Elite Dangerous Review: Is it Worth Playing?

Elite Dangerous review
Welcome to the Universe of Elite Dangerous.

So what is Elite Dangerous all about?

Elite dangerous takes place several hundred years in the future, to be exact the year 3302. The time passes in real time, as the game has some mechanics reminiscent to MMORPG games. It does not have a clear story for the player besides the history of the galaxy you can read about. The game does not present you with any ‘Main Campaign’ it merely teaches you how to play and drops you in this vast galaxy. The ‘story’ and ‘Campaign’ are whatever you make them up to be. The idea is that you immerse yourself giving your character and your progression through the galaxy your own story. That you are the one flying through the galaxy with your sets of ideals, goals and standards. This is an interesting idea that can really work for some, but can at the same time be a bad thing for others, it purely depends on the person playing.

In essence the game is for you to do whatever you feel like doing. You are given a ship and you can fly around and do any sort of jobs or missions you want to do. There are restrictions on some higher paying missions but those are restrictions based on what in game faction/government you end up supporting, or your level of experience in a field. The game’s design lets the player be immersed and go after a number of different ‘careers’ or ‘professions’.  For example, you can decide to make money by bounty hunting, or by trading goods. The missions are also where there is a factor that can help you build a story and character. Maybe you are a pilot that absolutely refuses to trade slaves no matter how lucrative it could be, or you are a bounty hunter who only targets criminals, or one who does not care and kills whoever for a high enough price. You could also completely leave bounty hunting, making reasons for yourself of why you are leaving that career. Like me, I decided to stop bounty hunting after I got enough money to deck out a ship purely for Exploration. Thinking I would leave the life of killing behind, and go out to enjoy the beauty of nature as I reflected on my life choices.

Like that the story you make for yourself is vastly more interactive and truly 100% player driven than most stories out there, where what will happen is already predetermined by an author, even if there are multiple endings. In Elite, it’s all about the player. Even the difficulty, which depends on how equipped you are to do the jobs you take on and the particular difficulty of the jobs you pick. Usually harder, bigger jobs pay better. Often this can also play into the story if you see it as the character gaining skill and experience and taking on bigger jobs.

One of the closest things that Elite has to a story is the daily events. Elite’s world is a dynamic one. There is daily news, and different factions fight that fight both in wars and in politics. There is always something happening in Elite, which makes it feel like you are in a world truly bigger than yourself, as there are things constantly happening around you and even hundreds of light years away from you. Maybe a revolution is happening on the other side of the inhabited space, while where you are there is an economic boom going on, one maybe you helped bring along. Elite’s world is an active one. One that actually can be compared to our world in several ways, you can make an impact on it but ultimately it works and keeps going with or without you.

Adventures and Quests

There is really no game that has had me more excited and at the same time nervous to explore it than Elite. They give you the ENTIRE Milky Way Galaxy, reproduced to scale! This game has been praised on the realism it presents you with. Really the Milky Way is already an incredibly amazing place to be able to explore. This game also has incredibly good visual quality, while at the same time it runs great. The Horizons season pass is not as well optimized and runs more like the typical good looking game, maybe a bit better. But Elite Dangerous has a HUGE world and at the same is time visually amazing in every aspect, from the stations to the planets and the stars, and the interesting and beautiful formations you can encounter exploring the galaxy.

This is a video explaining the Galaxy Map and its functions. It is quite useful for exploring the galaxy, telling you about any systems on which there is info. It also you plots routes for you and tells you how much distance time and fuel it would take to get where you want to go, also helping you plan to go through an economic route or a faster route. It basically works like Galactic Google Maps.

This game makes adventuring through the galaxy challenging though. It’s not a ‘walk in the park’ at all. Sure you can be safe and explore near civilized areas, which is pretty safe. Or you can go out into the deep dark reaches of space where you will find several places no one has ever been to before in the game. The game universe is incredibly vast, and going out into it to explore, you can go out for several weeks at a time and take weeks making it back to civilized space, discovering planets and star systems never seen by anyone else before you. That is an exploration experience I can assure you has not been topped by any game out there yet. But that will change once No Mans Sky is released.

Quests are somewhat varied, and there is certainly something for every career. But they are not varied in the sense of scenario variety. Since it is 100% player driven, quests don’t really have much too any story in them. It depends on the station and the quest. But a bounty hunting mission only comes in two varieties, kill a set number of pirates, or assassinate a particular guy. That’s about it. The difficulty does differ, and the numbers, like payment, and time differ too of course. The biggest points of difference, or at least the ones that matter the most to the player at least are for whom it is being done, how much you will get payed for it, and what is it you need to do, in the sense of is it materials or slaves? Or am I killing a criminal or a politician to further someone else’s goals. There are also community goals that are sort of like events. The quests really aren’t the best. They are fine in my opinion, but they absolutely suck if you can’t further your own story out of them.

Ships and Community

Perfect ship look for my Pirating needs.

The best part about Elite’s ship variety is clearly in their variety of purposes and stats. Because most of the design of the ships often seem uninspired. Half the ships look like slightly different versions of the same design, though there are a few that do look more unique. Yeah, they are all supposed to be realistic, but that does not mean you cannot be creative, and after all they are Sci-Fi ships. Just look at the design of the ships in Star Citizen, there are so many different designs, and each ship serves a more personalized purpose, ships for racing, and ships for transport, heck ships just for picking up space junk. Those ships are what I think when I think of awesome Sci-Fi ships, heck they even have commercials on their website for several of them. Elite could really learn from that. It is true that their focus is more on practicality and functionality, though I still wish they could vary their ship designs more, in their own style would be just fine, as long as they are more varied.

Ummmm… I don’t feel safe here. I think I’m just going to go now…

At least they are all varied in functionality. Also it is cool how much of the ship the player can actually control, from the weapons to the life support. It feels like you really have something that is very customizable. Speaking of which, you can also buy modules, decorations for your ship and that kind of thing to upgrade and truly make your ship the best of its kind in every aspect. Also, remember to look around stations, some stations have better prices for equipment than others, I would keep track of which has the best prices. It’s also good to remember the economy in game can shift.

Another good thing about the ships is the flight controls. This is something Elite has really nailed down. After thorough testing and a lot of time spent really fleshing out the controls, they have made a control scheme that is very solid, though it does take some time to learn. Like the hotkeys for all the different actions, and the not so simple steering.  There is the price for so much player control. You have a lot of information and learning to do when you start Elite, so much so that there is a section only dedicated to training in all of its aspects, and video tutorials they uploaded to YouTube to help you learn everything. To me that is not a deterrent though, to me it’s a reason to get into the game and spend a lot of time on it, because it means there is a lot to learn and experience, because the game has a lot to offer.

Since Elite has so many different things that take time to learn about, Frontier has put out a series of training videos. This one is on the basics of the flight controls, and some of the flight mechanics.

The community is something I personally like. The game devs definitely have to completely overhaul their multiplayer system because it is simply horrible. A big reason for how bad it is, is the old and definitely inadequate multiplayer server technology they are using. There are better ways to implement multiplayer now and that is something I really hope they bring in this season pass. Still the community of players itself is great, not because everyone is necessarily nice. There are people that are definitely trying to mess with others, and even completely ruin things for them, but I think that is good, that that enhances the game experience, it gives the game villains. Antagonists that only make the nice guys huddle closer together and give them something to fight back against. It makes the community active and making it so one, or a few players can make an impact on the community. The community is as dynamic as the game.

This is the first in a series of 4 videos on the game concept of ‘Powerplay’. Where it gives an overview of what it is and explains how it works. Basically Powerplay is the system of organizations competing for power, territory and influence in human inhabited space. You can join any of these if your level in trading, combat, or exploration is high enough. By joining them you get access to particular ships and ship parts, and bonuses for helping the cause of whoever you pledged to.

Combat and Other Details

As you can see here I am carving my name into the back of this ship with my laser.

In this video you start learning about the combat mechanics and get taught a few techniques and about the weapons and a bit about their usage.

A big piece of content that makes Elite exciting is the combat. I would say the combat is on point, realistic, but not just like a simulator of combat, it has enough Sci-Fi to spice it up just right. In other words, the fiction and realism have been mixed very well. Also a very great thing to note about it, is that it is very skill based. While bigger, more advanced, and better equipped ships will have a great advantage, if you are better than the enemy pilot at dogfighting you can still take down a Viper in a Sidewinder. Though that is still a difficult task, it is possible. It is something a player can achieve. Heck I have almost been killed by Eagles even in my Vulture, because the ones flying them were extremely skilled and experienced.

There is also a whole mode dedicated to just the combat. Called CQC, or Close Quarters Combat. That basically has an arena style combat system with either team death matches, capture the flag mode, or just a free for all to see who decimates the most enemy ships. A little tip, try not to die too much in any of these.

I also love the sound design in Elite Dangerous. They have done an excellent job designing unique sounds for each of the ships engines, for each weapon, and for several other details, like for when you hit an object or get shot at, or even when you shoot an asteroid in space. Though hearing when a bullet hits an asteroid should not actually be possible. But the developers put in a sound that is fitting, to the point I had never realized that there shouldn’t be any sound. It’s also worth mentioning that every station I have been to seems to have a different voice actor tell you information. And the ship’s AI voice is not annoying, it’s just there to say important short lines. Half of the time you actually get alarms and lights to indicate some sort of problem instead of the voice, like when you are dangerously close to something, or are calculated to hit into an object if you don’t change course. Urgent important information is given to the player in smart and simple ways.

A screenshot of a close quarters kill in a CQC match. And this is why they call it CQC.

The NPCs have been improved on recently, but the writing of the pirates’ lines are still pretty generic, though there are several different lines so they aren’t repeated that often, and almost never repeated if you don’t deal with them regularly. As for the dogfighting, the AI does fine, except for some pretty serious glitches, which I have not seen in recent versions. The NPC ships are needed though, in both of the main roles they play. As they provide something to hunt and dogfight against, and security to help you in bounty hunting. There are also the faction leader NPCs that don’t really play much of a role except be there. Though their character variety and designs show they all had some thought put into them, and they are necessary in their positions. In just a paragraph about them you can see they are pretty deep characters in a sense.

Conclusion

Elite Dangerous is the kind of game you either love, or you hate. I happen to be one of the ones who love this game. It is something I can get into and get immersed in for hours at a time. Yes it has a lot of flaws that I would have given it a 7 for, but they have been fixing those flaws improving the overall game experience in many different aspects. Fixing a lot of things that people used to complain about, like how bad mining was, they added the limpet collectors among other things, which alone make it much better than before. These active fixes and the many things that are to come encourage me to give it a 9. Except for something many can say is a flaw on part of the company rather than the game, but this negatively affects the game anyway in my opinion, and did sour my experience with it. The dumb way they tried to suck out more money, selling their season pass in a hideous way.

Alone Elite Dangerous costs 30 dollars, that’s ok for an experience I want to spend hundreds of hours on. But then they tried to sell the expansion that added a lot of things they had promised for the original game release and fixed a lot of the game’s shortcomings for another 30 dollars! Expensive for an expansion like that, but that wouldn’t actually be the problem. Because, when they released the Season Pass new players could buy the Horizons expansion bundled with Elite Dangerous, at about 40 dollars. But if you already had Elite you had to pay full price for the Season Pass! It was a move that did not take into account loyal players that knew they enjoyed Elite and would likely buy the Season Pass. Soon after they tried to fix it by giving anyone that already played Elite a 10 dollar discount on the Season Pass. When it happened it actually caused a lot of confusion because of the weird way they were trying to sell the Horizons season pass. And what do players get as the first part of this new Season Pass, for going through that hassle? Being able to land on boring desert planets. Yeah at first it’s pretty cool, it adds to the game, and gives it more immersion. Except you are excited to land on more interesting planets but all you get are flat, barren wasteland moons. You can’t land on anything else. Sure the rover is pretty cool. But it’s a hassle to go down to a planet to do planetary missions that don’t even pay that well.

... I see dirt and rocks… a lot of dirt and rocks. Oh look, more dirt and rocks over there too.

Final Verdict

In the end I still love the game, and it’s yet to see if paying that extra money will pay off by the end of the year. But in the end Elite Dangerous is still a work in progress. It is still being worked on and it is still improving. I am sure it will be an even better game a year from now. It is a well-designed game with plenty of flaws and shortcomings. Yeah it can definitely be way better, but let’s just hope it will become better. If you want to get into the game I encourage you to try it out. To get into it all you need is imagination to forge your story among the stars.

8/10

If you want to read more about Elite Dangerous, I wrote another article on gamersdecide.com the best ships for the several careers in Elite.

Best Elite Dangerous Ships to Forge Your Career With

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Gamer Since: 2002
Favorite Genre: PVP
Top 3 Favorite Games:Elite: Dangerous, The Stanley Parable,
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