and Cargo holds only come in one guise for their size, so there is no need to try and hunt down a higher rated version.
The classes go from E through to A. With A being the "best" and always the most expensive. D rated modules are always the lightest in the size and should be prioritised when trying to achieve maximum jump range. B is the hardest wearing and will take the most damage before failing. Often A is the only option as you need maximum power to achieve your goals.
Frame Shift Drive (FSD) determines the maximum distance your ship can be thrown in a hyperspace jump.
Bulkheads is the armour rating of your ship, Military being the best all-rounder but will add significant mass to your ship and affect your performance and jump range.
Thrusters determine the speed and turning ability of your ship.
Life Support determines how many minutes of emergency oxygen your pilot has in the event of loss of cabin pressure.
Power Distributor determines how quickly each of your sub-systems can recharge (shields, boost, and weapons).
Sensors affect the distance your radar can pick up other ships in normal space.
Fuel tank should be self explanatory at this point.
There are many different modules you can fit to your ship to provide some sort of functionality. Cargo Racks are common if you want to move any commodities anywhere. Your ship will always be bought with a Shield Generator - the E-A and size ratings apply to shields.
It's worth noting that the default cargo racks included with a ship are often a size smaller than the slot they are in, so it's worth moving these to a smaller slot and putting a bigger rack in place.
Fuel scoops is probably one of the more useful optional modules, this allows you to refuel at a star for free. It's mandatory if you're planning on visiting some of the more remote areas of space.
Utilities mount on the outside of the ship and provide various functions.
Cargo scanner allows you to scan the cargo of an enemy vessel.
Chaff launcher disrupts the lock of gimballed weapons and scanners.
Electronic Countermeasure - Used for jamming missiles.
Heat Sink Launcher dumps the heat from your ship into space (limited uses) which allows you to stay off of radar.
Point defence automatically engages incoming missiles.
Frame Shift Wake Scanner allows you to scan high-wake objects and determine follow ships that have jumped system.
Kill warrant scanner reveals bounties on ships due in other systems.
Shield booster - I'll give you one guess.
You have a choice of energy weapons (lasers) or kinetic weapons (guns), there are pros and cons to both. Lasers don't need rearming, but also use up energy and produce heat in battle.
You also have a choice of mounting:
Fixed: the weapon is mounted to fire on a fixed location at a point ahead of your ship.
Gimballed:the weapon is on a swivel mount that will track your target to an extent. It is the only effective way to target sub-systems (such as power plants). They can be thrown off by chaff and stealth.
Turrets: These work independantly and have a wider range than gimballed weapons. They will either fire at your target or at will depending on the mode you use - they suffer from the same cons as gimablls with the addition you can't really stop them. They are generally only used on big ships that cannot turn or have hardpoints in difficult locations.
Lasers come in Pulse, Burst and Beam variety, whilst Beam packs the most punch it also uses the most energy and produces the most heat. A skilled pilot can manage this but often it's better to go for a Pulse or Burst - which are equal apart from their firing pattern.
Guns come in a few forms, multi-canons are basically mini-guns and canons are single shot but with higher damage.
Then there are the fancy weapons like Rail Guns and Plasma wepaons, these use a lot of energy and can do a lot of damage, but are fairly unique in their action, have a play with them when you feel comfortable.
Missiles and torpedos and mine launchers provide a slightly different aspect to the game and can be devestatingly good in the right situation. The most useful for beginners are mines, which can be used to delay enemies when escaping.
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