ELITE: DANGEROUS

PrintE-mail Written by Jordan Royce


GAME REVIEW: ELITE: DANGEROUS / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: FRONTIER DEVELOPMENTS / PLATFORM: PC, OS X / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Seminal is a word that gets devalued by lazy writers en mass, whenever any half decent video game is released. Gaming culture is the problem. By its very nature, it’s driven purely by advancement. Advancement with the complexity of the code, and the internal advancement with your in-game persona. Gamers are always looking out for the next big thing, the game-changer that will kick things up to another level. This is why we have so many false dawns, and even moderate improvements are often over-stated.

When Elite was released back in 1984 it was truly seminal. It remains today one of the games that has stood the test of time and influenced the future of the games industry as a whole. When David Braben and Ian Bell unleashed Elite onto an embryonic gaming culture, punters got their first real taste of a huge sandbox environment in which to explore. Further improvements were to come with the Frontier sequels, and the honing of the trading system and combat features. So much that we have come to accept as the basic principles of modern gaming we owe to Elite. Then came the announcement that an Elite game for the 21st century was on its way…

After raising a whopping £1.5 Million on Kickstarter, Elite: Dangerous was on target for a Christmas 2014 release, but surely the word seminal could never be applied to a project that was merely an updating of a classic?

Elite: Dangerous differs from its predecessors in two major ways. Firstly, they foresaw the importance of the Oculus Rift and incorporated full support (this was to be the wisest move of all!), and Elite: Dangerous is also a massive MMO this time around. As an MMO this game is nothing short of a beast. The entire universe is beyond comprehension. 400 BILLION Star systems, all created using procedural generation, allowing a computer to generate star-systems from real life information. The result is breathtaking. The first time you access the galaxy map and zoom in and out, your jaw will be on the floor, and this is only your starting point. A free ship docked in a Spaceport with an almost limitless galaxy to explore, populated with countless on-line friends, but mostly foes. An entire galaxy to explore, and explore we did…

After playing Elite: Dangerous for about six months it has grown from an awesome but buggy alpha to the current retail version, which is super slick. Graphically the game world is richly detailed, and beautifully brought to life. It can be distracting initially as you spend hours gazing at just about everything. There have been rumblings about a steep learning curve compared to games like EVE Online, but to be honest, your average gamer shouldn’t have any problems. As soon as you learn how to take off from a station and land you have the initial skills to explore. Once you land at the myriad stations (or the cool “truck stop” outposts), the user-friendly station systems give you access to everything you need. Refuelling, upgrades, repairs, or pick available missions from the bulletin board. You can get the basics of the game quickly just by taking a few low paying missions and learn more as you play. Next, it’s best to learn how to travel to other bodies in your local system, and use hyperspace to jump to other systems. Once you have these basics you can slowly discover the rest of the game on the fly.

As with its predecessors the aim of Elite: Dangerous is to amass money, buy better ships, upgrade them, and end up with the much-vaunted Elite status. You can do just about anything in this game. Trade, be a pirate, pick up floating salvage, be an explorer, go bounty hunting, and recently added is the ability to literally mine asteroids. Depending on your chosen path in the galaxy, you will soon be upgrading your vessel to suit. Now I can hear that impatient gamer inside you wondering when the hell I’m going to talk about the combat? Well it’s pretty much the best thing about the game. You want a Star Wars dogfight, well here it is. You could go at it for hours and never get bored. These fights are a thing of beauty. Most vessels have a shield and this looks heavily borrowed from Star Trek when it takes the hits and gives off its bluish hue. Once the shield is down, let rip with the heat-seeking missiles and shred the hull to pieces. Again, you can alter things to your preference, and the range of weapons you can purchase are vast. You just have to be careful who you take out of action, as only wanted players credit you with a bounty, bag a good guy and you have a hefty fine waiting for you, and have to sneak into a station without getting scanned to pay it off!

Unfortunately, we’ve now hit the problem part of this review. The size and sheer scale of Elite: Dangerous has already lived up to the word seminal, and bagged it full marks. That was without Oculus Rift support. Luckily, we had a Rift HD, and were able to savour what can only be described as the most important experience in gaming history (this is not remotely over egging the pudding here!). Everyone will always remember the moment when they donned the Oculus Rift and sat in their Sidewinder, just looking around. Suddenly realising that it was real all along and not just a game. It is literally impossible to get across what a seismic shift in gaming Elite: Dangerous is when playing via the Oculus Rift. Leaving the space station for the first time, you are looking all around surrounded by the galaxy of Elite: Dangerous. You fly around for ages almost mesmerised, then finally you feel confident enough to seek out some trouble. Your first dogfight is another moment you will never forget, as your opponent flies overhead and you find you can look up and follow his vapour trail. Equally stunning is your first journey through Hyperspace, which is an onslaught to your senses. Also imagine how this has changed the reward process. Now when you have saved your credits and bought your new ship, you are actually sat in a totally new cockpit. It’s like taking delivery of a new car, all that’s missing is the smell of new leather!

Playing Elite: Dangerous via the Oculus Rift is like climbing through the looking glass. It’s likely to be one of the most important breakthroughs in our lifetime that really cannot be done justice. Stop at nothing to get Elite: Dangerous and an Oculus Rift DK2. Don’t feed your kids, get a Wonga loan, or mug a granny if you have to, but get on board now. It’s the future, and it’s arrived a lot sooner than any of us thought possible…
 


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