“Damn you, Frontier Developments!” I thought to myself as I sat in the cramped cockpit of my spaceship, staring at the starport’s interior walls. “Damn you for coming up with little annoyingly addictive ways to keep my gaming buddy and I around, well past our bedtimes!”
My friend and I had recently taken the plunge into Elite Dangerous, which is set in a fully rendered Milky Way galaxy. The game’s playing field is so vast, that there are huge unexplored swaths of dark, foreboding space yet to be charted and catalogued. We’d only been playing for fifteen hours or so (over a few days), and had been content with making money through trading and delivery missions. However, my friend had gotten a lucky break with a hugely rewarding mission, and he didn’t want to go to bed yet, at least until he upgraded his ship with a shiny new interdictor device.
That nifty little contraption would allow him to essentially pull targeted ships out of their hyper-drive travel mode, if they didn’t have the wherewithal to resist. Basically, he was transitioning over into becoming a full-fledged bounty hunter. This, of course, meant that I couldn’t go to sleep either, since I just had to see how his newfangled gizmo worked.
A couple of hours and a few successful bounty hunting missions later, and the focus suddenly shifted to having to stick around online because my buddy was “so close” to purchasing a new ship. This, of course, meant that I just had to stay up in order to marvel at his new vessel, once he had purchased it. “Okay, man, I’m just a few thousands credits away from getting it,” he said for about the third or fourth time. It was strange how even after several missions, he was always just “so close” to purchasing this new ship. Was he leaking credits each time he went out or something? Who knows, but it seemed like it was taking forever.
That’s because Frontier Developments, headed by David Braben (who created the original Elite back in 1984, along with Ian Bell), have produced a space flight simulator so addictive, that it has that one more turn feel that I usually only get from really good turn-based games. That game is Elite Dangerous, which although it debuted back in April of 2015 after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, it hasn’t really gained steam (no pun intended) until now. That’s because the developers have released a steady stream of massive updates, as well as DLCs that allow for such things as planetary landings and exploration, fighter craft, and more.
Elite Dangerous certainly is a polarizing game, that’s for sure. On one hand, you have a rabidly loyal and dedicated fan base that tend to appreciate the open-ended flexibility and evolving narrative that the game has to offer. You can literally be anything you want to be—pirate, explorer, bounty hunter, smuggler, mercenary, trader, miner, travel agent, etc. No, that was not a misspelling, you can even be a travel agent, shuttling around all sorts of different guests (complete with their individual idiosyncrasies).
On the other, you have throngs of impatient types who seem to want to constantly want action, action, and more action. These sorts of gamers are not dissimilar from hyper-spastic Call of Duty fans, who place fast-twitch gameplay and kill counts ahead of anything involving narrative, plot, strategy, or patience. In short, they resemble cracked out goldfish with zero attention spans.
From the outset, Elite Dangerous lets you know that it isn’t going to hold your hand. Even though it comes complete with a batch of handy tutorials, if you pick it up and play it (which is what I did), the controls are just intuitive enough to have you flying around in space within fifteen to twenty minutes or so. It doesn’t hurt that your starter ship’s cockpit controls are lavishly detailed, with glowing panel displays, sub-menus, and a gorgeous HUD display. In short, this is one immersive game.
Elite Dangerous can be played as a solo experience with only AI ships for company. But if you want the full Elite Dangerous experience (the way it was meant to be played) then the massively multiplayer mode is the way to go. There’s nothing quite like interacting with both AI and human friends and foes. I’ll never forget the first time some unscrupulous player interdicted my buddy from his hyper-drive travel, and then proceeded to get blown to smithereens because my friend had just purchased a new ship bristling with brand new weapons systems. He cried out with such glee over the game’s built-in communications system.
The developers weren’t kidding when they stated that Elite Dangerous’ universe is the “largest designed playspace in videogame history.” There are literally 400 billion star systems within the game, which means most of it is as of yet uncharted territory, just begging to be explored by those intrepid enough to try. Players can align themselves with various galactic factions at certain points in their careers, but have to be careful—joining specific factions will make you the sworn enemies of others, so you have to choose wisely.
Although I don’t have enough game time logged in to have experienced any, massive interstellar wars that are purportedly part of Elite Dangerous. Currently, my humble travel ship is far from being any sort of threat to the galactic powers that be. Maybe later, once I’ve built a mobile death star…maybe then will I shift the balance of power between the various factions that control known space…just maybe.
The visuals in Elite Dangerous are simply stunning. The ship and structure graphics are splendidly rendered, and their weapon effects are glorious to behold. And don’t get me started on the planets, asteroids, and moons. I’ve literally crashed into starports and other ships just staring in wonder at a planet or star, mouth agape in awe. These are probably the best space-based visuals I’ve ever seen in a science fiction video game.
Elite Dangerous is an ever-evolving space opera that will keep gamers playing it for many hours, days, months, and even years. The developers actually care about player feedback and respond to constructive critiques with constant updates and fixes. With tons of content, as well as much more on the way (I suggest getting the Horizons season pass), I’ll be playing Elite Dangerous for a long time to come.
Elite Dangerous offers some excellent visuals that suit its science fiction theme. However, you have to have a fast gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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