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Open-Ended, Vast & Procedurally Generated

Jonathan Doyle Posted:
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Ed. note: Read Jonathan's Review in Progress articles: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Elite: Dangerous is a direct call to my childhood and to an arguably more ambitious time of gaming. Open ended, vast, and procedurally generated. The march of technology since the first Elite has only served to let Frontier Developments create the sort of game that they, and I, spent years imagining.

Elite grew up and has embraced everything it can about this day and age. Occulus Rift support? Yeah that’s there. Kickstarter funding? That’s in. Micro-transactions? For good or for ill you can throw a few coins at them to get a new paint job for your ship.

If you have a Rift, you have a game that takes glorious advantage of it. If you have a flight stick, the same applies. If all you have is money in your pocket and a gleam in your eye? That may end up getting bigger and really it’s up to you to decide if the cost is worth it. There is a comment from the forums stating that there will be paid expansions in the future, with some of the paint job packs going for €12.50 at the moment it makes me wonder how much we will pay and for what sort of expansion to the galaxy.

At the core though, it’s everything I imagined Elite was but finally actually really is. So then, if you do decide to part with a hard earned €50/$60, what’s my humble final verdict on the game?

As a note, anyone who Kickstarted or pre purchased the game got it for cheaper. Early adopters got the benefit this time around. Normally Early adopters would get screwed over with bugs. I missed out all that time in Alpha and Beta. I think the only bugs I came across were some idiot NPCs who had managed to irritate the station they were inside. Maybe that wasn’t a bug, maybe they were just rubbish smugglers.

Is the money worth the meagre starting? I believe so. Earning the credits to buy a new ship is its own achievement. Earning those rankings through carefully or recklessly blazing your path through the cosmos is a wonderful feeling.

It is all your own hard work. Especially as at the moment there’s the missing multiplayer functionality. The social features that do exist, the voice and text chat, worked for me personally. Your experience may differ. I adored the crackle on the voice comms, it lent a nice feel to the simulation. Myself and another pilot having to strain to listen properly, having just one more demand on your attention when flying a complex ship...wonderful. As a note on text comms, if someone isn’t on your friend list, you can’t talk to them unless they’re within scan range. Names also don’t show up until you get a reply or scan the target to get that information. This lends a sense of loneliness, but I find that appealing. I am supposed to be one person against the stars…. Not having an inane and incessant trade channel supports that feeling for me rather than making me feel alone.

Where docking and dogfighting can be stressful, cruising the galaxy is anything but that. The music as I am in Supercruise is relaxing. The warning klaxons and sounds are suitably attention getting without causing a heart attack. I adore hearing my engines charge, I love the jump to hyperspace. Everything adds to that feeling that I am in my own starship and it works like one should. Also one wonderful touch I mentioned before, if your canopy gets broken, sounds become more muted as you’ve only the air in your helmet.

The only thing that gives me a little bit of pause is the lack of offline solo play. Frontier Developments have their reasons and I accept them, they’ll get no complaints from me. I just wonder what may happen a few years down the road when they want to close down the servers. I’d love to keep my ships running between the stars and where we stand at the moment, I won’t be able to. For now though all those options are spread before us.

Be a bounty hunter, be a pirate, be a trader, or be an explorer. All you have to do is grab the opportunities. That may daunt some, it may even put off some. For me it’s what Elite has always been and always will be. The future open to me and my own spaceship. What more could I want?

Make no mistake though, it’s a hard galaxy. If you’re looking for instant gratification or the sort of game that will tell you to press X to automate all the hard things in life, this isn’t it.

POLISH – 8: The game is set to have both a free update schedule and paid expansions. As a product Elite: Dangerous is polished in my experience. That said, a lot of the multiplayer online components aren’t patched in yet. You can’t form a wing or any associated multiplayer features. As such, expect iteration and well if you have a patch, you have potential future bugs caused by said patch.

SOCIAL – 6: As stated above, some of the multiplayer features are yet to put in an appearance as of the time of writing. They are coming as stated here but I can’t comment on what I didn’t see.

VISUALS AND SOUND – 10: Space is gorgeous. Though in space no one can hear you scream. That’s probably because all of the lasers and railguns and missiles oh my.

Visuals too, are wonderful. I wish I had the Rift so I could fully immerse myself in it. The free look button is a nice touch but I want to look around my cockpit properly with the Rift. For me it is perfect.

GAMEPLAY – 8: You get a Sidewinder. You get some credits. You get the galaxy.

What you do with those humble beginnings and where you go from there is entirely up to you. Gameplay wise, apart from the missing multiplayer components, that’s what there is to it. You have a ship, fly that ship. Pursue whatever course you want, literally and figuratively.

LONGEVITY – 9: You won’t reach Elite ranking in trade, exploration or combat after a few hours of grinding. You need to get out there. You need to rake in the big money, the distant stars or the big kills. Outfitting your ship or even buying your way up to the ship of your dreams will all take time and you are rewarded for that investment. I can see this game going for a long, long time.

VALUE – 9: What do you get for €50/$60? To steal my own line.

You get a Sidewinder. You get some credits. You get the galaxy.

If you bought in on the Kickstarter there were other things that you could have. If nothing else alpha/beta/Kickstarter participants get a leg up on someone buying the game new through getting a Sol permit. Ultimately I think the cost is worth it…right now.

Summary: Can I go back to my spaceship now? There’s a real sweet run I want to make….

REVIEW DISCLAIMER: The review was based on the PC version of Elite: Dangerous (Mac version will be in beta in a few months). The review copy was obtained through a code and offered some of the benefits that Kickstarters would have had. My starting experience will not reflect your own at first. I have played 65+ hours of Elite: Dangerous and annoyingly am not rated Elite on Raptr for Elite. Meta fail.

  • Gorgeous visuals/sound design
  • Many, many hours of enjoyment
  • Open ended gamplay
  • Update schedule to expand ships & enhancements
  • Hell will eventually be other people
  • Most multiplayer aspects still missing
  • Unknown future cost on expansions


Jonathan Doyle

Born and bred Science Fiction and Fantasy fan. Head in the clouds is for amateurs when there is space instead. Look for the tall guy with a beard.