Frontier is based on the same principles as Elite. You have a spaceship with a Hyperdrive, and you carry cargo from one planet or spaceport to another, hoping to make a profit in the process. On the way, you meet with other spacefarers, most of whom look at you and decide that you’re easy pickings, and start shooting first. They do not desist until you obliterate them or they destroy you. Space combat is an integral part of the game. During the early stages it is very difficult to fight other spaceships – your firepower is limited to a 1-MWatt pulse laser that fires once every 5/8ths of a second, and you have no shields to protect you from the clumsy pilots of other spaceships. Later, combat becomes less life-threatening and more tedious. With a 20-MWatt beam laser, you rarely get touched before you’ve atomised any prospective opponents.
A very large ship will cost you about 500,000 credits. Considering you start off with 100 credits, this might take a while to acquire. Some trade runs are extremely profitable, and these sort of runs will be your bread and butter for the first few hours of the game. You upgrade your ship with bigger and better weapons, defenses, and add-ons such as scanners, radar viewers for scanning other ships, Electronic Counter Measures to foil missiles, automatic hull repair systems, and Large Plasma Accelerators. The game supplies you with a seemingly endless stream of hopelessly piloted enemies who seek to destroy your ship. With adequate shields and a steady hand, you can wipe out most opposition easily. But not all opponents are braindead. Some are plain deadly, and running away would be the best option when you encounter them with their shielded ships and 20-MWatt beam lasers.