Elite Dangerous has been out since December 2014. when it released for the PC. Delivering on the gargantuan promise of an entire Milky Way Galaxy to explore, it was, and still is a huge game. It easily outlived the game that was said to be the next big thing after Elite, No Man's Sky which turned out to be a disappointment by many. I, personally, have never played an Elite game and was a bit intimidated by the sheer size of it all, but jumped head first when the PS4 version came out recently. Read below how I fared in my space adventure.
Elite Dangerous features a skeleton of a story, a general premise with factions and faction controlled regions of space.How you fill the rest of it, is entirely up to you. If you check any site that offers user feedback and review, I guarantee it will be filled with many stories by players inclined enough to share them. The kind of stories that will make you instantly want to play the game yourself. Matter of fact, I was drawn to Elite after reading such stories and seeing the first player that encountered aliens in the game.
There are three major factions, the Empire of Achenar, the Galactic Federation, and the Alliance of Independent Systems and you can do missions for any of them. This will increase your reputation and rank with that faction which will, in turn get you access to better ships and exclusive missions among other benefits. The fact that this is the extent of faction interaction is in no way detrimental to the game as Elite Dangerous is best played like a sandbox. You, your ship and perhaps a couple of friends in the cold vastness of space.
My initial experience with Elite Dangerous was not enjoyable at all. You are heavily encouraged to do the tutorial before you start your adventure. The tutorials are split into sections that do a poor job of preparing you for everything the game has to offer. Basic movement, fighting, docking, and mining is all you get. And even though it is only the tip of the iceberg, it is here that you come to terms that this is a simulation game. There is no arcade ship turning, automatic landing or shooting, jumping through hyperspace at a push of a single button or anything like that.This is a game where you have to earn everything that you want to do. Trying to stop at a designated location? Good luck with that. Land a ship in the station? Have fun missing the platform for 20 minutes.
True to real physics, gravity, propulsion systems (except FTL), distance and other variables were not something I was used to. It also felt a bit weird not being able to switch to a third-person view of my ship and being stuck to the chair. But as I said, you must come to grips with this being a simulation game or you will have a bad time.
Once you finish the tutorial and are thrust into the vast expanse of nothingness – still not having any idea of what to do is a time when most players will find themselves at a crossroad. You will either give up, finding the game boring and too technical or you will give it time, persevere, learn the mechanics, and have a blast. Picking this game up and playing it casually is really is not a viable option as it has an extremely slow start and will consume your time.
Learning about controlling and landing your ship, planets, factions, buying low and selling high, commodities and other aspects of the game takes a significant amount of time. When you add the time it will take you to get a decent ship that is able to hold its own in a combat situation and you understand how long it takes to get going. The good news is, once you feel comfortable in your captain's chair – there is nothing quite like it and the sense of accomplishment is second to none. This especially holds true when you bring a couple of friends along for bounty hunts or just general exploration and goofing around.
The persistent multiplayer nature of the game means that there will be instances of player cooperation or hostility where other players can make short work out of you and fly away with your hard earned cargo. The good news is, once you build yourself up, you can do this to other players. Luckily, the universe is a pretty big place and I was only once blackmailed to drop my cargo or be destroyed. Otherwise, the community is unlike any other, in a good way. Since the game has no hand holding you can either rely on numerous guides, Wikia pages and the like, or you can, like I did, rely on other players who were extremely helpful in clearing all my unknowns and answering any question, no matter how basic they were.
Because of this, playing solo can also be fun, and even though you spend most of your time looking out at the black emptiness, there is always a certain sense that you are not alone. You can solo faction missions, bounty hunts, trade, land on and explore planets in different vehicles, investigate strange signals coming from space and other – it'll just be a bit easier with other people.
The great thing about Elite are the updates, they tend to come in a bit slow but can be substantial. A recent bunch of them introduced Thargoids to the game. An alien race that's been present in the Elite Universe as far as the first game. Encounters are still scarce but they are a real "wow" event and their ships are a sight to behold. Each new update further fleshes them out, adding bases, ships and other elements of their civilization. Is the universe heading into a war? Remains to be seen. That is the beauty of Elite – the self-sustaining economy and political situation dictated by the players. Will the war start because of a trigger happy player who decided to attack a Thargoid base? Or are they hostile by default? This sense of being important and insignificant at the same time is a rare thing in any game.
Besides the main online and solo mode, there is also the special PVP mode called the arena. Here, you can quickly select a ship, weapon loadout and jump straight into an intense combat rarely seen in the regular game modes. It's a quick way to experience a combat scenario, and like everything in Elite is recommended to try only when you take off your training wheels.
Considering I tested the PS4 version, there are a few things to be said about the controls. Almost any action you want to take will consist of navigating some sort of menu. A number of things you control can be overwhelming and the PC players have an advantage in this regard as they can hotkey most of the important commands while PS4 players are stuck with what they get on the PS controller. Nonetheless, the limited amount of buttons was handled pretty well by the developers and I had no problem controlling every aspect of my ship after getting used to the controls.
Visuals and audio
I hear plenty of people say that it is easiest to make a game set in space as most of the screen will be black. Sure, this might have been true in the Atari era of gaming when everything was 2-dimensional but is a far cry from the truth today, especially in Elite. Sure enough, most of your space-faring adventure your only visual companion will be just the elements of the great looking cockpit but this doesn't mean that other visuals haven't received the same care. The ships are extremely detailed, as are space stations, cities, and other bases. You will notice a lot of repeating assets, but in a game this huge, this is bound to happen.
The stars and other planetary bodies are varied and some of them are a real sight to behold and also behave according to real life physics models. The details even go as far as forming mountains along tectonic plates.
I rarely engaged in combat, but when I did, it was enjoyable with a lot of feedback, whether you dish out or receive the damage yourself. Elite was a smooth experience throughout, although I did notice some delay when executing jumps to other systems or entering a station. Luckily, this has not occurred when doing anything time critical like fighting.
What perfectly ties into the feedback portion of the game is the sound. Although the music is tame and subtle which suits the theme of the game, the sound effects, on the other hand, are amazing. The sound design in this game is just perfect. If you want proof, check out the video of Thargoid first encounter to see how directional and weightful they can be. The sound truly brings the immersion to a whole new level.
Elite: Dangerous is a game that will either bore you to death, or you will love every second of it. I must admit that I would find myself hard pressed to suffer through the initial feeling of being lost and the steep learning curve had it not been a game that I'm doing a review of. Still, I'm glad that I did, since my enjoyment grew proportionally to me learning about the game mechanics and getting better at them.
A game that still hasn't fulfilled its full potential and is constantly updated with a strong community. If you want a space simulator with a really slow start – you can't go wrong with the Elite and now with it available even on the Playstation, there are no more excuses to not try it out. On the other hand, I can hardly recommend it to casual players or other players who are fans of immersive stories and fast action – you should look past this one.
|+ Huge universe sandbox||– Lack of direction|
|+ Lack of direction||– No immersive and interesting story|
|+ A true space simulator||– Insanely difficult to get into|
|+ Visuals and sound||– Can feel bland and featureless|