Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: December 16th, 2015 (PC), October 6th, 2015 (Xbox One), June 27th, 2017 (PlayStation 4)
During my first hour playing Elite Dangerous I wanted to throw my controller across the room, break the controller in half and unplug my entire console and throw it out an open window, all out of frustration from not being able to dock at a station. What followed that first hour was a bit more frustration but starting to slowly learn how to play the game. Even when I was frustrated with the game I was still having a lot of fun playing Elite Dangerous.
What makes your first few hours in Elite Dangerous so frustrating is the tight learning curve the Elite Dangerous has. While there are a few tutorials, they really aren’t enough to fully teach you how to play the game. These tutorials will teach you things like piloting, combat, and landing procedures. However, one you complete these tutorials and jump into the game, Elite Dangerous throws you in the cockpit of a basic ship known as “The Sidewinder.” From here it’s up to figure out what you want to do and where to go. This can be extremely daunting and even with completing the tutorials, you’ll still have a hard time performing most of the game’s mechanics.
The thing is Elite Dangerous is meant to be hard, at its heart Elite Dangerous is a space simulator. It wants to feel helpless while you’re out in the depth of the Cosmos. Elite Dangerous wants to fail but it also wants you to learn from your mistake. It’s just up to figure out how to learn from failure. The best way to watch videos on YouTube, read up tips and tricks or just learn through repetition. In reality, no matter how many videos you watch of someone showing you how to dock at a station, the best way to truly learn how to dock is by jumping into the game and practice docking.
There are two ways you can play Elite Dangerous. You can play in open-play which will allow you to run into other players. Or you can play in solo-play and have the entire Milky Way to yourself. I personally played in solo-play for most of time. I just didn’t see the need to play this just so that to other player could ruin my exploration by killing me. I am also a bit selfish and want the galaxy to myself. Even when playing in Solo-play you will need an internet connection and that’s because this is a persistent open-world. Even when the game is off, things are still happening. Powers are trying to expand; community goals are still running and the economy is still working. While it would have been nice to not need a connection during solo-play it would have lost a lot of the experience by doing that.
When it comes to open-world games, developers often like to tease that you’ll have complete freedom to do what you want. Elite Dangerous doesn’t just tease this freedom, it actually executes it. In Elite Dangerous you can become a trader, filling up your cargo hold with goods and taking advantage of systems that are in an economic boom. You can choose to become a bounty hunter and hunt down those who have committed crimes towards other space pioneers, or you can go the opposite route and become a pirate yourself. You can hunt down pilots that have rich cargo, shoot them down, steal their cargo and then sell it on the black market. This will ultimately make each fight little risky as other bounty hunters will now be on to you. If trading, and fighting isn’t your things, you can also become a comic explorer. Setting out in the blackness of space far away from civilization and seeing what no other human has seen before.
While you can choose to only partake in one activity, the best to truly experience Elite Dangerous is by doing a mix of everything. For instance, I currently have two ships. One ship is for mission running and combat while the other is built for exploring, that way if during one game session I decide that I want to do a bit of exploring I can get out of my combat ship and get into my exploration ship. The choice comes down to you and you have the whole Milky Way to decide what you want to do.
Elite Dangerous doesn’t have a campaign to complete, but there are story-lines to found. Currently there are nine powers who are at war with each other and are trying to expand their reach over the galaxy. You can choose to join up with one of these powers and help them in their cause. You just won’t be interacting with a NPC and running through a series of missions to help them. There’s also random encounters with an alien race that seems like it might be building to a bigger story.
To be honest I am glad that there isn’t a long campaign to complete. I am fine with just jumping into the game and creating my own stories. I’ve already had more memorable moments in Elite Dangerous than any other scripted game I’ve played this year. My first time playing I set out to deliver some data to a nearby station. When I came out of hyperspace and I found myself face to face with a Pulsar. Not knowing how close I could get I began to get a bit closer and found my engines overheating fast. My ship eventually blew up and I had to buy my ship again. This was my first painful experience with Elite Dangerous but it’s something I’ll never forget.
Elite Dangerous is possibly the best-looking game I’ve played all year, even beating out Horizon Zero Dawn. The inside of each ships cockpit is extremely detailed, when you overheat you’ll actually see smoke and sparks coming from the computers and when you apply heat-sinks to counter the heat, ice will appear on the window. The best part about the visuals through are the stars. Every time I’d jump into a new system, the first thing I liked to do was decrease my speed to a stop and place myself directly in front of the star so I could see the beauty of the star. Seeing a solar flare shoot out of a star and form a loop is also a sight to see.
There are a few ways you can purchase Elite Dangerous, you can get the base game for $29.99, or you can get a version that that has the base game and the Horizons season pass for $59,99. The season pass already has four expansions with a fifth one set to come out. With the pass, you’ll be able to land on the surfaces of moons and planets and explore the surfaces while gather materials to use for crafting. The season pass is $29.99 if you just buy the base game. The base game does have offer hours of content but the season pass does complete your Elite Dangerous experience. However, I would recommend getting the base game first and seeing how you like the game before investing into the game further.
One of the biggest issues with Elite Dangerous is the grind. There’s just so many things that you’ll need to grind for. From trying to get enough credits to afford a new ship, trying to raise your ranking with a particular faction in order to gain a permit for a system or gain enough reputation to get more better rewarding missions. The grind factor is going to vary from player to player. I personally don’t mind the grind too much, I don’t want to be able to get the best ship within my first week but the grind for reputation and rankings can get a bit annoying.
Besides playing the main game there is one more mode you can play, called Arena. Arena puts you up against other player in intense aerial combat in close-quarters. There are three modes you can play.
– Team Deathmatch puts is a four vs four fight to see which team can get the most points.
– Deathmatch is a free-for-all to see which player can get the most kills
-Capture the flag opposite teams try to capture the opponents flag.
Arena is a lot of fun due to the excellent combat in Elite Dangerous. Combat is simply just aiming and firing. You have to be in constant movement to avoid losing your shields and taking hull damage and time having to micromanage other elements of your ship While Arena is fun, I just don’t really see myself playing it too often. Besides there only being three modes to choose from, I also found myself having a hard time getting into a game. I don’t know if there just isn’t enough people playing it or if it was a networking issue. I really wouldn’t blame players for not wanting to play it, besides it having a quick progression system, allowing to unlock new load-outs and ships; there just isn’t thing rewarding about the mode. You don’t get any credits for shooting players down or anything to use on your own ship in the main game, so I’d rather just play the main game and collect bounties in combat.
Overall Elite Dangerous is a tough game to recommend, not because it’s bad (it’s an amazing game) but simply for the fact that it’s just not a game for everyone. While that can be said for any game, Elite Dangerous is targeted at a certain audience. It’s more for those who want a tough space simulator and want to go out and explore deep space. Elite Dangerous is truly a rewarding and fun experience and is a game I will be sinking even more hours into.