“…like a Han Solo Simulator, and what isn’t awesome about that?!”
Elite Dangerous is the long awaited revival of the classic space adventure game of the 80s; Elite. Headed up by some of the same team who created the original title under the banner of Frontier Developments, Elite Dangerous has taken what was once a collection of polygons and commands and turned them into an incredible, open galaxy, GENUINLEY massively multiplayer online adventure through the Milky Way. There is a lot to this one guys and girls, and a fair bit to cover to give it a fair review, but it’s all worth hearing, so read on!
There is a lot of open world, multiplayer, big gameplay titles coming out these days, but few are quite as open and quite as big as Elite Dangerous. The project is ambitious, and that is putting it lightly. The game generates a 1:1 scale model of the Milky Way galaxy (yep, that’s the one me and you live in) for your adventure to play out within, which includes over 400 billion different star systems. Feel small yet? When you realise just how long it takes to get to Earth from the starting station, you will almost certainly feel even smaller! What you do and how you do it however is up to you. Everyone is thrown in as an equal in Elite Dangerous. There are no class system or boosts or boons involved. You are thrown into the mysteries of space with a basic Sidewinder starship, 1000 credits and the rest is up to you. You can be a bounty hunter, a soldier, a trader, a smuggler, a mercenary; no path is closed off to any player of any level. You can be all of these things if you want to be, and you know what, that’s a hell of a lot more exciting than what a lot of other AAA titles have offered players in recent days! But that’s not all the game will offer you…
When you get into your ship for the first time, you will realise a lot of things about Elite Dangerous. First of all, if your first time in the cockpit is not playing the tutorials of the game, then you are going to quickly realise that you need to quit and play them. Elite Dangerous is hard. Flying a ship in this game is as close as any of our dreams are going to get to what real space travel might be like. There are levels upon levels of commands you can use, manoeuvres you can pull off and tactics you can develop as you play, but if you are going to get anywhere in the galaxy in one piece, then this is one game where you will have to bite the bullet and ACTUALLY PLAY THE TUTORIALS. The next thing you will realise however is that the game’s tutorials are in fact very good. Once you get past the first one which involves shooting barrels in space, the rest are intuitive, in depth and pose an actual challenge, rather than the more traditional, hand holding tutorials which other titles offer. You will learn the basics of how to fly, shoot, dock, travel, and generally survive in space. Some things are left up to you to learn yourself though; they didn’t want to make the game tooooo easy for us all now did they!
So now you know what the hell you are doing, you finally have the chance to actually take it all in, and more realisations emerge in your mind. One of these will be WOW. Space looks amazing in Elite Dangerous. It looks real, it looks beautiful from the tiny white dots which are stars in the distance, to the planet right in front of you, to the space station over there, to the lasers coming to kill you, and down to the contents of your very own cockpit! Well, your pilot’s body looks a little weird and disproportionate, but unless you plan on spending a lot of time looking at your own arms and legs, you won’t be worried about this for long. The cockpit itself however is one of the true marvels of the game. It is super cool; that is pretty much the only way of describing it without using the terms “sweet”, “rad” or “baller”, but these too do apply. Rather than just a HUD on your screen, everything is integrated into a 3-dimensional cockpit which you can look around and find all of the controls which really might exist in a spaceship. You have a radar-style map, a communications menu, diagnostics, scanners, the whole shebang on board and at your fingertips. For any Sci-Fi geek this is a dream, and you will be begging your mum, best mate or girlfriend for one of those flashy virtual reality headsets when you get a look at it. It’s not very often you can give kudos to a developer for their HUD design, but well played Frontier Developments for that beauty!
There are a few realisations about the game which you may be less delighted to discover. It is worth noting before we jump into them that they are not problems with the game itself, but simple facts that some gamers may not get on well with. One is that you are not good at this game. You are not going to dive in and be a living legend here, because you are not a space pilot. You have never docked a light starfighter in a gravity-simulating space station before. You have never had a dog fight with an adversary who has a better laser cannon than you before. And you have never tried to fly across a galaxy on a limited fuel tank before. I mentioned it before and will reiterate for all those who ignored it – Elite Dangerous is HARD. You are going to have to take the time to really learn the ins and outs of your ship before you can master the game. And speaking of time, this is another aspect which some gamers may not adapt well to. Things in Elite Dangerous take time. Travelling, in particular, can take you a while. If you want to reach a far away star, you are going to have to make several jumps to lightspeed, stop and refuel several times, and get used to going through docking procedures and the problems which might pop up on your way there. Basically, if you are a fan of fast travelling in games, you aren’t ready for Elite Dangerous. If space travel in this game’s capacity were real, this would be the best simulator game currently on the market. So unless you want to be a space pilot travelling the Milky Way as if it were real, you might want to pick up a different space game. If that is what you want, I don’t know why you are still sat here reading at this point!
Elite Dangerous keeps no secrets about the fact that playing the game takes time. For example, it starts you off with 1000 credits to spend, but if you want a new ship or even a new part of one, you are going to have to spend some time making that money yourself, however you see fit. But time in the game is real too, and there are events going on which you can be a part of, shaping the story as it unfolds. The developers kicked things off on day one, but since then players have been shaping the outcomes of battles, deciding the fates of factions, and creating the very future of the galaxy they are exploring through their individual actions. This game isn’t like any other. You can’t just follow the basic quest pattern here. The galaxy is alive, and you are welcome to be a part of that. If you would rather keep out of it and explore space alone, you can do that too. You don’t have a level to keep upping or a skill to pick up with your experience points. You are just a guy or a girl in a ship living their everyday spacey life. How awesome is that?!
Here is a game then that can be summed up in a few quick points. Number one; you can do whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want, with whoever you want and wherever you want, and you can do all of this in a spaceship – amazing! Number two; if you want the coolest ship, or to see the most amazing planet, or simply to have the biggest gun going, you are going to have to put in time and effort to get these things, but it will be fun, you can be sure of that! And finally number three; you are the same as everybody else in this galaxy, no levels, no classes, no achievements – if you want to make a name for yourself in space, you are going to have to go out there and let people know who you are by yourself. Essentially, Elite Dangerous is the simulator of that amazing life in space that every Sci-Fi fan has at some point imagined themselves being in. It is probably best described as being like a Han Solo Simulator, and what isn’t awesome about that?! If you like the sound of the game and have the time, patience and drive to put some effort into it, then you should go and get it. Now.
- Not just open world, but open GALAXY; this game is big, and you will never run out of things to explore.
- You can be whoever and whatever you want to be; everyone is equal in Elite Dangerous from the moment they start the game, and everyone has potential.
- Create your own story, over and over again; Elite Dangerous doesn’t have any linear quest line to follow. You can do anything you want, big or small.
- Everything is awesome; The Lego Movie clearly knew before us about Elite Dangerous’ incredible visuals, detailed, realistic and intuitive gameplay and player-focussed attitude when it put that tune out!
- An ambitious project seen through to near-perfection by a developer; and that is more than can be said about some AAA developments these days too!
- The game is not easy; not a negative of the game itself, but some players may not like the genuinely challenging learning curve of playing Elite Dangerous.
- Things take time… lots of time; if you don’t get a lot of time to play games or you aren’t willing to put the time in, don’t pick this one up – you’ll find no fast travel options here.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.