You may have not noticed the release of Frontier Games recent offering. Promotion and hype has been relatively low key, but this could quite possibly be one the best games you have never heard of. Or at the very least have no interest in. Rarely has a game that I originally dismissed been able to change my cynical mind and grab my attention, but Elite Dangerous is one such game.
I will state from the beginning that this game is not suitable for everyone’s gaming library. If you are looking for game which you can just jump into for a quick romp of the joy-pad while waiting for your better half to come home with the take-out food, then I would suggest playing something else. In fact, you may find yourself single soon after you start playing. Like so many time intensive games, one hour can easily turn into eight, as you travel across the cosmos with your precious cargo of fruit and veggies.
So what does Elite Dangerous have to offer, that other space themed games have not in the past? Well, at first glance, the truth is not a lot. Fundamentally speaking, it has similar play style to X3: Reunion, and compared to Eve Online it is significantly less complex. However, Elite Dangerous does have its charms.
It has an easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master vibe to it, which is always appealing, and encourages you to return and keep playing. As a player, you are not confined to one way of achieving your goals. Progression can be accomplished via bounty hunting, mining, or hunting down and preying on other players. Ultimately, you decide where you want to be and how you want to get there. The game also offers missions in a MMO (massive multiplayer-online) style quest system, which becomes available at various points, depending on your rank and reputation, and provides additional ways to gain those extra credits, reputation points, and rankings.
Elite Dangerous also blurs the realms of single player and multiplayer in a way that actually works. Your game can be started in single player and then be continued in multi-player right where you left off. This adds to the feeling of a living, breathing galaxy that is constantly evolving. Your next playing session will not always reflect your last one. But this is quite an easy thing to achieve when your game is not driven by any story based narrative.
Game-play is smooth, enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing. The various systems, planets, moons and stars all look like they have been taken out of a NASA photo album, and have been put in place throughout the game with what looks like a well thought out and planned way. Combat is fun, but don’t be expecting huge interstellar battles with countless capital ships blasting away at each other like in Eve, or high speed intense dogfights as those portrayed in the Elite Dangerous launch trailer.
Combat in this games is more of a one on one affair, as piloting ability and aim is really all you have to ensure you come out on top and win your dogfight. You can equip additional modules to your ship to increase survivability, such as point defense turrets or shield cells. However, these add-ons need to managed and used at the correct time, otherwise they have no effect. Add to this the need to constantly manage your ships powers systems during combat to either boost offense, defense or movement, and you really do get a sense that one wrong move will cost you all of your hard earned credits, goods, and of course your gleaming new ship. Which then gets blown into cosmic dust, leaving it to be scavenged over by your opponent, who performs some sort of hideous interstellar tea bagging ritual while he or she steals your cargo. However, you no longer have to fight alone. The vast vacuum of space has recently become a much more hospitable, with the recent 1.2 “Wings” patch. This brings a whole new dimension to the combat system. Now you have to make sure, that when you engage your opponent, they do not have a wing-man waiting to swoop in and ruin your day, and that goes for taking on NPCs as well. When a player or NPC is scanned by your ship, you will now see within the target information panel, whether or not your prize is in a Wing or squadron. This little tidbit of Intel lets you know how many ships you may need to take on if you decide to engage your current target. Even if you can only see one ship at your current location, other members of their wing can find them in the system, or in the galaxy as a whole, and come to the rescue. Overall this makes taking down your opponent(s) all the more satisfying. But remember, in space no one can hear you rage.
Customization is a great feature in Elite Dangerous and it is implemented well. Ships can be outfitted to perform a specific task that you may want to carry out during your play time. By adding a refinery, mining lasers and some extra cargo racks, your ship turns into a credit machine, but this leaves you vulnerable during combat. But bolt on your weapons, a shield generator, and some new armor, and your ship instantly becomes a pirate hunter. It’s really up to you and what you want to do, but that’s where the customization really excels, as it accommodates a wide variety of play styles.
Traveling is going to be one of the main things you do in Elite Dangerous, as the extensive map boasts a huge array of star systems. And in order to get to your next contract or complete a mission, you will constantly be on the move.
Exploring is also encouraged by the trading system, as not all goods or commodities can be bought at any one station or base, and you cannot outfit or purchase new ships unless you are at specific locations. This can be one of the more frustrating elements of the game, as stations even in the same system do not have a linked commodities market, or even provide the same type of services.
The game itself isn’t too demanding for system specifications/requirements. My GTX 650 TI can easily run the game at 1080p, at 60 FPS (frames per second), with no frame loss, on High settings (Ultra being the maximum setting ). Although this does drop to around 30 when docked in stations. You can play the game using a keyboard and mouse, or a gamepad, as well as with a good old joystick. Functionality is also well utilized, and you are able to bind all your hot keys to suit how you want them, which is a must for PC games.
However, it’s not all meteorites and stardust, as there are some issues. At the time of this article, there is very little variety in available contracts or missions, as they tend to fall into two categories: bounty hunts or trading runs. HUD customization is also an issue, and players have resorted to changing color matrix settings within the installed program files, in order to get a more personalized feel. NPC AI is good and adds to the feel of the game, but they do tend to get in the way during combat, which can result in an orgy of retaliatory fire from both NPCS and players alike, should your aim be a little off, or you are a bit too trigger happy.
Finally, there are no plans for paid DLC…at least not yet. Although you can choose to purchase cosmetic add-ons for £10 or £15 should you chose to do so, but that is the extent of available add-on purchases at this time.
So is this game worth buying, and would I recommend it at £40 / $50 price tag? The answer is yes, to both. I certainly enjoy it, and I have put in about 30 hours since I purchased it. The customization, combat, the stunning looking space vistas, and the sheer size of the game itself all combine to what is becoming my new favorite waste of time. You can literally spend hours on one task. However, it can be slow paced at times, and much of the game is spent on traveling from system to system. The lack of structure and freedom to play any role and progress at your own leisure is one of Elite Dangerous greatest strengths, but some players may not enjoy this type of play style. It is therefore not a game everyone will enjoy.
Trade or Hunt. Space your way
Integrated Single player and multiplayer
Lack of varied missions
Now, or wait for a sale
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Elite Dangerous game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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