Starting Out - Early Objectives
At the start of the game you have few resources to rely on, and a lot of routes for earning money that are riskier than they are profitable.
The first problems to solve are getting tractor beams, afterburners and a jump drive so that you can leave the system and start with campaign missions in earnest. You might think, "ah, I'll just take what's on the mission board or fly cargo". But before you do those things, you should consider the alternative, which is to follow the tips given by the bartenders on every planet. If you investigate the locations they give, you can usually get something. And if you pursue the bounties you face a slightly harder fight, but not an unusually difficult one. Cargo hauling isn't that profitable in the first areas, and the missions tend to push you to fight near your limit. There is an exception to this - more in that in a bit.
When in flight you can learn some things by just going around using your scanner too. The scanner will pick up nearby bounties and you can go chase after them for a few thousand credits a pop. When you get the mineral scanner and mining lasers you can also just go to the nearest asteroids and chill out picking up some ore.
You want to get the tractor beam ASAP. You can't loot cargo otherwise, and whether you're hunting pirates or freighters, the loot is plentiful in this game, and a better way to build up your trading capital than buying it.
Once you have a tractor beam, here's the trick to get more cargo easily: take missions where you protect freighters. The freighters are the main targets of the pirates, so you have an easier fight. If you fail to protect them, you just pick up the cargo and sell it and you still profit. The pirates never take all of it.
Starting Out - In Flight and Combat Principles
The single most important flight control in this game is the radial menu(Y on a 360 pad). Opening it slows down the gameplay, giving you some time to think. Opening it and pushing the joystick up opens the targeting map which pauses the game and lets you strategize as long as you want and pick a lock target. This is hugely helpful early on when your ability to tank hits is low and it will help you quickly turn into missiles and shoot them down.
While fighting the main thing you will probably do at first is use the target chase button. It's most useful when you can't immediately spot where your target is on the radar - it won't get you onto the target as fast you can manually, and if you have color radar it's mostly straightforward to manually target. Running scans during combat can help if you don't have color radar since it will highlight the enemies.
However, to start doing above average and dodge missiles, what you should aim to do is use the speed controls and your inertial dampener. If your target is flying past you, mashing the lower speed button(B on the 360 pad) will give you more sight time on them. If you need to evade a missile and you don't have ECM, the inertial dampener will let you slide while turning and then thrust away, which can be accented with afterburners.
Moving around power to the different systems, the last "big thing" with flight controls, is not something you have to mess with immediately, although it can be convenient to put everything into engines to slightly speed up your flight time. The use of this function depends on what you're flying. Craft that are already fast don't really need engine boosts, and shield boosts are mostly an issue for lasting longer. But if you're flying well, you're probably also killing them too fast to take many hits.
Once you get buddy pilots, you might as well start using them for every difficult fight. Each time you call them they stick around for a limited time, and then have a 10 minute cooldown. You can call them off early if you want to start the cooldown faster.
As you start exiting the early areas you'll start seeing a lot of contraband to pick up from defeated pirates. This is a very profitable thing to sell and will quickly juice you up to the endgame gear. The problem (besides any role-played ethics) is twofold:
- You need to evade the cops.
- You need to find a market for it.
The first is solved easily. As soon as they announce a scan, hit the start button to pause the game, go to your cargo manifest, and jettison the contraband. Then tractor it back up. Sometimes the police will try to pick it up, but they won't care if you take it back in front of them.
The second is a little harder since you have to find out where the markets are. Since this guide is avoiding that kind of spoiler, I'll only give general tips: Look for lawless systems that describe themselves as having black markets. Many planets have trade in a single kind of contraband; a few are totally open. The pirate bases, of course, are go-tos, but you can be a "good guy" hated by pirates and still run full loads of black market goods to select "independent" bases.
You may want to make a risky jump(red line and waypoint markers) to reach a lawless system. The risk you are taking is a small amount of damage to your systems - not enough to pose a major issue if your craft is fresh. Clicking on the map and selecting a primary mission does some automatic pathfinding and waypoint selection, but it will avoid taking risky jumps, so you will have to note where they are when doing long hauls.
The early game and later game tend to prioritize somewhat different things in terms of loadouts. One of the best guns you can get at the start is the Gauss, because it has the largest range of any gun. With huge range and projectile speed you can take out more targets faster, and before they can pose any threat. The problem is that it doesn't put out enough damage output to properly defeat stronger foes.
Dumbfires and torpedos are early-game methods of point-blank shooting. They work reasonably well, but lock-on missiles will be more reliable.
Energy weapons versus kinetic weapons is an ongoing tradeoff. The downside of energy weapons is very simple - you have to devote some power to them. If you're strapped for cash to get power upgrades, this pushes things very much in favor of getting Tracers or Autocannons everywhere. However, energy weapons tend to have either high alpha damage or better shield-breaking potential. A balanced endgame loadout will need a mix of shield and hull damage, but you can somewhat compensate for weakness in one with good missile usage.
Turret weapons are a useful supplement to your front cannons that will keep pressure on opponents that are out of your sights. They fire automatically, and do not seem to draw generator power from my observations, so the decision on which type to get is strictly one of damage category and range.
The late game guns and missiles do favor getting in a little closer, overall. This makes engine power relatively important. You can use the large hauler ships for every encounter, but you will have to do more power management to get into range, aim to decapitate, tank some hits and then immediately divert power to shields.
You may wonder why to bother with the midrange craft when the top ones are only "a bit" more expensive. The trick is, there's no trade-in cost, you can transfer all the upgrades, and different ships have intrinsic advantages on speed, tankiness, or power output.
Surviving the Hardest Fights
RGO has a decent variety of tough fights, but they follow roughly two archetypes:
1. Bounty target and swarm of henchmen. Sometimes it's possible to take out the bounty(who always has the best gear) early, and even complete the mission early by doing so - if you do this you want to immediately find them in the targeting map and zoom up to them at max power to engines, then unload all ordinance ASAP. Otherwise you'll have to rely on whittling down the henches quickly without taking too many shield hits.
2. Big capital ship and a few interceptors. The main thing here is that you usually want to disengage with the big ship until you're ready to take out the guns, which means using engine power and afterburners to get away, engage the other targets for a bit while recharging shields, then repeat. The guns can be taken out piecemeal and you don't have to get all of them to finish off the ship, since sitting behind its engines usually blocks the sightline of the turrets.