Elite: Dangerous review

Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous is a game about space. 

In it, you take on the role of a space captain in charge of a space ship. You’ve got 1,000 space moneys and all of space to explore. Will you make your fortune shooting bad space men? Or will you carve out an income shooting space rocks? Perhaps you’ll find riches in trading rare space goods. Or maybe you’ll explore the farthest depths of space itself, discovering valuable and highly sought after information on the topic of “what exactly is space”.

Elite: Dangerous is a giant spacey sandbox. The game’s playing area encompasses the entirety of our galaxy, every star and planet and nebula and moon that we know about, plus billions of procedurally generated ones on top. You’re bolted into the cockpit of the game’s most basic runaround ship, the Sidewinder, and then effectively left to your own devices. What you do first is entirely up to you. There are three competencies to rank up in: exploration, combat and trading, and so if Elite: Dangerous has any goal to speak of, it is simply to prosper in this universe as best you can within these parameters.

The simulation of space is beautifully realistic in some aspects and then unashamedly compromised in others. For example, there’s loads of space. Every celestial body in Elite: Dangerous is the correct physical distance apart, so flying from planet to planet within a system requires travelling at superluminal speeds for several minutes per jaunt, as your destination grows from pale blue dot to screen-filling gas giant, or twinkling star to roaring ball of hot plasma inferno. Travelling feels significant when just getting somewhere takes this long.

Moving through systems in Elite: Dangerous leaves you slightly in awe of the scope and scale of the worlds you’re travelling between, a feat that’s helped along by a creaking, groaning soundscape of rocketing frameshift drives and churning space engines. Your ears will believe you’re in a battered old boat that’s breaking several laws of physics just to deliver a load of vegetables to the next star. Visually too, the fidelity and detail and slickness of the most basic actions in Elite: Dangerous totally sell the idea of space travel. It’s fun to fly around.

Elite: Dangerous

Physics takes a bit of a break when it comes to how ships behave themselves in regular flight however. Spaceships in Elite: Dangerous fly like planes, using constant thrust to propel themselves around, and pitching and yawing with fixed turning speeds. A joystick, or at least a analogue stick, is pretty much essential. And while you can happily mosey along between planets at hundreds of times the speed of light, while under normal propulsion you have a top speed of just a few hundred metres per second, enough to have Newton spinning in his grave (with perfect rotational velocity around his corpse’s exact centre of mass, knowing that guy). 

But these curious spaceflight physics result in much more interesting combat, transforming long-range jousting battles into intimate and intense dogfights in which you must out-turn and out-maneuver your opponent, cartwheeling and spiralling through space like WW2 fighter aces. Your ship’s capabilities matter so much more when one craft can be more nimble than another, and the deliberately wrongwise physics ultimately creates the cornerstone of Elite: Dangerous’s most developed career path: attacking and destroying other ships to make explosions in space.

Besides, everybody knows Newtonian physics is for nerds.

Elite: Dangerous

All around the galaxy and dotted throughout the various star systems are a handful of different kinds of space station. It’s here that you find bulletin boards that generate a number of different kinds of mission. These range from the straightforward, such as delivering an amount of cargo to a destination, to the more dangerous and involved, such as hunting down an NPC in space using their last known location.

At release, there aren’t many of these missions to be found. You’ll see them repeated from the outset with a few of the words swapped around. And invariably, while en route to carry out a mission objective, you’ll encounter an NPC who’ll suggest an alternative outcome. Deliver the cargo to another location for a greater reward. Call off your hunt in exchange for a smaller payout. You soon see all of the procedurally generated strings on this space bow.

That’s not to say that accepting and completing these missions isn’t rewarding. Early in the game, the grind to accrue enough credits to upgrade from your basic Sidewinder is absolutely compelling. Purchasing your first new ship and looking around its novel and shiny interior is thrilling, as is hearing the all-new engine noises the thing makes. Meanwhile, increasing your cargo space to haul more stuff feels like worthwhile progress to a trading-brained pilot, and putting more guns on will make any player feel happier too. The slow loop of saving and upgrading your ship is a gratifying one.

Elite: Dangerous

Progress plateaus after a few dozen hours however, and depending on your style of play Elite: Dangerous can become about as tedious as hauling cargo between rocks in space should rightly be. No matter which of the viable career paths you choose - trading, mining, exploring, shooting good guys, shooting bad guys - they scarcely change or evolve as you better equip yourself to carry them out. You’ll be accepting the same missions in a bigger or more gun-addled ship, and earning the same credits with more zeroes on the end.

Even exploration yields diminishing returns as you drop out of hyperspace again and again to find the same handful of star types resting in a slightly different configuration to the ones you just left behind. After a while you no longer feel like you’re traversing the void like an interstellar Francis Drake, rather that you’re stuck inside a solar system that’s been set to shuffle.

All of this repetition and grind as you fling yourself through space is speckled by (in the more dangerous systems at least) encounters with pirates, as well as the odd random “unidentified signal source” found hanging in space. But even these begin to repeat, revealing themselves to only ever be a handful of scripted kinds of encounter. Sometimes you’ll find a trader, other times it will be random cargo, or some NPC ships inexplicably pootling about in the middle of nowhere. And to arrive at these random signals takes up so much precious time, often whole minutes of just pointing your crosshairs at the signal and sitting on the brakes.

Elite: Dangerous

Far, far too much of the Elite: Dangerous experience involves staring at a destination as it approaches with aching slowness. And too much involves discovering you’ve wasted your time doing so. Too rarely are you rewarded for taking these detours, and too often is the greatest reward in Elite: Dangerous simply that the game hasn’t wasted your time any more than it needed to.

There are other systems and set pieces here, redeeming ones. Battles involving dozens of individual NPCs and capital ships are spectacular to behold, and the combat AI in these situations is smart enough to avoid piling on to you unfairly. You can single out the enemy ships you know you can handle and tackle those guys, avoiding the larger baddies with the scarier guns to some extent.

Combat is absolutely where Elite: Dangerous shines, and it’s in outfitting your ship with new guns and missiles and shootybangs that most players will find the most rewarding and consistent progress. Through combat you’ll also see the faction system at its most relevant. In communal scraps you’re asked to pick a side, with each small victory over an opponent tipping the balance of power one way or the other. Ostensibly this (alongside who you choose to trade for and sell to) powers some of the player-driven, emergent goings-on in Elite: Dangerous, though so far it’s a seemingly subtle effect that impacts little on your activities.

Elite: Dangerous

Though now officially released, Elite: Dangerous still feels half-baked in many regards. It’s multiplayer only, though it lacks the ability to team up and stick together, to share bounties or even to send cash. Instead the benefits of being online are largely limited to the occasional sight of another player flying into the side of a space station. Frontier still haven’t added all of the planned ships either, though the fifteen that are currently here are sumptuously detailed things, from their individually riveted cockpit panels to the unique whirring of their little thrusters. And as for planned features such as planetary landings, well, that might be a while coming.

If the developer can continue updating at the pace they managed leading up to launch however, Elite: Dangerous will be transformed in a year’s time. But they’ll have a huge job bringing personality and humanity to their universe. You know how in the Pixar film Cars, there are buildings and cities and roads, but no humans? Well, imagine that, but with fewer cars and the cars don’t talk, and the cars look sad, and it’s always dark. That’s how lonely Elite: Dangerous feels at the moment.

But it’s beautiful, and the very simple joy of flying through it can’t be denied, and should probably be experienced by everybody. And the game’s sound design alone needs to be held up as an industry standard to any other developers hoping to lasso a player’s consciousness like a big sexy audio cowboy. It’s the best sounding game that has ever been.

Elite: Dangerous is a beautiful arcade experience, plugged into an empty galaxy, one so big and bold that it might trick you into thinking there’s more to see and do than there really is. You’ll probably love it anyway.

7/10

War Thunder
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QDP2 avatarShriven avatarKeefBaker avatarUsername avatarFraser Brown avatarMountain_Man avatar+13
Shriven Avatar
3399
Shriven(4 hours played)
2 Years ago

Lessons for Star Citizen there. Space cant be empty! Still gonna pick up Elite at first sign it drops its price.

4
nu1mlock Avatar
668
nu1mlock(3 days 9 hours played)
2 Years ago

This. Also, space is best experienced with optional co-op. Elite doesn't have any.

1
Bear Jagz Avatar
3
Bear Jagz(1 day 7 hours played)
2 Years ago

Elite has 3 ways to play.

1. Open (full on multiplayer)

2. Private Group (multiplayer for friends in your own instance with no other players seeing you)

3. Solo(self explanatory)

so not sure why you think it dosnt have optional co-op

1
nu1mlock Avatar
668
nu1mlock(3 days 9 hours played)
2 Years ago

The private group (that I have been using when playing with my friends) is just like playing "Open" but with no other people. That doesn't make it co-op though. Co-op would be co-operation but there is none in the game. No bounty sharing, no mission reward-sharing, no actual grouping, no player trading. There's nothing co-op about the game.

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The only thing you can do together is mine but you still can't share income (or send money from it) or shoot people, but shooting people has no bounty sharing. There's no co-op in Elite.

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It'll hopefully get better in the "Wings" update, but as of now there is no co-op at all.

1
Bear Jagz Avatar
3
Bear Jagz(1 day 7 hours played) replied to nu1mlock
2 Years ago

i see what you mean but there are work arounds for it, my friends and I bounty hunt together alternateing who gets the killing blow and splitting bounties that way also you can buy goods and abandon them for your friends to recover as a way of spliting costs (same works with pirating) It is a little bit fiddley but it has an RP charm to it as a bunch of cutthroats splitting their booty at the end of a rampage. Co-op like everything else in elite is how you tell your own story atm.

1
nu1mlock Avatar
668
nu1mlock(3 days 9 hours played)
2 Years ago

Yes, I know about the workarounds, however, they're too fiddly to bother. There's no role playing about it, it's just tedious. Frontier knows it, which is why they're fixing it (eventually) with the Wings update.

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It's quite obvious that Frontier released an unfinished game when they have to rework basic features in their game - like proper co-op and the major mission overhaul that's coming.

1
QDP2 Avatar
678
QDP2(1 day 7 hours played)
2 Years ago

Well lets all hope progress continues to thrust forwards, I would love to enjoy this game when the galaxy has been filled, but until then I'm afraid I won't be willing to invest the cost of the game when it feels empty. I look forward to progress in the universe's density, so it can truly be the space game many of us dreamed back when the first Elite came out.

3
gw74 Avatar
5
2 Years ago

the prose of this review says 8/10 to me...

3
KeefBaker Avatar
391
KeefBaker(1 hour played)
2 Years ago

To me it only feels empty if you go to unexplored systems.. where, well, it should.

Also there *IS* singleplayer, you choose solo rather than open play.

2
QDP2 Avatar
678
QDP2(1 day 7 hours played)
2 Years ago

True that there is single player, but it still requires an internet connection to play that mode, which is a shame. Whilst I haven't played the game, from this aspect I don't see any reason why you would play the game single player, its just removing the occasional chance to brush past somebody, there isn't really much social interaction anyway (at least based off the passage above). Please do correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not here looking for an argument, only friendly discussion :)

1
Fraser Brown Avatar
957
2 Years ago

There's limited social interaction. It's there, but it's very shallow. You can group up, but I haven't found any benefits to doing so. If you're flying around with your mates in a group or technically separate, there's no real difference that I can see.

2
nu1mlock Avatar
668
nu1mlock(3 days 9 hours played)
2 Years ago

You can meet people (and your friends) but you can't really do anything with them. Bounty isn't shared, interdictions are bugged (friends only see friends, not enemies), no player trading, no actual grouping. There's nothing in the game that you can do with friends properly.

2
gw74 Avatar
5
2 Years ago

proper team co-op is coming "early 2015" and is called "Wings". confirmed by lead developer on 5th Dec. see Frontier forums.

1
Stinkflipper Incarnate Avatar
268
Stinkflipper Incarnate(1 hour played) replied to gw74
2 Years ago

Probably a paid expansion, knowing Frontier...

2
BazGibb Avatar
4
BazGibb replied to gw74
2 Years ago

"Knowing Frontier?" They've built the current game, which incidentally has great reviews, on a budget of £8m - of which £1.7m was crowdfunded.

Compare that to SC - $70m funded ENTIRELY by the public, with nothing but a motley collection of separate modules and the promise of pets to show for it.

If Frontier charge for extra content then they deserve it. They've taken most of the risk to make it a success. Chris Roberts hasn't.

1
Kurzak Avatar
4
Kurzak replied to gw74
2 Years ago

no, you don't have to pay for it.

2
QDP2 Avatar
678
QDP2(1 day 7 hours played) replied to gw74
2 Years ago

I'll have to look more into the game once this comes out, meeting up with friends and actually grouping up to get stuff done, sounds like my kind of missions :)

1
bit Avatar
7
bit replied to gw74
2 Years ago

Baz Gibb "They've built the current game, on a budget of £8m of which £1.7m was crowdfunded. ... They've taken most of the risk to make it a success."

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Wrong. Frontier took no risk. The entire £8m was put up by backers and preordering customers. Gamers took the risk. Gamers who Braben then shafted when he failed to deliver the game that they paid for.

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Braben has now been forced by threat of court action to refund backers and preorderers. If you're seeking a refund, join the Elite Dangerous Refunds Group mailling list at www.elitedangerousrefunds.org.

.

1
KeefBaker Avatar
391
KeefBaker(1 hour played)
2 Years ago

The social interaction is very limited and unless you're in the core systems the chances of seeing another person are fairly rare.

2
Kurzak Avatar
4
2 Years ago

Game is "feature complete" but is nonetheless a work in progress. The foundation is here for an amazing game. The team will now try to fill in the empty space with content. Do you really expect games to have as much content as something like Eve upon release? The game is an open sandbox right now, you can do a lot of activities and experiment with a lot of different features that are already present in the current build. A little time and a little patience, this title will come into its own soon enough. The scale of this galaxy is enormous.

2
DynamixBoon Avatar
6
2 Years ago

This is a game that requires the player to make their own story. It's fun enough just playing through a few missions, blowing stuff up in the combat sites, mining, trading etc. To get the most out of Elite you really need to set your own challenges.

Nasa released posters for discovered possible Earth like planets, so I thought awesome, lets visit them in Elite. Many players think it's the best game ever because the game allows to explore the universe in the way that they want.

2
Mountain_Man Avatar
718
2 Years ago

"Though now officially released, Elite: Dangerous still feels half-baked in many regards."

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This is ridiculous when you consider how the developers shamelessly charged exorbitant prices just to participate in the beta. Gamers need to stop falling for the Kickstarter and "early access" scams. It's bad for the gaming industry because, more often than not, it leads to unfinished games that are quickly abandoned when the easy flow of cash dries up.

1
BazGibb Avatar
4
2 Years ago

Elite Dangerous was funded to the tune of £1.7m against a development cost of £8m - FD took the vast majority of the risk - which is how it should be.

If you want an example of a what is bad about Kickstarter etc focus on Star Citizen. It has currently been crowdfunded to the tune of $70m and that is rising every week. The developers have put absolutely zero money into in so they have nothing to lose should it turn out to be rubbish. All that exists so far is a hangar you can use to look around your ship and arena commander in which you can fly said ship around shooting at things. Their stretch goals include things like "if we raise another $1m we shall put pets in" and things like that.

1
bit Avatar
7
2 Years ago

Baz Gibb "Elite Dangerous was funded to the tune of £1.7m against a development cost of £8m - FD took the vast majority of the risk."

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Way way wrong. None of that £8m came from FD. FD didn't have £8m. FD was borderline bankrupt when it started this project, thanks to David Braben's previous failure, a game called "The Outsider". See the public accounts.

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That £8m came from backers and pre-ordering customers who believed Braben's hype. The risk was taken by us customers not FD.

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The risk was that Braben would not deliver the game he promised . And he didn't. And Braben has still failed to refund the £1.5m he owes to Kickstarter backers under the terms of the contract that he breached.

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This is history repeating itself. Just like Elite Dangerous, Braben's previous space sim game was late, incomplete and bugged to hell. Frontier First Encounters: http://goo.gl/DX1adi

1
Mountain_Man Avatar
718
2 Years ago

Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen and both examples of the problems with "crowd funding" even if Star Citizen happens to be a more egregious offender.

0
KeefBaker Avatar
391
KeefBaker(1 hour played)
2 Years ago

I'm torn on early access and kickstarter as I've been both burned and blessed by it. There's the likes of Towns and Spacebase DF-9 which show you how bad it can be and then there's the likes of Divinity Original Sin and Sir, you are being hunted which have been great and probably wouldn't have existed without those methods.

The difference is that people need to understand that Early Access/Kickstarter is a gamble. You might end up with a gold nugget or a half baked turd.

1
ratherbcoding Avatar
1
2 Years ago

+1 to game score for author who doesn't understand flight model. All ships in Elite, by default, automatically compensate using thrusters to stabilize the ship's trajectory along the player's flight path. This mode of operation is referred to as Flight Assist and can be toggled on and off by holding down the Z key.

1
Steve Hogarty Avatar
31
Steve Hogarty(40 minutes played)
2 Years ago

Turning flight assist off doesn't activate Newtonian physics. Ships still have capped speeds despite constant thrust.

1
bartcusters475 Avatar
2
bartcusters475(62 days 7 hours played)
2 Years ago

Being a big fan of the game, i have to fully agree with the negatives named in this great revieuw. Hope that in a years time Elite will be what it can be

1
bartcusters475 Avatar
2
bartcusters475(62 days 7 hours played)
2 Years ago

Ps: they are adding " Wings" (just annouced) which will greatly increase Co-op play

1
Ethos Avatar
2
2 Years ago

I plan on picking it up when I can snag it for 30.

1
Username Avatar
2
2 Years ago

This comment has been deleted by a moderator.

0
operationmayhem Avatar
2
2 Years ago

the fundamentals of this game are still broken. they even released another update today but either didnt or could not fix the single issues causing the biggest playability issue for the players. Reputations are still broken causing NPC to attack you for no reason and leaving you trapped in some stations. i am giving up on the game dont waste your time on it. Elite really is the classic rip off or releasing a game not even remotely finished.

0
bit Avatar
7
2 Years ago

The future of this game is in severe doubt in the minds of many of its backers and purchasers. The root cause is the financial circumstances besetting the publisher, David Braben's Frontier Developments. The company recently reported a £1.7m plunge into the red http://www.iii.co.uk/stockmarketwire/190309/frontier-developments-red-revenues-fall and discovered David Braben had not owned the Elite rights he'd previously claimed, necessitating an emergency purchase of the rights that cost the company's investors £5m http://www.vg247.com/2014/04/17/frontier-buys-elite-rights-from-it-firm-braben-to-sell-1-6-million-shares-in-company.

At this time, Map 2014, the game was playable offline and DRM-free, as promised to the first round of investors -- the Kickstarter backers that had funded the entire development cost of £1.5m. The offline and DRM-free version had been played and tested for many months by early access backers. Around July this year, facing severe financial pressure forcing a need to show to shareholders a greatly boosted revenue projection for the game, David Braben cancelled the offline version of the game and moved to a wholly online model supporting extensive post-purchase monetisation. Players were required to agree a EULA allowing in-game advertising, paid-for content and a monthly subscription fee https://store.elitedangerous.com/ed-eula/ . DRM was added and modding prohibited. The company immediately began monetisation of content by selling mods such as paint jobs http://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/2hsps9/have_you_purchased_any_new_paint_jobs_for_your/ . It also announced a new edition of the game - the Mercenary Edition - as "available to buy now" and for many months took payment but failed to ship.

The company announced that the release date would be December 2014 -- the latest date that met the previous commitment to launch in 2014, and nine months late by the original release target of Match 2014. Players waited with eager antipiation for the "dynamic evolving galaxy" and "unfolding epic story" promised by David Braben but absent from the early access versions. The game launched one week ago, in a highly unfinished and bugged state. The promised "unfolding epic story" was entirely absent. Frontier revealed that this content was still an integral part of the "creative vision" and would be added later by updates to the server code.

The failure to provide the offline and DRM-free game backed by Kickstarter left the company liable to repay the KS backers. David Braben falsely declared that the backers were not entitled to repayment http://www.gameplanet.com.au/pc/news/g546e670f68c7d/Elite-Dangerous-offline-mode-dropped-refunds-offered/ and in refusing to pay, was in breach of the crowdfunding contract. The creditors pursued the company for repayment, and reported the company to PayPal, credit card companies, Kickstarter, and in the UK, Trading Standards investigators, the Advertising Standards Authority the Financial Services Authority. They formed a co-ordinating group, www.elitedancgeroudrefunds.org, and engaged a London lawyer to plan legal action. The first creditor to threaten to file proceeding to sue in court last week received from Frontier Developments COO David Walsh an offer of an out-of-court settlement, including full repayment.

At this point David Braben gave an interview claiming that the removal of offline mode necessitated not by financial pressure, but for "story reasons" http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/12/15/elite-dangerous-has-no-offline-mode-for-story-reasons/ . Detailed analysis by some players coupled with investigation of the game's story mechanic has concluded this cannot be true, and that e.g. "we are for some unknown reason ... being given false information" https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=58789&page=466 .

The game relies on a large number of servers to provide the online play. Frontier Development's asset register shows no investment in servers. The company appears to be running the server-side game entirely on machines rented by the hour at consierably greater cost from Amazon. Now that the game has no offline mode, iof Frontier becaomes unable to afford to run these servers, they will cease operaing and every copy of the game on players' own computers will cease to work. Challenged on this, David Braben has said "We do plan to take regular archives of the game and the servers, to preserve the game for the future." http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-11-18-david-braben-responds-to-outcry-over-elite-dangerous-ditched-offline-mode but has failed to make a commitment to release those archives if Frontier Developments collapses.

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