Elite: Dangerous is one of those games that, on paper (actually, sort of in practice too) sounds really repetitive. However it’s also one of those games that does the details so well, that it almost ends up being the little repeitive things like learning to dock your ship properly that become the defining thrills of the experience. If you like space sims, that is.
I’ve only dabbled with Elite since it’s official release. And it had been released, meaning it’s not in early access or open beta or anything like that, and I guess technically I’d agree with that. But it still strikes me as more of a really solid proof of concept at this point. Sort of a “This is the foundation, and it’s finished, but it will be another year of updates before the game really begins to shine” situation.
And that’s because despite how gorgeous the attention to detail and the atmosphere of the game is, how amazing it is to enter a space station for the first time without scraping your ship, or the first time you travel past a gas giant… after a while you notice that the space stations are all the same. Locations look similar. And you’re doing the same things over and over.
I feel like the game needs a little more variety, and more importantly, it needs to be a little more social. Right now it’s sort of a nightmare to meet up with your friends, and even if you do, there’s very little to accomplish as a group. I went out to hunt a bounty with a buddy and we found that only the person who gets the kill gets the credit. And since (as far as I could tell) there’s no way to directly trade money… you see what I’m getting at.
And I say “as far as I could tell” because Elite is a game that appears to hold to the Dark Souls mantra of “figure it out” game design. Either that or the tutorials are really lacking. Nine hours spent figuring out how to dock a ship might be an exaggeration, but while the system will give you an overview of lining your ship up for a landing, at no point does it tell you that it has to be facing a very specific direction. All of the indicators will light up suggesting that you’re clear to land, but you’ll be unable to do so if you’re pointed the wrong way. So it’s currently a game you learn with Google open in a window behind it.
I also feel like Elite: Dangerous may be one of the biggest arguments for a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift, except none of them are available for consumers at the moment. Apparently that’s going to change this spring when Razer drops their new headset, but between that and the content issue, I think I’m going to be putting Elite on the back burner to cook a little longer.
It is a gorgeous game though, so I look forward to… eating it… when it’s… done. Okay, that metaphor went weird on me.
And just to head you off at the past, I know because I’m talking about Elite I’m going to get at least one “Have you heard of this game Star Citizen?!” email like I’ve been living under a rock the last two years. So with that said, I backed the Kickstarter, and apart from walking around my ship a couple of times I have not touched it. I will not be playing it or discussing it at length until they actually release it.