Elite Dangerous or simply Elite is somewhere between a space flight simulator and an immersive open world role play game. You get dropped into the universe after optional and basic training.
The space simulation part of the game is incredibly well executed, the sheer distances that need to be overcome can take up quite a portion of game time. However, depending on your preferred play style, you can play Elite in a number of different ways.
Lawful or Criminal?
Generally the contracts or missions you engage in will clearly state if you will be required to do something illegal. Smuggling passengers or cargo, engaging in espionage and other activities must be carried out without attracting the attention of the authorities and being distributed into the universe, including your by then very expensive ship, in molecule sized pieces.
Game Mechanics; is it an MMO?
Overall you do a lot of flying, if you desire so, combat. The pilots view, except for screenshots in the camera mode, is first person. You’re a pilot inside your canopy and you’re not getting out of that. No matter if you’re doing a standard docking procedure or if your ship is currently being shot up by pirates, your thrusters and life support have given in and you’re praying for a security force to help you out.
The MMO elements become clear when you look at the ship outfitting and progression system. You’ll take some missions in the beginning you’ll be able to do much quicker later and other missions will open up to you based on cargo space you have on larger ships. The community around Elite has forged websites that track which stations sells specific goods, ships or modules and explains the different types of quets. There’s even a ship builder, where you can try out different combinations of modules and weigh their power draw against each other.
Games like Elite
On the list of games that kind of similar, you can in a wider sense add submarine and flight simulators. For space combat Star Conflict, the World of Tanks of space, has some similar combat mechanics, but less complexity and far more grind since it’s a free to play game. Eve Online is a lot more theoretical, the economy relies far more on player input than Elite, which can be played alone / offline. The planets and moons you can land on, are not always very rich in detail, but often more resource gathering focused, otherwise No Man’s Sky could count as a similar game.
Rapid Dog Fights, Stealthy Approaches or Space Trucking?
You don’t have to pick which way you want to play Elite Dangerous, you can play it in every possible way, given you have the credits to outfit a ship with the proper equipment.
Mining gives you lots of opportunities to stare at big chunks of rocks or ice, while your little limpet drones shovel the splinters you blew off of them into your ship for profit. Occasionally pirates will try to pressure you into releasing your precious loot. Laser fire will make them go away as well.
Bounty Hunting can be enjoyed both against enemy players that have broken the law, butmostly you will find NPC pirates that can be picked off easily. Deserters, Pirates and general enemies of the ruling faction are on the hit list and come in many ships and ship sizes.
Trader or Taxi can both be done on with your own trading skill or intuition, flying from station to station with wares acquired elsewhere or through the trade missions available. Understanding the economy can give you a great financial edge when looking up stations before hand while having empty cargo space on a route. On top of regular cargo that can be loaded into your ship, you can also equip your vessel with passenger cabins and take VIPs on sight seeing trips, haul prisoners or regular tourists.
Exploration can fill your account as well, if you cartograph systems near and far. When I say far, I mean really far. You can jump thousands of light years and enjoy the beatufiul scenery provided by countless combinations of different kinds of stars, gas giants, earth like planets, astroid belts and saturn like rings.
DLC / Expansion: Horizons
Elite Dangerous Horizons is the most recent expansion and adds crew members for larger ships and planetary surface activities to the game. Also pilots gain access to a new crafting system which lets them create even better components for their ships.
In my opinion it’s fine try out the base version of the game to see if one wants to play the DLC content. You’re good for at least weeks grinding your way into the highest ship tier. If you liked that road and the general game at that point, place the order.
Note: If you’re relatively sure you’ll play this a houndred hours at least, get the DLC right away and let the Engineer unlocks guide you through the game, they’ll make sure you try every activity 😉
Elite Dangerous is a fantastic space MMO with lots of depth, upgrade paths and plenty of room for how you want to play it. If you like Firefly, The Expanse or similar dirty / hard Sci-Fi stuff, you’ll probably like this game.
The action packed parts are pretty good, even though possibly frustrating to beginners. The transport parts are like a soothing truck simulator and the visuals are just stunning.
For the grind, grab an audiobook or three and you’re good to go.
See you out there, commander!
If you’re hooked and want to follow some of the coverage of the current community events, check out fellow commander @fabsh coverage of the Distant Worlds 2 Expedition. Also he’s the reason I know about Elite in the first place, he really doesn’t shut up about it. Ever.