Being known as one of the original and best space exploration franchises, Elite Dangerous has some pretty big boots to fill. I’ve been tinkering around with the beta for the past few weeks, and from what the beta build has to offer so far, I’m blown away.
Elite’s set up is simple. You are a space traveler who carries cargo to and from destinations in your ship. You start off as a small independent street sweeper taking cheap and low risk items, but as you gain fame and wealth you’re rewarded with better ships and more valuable items to take. Unfortunately, the more valuable the item is the more likely space pirates are going to start hunting you down to take everything you have.
The idea of Elite is that you create your own story, so it gives you this simple premise and then promptly throws you into this vast universe to experience it all yourself. The whole “learn while you play” gameplay harkens back to games from the long gone distant time of the 80s, and welcomes those who are ready for a challenge.
For those who don’t want to get thrown into the madness of deep space, the game includes tutorials to help those who need to learn the basics (such as docking, which is crucial to succeeding in deliveries). As of beta 3, the tutorials still don’t do a fantastic job of teaching the games mechanics, and you’ll spend plenty of time memorizing the commands from the options menu.
Playing Elite is a lot like riding a bike. At first you’ll have no idea what you’re doing, get ahead of yourself and before you know it you’ll crash. But over time and hours of practice you’ll begin to learn the finer tricks that make piloting ships in Elite such a joy.
For days I couldn’t use the hyper drive properly and would always miss my mark by light years, but the feeling I got when I managed to pull out of hyper space in exactly the right location was only comparable to defeating a difficult boss in Dark Souls. It was incredible.
Elite Dangerous attempts to go one step beyond its predecessor by being an online outing. That means enemy ships may be other players attempting to steal your cargo, and that good Samaritans that come to your aid could be someone sitting across the road from you. Introducing online into this vast open space makes the whole experience feel more alive, as if what you’re doing isn’t just influencing your game, but also everyone else game, and that’s pretty cool.
If you can get over just how massive Elite Dangerous is, you’ll realize how beautiful it is. Granted most the game involves looking into deep black space with only a few planets guiding your way, it’s the small details that really sell it. The interior of your ship is highly detailed, with each button providing its own light and shadow effect, and watching your pilot move his hands to press buttons in conjunction with your commands gave me tingles.
Elite Dangerous is still in the making, but from what time I’ve spent with it I’m more than impressed with what it has managed to do. I can’t wait to see what they add in the future, and when official oculus rift support is added it’s going to become one of the most immersive games ever. Until then all we can do is enjoy what the beta has to offer. See you space cowboy.