Mankind has made some major achievements with regards to outer space. There is the all import giant leap for mankind, the Mars Curiosity which is probably in operation on Mars as you read this, and the notorious Hubble telescope. These and more have done nothing but made us feel small in the galaxy we live. I was not able to fully comprehend the scale of the galaxy until I learned how alone we are in Elite Dangerous.
Elite Dangerous is the fourth game in the Elite game series. Unlike the previous title, Dangerous take the space trading and combat to multiple players in a persistent world. To call it a persistent world would be an understatement since it’s more of a persistent galaxy. The playable galaxy is our own Milky Way, and it’s recreated in a 1:1 scale. Which means Elite Dangerous has about 400 billion stars to explore, which includes our very own Solar System. However, Frontier Developments has modeled the nearest 150,000 stars to our own with the rest being procedurally generated using scientific models.
With a playground that expansive, you would expect there to be plenty of things to do and Elite Dangerous doesn’t disappoint. You can live out nearly all your space age fantasies from bounty hunting and pirating, to trading and star exploring.
Someone as passive as me could still enjoy themselves. I tried my hands at mining and pirating before getting promptly ended by the system authorities. Elite Dangerous may be strict, but it can be forgiving. Instead of having a perma-death system, you get can respawn at a station with either the basic space ship for free, or have to buy back the ship you were in with all the bells and whistles.
The space stations are central points of the game. It is here where you can access the market to buy and sell your cargo, refuel, and repair your spaceship. Those are the services most will use, especially if you focus on bounty hunting, pirating, and trading. To be efficient at the role you chose, you will need to get the right ship and outfit it correctly which will take you a lot of credits. Similarly to the real world, you will need money to make money and there is no get-rich-quick scheme. Thus, expect to clear a couple of hours before diving in to get the most.
That is not to say that you cannot jump in for a couple of minutes and enjoy the beauty of Elite Dangerous. I’ve played plenty of good looking games but Elite Dangerous is one of the few truly great looking ones. Granted, I have all the settings cranked up to maximum. However, it does not take away from the breathtaking vistas you come across. Everything from the stars to the stations and space ships are impressively detailed. Elite Dangerous is clearly a labor of love. It takes a very special type of game to make you stop and simply take in the atmosphere.
It is said that in space no one can hear you scream, which is good thing considering how superb the sound design is in this game. What takes it above and beyond is how the smaller details have been covered. Whether it is as simple as boosting out of a station, or deploying the landing gear, every action has a unique sound to it. This extends to the upgrades having a heavier sound to them depending on their level. The icing on the cake has to be the on-board computer which informs you of everything going on around you.
She does a great job of reminding you about the small stuff like the landing gear not being deployed, to the more serious matter of how much oxygen is left when the hull is breached. On numerous occasions I caught myself yelling “shut up, I know exactly what I’m doing,” only to explode seconds later in a beautiful, yet depressing fireball. The worst part is the feeling of the self imposed smugness of the computer when I eventually get respawned.
For the past week, in more ways than one, I’ve been lost in space. In the most recent major update, Frontier Developments added first discovery rights to the commanders who first discovered a star system. This was one of many updates in the pipeline which includes planetary landings, walking around the space stations, and many more. This is on top what Elite Dangerous currently offers and shows that Frontier Developments is committed to bringing an experience like no other.
What Frontier Developments has created, at least so far, is a game with plenty of depth, a lot of potential, and even more direction. Elite Dangerous will not guide you through a video game version of a theme ride with exposition and set pieces. Instead, it drops you into a galaxy and tells you make your dreams a reality.
This review of Elite Dangerous is based on a digital copy for the PC which was paid for out-of-pocket.