When I found out last year that a Kickstarter campaign had been launched for a follow up to the absolute classic that is Elite, I did not initially believe it. Shortly after I heard the news, a BBC article appeared confirming the information which I had been given. Naturally, my first reaction was to tell my father, this being a game more from his era than mine and that he had told me about many, many times before. Not long after, another article came up which said that the campaign had been a success, and now here we are, some of us waiting in anticipation and some of us enjoying the beta version of the soon-to-be completed project that is Elite Dangerous.
Of course, if you are not familiar with the 80’s classic which has led up to the birth of Elite Dangerous, then you will not yet know what the game is all about. Elite Dangerous is an online multiplayer space adventure set in a galaxy full of opportunities. You could find yourself a pirate, soldier, smuggler, bounty hunter or forge a story of your own in the depths of space, alongside other players each playing their own unique roles across the 400 billion star systems which make up The Milky Way. Travelling through the depths of space in your own starship, maybe even with your own space station or fleet, there is no telling what might await you. You could find an alien attack, a secret and valuable resource or the darkness of nothingness out there; the galaxy is a big place, and full of secrets. Well, maybe slightly fewer secrets once you have finished reading this preview, but nonetheless, there’s adventure to be had out there!
Thats just a simple overview, but it sounds attractive doesn’t it? There is no doubt that numerous gamers will be pulled in by descriptions like that one, and the developers are already boasting that this is one of the biggest space adventures ever created. So where should we start? How about we begin with the missions which the game sends you out on to get you started. When you log in to the game, you can choose to play online or to play through a series of single player missions designed to allow you learn the ropes. Notice the absence of the word “teach” however, as this is not the case. You are given a basic overview of the controls to look at, but learning to actually master them is left up to you. Sometimes this might be easy enough, however Elite Dangerous is by no means an easy game to learn to control. It certainly provides a good simulation of how to fly a starship, but have you ever tried flying a starship with just an instruction sheet? It’s not so easy, and this is the first thing you learn in Elite Dangerous.
Once you do eventually figure out the very basics of how to fly your ship and fire its weaponry, you can get on with trying to tackle a couple of these missions. The first is simple, setting you the basic task of shooting some stationary barrels in front of you. The second is not too bad either, asking you to collect a bounty set on a target by destroying their ship. This opponent has little combat capability, and so even though flying the ship after this enemy is a bit tricky, taking him out is not an impossible challenge. Mission three however asks you to take on an enemy who fights back, and this really is a challenge to the newer player. It took several goes for me to complete it myself, mainly due to the fact I was still learning the tricks of navigating my ship around the space in front of me and following my target at the same time. It also didn’t help that I probably spent more time running than shooting, as my shields were constantly being knocked out. The moral of the story is that Elite Dangerous is by no means easy to just dive into; there is definitely some learning to be done first!
On a positive note, what the game lacks in ease is mostly caused by its awesome level of detail and intricacy. It is more difficult than your average game in terms of learning to play, but there is a lot to be learned, as Elite Dangerous offers one of the most advanced and well thought out simulations of space travel that I personally have ever seen before. Your ship’s cockpit for example is something which you must fully interact with and which is very much a part of play in its own right. Not every control is directly in front of you, and you must actually look around the inside of your ship as well as what is going on outside it in order to fully control it. The cockpit acts as the game’s HUD too, creating a much more realistic experience in terms of immersion and realism. There is no information just randomly placed on the screen, but rather this is displayed on the ship’s computer screens, creating a realistic (or what we might imagine would be a realistic) simulation of piloting a starship.
Then we have space itself, which is also designed in impeccable detail. From planets, to asteroid fields, to the look of weaponry and explosions and the starships themselves, everything looks nothing less than impressive in Elite Dangerous. We can expect to see further improvements develop upon the already impressive detail too, given that the game is currently only in its beta stages. This in itself is certainly something to be excited about. The sounds of the game are certainly suited to match as well, with again what we can imagine would be realistic sound effects made by a starship, in space and during combat in such an arena. It is hard to say for sure, but it sounds pretty good to me, and I don’t think that players will be at all disappointed.
So that covers the building block elements which make up Elite Dangerous, but there is still plenty to be said for the online gameplay of the game itself. We will cover this in its own right however, in Part 2 of this preview, which you can expect to read in the very near future. In summary of what we have seen so far however, we can say this: Elite Dangerous is a tough game to get to grips with initially, but the impressive levels of detail which can be found in the game even whilst it is still in its beta stages of development show that this learning curve is worth the effort. There is also plenty of evidence that we have a lot to look forward to as the game progresses through the final stages of its development towards completion.
Don’t forget to check out Part 2 of this preview when it goes live to read about the online multiplayer aspect which makes up the major gameplay side of Elite Dangerous. But now that you know the basics of what the game is all about and how it looks and feels, I hope that you too are as excited as I am!