Oolite Tactics

From Elite Wiki

Life in space is not easy. It doesn't matter what your occupation is - sooner or later, someone will shoot at you (or you will shoot at someone else). Blundering headlong into a dangerous situation without preparation is a certain way to end up dead, or at the very least, as petfood in orbit around Isveve.

This essay is designed to combine most of the hints and tips given to players on the Oolite Bulletin Board over time. Hopefully some of this information is useful to you in your journeys across the Eight.

There are some OXP tools and additions that can make combat easier. We'll look at some OXP solutions and options at the end. What follows just covers the core equipment and scenarios.


Starting out

The early game can be quite a daunting affair - you have a great ship in the Cobra Mark III, but it is woefully under-equipped at the beginning. Make sure you read Mr Gimlet's advice. The information it contains can help make your first decisions in the game to be wise ones. Other general advice and tactics for the start of the game:

  • Be careful of quick money. Some parcel and passenger contracts can seem like an easy way to make money fast, but check the route to the destination. Are there any dangerous systems you have to pass through? What type of parcel is being carried? Could it attract unwanted attention?
  • Look for "milk runs", two systems located close together that have opposite economies. A rich industrial next to a poor agricultural is the best combination, but anything close to this can be good. On the F6 Galactic chart, use the "?" key to change the colour coding for the planets. There are four different colour ranges the key press will cycle through: government, tech level, sun colour, and economic level. The economic colour range runs from a deep green to yellow. You can change from showing the planet name to some icons showing you tech level, government and economic level by pressing "i". Once you have purchased the Advanced Navigational Array you can also see the route you are taking to your destination system, and by using the "^" key (shift+"6") you can cycle between showing the fastest route (which may have more jumps), to the shortest route (which may take longer to travel).
  • Remember to keep your cargo hold full (or at least as full as you can make it). While it can be tempting to buy a longed-for piece of kit as soon as you have the money for it, if you empty your bank balance and have nothing to buy new cargo with, you can be in a worse position than before.
  • It is highly recommended that the first thing you purchase are injectors - they can get you out of lots of different types of trouble, so they are definitely worth the money. While it might seem odd to even suggest this, selling your pulse laser to fund the purchase of injectors can actually be of some benefit, but you need to change your mindset when you do - with no offensive weapons you must flee dangerous situations. But with injectors at least you can.
  • After injectors you have some options. Some commanders suggest an ECM system is the next best choice, to give you better defensive options. A beam laser will give you a much more formidable attack option, although there is value in mounting it in the aft position, so it can be more useful in defence.

Combat tactics

Tactics for combat are tricky, as every player has different styles they prefer, and much of it depends on what equipment you have and the type of battles you’re facing. To try to make this guide as useful as possible, we'll look at three different stages for the player: A beginner, who has almost no equipment; a player with some equipment, considered a medium-level player; and a player with a fully-kitted out ship. A Cobra Mark III will be assumed for most of this guide, but many of the tactics will be applicable to any combat ship. Trade-focused vessels (eg Boa's and Anaconda's) will be considered separately later in the document.

Note: If you don't fancy your prospects in the standard Cobra Mark III (the default starting ship), you could trade it in for a smaller ship (say, a Cobra Mark I), which will give you a bunch of credits to get you some essential kit as early as possible. However, there are downsides to down-sizing: smaller energy banks, slower speeds, smaller cargo capacity, some limitations on equipment. Make sure you understand the specifications of the ship you switch to.

Beginner tactics

If all you have is a pulse laser, with no ECM or injectors, your options are limited. The first tactic is to avoid combat wherever you can. This is a tactic, although it can seem counter-intuitive given you're in a space ship with lasers. But at this stage of the game, it's all about survival. The longer you survive, the more money you can earn, and the faster you can upgrade your ship. You might consider entering battle if there are just one or at most two opponents, and if you do, these things are worth remembering:

  • Don't go "head-to-head" with another ship. That is, fly directly towards them as they're flying directly towards you. Yes, it makes them much easier to line up, but other ships have a tendency to fire missiles at the last moment if they're being attacked, which gives you no chance to avoid them.
  • Playing chicken with ships the size of a 747 is not advisable. If you dodge the wrong way on the pass, you might end up with another ship buried in your cockpit.
  • Don't fly in a straight line - this makes you too easy a target for enemy ships. Move your ship around to make yourself a harder target.
  • Get in close. Shooting at long distance might seem like a good idea, but the down side is that it's much easier to miss your target. A pulse laser only has a range of 12.5km, so can't hit anything outside that distance. And every miss adds heat to your laser, with no gain at all. If your laser overheats, you become much less of a threat to your targets. So reduce the distance to your targets as fast as you can, and get onto the tail of ships. Use your throttle to reduce speed and stay inside the turn of enemies, which can give you more opportunities to hit them with your laser.
  • Make use of your missiles. The standard missiles can seem like a waste of money in the early game, but they can be useful for two things: (a) As a form of ECM. If an enemy ship fires a missile at you, fire one back at him. It's quite likely they will have an ECM system and they will use it to destroy your missile, and in doing so destroy the one coming at you. (b) Fire them in close. If you can get close in behind another ship, they won't be able to react in time to a missile fired at close range.
  • Keep some "pirate kibble" handy. Pirate's are desperate, and need all the funding they can get to keep their ships in space. They will demand cargo from you when they first start their attack. So, keep a few tons of food (the cheapest of all the commodities) on hand. When the demand is made, eject some of this food. The pirates will break off their attack to scoop the cargo, giving you time to get out of range. But when you eject the cargo, make sure you eject it in a direction away from the pirates. That will force them to travel further in order to scoop it, and every second they spend chasing is another moment you have to escape. The longer the better.
  • Try to keep all jumps short, to leave fuel in your tank. Even if you don't have injectors, having enough fuel to make an emergency jump to another system if things get out of hand can be life-saving.
  • As soon as you arrive in a new system, set a course to your next one. Do this before any action starts, so you can be ready with an emergency jump.
  • Make use of convoys. Quite often there will be other ships heading to the station from the witchpoint. Look in particular for large trading ships with escorts. Tag along with the group, even though the journey might be a bit on the slow side. If trouble starts, endeavour to put the traders between you and the pirates. In the event that a stray shot from the pirates hits one of the trader ships you'll get some very welcome allies in the battle. Following an Anaconda to the station might seem tedious, but it only takes a couple of runs to start gaining enough credits to equip your ship, after which you can switch to other tactics.

Medium-level tactics

You reach this stage when you have upgraded your laser to a beam or military level, and you have ECM's and witch fuel injectors. You may not yet have shield boosters or extra energy units. At this stage you could probably take on battles against 2 to 3 opponents, or even 4 if you're feeling confidant and your aim is good.

  • Most of the rules from the beginner apply here as well, and indeed apply to any player interested in combat. Don't go head-to-head, don't play chicken, get in close. The final tactic, of getting in close, is particularly important with the beam and military lasers. While they both have an increased range (15km for the beam laser, and 30km for the military), they also fire and heat up faster. Being able to fire fast is pointless if all your shots miss. So get in close, and make use of the increased rate of firing by hitting your targets with every bolt.
  • Avoid situations where there are opponents spread out across your scanner. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the closer your opponents are, the less likely you are to be hit. Once they're all close, the only thing you need to be concerned about is running into them.
  • Make use of the different zoom settings of your scanner. Use "z" and "Z" (shift-z) to adjust the zoom and make it easier to see where other ships are.
  • ECM-hardened missiles can be very useful as a tactic, as well as for their destructive force. Many opponents will have injectors (you might see them rushing ahead of their comrades when battles start), and will outrun even a close-fired missile. A standard missile will likely be ECMed before it gets too far, and you don't gain very much. An ECM-hardened missile, though, will force the opponent to flee much further, often completely off your scanner, which can help reduce the size of the opposing force and increase your chances of survival. Doing this before the battle is joined, before you've gotten in close, can be a good way of removing a target you think might be harder to kill (ships like an Asp or a Fer-de-Lance), allowing you to concentrate on the easier ships.

Fully equipped ship

When you reach this stage, you can effectively go up against much larger groups. Experienced players have often fought alone against groups of 12 or more. You'll quite likely have a tail gun by this stage, and increased energy and shield strength.

Some rules always apply: head-to-head is still never a good idea, and getting in close is the best way to deal with opponents. With a tail gun, though, especially if it's a military laser, you have the option of sniping - that is, of heading away from the opposing force and using the rear laser to pick-off targets. You need to have a good eye for long distance shooting, as your laser will heat up quickly. You can snipe with the front laser as well, but be careful of the golden rule - don't go head to head. If you plan on sniping with your front laser, bring your ship to a halt first, at the limit of the range of your laser, and snipe from there. The enemy ships will continue to fly towards you, but now the closing speed is halved, giving you more reaction time for when missiles are fired. As your targets get within range to use their own lasers, turn away and use injectors to get out of range, then stop at your laser range, rinse and repeat.

Injectors are a great tool for combat, both in the pre-combat stage, where it allows you to get in close faster, but also in escape, when things aren't going well, in getting you out of range faster. The key for injectors is fuel; no fuel means no injectors. Keep watch of your fuel use, and be careful when planning your jump routes. Wherever possible choose a route that will leave you with at least 1 or 2ly of fuel at your destination, particularly when your destination is a dangerous system. But also stay aware of your remaining fuel at all times - it can be disastrous to get into trouble in a battle, decide to turn and flee, and waste precious seconds hitting the injectors with no result. In that "Why aren't my injectors working?" moment you could find yourself floating free in space.

Combat Manoeuvers

  • The Barkanion Bounce: Barkanioth Sidereas, the Supreme Savant of the Lavean Academy's School of Strategic Studies, developed a method of swirling or looping combined with continual changes of velocity, thus making it almost impossible for the enemy to hit him as he was closing with them.
  • The Wrogers Writhe: Wrogers, the renowned reptilian Elite pilot from the antipodes of Riarribi, perfected the technique of performing a corkscrew approach towards the enemy using Witchfuel Injectors (thus ensuring that their laser blasts miss) until behind them, then spinning on a coin (at greatly reduced speed) and turning and strafing them. Initial missile fire could be easily ECM'd as they would be firing their missiles facing away from Wrogers, giving him more time to react.
  • Manfred's Manoeuver: The sun blinds your enemies in the same way that it blinds you. But if they are behind you (and you have a rear-mounted laser) ...
  • The Stellar Bake: If outnumbered, head for the sun (keeping the enemy close by). Enter the corona until your temperature hits the red line, then turn 180 degrees and engage your witch-fuel injectors. They will probably bake to death.
  • The Ahrumian Arrest: When you’re close to an enemy of comparable speed and both are circling around each other at high speed. The best way to break out of this is to slow down; the enemy will end up further away from you, and becomes easier to aim at (because his movements have a smaller arc distance from your perspective). Adalbert Ahrumias was an early Supreme Savant at the Lave Academy, a couple of generations ago.
  • Dybal's Defensive Barrel Roll: Commodore Dybal perfected an over-ride mechanism for his Astrogation Console allowing an attacked pilot to relax once the lasers start overheating and the shields are being depleted. To evade enemy lasers, roll & pitch simultaneously, which makes the ship spiral. Commodore Dybal's Barrel Roll equipment allows automatic performance of this manoeuver. Commander Hiran recommends installing Auto-ECM to enable automatic obliteration of inimical incoming missiles which might inhibit enjoyment of a gin & tonic/decent cup of broken Orange Pekoe tea.
  • Interstellar Barrel Roll: This is a hyperspace jump executed while barrel rolling. It forces a misjump that lets you end up in interstellar space. Only an option if meeting thargoids is better than facing your current threat.

Tactics for cargo ships

For a combat player making the decision to switch to a non-combat-focused ship, the greatest difficulty you will face is your own instinct to fight every fight. Cargo ships are slow and very non-agile. They can sport some reasonable defences, but often the best tactic is to avoid combat wherever possible. Use the tools provided by the Advanced Navigational Array to plot safer routes and avoid dangerous systems as much as you can.

If you're starting the game in a bulk hauler, consider moving the standard-fitted front-mounted laser to the rear position. You might find this is a more advantageous position.

Sometimes, though, you can't avoid dangerous systems, because that's often where the best profits can be found, and bulk haulers are looking for those big profits. Apart from using injectors and keeping some "pirate kibble" on hand (and on a big hauler, there should always be a bit of room for it), rear lasers and ECM-hardened missiles are your friends here. Turn away from any approaching pirate pack, and snipe them with your rear military laser. Your manoeuvrability is a bit restricted in a large ship, so this is your best chance of hitting anything. As they get in range, use injectors to get back out of range, or fire an ECM-hardened missile to make them run.

Tactics for particular scenarios

  • Piracy: See this article for details on dealing with piracy.
  • Thargoids: See this article for details on dealing with Thargoids, but in short, target the motherships first and ignore the Thargons as much as possible. If you can disable and destroy the motherships, the Thargons will shut down anyway.
  • Assassins: If you pursue a career as a courier or passenger ferry, you will more than likely experience the situation where you arrive at a witchpoint and are jumped on by one or more assassins. In this situation be careful: assassins have a "Clean" record - if you are also clean, and a police vessel sees you in a fight with an assassin, you might suddenly find you've got a bounty on your head and you're fighting the police as well.

Who's Who

There are many different people in space, all doing different things.

  • Traders: They have some guts to dare the dangerous business of galactic freight hauling. Yet, tend to cut and run at the first sign of trouble; few will stand their ground, and only when they have some backup, be it escorts, police, or hunters willing to cover their asses.
  • Escorts: Paid mercenary pilots, hired to cover the big long-haul freighters.
  • Police: Gatekeepers of law and order... Usually. Not so much in the anarchic frontiers though.
  • Couriers: Freelance post runners, operating outside the regular postal services. Like traders will also break for it when shot at.
  • Hunters: Ranging from paramilitary squadrons, to lone wolf vigilantes. Former traders perhaps, who made their bank grinding the long hauls, and now seek to inflict the same misery on pirates as pirates inflicted on them as traders. Usually fly very well kitted combat ships, and will be relentless in battle.
  • Pirates: Whether natural psychopaths or too stupid to succeed at honest work, these are the scum of the universe who adopted a criminal lifestyle. Despite an outwardly bravado, many will scatter if they find themselves outclassed, thus why they tend to attack in packs, flying ships in varying states of repair. They will often move from their anarchies and such-like to raid neighbouring safer systems.
  • Assassins: these don't back down, and a top-rated heavy assassin (they fly Asps) can be a challenge.
  • Aegis Raiders: pirates or assassins who raid the station aegis for prey.

Escaping tactics

Running away can be the better part of valour during the early game. However, there are some things to remember even in this situation.

  • Don't fly straight. Flying in a straight line makes you a very predictable target. Without injectors to outrun other ships, you have to jink your ship around as much as you can.
  • Head towards safety. Even while you're bobbing and weaving to throw off the aim of the ships, you still have to maintain a general line of flight towards safety. Safety could mean a group of police ships, or a station. Don't discount hiding in a Rock Hermit either. If nothing else it gives you a break and lets you refuel (which, if you have fuel injectors, could be critical) and lets your shields and energy banks recharge.
  • If you have an aft laser, don't forget about it. Ships trying to line you up in their sights will often fly straight, making themselves much easier to target. A few hits with a laser may completely dissuade them from chasing you.

Tactics for specific equipment

Note: See this document for a more detailed look at laser tactics.

Pulse lasers

With a range limited to 12.5km, these are a short range weapon. You have to get in close for these to have any impact at all.

Beam lasers

The range is slightly improved over a pulse laser, at 15km, and they fire much faster. But they also heat up faster. These are still considered a close-range weapon, and not suitable for longer range targets (except perhaps larger ships that are slower and therefore easier to target)

Mining lasers

These aren't usually considered a combat weapon, but if used carefully they can pack quite a wallop. Sometimes, though, you will find yourself in combat, so it's worth considering how these should be used. Because of the slow rate of fire, careful aiming is crucial. Mining lasers have the same range as a pulse laser (12.5km), so get in close before you fire.

Military lasers

These are perfect for sniping, because of their extreme range (30km). However, heat management is critical as these lasers get hot fast. They make good short range weapons, because of the power in each shot and how fast those shots can be delivered, but you will find you need to spend some time in dodge-mode while you wait for your lasers to cool enough to deliver the kill shot.

Fuel Injectors

Fuel Injectors are an essential part of any pilot's ideal ship configuration. They can be used in attack (to close the distance to approaching enemy ships) or in defence (in escaping overwhelming situations), but it should be noted that they are not a "get out of jail free" card. Firstly, they use fuel, and lots of it. Using injectors indiscriminately can leave a pilot short for essential jumps. But also, not all enemies can be escaped just by using injectors. Some pirates will chase players with their own injectors, and quite often their injector speed is greater than that of the player (eg an Asp). Injectors alone cannot be the only weapon in a pilot's arsenal.

That being said, even if the player is chased by a pirate with injectors, it can still be useful to employ the tactic in order to reduce the number of pirates being fought with.


See this document for more details about tactics with missiles, but in short:

  • Standard missiles should be shot at close range, and the less the target is moving the more likely it will arrive before it's hit by an ECM blast.
  • ECM-hardened missiles can be shot at long range, and are useful for thinning out an attacking group.
  • Quirium Cascade Mines are truly a weapon of last resort. They are indiscriminate in their destructive power, and you will likely need injectors to escape the deadly wall of blue energy. However, they can be very effective in the right situations (eg against a large group of Thargoids). Setting off a mine near a main station is not a good idea.

Make note of the keys that control what missile/bomb will be fired next. The "y" key will cycle through your available missiles to let you select the next to be fired. If you carry a Quirium Cascade mine, this key can save you from an embarrassing (and potentially lethal) mistake.

Incoming missiles and ECM

When a missile is fired at you, hit the ECM system straight away and keep hitting it until the missile is destroyed. Even with ECM-hardened missiles, keep hitting the ECM, as there is still a chance the counter-measure will be effective. You can target the nearest incoming missile with one of your own by pressing T (shift-t).

Using the ECM will use energy - lots of it, actually. In a ship like a Cobra Mark III you have quite a bit of energy to spare, but in smaller ships your energy reserves are limited. You may find your ECM won't fire because there is insufficient energy to run it. Keep an eye on your energy during battles to make sure you know if you need to run away from an incoming missile.

If you don't have an ECM system, or the missile is resistant to the counter-measures, you may not be able to avoid the blast. In that case, turn your ship around and run away from the missile. If you have injectors, great! Use them to escape. If you don't have injectors, you can still survive the impact if you’re travelling away from the missile when it hits you. This reduces the impact somewhat. A fully shielded ship should be able to withstand a missile in this way.

OXP options

There are a lot of OXP options for making combat easier. However, please make sure you read all the information about these OXP's before you install them. There may be unexpected consequences from adding them. For instance, adding Missiles and Bombs also makes them available to NPC ships, meaning some of these items may be fired at you.

This list is not to be considered as some form of recommendation, or even a complete list of OXP's designed to help with combat, but merely as a starting point for finding OXP additions that might be suitable in your play experience. The links will take you to the page that describes the equipment. Read this information carefully before installing the OXP.

For a full list of OXP's you can visit oolite.org/oxps, which lists all OXP's that can be downloaded directly from within the game, or go to the OXP List which lists pretty much everything that's available.

Targeting options

Laser options

Missile options

  • Missiles and Bombs and Armoury provides more missile and bomb options for the player, which can sometimes particularly help with larger targets (like Thargoid motherships). Be aware, some of these missiles may be used against the player.
  • Missile beep adds an audible notification that a missile is inbound.
  • I Missile is another missile option, with high speed and high impact.
  • Nexus Missiles provide various multi-warhead, semi-automatically-targeting, missiles.
  • If you're missing the Energy Bomb from the original Elite, you can add it back in with the Energy Bomb OXP.

Escort options

  • Hired Guns gives the player the opportunity to hire a pair of escorts for a single trip.
  • Escort Deck allows the player to fly with several escort ships attached via an external deck, while Carriers lets you fly with a big ship, and then switch into one of your escort ships to perform defensive actions. The Escort Pack expands the types of ships that can be added to either of these options.
  • Fighters allows larger ships to launch small fighters to attack targets, and then the fighters can be scooped up afterwards.

Energy options

  • Energy Equipment can help quickly recharge a depleted energy bank.
  • Shield Equalizer & Capacitors will equalise shields if one is higher than the other, as well as storing energy and passing it back into the shields when they are reduced.
  • Shield Cycler allows pilots to configure how shields are to be configured: all forward, all aft, or both. This can really help if your default method of dealing with enemy ships is to turn away and snipe with a tail laser.

Other options

  • BroadcastComms MFD (Mulit-Function Display) gives you the chance to attempt to bribe an attacker with some credits. If the bribe fails, you can try offering them even more credits.
  • GalCop Galactic Registry can help you examine the make-up of the galaxy by highlighting specific elements of the sector (economies, techlevel, government, etc).
  • Fuel Tank is a disposable, pylon-mounted accessory that allows for an additional 3ly of fuel to be carried, to top up fuel tanks when required.
  • Military Fuel Injectors will reduce the fuel consumption of your fuel injectors.
  • Ship Configuration has options for increasing the speed of fuel injectors, adding extra energy banks, increasing the base speed of your ship. However, this OXP also limits the amount of equipment that can be installed on your ship, so make sure you understand what the OXP will do by reading the documentation carefully.

Mechanical Tweaks

  • You might find it helpful to reconfigure your keyboard.
    • Keyboard Cobra OXP retunes the navigation keys to be more precise helping accuracy with your laser.
    • TSOJ suggests rebinding the navigation keys in a more easy-to-use manner
    • Linux keyboards (non-US) can be a major problem: see here.
  • OR you could try using something other than just your keyboard!
    • Use your mouse! Shift-M (for roll on x-axis) & Shift-Control-M (for yaw on x-axis) toggle flight control for your mouse in full-screen playing mode.
    • Add a game controller! Look here & also at this discussion.
    • Or add a speedpad
    • Or add a joystick. Ideally one compatible with your computer! Tips here
    • Or a joystick & throttle set (HOTAS: Hands-On Throttle And Stick). Tips here
    • Or two joysticks (HOSAS: Hands-On Stick And Stick). Tips here
    • Or even a Buttonbox!

Different things work for different people. Some people swear by the keyboard. Other people swear at the keyboard! HOTAS & HOSAS are also superb for the immersion factor. If you are interested in the joystick route try searching for joystick or hotas in the bulletin board! Warning: most models do not work fully with AppleMacs or Linux.

Oolite combat vs Elite combat

Comments of Another_Commander, one of the Oolite Developers (see his combat style here)

  The first thing one needs to do when starting fresh in Oolite is forget the combat play style of the old Elite 8-bit versions. Back in the old days, screen resolutions were much lower as you have correctly mentioned, frames per second were in the single digits for the fastest computers of the time, memory available for AI routines etc was much much lower and so on. This resulted in combat tactics that were fit for purpose for the available spec. An example of this is the fat pixel that represented any ship at large distances. Back then, the standard combat tactic I was using on the Spectrum was to shoot that fat pixel as much as I could before the ship it represented approached to a distance where the switch to proper vector graphics was made. Battles could finish in a few seconds like this before they even had a chance to properly start. And of course, it meant that I kept my ship moving steady forward while doing all this.
The above example will not work in Oolite. Nowadays we have high resolution graphics and better artificial intelligence. There is no fat pixel anymore and ships are drawn as textured meshes regardless of distance, often with shaders running on top of them. So, there is no easy targeting at the start of combat and the AI is using predictive routines to try to judge where it should fire the next shot. Someone engaging in a fight while carrying the mindset of 8-bit computers will see the game over screen very quickly indeed.
On top of this, there is one more detail that I need to bring to everyone's attention: Most of us (and, from what I understand reading your first post, you too) have memories of how Elite used to be when we had a fully equipped ship. I remember Elite being really easy once I had an iron-ass ready. I, just like you, was hunting Thargoids in witchspace for that extra bit of challenge and I still could eliminate hordes of them in one little single ship. That, looking back at it many years after, seems wrong, no? But the question here is, does anyone remember how it was when they were starting? Was it not hard back then? Did you not lose one battle after another? I remember I did, and I remember being frustrated. But the feeling of achievement when I won my first encounter against a pack of three using a pulse laser (even though I had to bring a half-destroyed ship to the station) was so intense that it made all worth it at the end. And the rewarding feeling of adding one more piece of equipment to the ship as I was progressing was enhanced by the fact that I knew that next time I was going to be in combat I would have slightly better odds. And because of this, I wanted to continue playing (you know, that "one more flight and I'm done" thing... ;-))
We are trying to capture this in Oolite. Yes, it is very difficult. It used to be even more difficult in the previous version. We had players coming here to complain about it but, guess what, the very same players who persisted and did not give up told us a few months down the line that the game was perfectly balanced after all and we really did not have to do any changes (but we did, because v1.80 was really, seriously difficult). To be able to capture this, some base design decisions had to be made and they have been with us almost since the beginning.
The philosophy here is two-fold: 1. The player ship is just another ship in the universe, no special treatment is reserved for it (the polar opposite of the 8-bit Elites) and 2. The player must be able to be challenged even at higher ranks, but still be able to survive at start up.
The immediate implication of this is that there are no skill levels. The game will not give you easy opponents in the beginning and harder ones when you are rated Deadly. The universe will always be the same. Bad things may and will happen to the player regardless of rank. Battle against a small group of pirates when armed only with what our Advice For New Commanders document, distributed with the game, refers to as "penlight", should not be easy. Sometimes the Brave Sir Robin tactic may be a really good option and part of the strategy of this game is exactly this kind of decision making, knowing when it's ok to flee and when it is worth facing the opposition. Getting surrounded by a wolfpack of 8 should be barely survivable even for an iron-ass Cobra.
Having said that, I get the impression from your posts that you believe the enemies are unbeatable. They are not. You can win against them. NPCs do not have shields (one of the very few occasions where the player is given an advantage free of charge), only energy banks and those are exactly the same as yours. One of the things we did when we adjusted the balance for 1.82, was a survey amongst players. Part of the data collected was input from a few experienced players who started as brand fresh commanders at Lave when we asked for their help. And their input was that, with the balance changes in 1.82, it was definitely doable. Not easy, mind you, but doable. I expect that fresh players will obviously not find it doable immediately, but I believe that it is just a matter of persistence and developing some skill that was simply not applicable in the 8-bit versions, before they get to the level where they can make it. You already seem to be getting there; remember that ship that run away on injectors after having begged for mercy? You almost had him there and if he used injectors to flee, it was because he had already lost the battle. Without injectors, you would have finished it really soon.
In any case, ships with injectors in the core game are mostly Asps, Kraits or Fer-de-Lances, so it was not exactly an easy-peasy fight you had there to begin with. So you are already progressing, but you seem to be quite unlucky too (bumping on tough opponents, having your Energy Unit being picked as the first equipment to be damaged in combat etc), but I am sure you are getting there.
Some tips have already been given and there are other combat tactics that you can find out as you play the game too. For example, did you know that if you put your ship between the sun and your enemies, the sun glare will blind them and cause them to miss a lot? Also, fly unpredictably. The enemies are programmed to simulate human behaviour and they try to predict where you will go next based on your current heading and maneuvering. Surprise them. If you have one ship in your sights and another starts hitting you, do not be afraid to break lock on your current target and evade. Be on the move at all times. I'm sure you will find other tactics yourself if you don't give up. And yes, get a military laser, it makes life so much easier. And quirium bombs, they are good for cleaning up a mess, provided you can run fast. another_commander (2015)

BB threads

Note that the NPC tactics changed in 2014 (v.1.80) and again in 2015 (v.1.82).

Other advice pages

  • How do I ... dock / succeed in trading / win a fight / configure my controller/joystick etc
  • See also the OoliteRS (Reference Sheets) and AdviceforNewCommanders which came as .pdfs in your original game download. Probably worth printing out!