Elite Dangerous made the news a few months ago when a player discovered what was immediately called aliens, the first discovery of that nature in the full-featured space game, proof that the players were not alone out there. At PAX East, we sat down with Frontier’s latest iteration and had a go shooting down some bad guys. Originally starting out with space-only battles, Elite Dangerous has gotten nine substantial updates under its belt and now allows players to land their customized vessels on planets.
Operating through a vast universe of over 400 billion star systems, the developers have taken the time to work on ensuring players can interact with one another despite the vast interstellar distances. With the advent of larger ships that can act as carriers for smaller player ships and also multi-crew ships, the Frontier team had to work around the challenge of what to do when it wasn’t reasonable for player A at one end of the universe was trying to fight as a member of player B’s crew. In their Season 2 Horizons pass, players will be able to assume various roles on the same ship, with distant players appearing as holograms. Also, players can already bring a second ship to the same fight with ship-launched fighters run by an NPC crew. Crafting also evolves with the use of bases run by the Engineers, who will help players upgrade their ships after you gain an appropriate level of reputation.
As I was playing the game, and admittedly not being a huge space shooter player, I was immediately struck by the definite physics-based behavior of the ship I was piloting. It reminded me of the Starfuries in the 90s sci-fi series Babylon 5 rather than the X-Wings in Star Wars. The team indicated that they wanted to stick to realistic astrophysics but not slavishly so. I would say that only the most masochistic player would ever want to play a game like this with a controller. It felt so natural with the stick and throttle provided. While the demonstration didn’t include it, Elite Dangerous is also VR-friendly. Given a good VR headset, I think this game will be even more amazing.
The ED player community has also contributed to the game’s evolution. Due to their requests, Frontier developed a new camera suite, and it’s resulted in a massive explosion of machinima. Already available on PC and Xbox One, the game is due for PS4 release later this year, and I asked whether there would be cross-platform play. I was told that there would be, but players couldn’t be in the same instance; however, it would shape who owns what in the universe.
In all, Elite Dangerous is a stalwart segment of the space genre. It offers the delight of random space exploration, the thrills of PVP combat, and progression and crafting for all.