Elite Dangerous is one of a few reviews I meant to do some time ago, but around then, my father died and it felt like my brain exploded and bits of it went spinning into the dark night of space like my Cobra Mk.III does on many occasions when playing this game, either after being attacked and blown into oblivion by pirates, or because I’m just a bit crap. While I know most game reviews coming out aeons after the release date are usually about as much use as an empty oxygen tank, the good thing about this title is that it feels less like a game and more like a living, breathing organism, with zillions of people playing online, ready to blast you to kingdom come.
And that is something that will continue to exist for a very long time to come.
Also, the Xbox One console exclusive is still to be released beyond its current ‘preview’ state, and then in due course, a Playstation 4 version.
I was a mere 12 years old when the original Elite, programmed by David Braben, blasted off on the BBC Model B back in September 1984, a game which I bought twice – first on cassette, and due to the vast size of the gaming world, it took 6 minutes and 50 seconds to load in. Once I had a disc drive, I bought it again and the game only took 10 seconds to load. Nowadays, everything is more instant, yet installation still takes a bafflingly long time with some games given how there’s updates and patches to be applied every now and again. This is something which happens every so often to Elite Dangerous, but it’s good to see that Frontier are continuing to improve and expand upon it as time goes on.
Inbetween then and now, there have also been two sequels – Frontier: Elite II in October 1993, on Amiga, Atari ST and in DOS; and then Frontier: First Encounters in April 1995, on DOS – both of which somehow passed me by. However, the time is now to put that right and, to quote 2001: A Space Odyssey, “My God, it’s full of stars!” In fact, in Elite Dangerous, there are billions of galaxies, all taking place in a realistic 1:1-scale open-world galaxy based upon the real Milky Way. Even from my limited recollections of science lessons back at school, I do remember that the Milky Way is just a bit on the large side.
It took me a bit of time to get into it once I got cracking, since when I first zoomed into a new star system, I was confronted with a huge sun from which I never managed to escape, and when I did find where I was supposed to head next (either the next stage of the journey or my actual docking station destination) I saw the direction I was meant to go, but would zoom past it and not actually see anything. Like a lot of things in life, a tutorial video helped. I realised that as I approached my destination – and yes, I know it tells you to slow down, it’s only when you actually *do* that and select ‘Safe Disengage Ready’ when told (which is ‘C’ by default) that the docking station then appears as if by magic!
Oh, and when travelling towards it, initially, even after engaging the ‘supercruise’ mode – which makes you travel at fast speed and does not turn you into a scientology cult’s wet dream – some people may moan that this occasionally takes a while, not least having to make sure you don’t overshoot, because, as Douglas Adams pointed out in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, “Space. Is big.”, but as Frank Sidebottom pointed out, “Space Is Ace”, and as I’m playing this on a 50″ Plasma screen with all the speakers blaring away, it really is the most immersive mindfuck I’ve had in a long time.
If, by some bizarre reason, you’re still not convinced, then there’s also some of the most incredible music to be heard. Yes, music in space. No, there isn’t a band whizzing by on your travels, but, as the video below shows, when I travelled to Yaping Enterprise (above), the most glorious heavenly and angelic audio could be heard. Remember the time when you played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and enjoyed the ’80s tunes? I used to just nick a car, pull over, switch the radio on and listen to some great tunes. Here, you can pootle along between planets and get a classical fix instead. My music-based comments after mentioning Yaping Enterprise have, hopefully, distracted you from my terrible attempt at docking in that video.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the game, plus conclusions.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.