Endless Sky – Smart Start Guide

Hybrid method for getting through the early part of the game to earn more credits and increase your fleet as quickly as possible, strategies for all three starting ships.

Introduction and Purpose

The definitive guide on the “right” way to earn credits with any of the three ships offered when you start the game. Check my table of contents and just jump to the section for whichever ship you felt like choosing.

The Shuttle has a slow/boring start-up, but if you can put up with periods where you are just waiting around for something to happen then it is the easiest way to increase your fleet size and gradually get into bigger ships. The first half of this strategy is very slow… based on being a scavenger and salvaging disabled ships. The second half is faster once you have enough ships and credits to go hunt ships on your own instead of waiting around to pick up scraps left by the local military when they fight pirates.

The Star Barge feels very grindy at first, you will be running trade goods in circles for quite a while. This method can be effective, but it is lengthy and repetitive. Even with bigger ships you’re still running the same trade routes, going in circles… which is fine if you want to play as a trade baron but my advice is to do the trading for a while and then switch to the middle of the shuttle guide from there.

The Sparrow is basically like “Extra Grind” mode. It is too weak to be effective on its own so despite being in a “combat” ship you will want to avoid combat. And then it has only 1 passenger space and 15 cargo so running trade goods or taking odd jobs will take you forever plus a month to make any profits. If you really have too much free time on your hands, pick the Sparrow. Otherwise I recommend either of the other two instead. This is not to say that the Sparrow is a “horrible p. o. s.” – if you can get a whole bunch of them in a fleet they can do some damage, but a single Sparrow is like the guy who brings a plastic butter knife to a laser-gun fight. And in the beginning of this game you are very much alone out there in space.

The reason I recommend these strategies is because they are reliable ALWAYS. If you want to do side jobs you can… but those are random and might send you halfway across the galaxy just for dropping off one passenger to earn a couple thousand credits. It can be profitable if you get lucky regarding the specific jobs the game offers to you but it is a less reliable way to make money than the methods I will describe here.

General Advice for Beginners

No matter which ship or career path you choose, these tips will help you navigate the galaxy more easily, fly farther / faster, and survive longer.

  • Buy a Star Map at every outfitter. It unlocks information about your current system and several nearby systems… including showing where the hyperspace links are. They’re cheap!
  • If a planet refuses landing permission, try hailing it and paying a bribe. Then hail again and request permission.
  • Pay extra on your first loan when you can. But always keep at least 12 times your combined daily payment amount (loan payments + crew salaries) so you can fly for a week or two without getting a bad credit rating.
  • After you pay your first loan completely, sign up for a new loan at a smaller amount (maybe 400 credits) – so you continue to gain credit score without worrying too much about making big payments every day. At this point, stop paying extra and just pay the few credits automatically daily.
  • On your first ship, and likely your second one too, the goal is to avoid combat so you don’t die. Sell your shield generator and all weapons to free up outfit space and lower your energy and heat usage. This allows you to possibly upgrade your engines to go faster, or add more cargo/passenger space to earn more money or conquer bigger ships.
  • Energy usage is likely to be your biggest issue for most ships because they come standard equipped with laser/beam weapons. You need your “Idle” energy to be > -(moving) in order to generate energy while you fly. If this is not the case, your ship will shut down in the middle of nowhere when it runs out of energy. If you have a battery or superconductor installed, some of this excess energy can be stored for later use.
  • If your ship has weapons and/or shields, you DO NOT NEED a battery if your “idle” energy > -(moving + firing + shield regeneration) energy. However, if your weapons and shields put that total energy cost at higher than your idle energy production… well then you need a battery or superconductor.
  • Your ship has a “maximum” heat value. As long as the total of all your heat expenditures shown above that maximum value combine to be < “maximum” then you do not need any cooling equipment. Exception to this is if you are afraid of battling ships that have flamethrowers but that almost never happens.
  • If your total “idle + moving + firing + shield recharge” heats are bigger than maximum, then you need to install some coolers. Remember a cooler only affects the “idle” value, and you can put this negative to offset all the other values if you use a big enough cooler outfit.
  • Beware missions with deadlines. Count the number of days between “today” and the deadline date, then look at the map and decide if it is worth accepting it or if your route will likely make you late. If you are late, you fail.
  • Time passes by one day whenever you make a hyperspace jump to a new system, or you depart a planet / station. You can hang out flying around a single system for real-life weeks without a single day passing in the game, but as soon as you jump to hyperspace it’s “tomorrow.” When calculating a route for deadline missions, remember to count an extra day anytime you need to land on a planet (to refuel or to finish a different mission or to go shopping).
  • Your ships and equipped outfits will Lose Value (depreciate) over time. This means that the longer you use a ship or outfit, the less credits you will receive when you sell it. If you re-buy the SAME item at the SAME shop without departing that planet first, you only pay the same price you sold it for. If you leave the planet and come back, you will have to pay full price for a new item though.
  • Keep an eye on your ship’s “Turning” value. For best results it should be between 85 – 140. It is a measure of how nimble your ship is, how fast you can turn. This affects how quickly you prepare for a hyperspace jump (by rotating to face the right direction) or how easily you can turn to track target ships in combat, or how fast you can turn around when you need to stop (i.e. when trying to land on a planet). Given a choice between upgrading your thrust engine or your steering engine, most of the time the bigger turn engine will be a better idea. Any turn value < 70 will feel very slow (especially after flying around in a Sparrow with the weapons, shields, and battery removed).
  • Illegal cargo – friendly ships will frequently scan you. If they find illegal cargo you have to bribe them (usually more than the cargo is worth) or fight them. Either way hurts your reputation with that ship’s government… can make you their enemy if it happens too often.
  • Boarding and hand-to-hand combat requires both attack and defense. The AI can select either choice just like you can. If they choose attack then you need to have some extra defense H2H weapons to counter that. If they choose defend then you need to have some extra attack H2H weapons to counter their defensive weapons.
  • For H2H attack: sentry gun < laser rifle < grenade < nerve gas
  • For H2H defense: nerve gas < grenade < laser rifle < sentry gun
  • When you are boarding/capturing ships, you don’t need to immediately return to a planet to claim that ship. You can continue doing missions or you can even board multiple ships during the same battle. Remember after you capture it, you still need to reach the nearest planet without someone blowing it up in order to keep it.
  • Don’t be cheap. Sometimes it is easier to just buy a new ship than it is to try capturing it.
  • When hiring extra crew, your “flagship” (the one you are piloting) is the only one that can take extra crew. It is also the only one that can board other ships for attack purposes. Hire a full amount of extra crew if you are going hunting for ships to capture, your flagship’s whole crew will participate in the H2H battles.
  • When boarding a ship, you can steal their cargo FOR FREE without sending troops to attack/defend, so you can take their stuff and outfits – whatever fits in your cargo hold – without the risk of losing any crew members. Just hit the DONE button to leave without the hand to hand fight.
  • When you have a planet or station selected, as if to land there, you can talk to them just like you can with ships. Their options are: Demand Tribute, Bribe, or Request Clearance. The first one starts a HUGE fight with them, after which they will hate you but you can land there without ever paying a bribe again. The second one is used for planets who don’t like you, they charge a fee in order to let you land there. The third is for simply asking for permission to land. If they like you they will say “you are clear to land” but it is not necessary your ship will try to land automatically when you hit the L button nearby.
  • Weapons: Beam and laser weapons use A TON OF ENERGY when you fire them, will need bigger generators and batteries. Missiles and solid-bullet guns use ammunition that you have to reload at an outfitter, but they use MUCH LESS energy and heat to fire. Particularly on smaller ships, the missiles are usually a better choice in terms of damage per ton because they lack enough outfit space to use big lasers as well as equip the power and cooling systems needed to run them.
  • However much fuel capacity your ship has, divide that by 100 to see how many hyperspace jumps you can make before it’s empty. Once it is empty you have two choices: land on a planet / station in your current system to refuel, or select a friendly ship, talk to them, and select “Request Help” for them to come refuel you for one more jump.
  • If you have Secondary Weapons (missiles) equipped, you must hit W to toggle the safety before you can fire them. Bottom-right of your screen shows your ammo icon and number remaining.

Useful Screenshots

First, here is a screenshot with info about your BANK SCREEN and your loans.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

Here is the trading screen and info about trade goods.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

In the shipyard / outfitter screen, the right side is your fleet/ship window.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide
Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

Out in space, the four corners of your screen show important info.

Bottom RIGHT shows secondary weapon icon and ammo remaining. Click the icon or hit W to activate that weapon so you can then press Q to fire it.

Bottom LEFT has your recent messages scrolling by, plus your fleet info.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

Top RIGHT shows your ship’s status.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

Top LEFT shows your radar and target, hit R to cycle targets in other fleets or SHIFT+R to cycle targets in your fleet and your escorts.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

Here we have the menu that pops up when you try to board a disabled ship, or you get boarded.

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

And the results of boarding…

Endless Sky - Smart Start Guide

That ship joins my fleet, but I will need to replace the crew who took over piloting it.

Starting with a Sparrow, aka “Super Grind”

Let’s start with the Sparrow since it is the least effective ship to run in the beginning of the game. We’ll just get it out of the way now and be done with it.

1) Start a new game and choose the interceptor, Sparrow.

2) Before you leave Rutilicus be sure to purchase a star map in the outfitter. Do this for every planet you visit that has an outfitter. It helps a ton! Go into the outfitter shop and SELL your weapons, battery, and shield generator. One Sparrow is not strong enough to kill anything anyway! So your strategy will be to RUN VERY FAST while delivering cargo.

3) Go through the initial dialogue and help the man who starts the conversation. Do all the missions he offers you.

3.5) *This ship is lame. Too weak to function effectively alone but can be annoying to fight against them if you find half a dozen of them in a fleet. As such, even though technically it is meant to be a combat ship the best way to earn money is NOT in combat – not in this ship alone. If you don’t believe me, try to run and gun a little bit now; see how many times you get shot down in ten minutes.

4) Once you are done with all the beginner missions you should end up in a system called Talita. Purchase a star map. You might also consider purchasing a fuel tank so you can do more jumps before needing to refuel, but this is optional.

5) Run cargo transport missions OR trade routes as in the Star Barge guide until you have at least 500,000 credits. You have tiny cargo space so it will take a while.

6) Find any spaceport that sells a Shuttle, Heavy Shuttle, or Star Barge. Sell your Sparrow and buy a better ship, like a Shuttle or Star Barge. (If you have the money already, upgrade to the Heavy Shuttle instead – it has more passenger space and more hyperspace fuel capacity for more jumps between stops). 

7) Follow either the Shuttle guide if you intend to make money as a pirate hunter, or the Star Barge guide if you intend to run some trade routes. Fear not, eventually you will have enough money in the bank to ditch those methods and fly your way – perhaps in a bigger warship.

Starting with a Star Barge, aka “Trader”

This one is not too bad, really, and it gives you more of a varied early-game experience. You’ll run some cargo around the galaxy before you start hunting down other ships.

1) Start a new game and choose the light freighter, Star Barge.

2) Before you leave Rutilicus be sure to purchase a star map in the outfitter. Do this for every planet you visit that has an outfitter. It helps a ton! Sell your shield generator while you’re here, you will not need it.

3) Go through the initial dialogue and help the man who starts the conversation. Do all the missions he offers you. AVOID ALL COMBAT. Just run away if you hear that alarm indicating an enemy is in the system.

4) Once you are done with all the beginner missions you should end up in a system called Talita. Purchase a star map and sell your battery, and plasma turn engine. Buy the bigger ion turn engine to still have 40 outfit capacity and purchase 2 cargo expansions. Check your energy usage, you might need to also purchase an upgraded generator or a supercapacitor so that your “idle” energy > “moving + firing + recharging” energy… but maybe not, I don’t remember what my energy numbers were at this point.

5) Depart and start your trade route. The route is:

  • Algorel buy food / sell medical -> Porrima
  • Porimma sell medical / buy food -> Algoral


  • Algorel : Sell Medical, Buy Heavy Metals
  • Alioth : Sell Heavy Metals, Buy Industrial
  • Ruticulus : Sell Industrial, Buy Food. Also refuel.
  • Porimma : Sell Food, Buy Medical, then back to Algorel

The second one is longer but brings in more money. Remember to keep paying those loans. After buying cargo, be sure to pay off extra now and then but always keep 10 times your loan dues + crew salary.

6) Eventually your loan will get paid. You should take out a new loan for a smaller amount (maybe 400 credits or something) so you continue to build credit rating. Then buy a fleet of cargo haulers to run the same route until you’ve earned enough to live like a king. Start with 3 identically equipped Star Barges, build up to 4 Syndicate Freighters with 210 cargo space. Once you have around 5 mil to spend, get a Mule.

7) With a Mule you can run more freight… but you can also choose to board and loot the pirate ships, sell their outfits for more money. Or get the Hai equipment installed and hunt ships with those expensive fusion reactors. See the Shuttle chapter for more tips on capturing ships.

8) With about 30 mil, you can buy the Bactrian. Another 90 mil for 60 Fury ships as escorts. Now you can try hunting the Quarg. They have great batteries and other valuable stuff. Also try to keep some of their ships intact for yourself. See the Shuttle chapter for more tips on hunting ships.

Starting with a Shuttle, aka “Pirate Hunter”

This is the “fastest” way to make money and increase your fleet. It also is the best way to get into combat – not the Interceptor Sparrow surprisingly, but the passenger bus transport Shuttle.

1) Start a new game and choose the transport, Shuttle.

2) Before you leave Rutilicus be sure to purchase a star map in the outfitter. Do this for every planet you visit that has an outfitter. It helps a ton! Also sell your shield generator. You will be hunting ships but you will let others do your fighting… at least for a little while.

3) Go through the initial dialogue and help the man who starts the conversation. Do all the missions he offers you.

4) Once you are done with all the beginner missions you should end up in a system called Talita. Purchase a star map, sell your battery, and consider possibly upgrading your turn engine. Buy an outfit expansion and fill up on bunks (large or small, whichever fits). Also buy laser rifles for as many passenger space as you have. Should be 12-14.

5) Pay off a little extra on your loan whenever you can, but leave yourself with at least 12x your combined loan payment and crew salaries so you can survive a couple of weeks without any income. Once you start getting income regularly, you may reduce that leftover amount to 8x your expenses.

6) Head south to the fringes of Pirate space. You may take a couple of delivery missions headed in that general direction to make a quick buck, but you want to have NO PASSENGERS on board when you arrive. Make sure you’re in a friendly-controlled sector so you don’t immediately die, but it should border a pirate sector. Land and HIRE CREW to fill up your entire ship with people who will use your laser rifles. Now you wait…

7) Eventually pirates should show up to raid the system. The local military should fight them so you don’t have to – you have no weapons and no shields remember, so STAY OUT OF THE FIGHT FOR NOW. Most of the time, the two fleets will fight to the death, but sometimes a ship will get disabled and the other fleet will stop shooting it to focus on other things. You need to be QUICK, get to the disabled ship before it gets destroyed. When they manage to disable a ship (it will stop moving and will be greyed out on your display) hit B to go dock with it. If it is a friendly ship you might get a small reward for helping them restore ship power. If it is a hostile (pirate) ship…

8) The boarding menu is displayed. You may at this point steal some of their cargo or outfits (whatever fits in your hold) without any penalty. But that is not why you are here. Look at the right side, where it says percent of success for attack or defend. If those percentages are over 80% in your favor, hit the ‘Attempt Boarding’ button and ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK. You might lose a few crew members, but you should if you are lucky be able to capture the ship. Now it is yours. Fly it to the nearest spaceport to sell it for cash, or else keep it and outfit it with better stuff to add to your fleet. This early in the game you should just sell whatever you find, even a Sparrow will go for around 400,000 credits… unless it is one of the following: Berserker, Quicksilver, Hawk or Headhunter because they all make pretty good escorts to increase your safety margin while flying in enemy territory. If you are very lucky you might even score a Raven or Argosy, but I don’t recommend trying that from a shuttle. For now though your real target to snag should be a Scout if you are lucky enough to come across one. Or keep selling other captured ships until you can afford to buy one.

Alternate Shuttle Start, aka Mining Magnate

By using the method I just described, you can usually capture and sell two small ships each time you have to land and hire more crew. This will get you several hundred thousand credits in each run if you are fortunate… but it may get you dead if you are unlucky.

For the timid, there is another way to use a shuttle to gains some startup cash. It is a bit monotonous and less lucrative than selling stolen ships, but some swear by it anyway.

Take the shuttle. Find a planet that has an outfitter and a good number of asteroids you can mine. At the outfitter, strip your shuttle down!! Sell everything and start fresh by equipping TINY engines (you still want decent turn rate though so slightly bigger steering engine). Then one beam laser. No shields. No hyperdrive. Put on just enough power and cooling to let you move and fire without running out of go-juice. Then put Cargo Expansions on, you should have 40 outfit space available to put 2 cargo expansions. If you find that the asteroid is moving too fast for you to keep up, come back and go to the next bigger engine.

Blast asteroids and collect the minerals from them. The heavy metals. Lead, iron, and silicon are basically worthless, only a few hundred credits per ton. Aluminum, Copper, Silver, Gold, Neodymium, Tungsten, and Uranium have better prices. Platinum is worth 10,000 – or so I’ve been told. Sell them at the outfitter – they will be at the bottom of the list – or use “Sell All” in the trading shop. Rinse and repeat until you have enough money to buy a bigger ship…

Then you can either get something with more Cargo Space to continue asteroid mining for a while, or start running trade routes with a bigger cargo payload, or get something with more bunks and go hunt pirates to capture/sell their ships. Your call.

Some say a good place to go asteroid mining is up at the Aludra system, at the end of a branching path called “THE DEEP” on your map… it is in the northwest corner from your starting location. Just keep going north from the Zosma system. It has a shipyard, an outfitter, and an asteroid field with a lot of copper. The shipyard here and in the nearby systems have good choices, and the outfitters have the nice atomic engines.

Just remember: if you need to leave the system you will need to re-equip your shuttle with the hyperdrive!

One other thing, if you want to be an asteroid miner you should search the guides for “Visable Minable Asteroids” (that’s how the mod developer spelled it) which is a mod that puts a colored box around the asteroids with minerals to drop. I use it, it works just like it says. Different color border for each type of mineral asteroid.

Personally, I like that the asteroid mining is an option in the game, but pirate hunting is more profitable per in-game day. … at least until you can afford a ship with a MUCH larger cargo hold and by then you can afford a decent warship with high number of bunks anyway.

Hunting with a Scout, Raven, or Argosy

Continued from the Shuttle section…

9) Remember to pay extra whenever you can until your current loan is paid off. Then take out a new, smaller loan (like 400 credits or something) to keep improving your credit score without worrying so much about your daily payment amount.

10) Modify this scout basically the same way you did the shuttle. Make sure you have no shields, no weapons, sell your battery and make sure your power generator (might need to upgrade it) puts out enough power so that Idle > -(Moving + Firing + Shield Recharge) in your energy stats on the ship menu. Now put enough Outfit Expanders and Bunks on it to max out your passenger space. Drag this ship to the front of your list in the shipyard so this will now be the ship you control. Then select the Shuttle and either sell it or keep it if you really want the extra passenger space for running missions later.

11) Get back out there and basically do the same process with your Scout like you did with the Shuttle. From here, your next target to keep should be a Raven or Argosy, but an extra Berserker or Quicksilver is always a nice addition for added firepower in your fleet.

12) Rig your new Raven / Argosy the same way, for maximum passengers, and you can then attempt to board anything the size of a Corvette or smaller. Basically, pay close attention to the number of crew on your enemy compare to your crew when you try to board. You may have noticed already but if you lose too many crew your ship is difficult to control and won’t fly right. Another thing you can do, if you have a couple million bucks, is go deeper into pirate space and BRIBE a planet to land there. If they have an outfitter buy their grenades to stay “legal” while gaining an increase in boarding attack power for higher success rate against bigger ships. Or buy nerve gas grenades if you don’t mind paying fines every time a friendly ship scans you, but you want a BIGGER boost to boarding attack power. *Beware: getting fined too many times by friendly militaries will lower your reputation with them until they become your enemy. This could prove deadly for you.

12.5) During this time, you will probably manage to capture a small fleet of warships and interceptors. Keep a bunch of them and you can start venturing deeper into pirate space to attack/disable ships yourself instead of waiting for the military to do your dirty work.

13) Bag and sell smaller ships using your Raven or Argosy until you have enough to buy a Mule for around 5 million credits. That thing… is a great multi-role craft. It can handle some decent weapons for a ship of that size, can use engines that aren’t total crap for a freighter with that much cargo space, and has a ton of bunks for passengers or ship boarding/capture. Once you have a mule, you can refit the Raven or Argosy for combat instead of passenger bunks. The Raven is faster but the Argosy has more weapon mounts.

Mid-Game with the Mule, aka “Your Way”

Continued from either the Shuttle or Star Barge section…

1-Trading) With a Mule you can run freight as before, or taxi passengers. It has a larger cargo hold so this will become the mainstay of your freight empire, should you choose to continue using that as your main source of income. If you sell off some of the smaller ships now, you can equip the larger ones with some fuel tanks to increase jump range so you can feel free to explore worlds farther away and discover new trading opportunities. I highly recommend making your own list of which goods are very low/low or very high/high on each world that you visit and design a trade route that looks interesting to you. Maybe have two so if you get bored of flying around circles in one direction you can try the second route for a while. After enough time passes you will notice larger and angrier ships showing up in your back yard, so consider adding bigger shield generator and some weapons to your Mule, as well as some hand to hand weaponry just in case you get disabled and boarded. Even though you are still primarily avoiding combat, it would be wise to spend some of your profits on a small fleet of warships and interceptors to act as escorts just in case you run into trouble. Buying a second Mule is a good idea, too, for even more cargo space and passenger space so you can earn more money as you fly around.

1-Hunting) With a Mule you can continue boarding and looting the pirate ships, sell their outfits for more money now that you have a bigger cargo hold. Or get the Hai equipment installed and hunt ships with those expensive fusion reactors. Go buy grenades (or nerve gas) for everyone. Possibly also buy some defensive weapons so you don’t lose as many crew while you’re taking over other ships. Continue as before but now you can try tackling things up to the size of a Cruiser. You can even capture or buy another Mule and outfit it for combat to keep the enemies from blowing you up so easily.

2) With about 30 million credits, you can buy the Bactrian. That thing pretty much owns the skies. With a Bactrian flagship, you can choose your path. You can perform equally well as a hunter, a trader, or a taxi. Especially if you kept your mules and you also have a decent fleet of ships flying combat duty alongside your Bactrian. At this point you can try raiding the Quarg to steal their ships or some of their amazing battery outfits. Or do odd transport jobs all over the galaxy. Or start challenging worlds with the “Demand Tribute” option and then try to curb-stomp their defense fleets. For that, you will need several carrier ships and a very large fleet or warships of your own though.

Good luck out there, Captain.

My Recommendation

I would recommend one of two paths, depending on whether you like to blow up asteroids, or blow up ships that can shoot back. In either case, take the Shuttle.

Option 1: for warriors

  • Do those intro missions with your passenger/mentor James to get the feel of things.
  • Do the Pirate Hunting style with the shuttle.
  • Do more ship hunting with the Mule.
  • When you can afford to buy a few warships and some interceptors as escorts, try continuing with the main game.

Option 2: for entrepreneurs

  • Do those intro missions with James as a tutorial.
  • Do the Pirate Hunting style with the shuttle, until you can get into a ship with > 100 cargo space.
  • (examples: Hauler, Freighter, Argosy, Mule)
  • Go mine asteroids and make a small fortune on mineral trading. Remember to convert extra outfit space to cargo using the Cargo Expander outfit.
  • When you start feeling filthy rich, buy some combat-ready escort ships and continue the main game.

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