A BOUNDLESS and engaging journey into deep space as an iconic game is reincarnated.
Game review: Elite: Dangerous
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed)
IT is a chastening fact that more than three decades have passed since Elite redrew the perceptions of what a video game could aspire to. Based around rudimentary wireframe technology, David Braben’s sprawling space simulation epic did away with narrative structures and allowed the player to become the master of their own destiny, exploring an enormous universe however they saw fit.
After a succession of sequels, some of which have found more success than others, Elite: Dangerous, made possible through a successful Kickstarter campaign, is the closest approximation to Braben’s startling original vision, now complete with lush, atmospheric HD visuals. It remains a game of unparalleled ambition and if you have the time to devote to it, there can be few experiences in gaming quite so rich or involved.
Braben’s vision is immense in scale and ambition
If you want a quick burst of intergalactic combat, then be warned, Elite is most certainly not the game for you. It is unforgiving in its scale and its demands of players. Should you venture out into its world unprepared and hoping for a quick dogfight, chances are you will be put in your place. This is an epic, slow-burn of a title that requires commitment rarely seen outside of the most immersive role playing games; one friend has been playing it for upwards of 300 hours and still considers himself on virgin ground.
For the purposes of our review, we have put in around 20 hours of gameplay. While this is wholly insufficient in terms of seeing all that the game has to offer, it offers a glimpse into how satisfying it is to learn and, if not quite master, then prosper in its vast world. The advice passed on from the veteran was to play some close quarters combat in order to get used to the shooting mechanics, before jumping into the main galaxy via the training missions. It is an instructive tip that helps smooth the transition, but even then, if you manage to keep your initial craft intact, you should consider it a significant success.
Combat and flying is a pleasure thanks to nimble, intelligent controls
The combat itself is a pleasure thanks to a control system which manages to be detailed and intricate without becoming overcomplicated. As you start off in the Sidewinder, a basic all-rounder ship, the emphasis is on avoiding some of the more advanced predators out there in Elite’s solar system. This is just as enjoyable as lining up another craft in your sights, as you thrust, dart and pivot your way in and out of danger. The sense of weightlessness and the importance of momentum - two areas that are routinely ignored in space games - are paramount.
Waging battles in space, of course, merely grazes the surface of what Elite has to offer. Often your missions involve long, hazardous journeys deep into space which require careful planning and pinpoint precision at the most risky junctures - taking off and docking. Before long, you will gain a deep and perhaps unexpected satisfaction from completing a trade delivery mission. You can play the entire game imagining yourself as a courier, or a miner, or an explorer for that matter, without ever firing your guns.
The first few days can be overwhelming, but stick with it
The first few days you spend with the game (forget hours, Elite must be measured in larger units) can be overwhelming and, to an extent, offputting, such is the dizzying scope of the universe and the freedom you are given to explore it. But after 20 hours, we are ready for many more. One of gaming’s all time classics have never played better.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Try playing in solo mode or in private groups at first in order to avoid being chewed up and spat out in the open world.
Once you upgrade your ship or buy a better craft, be sure to invest in insurance. The consequences of failing to do so are not worth thinking about.
Tinker with the throttle settings in the early tutorial missions as you may find a few tweaks suit your control style better.