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How to Defeat Pirates

Scott Peers

This page details everything you need to know about how to defeat Pirates in No Man’s Sky. We’ll cover some of the essential technology equipment and upgrades that you’ll need to fight off multiple enemy Starships, and some tips to make it easier for you to aim at fast-moving enemy ships.

How to Defeat Pirates in No Man’s Sky

Best Offensive Tech for Starships in NMS

The most important thing you’ll need to acquire before you can be effective in a fight against pirates is a good set of technology equipment and upgrades for your Starship. There are a few key modules that you can purchase early on from the Starship merchant on board the Space Anomaly. However, one of the most useful and effective is often already on a new Starship: the Photon Cannon. This is an effective weapon which inflicts good damage and has a high overheat threshold compared with most of the other weapons. There’s a good reason why it’s present on most Starships by default, so don’t underestimate it just because it’s the first type of weapon that you’re likely to use.

Another good weapon type which is often installed on Starships by default is the Rocket Launcher. This will inflict excellent damage to most Starsips, especially when their Deflector Shield is depleted. An effective method for quickly dispatching enemy Starships is to blast through their Deflector Shield with Photon Cannon shots, then hit them with a couple of Rocket Launcher shots immediately after. For the weaker ships it may only take one rocket to destroy them once the shield is down. You can rotate between installed weapons by pressing G-Key on the keyboard.

For the most part, you won’t really need any additional weapons other than the Photon Cannon and the Rocket Launcher. A good rotation between these two, using the Cannon primarily to blast through shields, and the rocket to inflict massive damage once an enemy Starship is defenceless, will result in quick kills in pretty much any scenario. With that said, there are other weapons that you might want to try based on aesthetic preference, or for their effectiveness in very specific circumstances. For example, the Positron Ejector is arguably more effective at close range than the Photon Cannon, so you may want to have this ready to use for whenever Starships get too close. However, you should keep in mind that it will be more difficult to land shots with it at longer ranges, and it takes longer to reload.

Best Defensive Tech for Starships in NMS

Aside from weapon technology and upgrades, there are a few essential defensive and efficiency based technology and upgrade modules that you should focus on installing as soon as possible. The most important of these is the Deflector Shield, which protects against laser fire, in-flight projectiles and accidental space debris collisions by providing a buffer of shield defence before the core health of your Starship begins to deplete. This is an essential technology that you will need to survive in almost any pirate fight, but it can also be useful as a buffer against objects while flying. The Deflector Shield often comes as a default tech module on most Starships, so you should have this installed already. However, you can improve its effectiveness with the Ablative Armour upgrade, which improves shield strength by +7%.

A more obscure technology upgrade which can help you to avoid combat situations altogether is the Cargo Scan Deflector. This gives you the option to press a single button whenever your Starship is being scanned for smuggled goods, which will then interfere with cargo scans deployed by authorities. This works for most types of hostile scans, including those coming from pirates, so you can avoid a fight before it even begins if you’re quick enough to press the button when you’re being scanned. There should always be a pop-up option for you to press the button which activates the Cargo Scan Deflector, so it’s difficult to miss.

In addition to the Ablative Armour upgrade for the Shield Deflector, you can also purchase additional upgrades which will improve the effectiveness of your shield from the Starship technology merchant on space stations. You will also find further upgrades for the weapon systems from these merchants. For a full list of all Starship upgrades, see our page on How to Upgrade the Starship and Living Ships. Once you have a number of upgrades of the same type, you should place them together in your Starship inventory to gain additional buffs from them, as shown in the screenshot below.

How to Target Starships in NMS

So long as you have the above essential technology components and upgrades installed on your Starship, you’ll have all you need to fend off most pirate attacks, even the higher level ones with 7+ enemy Starships. The only thing you need to be concerned with at this stage is how to target Starships effectively, and the best way to do this currently is by holding S-Key on the keyboard. This will automatically target the nearest enemy Starship, and track them for as long as you hold it. You can then focus on firing at the Starship with a good rotation of weapons, such as the Photon Cannon and Rocket Launcher, without having to worry about accurately tracking it through space.

(1 of 4) Be sure to keep S held when you encounter enemy Starships to maintain a target lock on them.


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Guide Information

  • Publisher
    Hello Games
  • Platforms,
    PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, XB One, XB X|S
  • Guide Release
    27 April 2022
  • Last Updated
    11 January 2023
    Version History
  • Guide Author

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This ongoing guide for the amazing No Man’s Sky includes the following:

  • Tips and Tricks to get started
  • Technology Upgrades
  • Building a Base guides
  • Crafting Guides
  • Mission Guides
  • Encounters
    As well as this there is also information on the game’s numerous updates, as well as the forthcoming Nintendo Switch version of No Man’s Sky.

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