Elite Dangerous Review

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Have you ever dreamt of jumping into a spaceship and blasting off into the unknown? Would you try and become the greatest trader or explorer the universe has ever seen? The greatest bounty hunter or combat pilot to one of the 3 galaxy super powers? Or become a pirate.. the pirate whose name strikes fear into every man, woman and child when it is whispered?

Then good news! Elite Dangerous just may be the game for you!

After a successful Kickstarter campaign back in November 2012, and just over 2 years in development, Elite Dangerous has been released to the public. Was it worth the wait?

First off, this is not going to be a game for everyone. Elite Dangerous is an Open World Space Flight Sim Sandbox game, it is brutal and unforgiving. A game that, like most flight sim’s, is best played with a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) Joystick.. A game that if played with an Oculus Rift is supposed to be the closest to virtual reality than any game in existence.. I do not own a Rift.. But I do own a HOTAS stick.. admittedly I bought the Joystick solely for this game..

Elite_Dangerous_(3)After running through the training sections, you’re kind of ready to enter the massive world of Elite Dangerous, and it is massive… 400 Million star systems are in place to explore, fight and trade in.

There are currently 15 ships in game, with more on the way. Everybody starts in the Sidewinder, your main focus at the beginning of the game will be to upgrade to something more sturdy, customise your modules and weapons loadouts to how you want to play.

Want to explore? Load up on discovery scanners, Upgrade the fuel capacity, FSD drive and add a Fuel Scoop to siphon off the gasses from the system stars.. just don’t get too close or you burn up quicker than popcorn in a microwave..
Combat more your thing? Improve the weapons, power distribution, shields and bulkheads to try and survive the run-ins with pirates.
Or are you more of a trader? Rip out unwanted modules! Guns?? You don’t need guns, you need cargo space and jump distance!
Of course you can try and do it all, but you learn quickly that the jack of all trades master of none approach will get you killed quite quickly..

Elite_Dangerous_(33)Combat is a delicate balance of maintaining speed, keeping your shields powered up and having enough energy in your weapons to keep them firing, you will find yourself constantly adjusting the power distribution throughout the fight. Shields down? Divert power to systems.. but do you keep the remaining power in weapons? You need to defend yourself.. but if you do that your taking power from the engines and leaving you flying through space at a reduced speed..
Put the remaining power in Engines and you could escape.. but your weapons won’t recharge quickly.. My first combat experience involved my Sidewinder against an Anaconda (one of the largest ships currently in game…) it was like a butterfly running headfirst into a truck.. obviously I was the butterfly, and I was smeared over the windscreen.

Luckily I had the money to re-buy my old ship loadout.. if you die in one of the larger ships.. you run the risk of not being able to afford to replace it, and your modules. If that happens it’s back to the starter Sidewinder for you.

If you have plans to become a pirate be prepared for bounties.. and bounty hunters.

It’s at this point most reviews will tell you about the story of a game.. Elite Dangerous.. Doesn’t really have one. Well it does.. but you are not the main character, you are just a pilot trying to make your way to fame/glory/riches.

Elite_Dangerous_(31)As you visit stations and outposts, you can gain information about various goings-on through the Galactic News Network, or GalNet. Since launch there has been 2 civil wars, and one of the superpowers of the galaxy has banned the narcotic “Onion Head” leading to a surge in demand for the drug.

Now.. where do you fit in all this? Well that’s down to you, want to go and fight in civil wars? Go for it, become the next Onion Head drug smuggling king? Work your way up the ladder for either the Empire, Alliance or the Federation? The opportunity is there. Or you can completely ignore the civil wars and sector drug problems and head off to make your own story, everyone’s story will be different.

Elite Dangerous is a gorgeous looking game, you wouldn’t think space could be so beautiful, swirling gas giants, burning stars, giant space stations, the explosions as your enemy is reduced to a smouldering wreck. All look amazing.

But as I said Elite Dangerous is not for everyone, firstly there is no offline single player mode. Some people may find this off putting, but there is a solo mode, Just you Vs. NPC pilots/pirates/victims and the known universe to explore. You still require an internet connection to play (like Diablo 3). It feels empty though.. not that the online mode feels cramped, when you start a new game you are randomly assigned a starting area, and with 400 million game areas the chances of bumping into another Commander are low, in 4 hours I was scanned by 6 players, and had two run ins with hostile players.

But this is part of the joy of meeting other players, you never know what the end result will be, for example…
As I was approaching an outpost to offload some Synthetic Fabrics, another player entered the area at full speed, scanned my cargo, then slowly approached before killing his engines at the right time to gently *Boop* me on the nose.. then sending me a message over text comms “Shh… just take it” before jetting off into the blackness of space.. I never caught his/her name and did not really understand what just happened.. neither did I realise that the gentle bump had sent me off course and led me crashing straight into the control tower.. Unintentional griefing? A joke gone wrong? Either way a unique story.. and everyone will get a unique story of their own at some point.

Elite_Dangerous_(15)For an online game it is strange that at the current moment in time there are no group/clan options, you can start the game up in group mode, but that means you only play with the people in your group/friends list.
Teaming up in the main online mode can be difficult at times due to each zone being instanced, you may need to leave the area and come back in to see your friends and the communications between players is limited to talking to whoever you are targeting or whoever is on your friends list.

If you are heavily into open world games, and have the patience to learn the ways of the game (because going in for a landing too hard at the docking pad and exploding into a big fiery ball of death can be relatively common experience in the first few hours of the game) then Elite Dangerous could be the game for you.

Pros:

It’s Elite, online
Massive open world/universe/galaxy to explore
Freedom to play how you want
Stunning graphics

Cons:

Massive open world can feel a bit empty.
Not for everyone
Punishments can be harsh at times, 1 stray missile/laser blast can make an enemy of the local police force.
Constantly online requirement may put some people off.
Missions get slightly repetitive after extended sessions

Score 7/10

Masters of The Universe – The Return of the Space Sim

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It’s Hip To Be Square

There has never been a better time to be a nerd.  Elite: Dangerous, Star Citizen and No Man’s Sky are all set to make the next couple of years a truly magical period for anyone who has ever dreamed of exploring the stars.

If you follow either myself or our very own Ugly Geezer on twitter, you will no doubt have seen plenty of mentions of docking, hauling fish and lots of other geeky stuff.  We, along with a couple of other Frugal Gamers are fast developing an addiction to Elite, and I’ll be writing a whole lot more about both it and Star Citizen in the coming months.

But for now I thought I’d share a couple of other Space Combat games that might quite easily have gone unnoticed in all the razzmatazz of the bigger hitting titles that seem to be on course to truly resurrect the long dormant genre.

C Moon

wings logoFirst up is Wings of Saint Nazaire.  An indie game being developed just a few people, its a modern take on the much loved old school space shooters of yesteryear.  Utilising the unity engine, the team have forgone the modern obsession with polygons, tessellation and other techie gobbledygook and gone truly old school, with everything being based on 2D sprites. In action it looks amazing and sounds even better, the current soundtrack is a work of genius.  Out of all of the current crop it truly takes me right back to many happy hours spent playing the first X-Wing on my dads PC.

The video above gives you an idea of what the team are aiming for, better still if you want to see the latest build of the game you can head over to the website and try it for yourself right now.  Playable on Windows, MAC, Linux or straight in your web browser there is no reason not to try what already is a cracking little game.

Sophisticated Bitch

Enemy Starfighter has been brewing nicely and its playable at this years PAX PRIME.  It’s another game that has definitely turned my head.  Whilst not looking as showy as Elite or Star Citizen, it has an art direction all of its own.  More colourful and clean, as you can see in the trailer below it’s looking like another corker.

Asides from the ship to ship combat, it’s looking like you can expect to take control whole armadas, the only thing better than one ship is lots of ships right?  I’ve not been hands on with Enemy Starfighter yet but I’m chomping on the bit and it would be a great idea if they released a development build much like Wings, mentioned above. Oculus support is also being implemented, my resolve of waiting for a consumer release of the rift is getting rather shaky.

Make The Money

Galazy Quest ArtLast but by no means least is Galaxy Heist by indie studio Space Bear Development.  Currently in an early Alpha stage of production, rather than trying to be all things to all people, Galaxy Heist is focusing on ship to ship combat and fps boarding actions.  Multiplayer is clearly the focus here, teaming up with friends, pillaging and marauding though space really does sound like a dream come true and with the possibility of console versions this could be a great pick up and play game.

With Galaxy Heist coming along nicely and a planned Kickstarter launch towards the end of the year, its definitely one to look out for.  It they can capture the co-op intensity of games like Payday 2, add some fantastic Space battles they could well be on their way to a sure fire hit!

White And Nerdy

All three of these games are well worth checking out and undoubtedly I’ll be writing a whole lot more about them over the next year.  For  a genre that has seemingly been MIA for a hell of a long time, its great to be heading back to the final frontier.  Short of a full remake of the X-Wing series, I could not more excited about the next couple of years.  Forget your Xbox One and PS4’s, your Call of Duty and Battlefields, this is the next generation and long may it reign.

Wings of Saint Nazaire can be found: HERE

Enemy StarfighterHERE

Galaxy Heist: HERE