Elite Dangerous is probably the most unnecessarily complicated, insufferably grindy, and non-hand holdy game on the market right now. Now you may think that by starting my review with such a seemingly sneery statement, I’m going to give this game a horrible review. To the contrary, for space nerds such as myself, Elite Dangerous is a little slice of masochistic heaven. Let me explain…
First off, it must be known that Elite Dangerous can be traced back to 1984, which isn’t really that long ago in reality, but is with regards to the existence of computer video games. You see, the original title, simply called Elite, was lovingly crafted by two young Brits by the name of David Braben and Ian Bell. These two fledgling computer programmers essentially created the first-ever, space exploration and space flight simulator, hideous vector graphics at all. As a true space nerd, I’ve actually played the 1984 version, and found it strangely fascinating.
Thirty years have passed, and after an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign by Mr. Braben and Co., Elite Dangerous was launched in 2014 amid much fanfare and hype. Elite Dangerous immediately split gamers down the middle. On one side, you had patient space geeks, who loved the open-ended nature of finding your own way through the largest rendition of the Milky Way galaxy to exist. On the other, you had a very cantankerous and outspoken group, who found it just a little too daunting to not have scripted missions, objectives, and no overarching or grand backstory.
Whatever the case, Elite Dangerous starts off everyone in the same way. You are unceremoniously plopped down into your first ship, called a “Sidewinder,” and basically thrust into space without any rhyme or reason about what to do next. The Sidewinder, by the way, is pretty much the spaceship equivalent of a floating toilet. So what can you do from there, you ask? Well firstly, did you become curious about Elite Dangerous after watching all of those sexy trailers that show off cool space battles? That’s about 2% of this game—if you’re lucky. The reality is that you have some “interesting” options.
If you’re a person who likes flying in airplanes, only without any forms of entertainment, and not being able to nap away your time on board, becoming an explorer may be the ticket for you. Imagine, flying around through space, looking at a floating ball of rock, then blasting off to another neighboring star system, and then…wait for it…staring at yet another boring ball of rock.
Well to be fair, you may actually find a little excitement during your explorations, because sometimes one of the fellow players in the massive shared universe will interdict your ship and decide to engage you in battle. Chances are, however, that since only hardcore space nerds have stuck it out with this hardcore game, they’ll most likely be piloting tricked-out, heavily armed and armored ships of ultimate death. In other words, your brief brush with excitement most likely won’t go beyond the 3 or 4 second mark.
Are you a person who thinks that a career in accounting is sexy, or that merely doing your taxes is orgasmic? Then trading might be the way to go. Load up your floating toilet with stuff, and fly off to some neighboring system to sell or pawn off your stuff for some quick credits. Or, load up some stuff and fly off to a more distant destination for…more credits (whoa!). Talk about sex appeal.
But I think that there is an even more excruciatingly boring and slightly entertaining “career” that you can take on: the equivalent of a space slave. These subservient types of gamers offer their meager flight services to typically unappreciative and nasty space travelers, who seem to get a thrill by making you hop, skip, and jump to whatever relatively unimportant or whimsical destination they need to travel to. You fly, they pay.
Oh but wait, you must cater to their every wish no matter how irrelevant and fanciful they may be. But that’s okay, you can just sit back in your pilot’s seat and imagine that you are doing something better with your time, like having a continuous, 100 foot strip of sandpaper raked beneath your nether portions. You’ll probably say something along the lines of: “Why would I play Eurotrucker when I can play this instead?”
Fortunately, for those who have been caterwauling about Elite Dangerous being too boring and such, the recently released 2.4 patch, dubbed The Return, means that you’ll probably find some action. Unfortunately, however, this action will most likely take the form of some over-powered aliens called Thargoids that will make quick work of you and whatever space bucket you’re skimming along in.
The Thargoids have a long history in the Elite universe and have finally made it into its most recent iteration, Elite Dangerous. One minute you’ll be floating around in your bucket of bolts, staring at a space rock or hauling some stuff somewhere, and then next you’ll see a gigantic Thargoid flower-ship materialize right next to you. It will undoubtedly turn in your direction, and then fire all of its super-powered weapons and reduce your puny ship into tiny bits of shiny space dust.
Elite Dangerous is one of the most beautiful (its graphics are goody-good), super-grindy, relatively unrewarding and often pointless, space trading, pirating, exploring, and often navel gazing games out there. In other words, if you’re a hardcore space nerd like me, you’ll find that it fits just right—like just like those old rusty, hole-ridden, ancient pair of childhood Underoos that you used to beg your mother not to throw away (except that now you’re kind of…all grown up like, and they don’t fit too well). It’s a grind, and a rather lovely one.
Elite Dangerous features great graphics that make its space exploration gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy 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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