Wot I Think – Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous is a big game. It is big because it offers an uncharted galaxy of 400 billion stars to roam around. It is big because its bloodline comes from of one of gaming’s most respected sims. And it is big because it has the ambition of an interstellar Macbeth, backed by over £1.5 million in crowdfunding cash. When Pip asked me in her audio feature what I thought of the game, I responded: “I don’t envy the person who has to review it.” As it turns out, that’s me. So here we go. A big review for a big game. Here’s Wot I Think.

Small Beginnings

You begin with a small ship and a meagre handful of credits. The idea is that you are to become a pilot of repute (ill-repute or otherwise, that’s up to you) and slowly begin accruing more capital. this leads to bigger ships, larger cargo bays to store more goods and fiercer lasers to gun down more criminals. But before any of that you will need to learn how to pilot your Sidewinder into a docking bay without crashing into a wall. These first few hours with your vessel are probably the most enjoyable of the game. There are enough moments of “I wonder what this switch does? Oh no oh no oh n–” to satisfy that unending (dangerous) curiosity all gamers secretly harbour for Big Red Buttons. The humour and panic are multiplied many times for anyone playing with a joystick or Hotas, the key bindings procedure offering that quiet thrill of making a complicated machine work in exactly the way you want it to. Even if it is not a sim in the Tim Stone sense, there is still enough complexity to the controls to keep you learning well after you earn your first paycheck. I only learned yesterday, for example, that you can manually extend and retract the scale of your sensors, leading me to tap the ‘Page Up’ and ‘Page Down’ keys and giggling like a child as the relevant HUD icon corresponded to my taps. It’s small details like this that make simply learning your way around the cockpit Elite’s first great “feature”.

Once you’ve got the basics down (let’s see, docking, lateral thrusters, landing gear, oh wait sorry that’s pulse lasers, how do I, maybe this, oh no that’s my afterburner, oh god, sorry sorry sorry) you still need to figure a lot out. Unfortunately, what will give one person the sense of discovering how a new toy works will only give another a sense of frustration. In a lot of ways, the game does not try very hard to explain itself to the player. Early on, outfitting your ship is an obscurantist process of adding things and seeing if numbers go blue or red, without necessarily knowing what any of them mean. The system is smart once you understand it but it isn’t explained to you at all. Each component, from mining laser to chaff launcher, has a class and a rating, but will also have various other stats and features that aren’t always detailed when you buy them. For example, a Shield Cell Bank is a device that quickly recharges your shield in the middle of a fight. The outfitting menu will tell you the cost, the rating and the power draw of this device but not how many “charges” it can hold (how many times you can use it). Other components are equally confusing. Generally, the closer to an A rating a piece of equipment is, the better and if you’re unhappy you can sell back any piece of equipment for the same price you bought it. But it still takes time and a lot of trial and error to figure out what goes best with your loadout.

But enough about what goes on in the garage. This is a space sim, you want to see some space. This is one element of the game that doesn’t disappoint. These are some of the most stunning vistas I have seen in a game. Words, even still images, cannot do justice to sighting a blue star shining through the mists of a planet’s ring, as you slowly navigate around the belt’s spinning asteroids. Or the golden, sun-drenched landing bay of an unsanctioned outpost, hanging above a barren rock world. Or the light of every star in front of you warping into a surreal sphere as you tentatively approach the event horizon of an invisible black hole. These visual smorgasbords are accompanied by incredible sound design. The echo of a space station’s barrel-like interior, the voice of your on-board computer distorting when you come under attack, the thrusters whining as you slam the afterburner to get away. Forget that space is a vacuum and oughtn’t to actually have sound and just focus on how each engine is subtly but noticeably different for each ship. For a long time, simply flying is a joy. One of my favourite memories was discovering one of the game’s few capital ships as it orbited Earth and zooming through a hollow passage within its structure and out the other side, like some cosmic hollywood stuntman.

An Open World

However, as big games have too often taught us, a big world is only as interesting as the people and events which inhabit it. This is a weak spot for E:D. The missions you rely on to make your first few thousand spacebucks are MMO-like in the extreme and only boil down to three tasks: find, deliver, kill. The text that accompanies these missions is repetitive and uninspired, as if there was one person in the galaxy responsible for every bulletin, who sits doodling between mission statements, indescribably bored. Anyway, you quickly stop reading them and simply get on with the mission as stated in the ‘headline’. As some have pointed out, these missions are really only things to get your noggin whirring. The real appeal comes in making your own way. Frontier’s marketing spiel has been pumping out this very sentiment for a while now (be a pirate! be a miner! be an explorer!) and, while I hate to back up any spiel, it is true. In the new Elite, “Blaze your own trail!” is less of a suggestion than it is a necessity. Although a more accurate tag line would probably be: “Blaze one of these five trails!”

I have had a go at each career and they all have their own appeal. Getting yourself a big cargo hold and finding a strong trade route is the most lucrative by a long shot and not so dull as you might imagine (at least, not for the first couple of million credits – more on that later). But it also requires a lot of money to do right, as well as a big investment in a big ship and new parts to jump long distances across the stars. Find a rare good, like the bafflingly-named drug ‘Onionhead’ or the delicious spirit of our nearest solar neighbour ‘Centauri Mega Gin’ and you will be able to hawk these for a huge profit. But only if you sell it in a system about 150 light years away. Even then, you will need to make sure what you are selling is not considered illegal, as transporting prohibited goods into a station where they are forbidden is only one routine scan away from getting you boiled alive by the space cops’ laser fire, whereupon your spunky little trading vessel will burst, like a eyeball popping under the heel of a jackboot.

Jobseeking

That isn’t the only thing you have to think about. There is a moment in every trader’s career when they look at their ship and wonder if it is worth stripping the shields off and replacing them with extra cargo bays. Designing the game so that both these components need to go in the same slot type is the perfect example of Elite at its most intelligent. It requires you to make a risk/reward decision that may not have ramifications for days or weeks, possibly never. Go without shields and you are vulnerable to instant vapourisation, losing your entire cargo and the profit it could have made. Keep the shields and you could be losing out on carrying another 16 or 32 tonnes per run. Although this is a bonus profit not to be sniffed at, such greed can be a pilot’s undoing. I strongly advise you to keep your shields.

Exploring, like many paths, is less profitable but it does break the monotony of ‘mission stacking’ or back and forth journeys after you have been doing a lot of trade runs, especially if you set something interesting as a destination, like a system with a black hole, or one in the middle of a cloudy nebula. It works like this: you kit out a ship with a good Frame Shift Drive (the warp engine), a discovery scanner and a surface scanner. I used an Adder, which is essentially a space hatchback. Star systems coloured grey on your galaxy map are always marked as unexplored for you, even if another person has been there. You jump from system to system, using your scanners on the main star and any other planets you discover. When you get back to populated space you can sell this data in any station. Some discoveries pay better than others. Scans of a rocky planet will only earn you measly pennies but an Earth-like planet will get you thousands.

Data on a black hole, however, can fetch a hefty 20,000 credits, so when a friend and I went on a road trip and discovered a system with two black holes and a magnificent white giant, it was not only a great excuse to nerd out about space but also a relief to come back to our “home system” after the day’s jaunt and find out we had at least made hundreds of thousands of credits from the journey.

Whatever your reasoning, exploring is certainly the best way to get a feel for the vastness offered in the game and to see how much work has gone into replicating the known galaxy. Stars are categorised by type and reproduced here in stunning form, some spinning so fast you can see the flares twisting and wavering as you approach. But exploration has its own risks. When you jump into a system and see a tiny neutron star, do not be fooled by its adorable smallness. It is a superheated monster and will fry you up in moments if you even get a little too close. Likewise, any explorer will need to have a fuel scoop fitted, so they can refuel far away from the hustle and bustle of busy space. This itself is a dangerous job, as you have to orbit close to a sun, absorbing energy for fuel, all the while watching your ship’s temperature. Some stars, you will learn, it is impossible to refuel at, since they are too hot or too cold. You always need to watch that fuel gauge. Dying because you ran out of gas in the middle of space-nowhere is one of the saddest and loneliest ways to go. Left without companions or pitstops, you are left no choice but to kill yourself. Turn off life support, hit the self-destruct button, dive into the sun – your choice. But whichever way you go, all your exploration data goes with it. A harsh lesson to learn. But something you won’t have to be taught twice.

Piracy And Combat

Piracy and bounty-hunting are options for the war-like. The latter is a somewhat laid-back combat role, one that is fairly easy for beginners to get involved in. A Kill Warrant scanner and a bevy of guns is all you need. Then head to a Nav Beacon orbiting a nearby star, or better yet a ‘Resource Extraction Point’ (where miners laser metal-rich asteroids for their goodies, at such a pitiful rate and in such a boring way that I am not even going to go into mining in detail itself). These places harbour Wanted criminals, who you can kill for their bounty. Some have a higher price on their heads than others but, provided you are not smoked by your foes, there is a great cash flow to be had in this, especially early in the game.

Piracy is much more tricky. You can fit your ship with an ‘Interdictor’, a device that pulls other ships out of supercruise (the mid-gear warp you use to travel between planets and stations within a system) and sail the space lanes in search of a Type-6 with a cargo full of expensive Palladium. There is a lot of fun to be had in mastering piracy and this career has all the creepiest toys. For example, a cargo scanner for peeping into your quarry’s hold, and limpet drones that attach to their hull and force the cargo hatch open, ejecting the sweet cannisters of loot one after another into the transporter’s wake, like shiny droppings.

It is a credit to the ship design of the game that some vessels are clearly designed for certain tasks, while others can be adapted.The Lakon range are a group of transporters that handle stiffly but can manage huge holds and jump massive distances – the hardy trucks of the galaxy. The Viper is a speedy and powerful vehicle that can chase down almost any prey, perfect for bounty hunting. The Cobra Mk III, on the other hand, is a mid-sized ship that is a favourite for pirates because, while brandishing a horrible collection of weapons, it also has space in its belly to store a sizeable amount of stolen goods. It is like being mugged by a marsupial with really sharp teeth. For a long time, I considered the Cobra a nasty ship and one unbefitting a cargo haulier. But looking at it more closely, it can easily be retrofitted so that it carries more than the basic spacetrucks, netting any trader a decent bit of dough per trip. Further up the scale the ships get bigger, badder and more intense but they are also way more expensive, leading to another unfortunate weakness of the game. The grind.

There was a time for me (as I have mentioned before) when playing became a chore. The progression from ship to ship is arguably what drives the entire game. The end goal, as I see it, is to have a personal garage with every ship specced out in the way you like it, or at least to have taken everything for a spin at least once. This progression from ship to ship begins quickly enough, especially when you trade in your last vessel for a marked down price on a shiny new one. But there comes a time when you discover that the rungs of this ladder are suddenly placed too far apart to climb. Grinding missions, bounties or trade runs to gain money becomes less meaningful and less interesting the further you are from achieving your next goal. When I begin to sigh in a game, that is when I begin to recognise the cogs behind the screen. The grind gets me wondering: what is this game even about? Why am I doing MMO quests to shoot down another Big Boss? Didn’t Frontier say something about this being a responsive, dynamic world, driven by and reacting to us, the players? Because, now that I think about it, I have not seen any of that.

A Flawed Frontier

The player-populated universe is clearly intended to be a major selling point here. In worlds like Eve: Online the players make up for any lack of developer-led narrative (ie. boring MMO missions) with their own power struggles, machinations and galactic conflicts. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much player-on-player action in all my time playing, despite actively seeking it out. Conflict zones, where players can join NPC factions as they vie for control in a spacey dogfight, are the only place I have seen people interacting – and even then it is simply to destroy one another. Although tales of piracy, hold-ups, blockades and revenge attacks sometimes appear on the game’s Reddit, I was sad to see so little of it myself. Still, I was not entirely surprised, considering there is no infrastructure for organising large clans and that the communications system is fiddly, unresponsive and sometimes just plain broken.

In fact, the closer you look at Elite, the more the flaws become evident. It is like looking at the earth from afar. Oh wow, what a sight. Beautiful, moving, inspiring. I think I am catching Overview Effect. But when you get in close you can see the piles of rubbish building up in the landfills, the oil spilling out over the Mexican bay. The number of things that simply malfunction is staggering.

Here are some bugs I have encountered.

  • Bounty rewards not being honoured (ie. not receiving my space paycheck)
  • Being stuck in warp indefinitely
  • Being unable to press any buttons on the menu
  • Mouse cursor disappearing on starport menus
  • Text of Mission titles reading things like “Deliver goods to $##DestinationStationName;”
  • Ship’s computer consistently announcing ‘Landing gear not deployed’ when the landing gear is fully, undeniably, unmistakably deployed.
  • NPCs broadcasting blank messages
  • NPCs broadcasting under blank aliases
  • NPCs mining empty space
  • NPCs going round in tight, slow barrel rolls endlessly for no reason at all
  • NPCs stealing kills from me (lost a 150,000 credit bounty thanks to this one)
  • Being fired on by friendlies in conflict zones
  • Being given a bounty for attacking ships marked as enemies in conflict zones
  • Missions not registering kills
  • 10 floating cargo cannisters vanishing into thin air, shortly after being dropped
  • Friends not appearing in the same instance
  • Friends not receiving communications messages
  • Friends’ messages not being received by me
  • Etc
  • Etc
  • Oh God
  • Etc

Now, it is evident from my hundreds of hours in the cockpit, as well as a space diary of about 14,000 words, that I love Elite: Dangerous. But love is complicated, because while I think it is excellent, I also think it is obviously incomplete. And I don’t mean incomplete as in: “Psshh, they haven’t added planet landing yet.” I mean incomplete as in: “Psshh, they have not adequately tested this game.”

Things like the above may not annoy you so much. And if that is the case, fire away, you will have an excellent time. But for me, it is clear that the game has not been given the amount of polish it deserves, nor does it seem to have even covered all the basics. For instance, friends playing side by side, even if they lucky enough to be placed in the same instance, cannot share bounty rewards if they go pirate stomping together. They cannot transfer money from one person to another. Nor can they share missions in any meaningful way. A pity, since the more challenging missions involve hunting down and killing larger ships like Anacondas – something that would be impossible for a fresh-faced fighter but thrilling if a bunch of newbies were to take on the monster together. Imagine seeing that 160,000 credit reward, rounding up a small posse and going out to bring down a ship much bigger and scarier than any of you. Sounds good, right? But no, you can’t do this. An update titled ‘Wings’ is planned to add a lot of these features some time early this year but it is hard to get too excited for something that should have been included in the first place.

Massively Multiplayer Misadventures

Why Frontier rushed this out before Christmas when many of the features vital to a multiplayer game remained unfinished is a complete puzzle, but whatever the reason, it’s a move that may prove woefully misjudged. It means that many people’s first impressions are of a brilliant game, but one that is incomplete and riddled with infuriating gremlins. For example, the holiday period included, for many, a server-side malfunction that left folks either losing hundreds of tonnes of cargo or being given billions of credits compensation by mistake. Not only is this straight-up bad in terms of enjoying your time in space, it also has ridiculous economic implications. Some of the luckier beneficiaries of these errors have been buying Palladium – an expensive metal – and flushing the cargo into space for their fellow players, effectively flooding the galaxy with freshly-printed creds, like a chaotic millionaire sprinkling banknotes from his skyscraper apartment.

I was playing with a friend in a different part of space when this same server maelstrom passed over the galaxy. And at the risk of sounding like an Upworthy headline, what happened next was lunacy. My pal parked his transport ship, full of cargo, and bought a smaller Viper as an extra to try out. In the meantime, the game pulled a wobbler and when he sought to retrieve his cargo ship he discovered that, not only had the ship been mysteriously warped to a system 15 light years away, but the station it was being held in did not even have a shipyard. Without this option in the starport menu, his ship was impossible to get back. The game had essentially towed him. At time of writing, he is still waiting for his ticket to technical support to be sorted out.

Stories like this are a huge pity. They give a great game a bad reputation. But from what I have myself experienced, it is a deserved reputation. Most of the time, Elite works. The excitement, even the boredom, of the game is still preserved for me as something I am happy to have paid for. But it would be a poor reviewer indeed who did not mention that the sim’s rough edges have not been satisfactorily sanded down. I would be equally naive if I did not suspect that the Kickstarter mentality of constant development (“we can fix that later in a patch”) is partly to blame. All this means is that the game being sold on Frontier’s website does not feel like Elite 1.0. It still feels like Elite 0.9.

The visual splendour of the galaxy is recreated wonderfully, the feel and look of the ships make piloting and dogfighting a joy, and even the limited spread of occupations, from explorer to smuggler, gives you enough to play around with. The game is at its finest when you set your own challenges: pirate a Type-9, reach the Horsehead Nebula, smuggle slaves into a Federation port. If, hearing these possibilities, you can already see yourself flipping switches and tenderly pressing buttons on a flight stick, then I have no problem recommending it to you. I just feel everyone should be aware of what they’re getting when they buy Elite. The best unfinished game of last year.

143 Comments

  1. raiders5000 says:

    Man. That’s depressing. Just downright sad. I hope your pal gets his ship back.

  2. kevmscotland says:

    As I’ve read near enough everywhere and its a fair assessment:

    “A mile wide, an inch deep”

    All that said I still love the game.

    • Belsameth says:

      V true,this (while still loving it to death!)

      Some of the more serious kinks care getting ironed out already tho. I’ve not had issues with bounties in quite a while. NPCs can’t kill steal you as easily anymore (and you can them!). Police doesn”t go berserk anymore because you”’re killing people of their faction, even if they are wanted (yes, this used to happen). The dynamic galaxy also had a few bugs which have been ironed out, meaning you can now flip ownership of stations and even star systems.

      A lot still remain tho (I warped into a binary star system just yesterday. The secondary star was in close orbit of the primary (which is your warp target automatically) so I landed *inside* the second. Only a save+quit saved me.

      But yeah, I suspect they rushed it out because of cash issues, which is a damn shame.

      • Sunjammer says:

        I expect you already know this, but wanted status is local. Thus a pirate in one system can be a law abiding citizen in another. Kill warrant scanning is really just to check for foreign jurisdiction bounties, so if you scan a dude and he gets a wanted tag, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wanted locally.

  3. Sp4rkR4t says:

    “if you’re unhappy you can sell back any piece of equipment for the same price you bought it”

    less 10% of the value.

    • C0llic says:

      This deduction only happens when selling a ship. Upgraded parts sold separately are sold at full price.

      • grundus says:

        Yeah, which is why you should always strip ships of everything before you sell them.

        • Premium User Badge

          Wisq says:

          Ugh, I hate when games make you take extra fiddly, micromanage-y steps to avoid getting ripped off.

          Like when you know that companion X is going to die in an RPG and you’ll lose all the gear they’re wearing, so you have to strip them and watch them die naked.

          … Not that I’ve ever done that …

          • demicanadian says:

            Get Dragano Age (1), get to the “you’re grey warden now” scene and strip everyone out of their clothes..
            What was a killing, turns into gay rape.

          • Melody says:

            @demicanadian

            Ugh. Extremely poor choice of words.

          • SquidgyB says:

            Y’know what’s worse than fiddly micromanagement and poor UI choices?

            When you go over to the suggestions forum for the game and Elite elitists keep telling you that you want your arse wiped for you and that we’re asking for hand holding (dangerous mix of metaphors there…) by wanting a usable UI…

          • Continuity says:

            @SquidgyB yeah they are pretty obnoxious, I left off posting there some months ago.

  4. J-Force says:

    A fair review. As someone who plays as a bounty hunter, the endgame is not in looking at my shiny garage, but by getting in my Viper, sticking around in a system with a large pirate faction and destroying enough ships to form a ring system. That in itself is far more rewarding to me than looking at my shiny Anaconda. I don’t want an Anaconda – the thing handles like a drunk asteroid.

    And here is both a major positive and major negative that I don’t think you really picked up on, but first some context:

    One of this game’s charms is being able to sit in a system and watch it evolve around you and your fellow players. It is not often I see another player but when I do they are usually a bounty hunter like me (not that suprising really) who is combing the rings for easy kills. One pilot I meet often and we once were chatting, complaining about how quiet things were, the pirate faction had practically abandoned the place a couple of hours earlier and only the stray sidewinder remained when we heard a large number of bleeps indicating ships entering space nearby. Immediatly they started firing on us and so we fired back.

    The great thing here is that, although you point out how, in detail, E:D can be a bit dull and buggy (I see those ships mining empty space too often), if you just pick a system and watch the algorithms at work the results can be exciting and challenging. I say challenging because the pirate faction had brought an anaconda, 4 cobras and 3 sidewinders, I don’t think I’ve ever shouted ‘go faster!’ at my moniter before but I did then.

    The bad thing was that the Bounty system is a little broken both in terms of polish and design. I could not share bounties with my buddy in the He Bo system which was in itself a serious barrier to interaction (which you clearly point out) but the bounty system plainly does not take self defence into account. We had bounties in the several thousand at the end of that fight because we did not wait for the scanner to finish telling me if the pirate shooting at me is wanted or not. And that sucked.

    That said, it was an awesome fight. The anaconda has a plasma acc. that would have destroyed my ship in two shots and my buddy’s ship in one (never put an eagle against an anaconda, I did warn him). Dodging that thing was a fun nightmare, seeing the ship line up the gun on me and fire whilst I frantically hit keys to save myself was incredible. And still happens, that anaconda is still out there somewhere…

    The nature of combat could have been elaborated on, is I think what I am trying to say, I got sidetracked with the politics of the He Bo system. Sorry.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Lovely anecdote though I’m not quite sure any player would be well served (ie have fun) just sitting in a single system, but to each their own of course.

      Although if I may offer a tiny but much needed correction: the Eagle is a most capable ship versus an Anaconda, provided that you can stay out of reach of its plasma cannons. It’s pretty much the most agile ship in the game, costs nothing to replace, and has just about enough firepower to take down an Anaconda in a few minutes (faster if you target one or several subsystems and manage your energy and don’t miss too many shots, and obviously faster still if you’ve upgraded its systems, ie the power distributor). Of course I’d rather be in a Viper vs an Anaconda, but there’s absolutely no reason to tell people an Eagle couldn’t take on an Anaconda, unless they’re total noobs. The Eagle may be the second cheapest ship in the game but that’s countered by being much much fun and very agile.

    • yuti says:

      “One of this game’s charms is being able to sit in a system and watch it evolve around you and your fellow players.”

      I call BS on this. A handful of enemy ships turning up is not “a system evolving around you”. The original BBC Elite had bunches of enemy ships 30 years ago, and 20 years ago the Archimedes version had a far richer variety of NPC activity that Elite Dangerous. And neither was riddled by bugs..

      It is truly amazing how Braben and 100 staff managed to spend two years and eight million pounds to come up with such a poor excuse for an Elite game.

    • Janissaire says:

      Sorry,but,Elite univese is dead,and,dead.

      Uh,elite show(like 99%) of modern game,you can made sh*t,and,,robots will still love love it.

      I think i will try to become game dev,truly a easy job.will make empty thing with shiny graphic,will be rich and,will be a true craftmaster for the robots.

      Ah,i still miss so much good game.

  5. Pkloop says:

    Good review. I feel like I wasted my money on this one so far. Hopeful that they will add ALOT more to it.

    • Cinek says:

      Same here. It’s fun as long as you’re learning it. But after you know how to… do stuff (which can take longer than it should have) then there’s pretty much nothing to do there. It’s like if instead of a game they’d release an introduction level and left you alone at the end of it in a huge empty space. Sure, there are stations to park in, but that’s tedious after the 2nd time, not fun. Procedural generation of systems lead to creating tons of void with few repetitive decorations here and there (colors and shapes change a little, but it’s still all the same). Single player component is rigged to work online-only (and they refused refunds when announcing that just before the release, trulry an EA-move) while multiplayer is complete and utter shit (from a practical point of view it doesn’t exist)

      This game is a waste of money.

      • DodgyG33za says:

        I might have thought the same thing if I didn’t have a rift DK2 and a nice HOTAS setup.

        As it is, the game is awesome and amazing. That is not to say that I am not really really looking forwards to more content, but even as is the game is well worth the $800 (AUD) I have shelled out for the experience.

        • SquidgyB says:

          Yeah, a good HOTAS/head tracking setup really brings the game alive, even with the lack of content – the “feel” is amazing.

  6. Love Albatross says:

    Can’t disagree with any of this. I love the game, but it is not ready for launch and their bone-headed insistence on hitting that target was stupid. Only trading feels near being properly fleshed out, everything else is really lacking in some way or just hasn’t been balanced and tested enough.

    The grind is the worst thing. I’m at the point now where I’ve hit a wall when it comes to earning credits and progressing to other ships is going to require a serious investment of time spent doing (to me) very boring things.

    Still, the fundamentals are there. The actual mechanics of flying spaceships is pure joy and the sound design a thing of beauty. Gonna be an awesome game when it’s finished.

    • Chaz says:

      Even trading is pretty far from being properly fleshed out. Near enough everything in the game is as basic as you can get. Trading still lacks any means of viewing the commodities information for any systems you have visited or have bought the trade information for. It is ridiculous that the only way to find out what a station is buying or selling is to physically dock at each and every one and then have to sit there and make actual notes or take screen shots to refer back to.

  7. SAeN says:

    I think what Elite has cemented for me is that travelling through it is so remarkably boring once you’ve gotten past the eye candy. Once you’ve seen a big star, some planetary rings and a black hole that’s about it on the interesting sights list. The game is obviously highly devoid of content right now which doesn’t help but I think it’s demonstrated the biggest weakness of space sandbox games. They’re just big and empty. Which makes them great as a simulation of space travel, not so much as an interesting place to explore. Getting somewhere in Elite can be best described as pointing yourself at the location and travelling in a straight line.

    It’s been called Euro Truck simulator in space several times by the gaming media, but I honestly think that’s a slight on Euro truck simulator. ETS has things for you to do and think about during play. Corners to navigate, intersections to anticipate, speed limits, parking, navigating towns, a sleep system and more. Elite (and other space games) just asks you to travel in straight lines. (Okay Elite’s most involved thing to do /is/ parking but that’s it). And it takes SO LONG sometimes. I’ve been stuck travelling to the only station in a system for an hour. AN HOUR, of me being alt-tabbed and watching lost. That’s not fun, that’s poor design. Euro Truck simulator fools me into thinking it’s only 5 minutes from Glasgow to the next city, why can’t Elite do something to curtail this tedium? It even has the excuse of being sci-fi.

    That they thought making this game 400B systems big is madness. That game gains nothing from being that size, and only serves to make the universe seem even MORE empty. MORE devoid of content. MORE unfinished. I haven’t seen another player since I started and I’m still relatively near the starting areas.

    If you can easily let your imagination take hold and let you look past the lack of things to do in Elite then you will absolutely love it. But no one should buy into this right now expecting a complete experience. Come back in a year and don’t sour your initial impressions.

    As a sidenote, I think this has only made me more cynical about No Man’s Sky. As far as I can tell that game has the rough goal of sending you towards the center of the galaxy, and if it’s anything like Elite I can’t imagine a more tedious task. Particularly since it also seems to lack any authored content.

  8. neddnyc says:

    I’ll come back to this game when they add planetary landings.

  9. xaduha says:

    You can play the Combat Demo using this unofficial Downloader, downloads from their CDN, integrity guaranteed.

    • Cinek says:

      Note that combat is tiny part of the game. You’ll spend most of time flying in the void. Don’t get fooled by trailers or that demo when downloading it.

      For a proper Elite demo – open a screenshot of the cockpit on the full screen with nothing interesting behind the window and see if you can live staring at it for 45 minutes.

      • Asurmen says:

        Well duh. That’s why it’s combat demo and not full game demo. If they released a full demo but attempted to make it seem combat was fast and furious ala trailer you’d have a point.

  10. DrManhatten says:

    Meh that and the lack of true offline play keeps me waiting maybe I check it in 6 months again when the price is right.

    • jonfitt says:

      Do you regularly play games without an Internet connection at all? If you’re even on a slow wifi connection, you should be ok.

      • DrManhatten says:

        Yes I regularly play games while traveling on the train.

        • SnowWookie says:

          Elite is not really a game to play on the train. First, this game doesn’t really shine until you’re playing with a HOTAS. In fact, I’ve just had the use of a Rift for a week and I did nothing but play Elite with it.

          Besides, it really isn’t the kind of game that you jump in and play for 10 or 20 minutes here and there.

          • Barberetti says:

            Given the nature of trading, exploring, mining etc, It’s exactly the kind of game you can jump in and play for 10 or 20 minutes here and there.

          • Contrafibularity says:

            I know it must appear this way to people with HOTASjoysticks, but the game is actually perfectly playable and fun with mouse and keyboard, provided you change the default control scheme (ie change mouse x-axis to yaw instead of roll, and turn on relative mode). Joysticks are undoubtedly even more fun, but it’s a bit nonsense to say the game doesn’t shine until you have one*. I regularly “forget” I’m playing with mouse and keyboard.

            *also due to some tragic bad luck with 4 Logitech E3D Pro’s breaking within weeks, in a row, I have vowed never to ever buy a joystick ever again (and nothing by Logitech ever again obviously) so M+KB is the only way I’ll be playing this game, luckily that’s fine.

        • jonfitt says:

          I play games here, I play games there, I play games everywhere. But gosh I hadn’t even considered playing Elite on public transport!
          When I play Elite I have a HOTAS, and a TrackIR hat on under my massive headphones. I’m nerded up to the max. I dim the lights and crack open a Romulan Ale.
          I guess you could play it perched on a train tray table with an Xbox controller. But I would rather play any of a million other games in that situation!

          To each his own though. If you would choose to play with an offline character that would never be allowed in online play just for the ability to play a bit on the 8:15 to Dunstable I guess it’s sad that you can’t do that. I think you should continue to not purchase it in that case.

          • Joe 2.0 says:

            Heck man, If he’s anything like me he hasn’t even looked at the multiplayer mode. I personally have zero desire to even see another player in my game. I just want to space around in my own little bubble, and fly across the galaxy without some D-bag deciding it’s my time to die for no apparent reason. More specifically, I intend to get a Cobra or Viper, and then settle there, and just fly around enjoying the Vistas. Kind of like Space Engine but more engaging. I don’t need other players to have fun with this game, much less do I actually want them to spoil my fun.

            In addition to that, I can certifiably say that Frontier’s promise of a 10 Kb/s connection being all that’s required to play Solo Online is a complete and outright lie. I regularly get disconnected at around 40 min.s playtime due to an inability to contact servers, or ‘transaction errors’ when my internet is happily giving me a steady 70-80 Mb/s.

      • melnificent says:

        AH that old chestnut. Sometimes your internet is severely locked down, sometimes it doesn’t exist, maybe want to play it on a flight or train journey/commute. Anything but offline means that the game is a no-go for more people than live in your always online bubble.

        Oh and lets not forget server maintenance(daily for E: D), server crashes (over Xmas for E: D) and general problems related to server problems such as the ghost cargo, and instant billionaires. Offline cures these server problems, by making it a non-issue.

        • Frosty840 says:

          Aye. One of the much-touted benefits of putting everything server-side in these types of games is to prevent cheating on the client side.
          If the server-side is so buggered that it’s allowing item duplication anyway, then that excuse goes out the window straight away…

        • yuti says:

          Melnificent, that’s not the worst of it. What is really insane is that when playing the solo game, you cannot reload a saved position. So when your ships is destroyed or gets stuck in game by one of the many bugs, you can’t recover. Same applies if there’s a glitch in your internet or at the Frontier server, which can easily crash your ship. You’ve lost it. Crazy.

          When your ship gets stuck or broken by a bug, you have to open a support ticket to get Frontier to fix it. This is one of the reason Frontier support is totally overloaded with thousands of tickets. People have been waiting days unable to play the game, hoping Frontier will get around to looking at their ticket.

          Also insane is that there is no pause function. This was showing on the game screen right up until just before launch. Like lost of other features it didn’t work, but it at least seemed Frontier would get it working before launch. They didn’t. They just REMOVED THE FUNCTION. So now you can’t pause the game to take a phone call.

          How on earth did anyone at Frontier think this was going to be acceptable? Every since previous Elite game has had save and pause. What possible excuse is there for leaving these essential features out now?

          • Continuity says:

            Pause yes, save not so much. FE2 at least was ironman only. And not having pause in an online game is understandable, its just questionable why they made it online only.

      • Chiron says:

        My Internet connection is fine, but I’d want to use a trainer to bump up my space creds and just fuck around in a decent ship rather than grind things out.

        I’d happily buy this game for Space Porn to play in the background or leave running when doing something else (drunk/stoned with ambient music, seems like a great way to enjoy it for example) and really cant see myself spending hours trading cargo around.

  11. Kefren says:

    No mention of the developer’s step back from the promised offline single player mode? I thought their new “online only because no-one would want to play this solo offline” assumption would be relevant to a review because so many people aren’t interested in an instance with other human players – they just want the Elite they played in the past but newer and shinier.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Yeah, it’s a little frustrating that Diablo 3 got raked over the coals for that but this game is getting a free pass. Especially when it’s an indie dev, and they’re generally supposed to be more customer-friendly, not less.

      On the other hand, they also didn’t have a massive case of Error 37 on launch day (afaik).

      • Grovester says:

        Yeah, because there hasn’t been a massive online fuss about this and the developers being forced to refund thousands of people’s money and Trading Standards getting involved and it being brought up any time any gaming website says anything about this game, ever. Or anything.

        • farrier says:

          Probably meant free pass as in not being mentioned in this review.

        • morbiusnl says:

          “thousands” of players? citation needed.

          • melnificent says:

            There’s a few of us that have kicked up the biggest stink over the lack of refunds for a promised mode/feature. Funnily enough it turns out that kicking up a big public fuss is the only way to get Frontier to follow consumer law and refund customers that asked for it over offline mode.

            I got my refund, eventually, after drawing lots of attention to Frontiers less than honest practices.

      • Cinek says:

        They broke 2 promises: offline single player and DRM-free game and announced that just before the release and then lied to the customers on just how many people asked for refunds to minimize additional requests

        It’s the first time I seen indie devs behaving like such a dicks. Even EA got better policy when handling SimCity disaster – at least everyone got a free game to compensate, regardless if they had complained about a game or not.

        Frontier will not get any more of my money.

    • jonfitt says:

      I can’t say I have noticed a scrap of difference between Solo Online, and what a Solo Offline would potentially offer. If I was stuck playing games in rural Wales I might have an issue with needing an online connection, but in terms of gameplay I see no benefit.

      • farrier says:

        The normal, vanilla gameplay probably wouldn’t be noticeably different. My complaints are being unable to pause and the removal of modding potential. Sure, they’re going to allow third-party apps, but those won’t be able to alter things in the game, only pull data from the game. If you could mod this game out like an X or Elder Scrolls game? Ohhhh the pastabilities.

        • jonfitt says:

          Modding would be nice, but it would remove the ability to play solomulti with the same character. You wouldn’t want someone to install a “give me all the monies and gear” mod in solo and then bring that character to the MP game. I really like being able to decide whether I want to play with other people on at any time without needing to worry about which character I want to play.
          You’ve got a point with the pausing though! Although I see no reason why pause could not exist in the Solo online mode we have. It would just need to resync trade data etc. when you unpaused. Currently I exit to menu. It’s a pain because you drop from super cruise and lose your map waypoints.

          • Cinek says:

            Or instead of doing what you imagined they could do what every other game have done – offline characters being locked down to offline mode.

          • jonfitt says:

            They could do, and it would have prevented the outcry of a few, but ultimately it’s not the game they’ve been making for a long time since after full development started. There is only one Elite Dangerous universe. You can choose to see other people or not, but we’re all still in the same universe. It makes the game feel more immersive to know that things can change depending on player interaction or developer created events. Those will undoubtedly increase as we go on, they’ve been ramping those up since the testing phase and it’s clear that it’s part of their long term strategy.
            They could have released a static dead copy of the universe that you can choose to play in like old Elite, but there’s plenty to fix and create on the main game to spend any time on something which would benefit only a small proportion of people. They may get around to it eventually.
            But in the spirit of open development I would love to see a poll on the Elite launcher that says “I would/not like for you to pull people off creating features for the main game to create an offline branch”. I would love to see those results.

      • yuti says:

        jonfitt says: “I can’t say I have noticed a scrap of difference between Solo Online, and what a Solo Offline would potentially offer.”

        Tried saving your game position? You can’t.

        Tried pausing play while to take a leak? You can’t.

        Tried letting your son play your copy independently? You can’t.

        Tried applying mods? You can’t.

        Tried playing when your internet is down? You can’t.

        Tried playing when Frontier servers are borked, as for one whole week at the start of this month? You can’t.

        Tried playing early in the morning when Frontier have to restart their bugging server code every single day? You can’t.

        And most importantly, when you try playing your game when Frontier have turned off the servers because the company is getting no more money from new sales, you can’t.

  12. Jiskra says:

    my expirience exactly, on other side i belive Frontier is gonna man up and actualy “finish” theyr game
    and i am willing to wait for it.

  13. grundus says:

    Yep, as someone who has played enough to earn 15 million credits in trading (I’d guess around 100 hours? No idea) I’d say this is a fair review. I haven’t played for a couple of weeks now, I’m waiting for more stuff to be added before I go back. I keep wanting to go off exploring in my Asp but then I remember how the Galaxy Map doesn’t make this particularly fun, even though it really wouldn’t take much to fix (I’m thinking some sort of compass, the ability to bookmark systems, being able to set a waypoint so the game can calculate the route as you go (I do get why it only has a 100LY radius)… Oh, and saving plotted routes when you quit!), so the itch is scratched before I even start.

    • J-Force says:

      1.1 is slated to solve your exploration problem. It is supposed to extend the galaxy route planning range to 1000 light years – apparently.

  14. Grovester says:

    Great review.

    One thing I’ll say, and I’ve said before, is don’t grind. Or at least, don’t grind too much (a certain degree is required to get something more fun than a basic Sidewinder).

    I’ve just got myself a Viper and I’m going to wander around bounty hunting, exploring, maybe get involved in a slave rebellion, whatever. I’ve still got to learn how to fuel scoop, which will be an adventure. But because I haven’t spend 100 hours accumulating cash, it still feels fresh to me. Every good/great game has a golden period and E:D’s one seems to be when you’ve got enough money to get a half-decent ship and you can just wander around enjoying the sights.

    By the way the 1.04 patch fixes many of the (more serious) bugs in the review and 1.05 (out today) should fix more.

    • J-Force says:

      Got any good systems to share? The He Bo system in alliance space was my hunting ground. I went 200 light years to the rebellious area (Sorbago, Dulos etc.) and am having a bit of fun there. No grinding either!

      • Grovester says:

        I mucked about between Lwen and Coritab and with a Hauler was doing about 16k every round trip (with negligible transport costs). So in 10 round trips that’s enough to get a Viper and start enjoying some freedom.

    • Deadly Habit says:

      While I went the trading route in Alpha after the wipe I went Bounty Hunter, and unlike a lot of players who backed the game I chose to use my Sidewinder for this. Sold my Eagle decked out my Sidewinder (honestly a bit too much as I could have had a Viper sooner), but Resource Extraction sites are great. With the help of the AI system security in these regions I was collecting those Anaconda bounties and taking down ASPs, Eagles, and Cobras no problem in a Sidewinder.

      The one thing that I love about the game is using a Joystick & Throttle system combined with voice attack and hopefully one day will get an Oculus Rift to go along with it.
      Fair review IMO and I hope that it gets seemless planetary landing soon like the Evochron games have.

      An example of Voice Attack with ED https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dnJ–pSjdE

      Have some buddies who have commands like “Chewie punch it!” for boost etc

      • SnowWookie says:

        Elite with a HOTAS, Rift and voice attack is basically the Han Solo simulator I wanted since I was a kid.

        I’d love to know how many people added “punch it, chewie” to voice attack :)

        • BobbyDylan says:

          I’m gonna do this now.

        • Danarchist says:

          The voice command I use to deploy my landing gear and switch to 20% speed is “Leaf on the wind”. Cause I usually say it right before I die…..

          What…too soon?

    • LexxieJ says:

      Indeed- that’s the key to enjoying Elite: don’t grind otherwise you’ll be bored very quickly.

      As an aside, the ‘no sound in space’ comment from the review has actually been explained in the game lore. If you look around your cockpit you’ll notice speakers on the sides of your seat; they’re used by the onboard computer to generate expected sounds so that you’re awra eof what’s going on. Clever huh?

      They’ve even thought about what would happen if you lose your canpoy- the sound goes almost silent and muffled; it’s a very cool effect amd scary as hell when it happens!

      It’s little details like that that make a game for me, though I’m probbaly a bit weird… ;)

  15. derbefrier says:

    Yup glad I was able to get a (partial) refund. What a dissapointing game.

    • Cinek says:

      Lucky you. They refuse to give my on a basis that I have played the game. Ridicioulus.

      • Volcanu says:

        To be fair – how is that ridiculous?

        I cant think of anywhere else, either physical retail or digital distribution, that would let you buy a game, play it to your heart’s content and then return it and get your money back.

        • Premium User Badge

          Harlander says:

          You could take umbrage because the game and its pre-release access were sold as two separate things, post-Kickstarter. So if you play the beta or such, you’ve only received one of the things you’ve purchased.

          • Asurmen says:

            People have been receiving refunds for the separate parts of the game. Something seems off with Cinek’s situation.

  16. Cei says:

    “Why Frontier rushed this out before Christmas when many of the features vital to a multiplayer game remained unfinished is a complete puzzle”

    Because Christmas. Christmas is sales, and sales mean a deadline.
    Frontier needed to delay Dangerous, and they didn’t. I was downright shocked when I heard the release date, because having played the Beta extensively I knew it was going to be a flawed release. Various fanboys were trying to claim that Frontier had all these features held back for release and that the game was magically going to pull together in to a cohesive whole with all systems working. Well, we can see how that worked out.

    Dangerous looks amazing. It has the vibe of a space game, and they’ve got the mechanics down solid. What it lacks is polish, and I can only assume that Frontier simply couldn’t financially afford another six months in development.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Christmas also means competing with every other game that thinks the same thing.

      I would’ve waited until at least mid 2015, hopefully around when the Rift releases. But, that’s an uncertainty, and I don’t know their cashflow situation.

      • DrManhatten says:

        The Rift gets never released.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          It might have to do with the fact that Facebook is now second guessing themselves over why they actually bought the thing and what are they really going to do with it.

          Since it’s “gaming use” is more or less still the only thing going for it, i’d say that it’s already in the hands of those who actually wanted it, mostly, barring the obligatory exceptions and those who still don’t know if they want it or not.

    • iainl says:

      They promised the game would be out by the end of 2014. And I guess the list of broken promises was long enough as it was.

    • aircool says:

      I avoided alpha and beta etc… so I’m quite happy with the current release.

  17. tkjgmz says:

    Very good review, thanks.

    Some little advice I’d like to add:

    The faction/reputation system is one of the, er, less explained features of the game.
    If you’re trying to achieve a friendly or allied status with one of the three big factions, take a good look at the local system’s political power situation (which is shown in a submenu on your ship, not on the mission billboard or the system map) before accepting missions. After trying to become “friendly” with the Alliance for about two weeks I ended up “unfriendly”, because I took to many missions affecting the Alliance negatively. Even pirate hunting might cost reputation, if your wanted targets in a particular system are part of the Alliance. I’m still digging myself out of that reputation hole after a few weeks later.

    Secondly – never ever undock if you don’t have the insurance rebuy credits for your ship ready, especially if you’re grinding for or flying in a big, expensive ship. One stupid misstep and you have to start from scratch with a free sidewinder (the beginner ship).

    • Grovester says:

      Second the insurance point. There are quite a few people on the E:D forums who have fallen foul of this. I would have thought there would be a mechanism to put aside some money (such as a savings account). Or at least have the ability to be loaned money. You could even extent this to allowing players to loan money to other players, at an extortionate interest rate, and then be allowed (legally) to chase them down and destroy them for a bounty.

      That would be fun.

      E:D: The Loan Shark Years.

      • Love Albatross says:

        There is a loan system. Everyone can go into debt by 200k, and you pay it back with 10% of all money earned.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          If you’re not careful that’s nothing compared to an ASP’s ( or higher ) insurance, not even if you fly it without upgrades which no one would do since you buy it for the jump distance and all around usability, and you have almost no cargo otherwise and a weapon loadout which would only make sense on a Sidewinder.

          Then again i suppose that once you reached that point you are slighty wiser than committing that big mistake of not saving up, but you never know and i wouldn’t be surprised to learn it happened even on a Python.

          Eitherway it’s a pretty nice way to teach the lesson of being prepared for emergencies and other crap in real life, i know many people that are perfectly capable of blowing their monthly paycheck in one pass, only to be starving until the next month. Some are less extreme, obviously, but still rather tight in financial planning.

  18. Boosh says:

    good review, and fair.
    I invested a lot into this, and really for me it isn’t ‘here’ yet and I remain hopeful and quite positive that this year we may get the Elite we all wanted.

    I’ve stopped playing, simply because I built a simple route trading rares which nets millions per hour with so little effort I can and do watch movies on another screen. I got the ship I wanted and then lost interest, if I can log in at any time and grind credits when required with so little effort, there’s really not much point.

    I’m tempted to head in one direction and keep going, but why, really? Sightseeing for me isn’t gameplay.

    For me not putting multiplayer as a higher priority was a catastrophic decision, especially for launch when that is often the one chance you have to get a good solid core of players ‘building’ your online community. There should have been ways and means and a purpose for groups to form, alliances to develop. There should be player generated content in a game like this, otherwise what is the point?
    The online solo/all group thing is confused and further undermines what is already a critically underdeveloped multiplayer experience.

    Its one saving grace right now is there is no subscription of any kind, or cynical in game mechanic to get me to login everyday, as I know I can mothball it for now and go back when they update it.

    FD don’t seem to be exactly open to feedback, communication is poor (there is no published roadmap), which gives me some concern. I think they listened too much to the old crowd and banked heavily on nostalgia by staying very close to originals. But we live in different times, expectations are extremely high these days, and FD have missed an opportunity to truly innovate and advance the title.

    However, this is a solid foundation, if FD up their game it could be spectacular, but right now its disappointing.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      The point? Its ‘screw you hippies’ always on DRM of course, that’s the only coherent explanation given how half assed the player interaction is.

  19. vorador says:

    Glad i decided to skip on this one since the online only debacle. Sounds like playing a beta instead of a retail release.

    Hopefully Star Citizen will deliver. At least they have the cash to polish it much further.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Strange times, you still didn’t get assaulted.

    • Janissaire says:

      Star Citizen is going to be a game for normal human.

      Elite is a game for the pigeon,pork,and sub-human.

  20. Zenicetus says:

    A good review, with the exception that it’s written in a way that makes it sound like it’s a 100% multiplayer game, when there is an option to play in Solo mode.

    Yes, it requires a constant Internet connection, and there is a very small degree of crossover impact on the gameworld economy and faction support between Solo players and those in Private Groups and the All Online mode. But it plays and feels very much like a singleplayer game in that mode. You never have to see another player if you don’t want to, and that’s going to be a major difference between Elite Dangerous and the upcoming EvE Valkyrie and Star Citizen. The review should have mentioned that.

  21. Cockie says:

    *strikes out Elite Dangerous from “to buy” list, puts it on “maybe later” list, looks longingly at Limit Theory*

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Really looking forward to Limit theory, I don’t usually follow in development games but I’ve got Josh’s site bookmarked.

      • Cockie says:

        You’re better off following the Announcements part of the forums or the Kickstarter updates as Josh is notoriously slow at updating his website. It’s missing the last devlog video, the announcement of a new update system and the first update in the new system (link to kickstarter.com ). :)

    • tomimt says:

      Personally I already had decided to wait for E:D to get more expansions before I’d get. It’s been a game I’ve been interested for a while now, but all the reviews do read pretty clearly, that the game still needs a lot of work. Maybe in a year E:D will become the game it was meant to be.

  22. Laurentius says:

    Wanted it badly, bought a flightstick mainly for it but “no offline mode” spin turned me off big time and I decided to skip it. Mabye that’s for the better though. Who knows, maybe in a year game will transform into something really special on all fronts and my distase will eventually wane so I will then buy an amazing expereince I wanted from this game, time will tell.

  23. DXN says:

    Great WIT, thanks!

  24. Phantasma says:

    The review is pretty spot on.

    Not a single hour goes by without noticing some major or several minor design flaws after the initial excitment, while learning how to fly your ship and exploring the (star and game) systems around you, wore off.
    There are many apparent holes, for which the surprising early release date is partly to blame for.

    But strangely, i can’t really be mad at the game.
    Granted, i only play short bursts since the release and i’m definitely waiting for major content updates, but there is a certain charm, that keeps me coming back.
    Still, “a game with so much potential” is a pretty damning but accurate description right now.

    But there is one thing i can’t and won’t excuse and no goodwill for the small indies, legends from the 80s and those niche genres, alleged in need of our protection, can soften up my disdain.
    The ridiculous grind for ships and equipment to artificially stretch the little content that is there.
    It’s bad design, it’s unfun and even the oft played realism card can’t hide it.
    It’s a mentality from an era when MMO’s got away with it unquestioned.

    So i hope it sold well regardless and that Frontier can patch it up ASAP before it gets forgotten and/or Star Citizen launches (however that will turn out), but they really need to get a gear on.
    The pre-release hype is spent, now only sound actions are able to talk.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Frontier Developments have ~270 employees and an 80M GBP market cap, they’re not small or indie in any meaningful sense.

      • Nokturnal says:

        What about in the sense that they self-published the title?…
        I think the word indie gets misunderstood quite a bit, it has many meanings according to the interwebs. Small employee numbers and funding are not the only two requirements.

      • Phantasma says:

        It wasn’t exactly how i personally would describe the company, but the sentiment gets thrown around a lot.
        Especially when people are defending the flaws and shortcomings of the game.

        But yes, maybe i better should have gone with the full form ‘independent.’

        edit:
        And i meant it somewhat sarcastic too.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    I waited 30 years for this game, and I’m happy to keep playing it off and on whilst it grows.

  26. jonfitt says:

    I think I’ve been pretty lucky for bugs so far. I’ve not had one that really affects me I can think of since the Gamma test. I’ve seen the ships mining empty space where the asteroid they’re supposed to be mining is missing, but the following were fixed from my point of view:
    – Being stuck in warp indefinitely
    Had it in gamma in a training mission, but it was resolved in gamma. Never had it in the main game.
    – NPCs stealing kills from me
    They tweaked it very soon after 1.0 so that if an NPC kills a ship, and you hit it in the previous few seconds, you get the credit. Man, that must annoy the NPC cops! I’ve occasionally grazed a criminal whose being hammered by cops, let them finish him, and I get the bounty.

    There’s also the thing were if a ship is aligned with Cleatus + Brandine Corp, but also has a Federation bounty on their head, if you attack them the Cleatus + Brandine Corp aligned cops attack you. I believe that was fixed, it used to annoy me while hunting baddies at resource extraction sites where baddies and cops are plentiful.

    The one thing that irks me but isn’t exactly a bug, is when a cop glides through your firing beam laser and then charges you with a crime (read: shoots you to death). They should be more aware of firing lines, and avoid them, but that’s a tricky AI problem.

  27. melnificent says:

    I still don’t understand why it’s being called an MMO. How many MMOs have a 32 player cap per shard?

    If we add in all the “coming soon, honest” things such as friend communication, grouping, etc. Then it looks even less like an MMO and more like a slightly multiplayer game with Online-DRM in disguise.

    Can we talk about the Xmas server wobbles when they let all the staff go home for the fortnight with no additional cover for a newly released game? Or the 2 months for support to answer some tickets (and counting for 1 or 2 people). Support has got slightly better, I understand it’s under a month now.

    People are dying randomly for no reason, again with silence from support. Saves are corrupting, with silence from support. In fact that’s the biggest problem with support. It barely exists, it’s silence all the way for any bugs people are encountering.

    Finally, lets look at the 400billion star systems. Outside of the core systems it’s hit or miss whether the system is bugged or not and going to dump you from the game until support manually move you to another system, to hope isn’t bugged.

    • iainl says:

      Brendy’s MMO comments are mainly about the MMO-like flavourless mission types, no?

    • Asurmen says:

      It wasn’t all staff, it was only core teams. There was still support in. Tickets take time to be worked through. They’ve added tracking data to find out why people are dying randomly need stations in 1.05.

  28. kael13 says:

    I think my favourite comparison is Skyrim in space. Well, except that Skyrim does actually have a central plotline.

    I bought in just before the start of the beta but barely touched the game beyond a bit of prattling about between systems. I’ll come back when they add some new content, maybe write a storyline mission or two and the Oculus Rift is out.

    Star Citizen’s dogfight module, on the other hand, is so damn fun.

    • Barberetti says:

      Skyrim also had the advantage of not being online only, so when the infamous flying backwards dragons patch dropped, I simply chose not to update the game and carried on playing the old version while Bethesda sorted the problem out.

      • Cinek says:

        Skyrim also had tons of varied missions, things to discover that lead to something more than a screenshots, combat that was really fun even if dodgy, NPCs you could do funny things with, do I really need to continiue? Skyrim felt like a proper, full game that’s fun to play. Elite does not.

        • Asurmen says:

          Anyone who didn’t know it was going to be continuous development to flesh out the game rather than just bare bones post release needs to learn a thing or two. There’s no point comparing it to Skyrim when it doesn’t have anything like the budget, resources or development time.

    • Phantasma says:

      All within its limitations, but in Skyrim you could change the world to a certain extent.

      Slaughter all people in Whiterun and you have a deserted ghost town and are unable to do trade and quests there for example.

      Nothing in Elite is this reactive to one’s actions (in this case understandable, multiplayer experience and all that, but you get my point).

  29. jack4cc says:

    When I look at todays dev update and I see “As you all know we’re also working on paid expansions for the game” I’m a bit worried that I’ll be stuck with the the current el cheapo peasant version of the game that lacks any meaningful content unless I’m willing to open up my wallet….

    • Asurmen says:

      It’s a mix of free content patches and paid expansions. Wings feature is free content, planetary landing will be paid expansion.

  30. Arren says:

    A fair-minded take on the current version, laughably considered v1.0 by Braben & co. The premature release and offline-solo bait-&-switch are enough to discourage a recommendation — and that’s putting aside the glut of other issues currently afflicting the game.

    And yet….. the feel of spaceflight, docking, and local navigation* is so immersive, so tactile, even at a mere 1440×900 without a Rift or TrackIR. Approaching the game with a willful attitude of absorption into the simulation** (as opposed to min-maxing) has given me a few dozen hours of entertainment. (The $25 Logitech Extreme 3D Pro stick I bought just for this — first stick I’ve owned since the MS Sidewinder FF in days of yore — contributes mightily to the experience for me, and even the craptastic built-in throttle is usable with a bit of adjustment.)

    Although stretches of dullness are undeniably part of the game, I have to disagree with SAeN insofar as supercruise being merely traveling in straight lines. It’s possible to utilize (no doubt cod-) physics to slingshot around planetary gravity wells, etc. Every supercruise approach is slightly different in the position of the target station relative to the celestial body it orbits. Since the entry-port for a station always faces the body it orbits, there’s a certain Zen enjoyment to be had by adjusting your approach vector to try to come at the station from the correct side, without either approaching too close to the planet and being slowed by its gravity-well or going too fast and overshooting your target. This seems comparable to ETS2‘s level of engagement.

    I could waste many more words on this new Elite, but the result would largely be a catalogue of complaints, a sorry tally of unrealized potential. The utter sterility of the actual living aspect of its universe — epitomized by the game’s endless succession of boilerplate missions — is vintage Braben, and not clearly improved at all from Frontier and First Encounters, twenty years on. He’s basically always been Molyneux with more brains and no charisma: visions and promises of dynamic, interlocking systems that evanesce into a hodgepodge of bugs and undercooked mechanics.

    And yet….. when I bought my Cobra and flew into Lave Station, a fleeting surge of glee arose from some filament-fragment of the boy I once was: indelible memories stir, of black&white wireframes cast in the limitless promise of a new medium, where somehow two-thousand star-systems awaited behind a door marked LOAD"*",8,1.

    * The shoddy Galaxy Map, OTOH, could serve as a working placeholder in a proper beta…..

    ** Perhaps it’d be more accurate to call it my “imagining of the simulation”, as I’m not at all convinced that the ostensibly dynamic universe is working as advertised….. but I thoroughly suspend that cynical disbelief while I play.

    (Backer disclaimer applies I suppose.)

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I’d say the dumbest thing of the galaxy map is the range limit, when you could just ask it to calculate only the route you actually want and nothing else, instead all the power is wasted on calculating every single move you might make everywhere and then stopping so your CPU can be spared from suicide.

      The downside of following my suggestion would be that should you change your mind about your destination another new calculation would be needed for the next one, but i’ll take that risk over having to eyeball a straight route, move and pan the map around 80 or so lightyears at a time.

      I’m sure whoever runs or used to run a rare goods route will perfectly understand this.

  31. Belsameth says:

    Just listen to those engines howl!: link to youtu.be

    The only thing that sounds better than those engines is a threesome. Maybe.

    Also, playing with then Rift (tho it requires fiddling, like all things Rift) just adds 100x to the feeling of actually being there. Suddenly the ships and stations are actually *massive*. Something that doesn’t really come across on a monitor. The view from both the Asp and the Lakon Type-6 are just *amazing*. glass all around (not flown anything bigger yet) and occasionally downright scary.

    • SnowWookie says:

      The Eagle too.

      I flew my eagle just off the great red spot of jupiter…. gave my wife the rift, told her to look down as she put it on and then look up…. first time I’ve ever heard her being impressed with a game.

  32. SnowWookie says:

    FYI, the first content patch has just been announced
    link to forums.frontier.co.uk

    • Boosh says:

      Must just be a coincidence some expectations are (finally) being set on the same day as this review.

  33. yuti says:

    “Why Frontier rushed this out before Christmas when many of the features vital to a multiplayer game remained unfinished is a complete puzzle”

    Crippling financial pressure. The story is in Frontiers public filings to the stock exchange.

    Frontier closed the year with a 1.7m loss having discovered it didn’t own the Elite rights David Braben had previously claimed and having to cough up £5m to buy them from the mystery owner. See link to iii.co.uk .

    On top of that was the massive development budget overrun. Braben promised Elite Dangerous for £1.25m, but what he delivered was delivered a cut-down version nearly a year late and costing £8m.

    Frontier is lucky to have survived 2014.

    • aleander says:

      8 times over budget, late, incomplete, and people are wondering whether they actually wanted it. And people say it’s not a space simulator.

  34. Joshua Northey says:

    So at what point are websites and the idiots who frequent them going to learn that the next big thing is 90% of the time nothing such? I am so sick of watching the same coverage arc again and again.

    Reporters get suckered in by hype and promises that are transparently not going to happen, they and the early adopter crowd go to work sowing hype for something months or better yet years away. Then people spend months building it up and having sneak peak articles and building themselves up into a lathe until it all crests, and the backlash starts.

    Eventually by the time the thing is actually out most are disappointed and few want to buy.

    Why not write about games that are actually out that people enjoy instead of doing what the industry wants and building up hype for projects that are not out yet. I swear if you put the tone of RPS and the other mains site’s on a chart it would match 50 other little darlings.

    This game was never going to be as good as people wanted it to be, and everyone could enjoy it a lot more if they had never pretended otherwise. This building of false expectations actively destroys people’s enjoyment of games.

    • Cinek says:

      This game would disappoint even withouth any expectations. There’s simply nothing to do here. It doesn’t matter how little or much you expected.
      But yea, their advert campagin for action-packed wonderful game was total BS. There’s nothing like what ED trailer tried to show in the game itself. Heck: some of the things they do there are plain impossible with the physics engine. Whoever bought the game based on that marketing pitch made by Frontier must be hugely dissapointed.

      • Asurmen says:

        I doubt many did.

        • Cinek says:

          I sure hope so :)

          • Asurmen says:

            I don’t. I hope as many people bought it with realistic expectations, it’s just I doubt the trailer had much impact. It seems to me to be a game spread by word of mouth, nostalgia and journalism.

  35. ffordesoon says:

    I was fairly certain when the Kickstarter barely made it that something like this would be the end result. Shame my prediction proved correct despite all the good stuff that’s in there.

    Also, it’s worth noting that the KS wasn’t going to make it until they promised an offline mode, at which point they promptly crossed the finish line. I’m not going to complain about the lack of an online mode or speculate that they were never going to put it in and only promised it to get money, but I will say this: that they didn’t make the offline mode a top-priority feature as soon as it pushed them over the line does show a deeply unfortunate lack of sensitivity to their customers’ desires.

    • tomimt says:

      The problem always was though that it was evident that E:D was designed to be a MMO game right from the start.

      I almost backed E:D, but ended up not doing so because they never did give a satisfactory answer on the question how they’d be tackling the off-line play. The same happened with the Shroud of the Avatar.

      I still will get E:D at some point though, now that I know what kind of an animal it really is. But I’ll be doing so only after it has had some time to grow. I don’t particulary feel like being a beta tester.

  36. Drunk Si says:

    You get a lot of people saying don’t grind, but what can you do in the game that isn’t a boring repetitive task? Bounty hunting was the most fun for me but even that got boring quickly because it’s just killing the same dumb ships with the same handful of weapons in the same two types of location over and over. It’d be nice if there was more hunting going on and less mob farming.

    I want to like it, I want to love it, but it feels like a waste of £35 to me.

    • aircool says:

      The game is like LEGO. You have to build your own fun. However, that requires you to get out of the comfort zone of being spoonfed hoops to jump through.

      • Drunk Si says:

        I hear this a lot on the forums too, the whole “it’s a sandbox, your only limit is your imagination! Play it your way!”

        I don’t feel like I do particularly want to be spoon fed, but I personally don’t think there’s anything to do in the game.

        I can trade which amounts to flying back and fourth between two points that look exactly the same!

        I can smuggle! Which means I just have to boost through the dock letterbox to sell stuff, how many times can I do that before I stop feeling the thrill of being a naughty boy?

        As I say, bounty hunting amounts to nothing more than mob farming at a RES or nav beacon, and in either instance it’s luck of draw whether it’ll be dead, full of sidewinders, or brimming with pythons and anacondas. No matter what RES I go to they often seem completely dead.

        I can support faceless factions I don’t care about by doing the god awful boring bulletin board missions! Yeah, no thanks. I look at the dukes of mikuun and lugh threads on the elite forum and see them patting themselves on the back for doing what amounts to hours of fetch quests to see an influence number go up by 1 percent. Has anything happened? Not really. I can support factions and not see any change in real life, every election, I don’t need a game for that.

        Explore! Once you’ve seen one dwarf or neutron star or black hole you’ve seen them all. Also when you do a long expedition I don’t feel like I’ve really travelled long and far and seen wondrous sights and endured hardship along the road and that the journey was its own reward, I just feel like I’ve smashed the H key until my arm’s ready to fall off and seen the same hyperspace jump loading screen a hundred times.

        To me it just seems bereft of anything to do beyond four or five bare bones in game professions and about five different random encounters that you can see at every USS and I’m so sick of funeral barges and canisters of toxic waste I’m not going into a USS if I can help it. I can use my imagination and invent some context for myself while I mob farm at a RES and stare at ships really hard to see if they’re wanted but that doesn’t make the stuff in the game (little that there is) any less boring or repetitive.

        Build your own fun, how, exactly? I got so bored I started boosting into other peoples’ line of fire to make them wanted but that didn’t entertain me for much longer than ten minutes.

  37. Blackrook says:

    Bought it for the memories – Hoping for a decent game.

    Overall I like the way the ships fly and the ships systems work –
    but as everyone else has pointed it really needs a bit more content.

    I’ll still mooch about mining the odd asteroid waiting for a dumb NPC pirate
    to harass me then blow him away – keeps the wolf from the door
    while I hope they add some more fun stuff to do.

    And if nothing else at least I get to dance to the Beautiful Blue Danube
    while my ship auto-docks.

  38. aircool says:

    I’m having a total blast. The game isn’t as difficult to get into as some people are saying. Do the first tutorial, but don’t shoot the barrels. You can then just fly around with no risk, pressing buttons and gaining familiarity with the basic ship controls.

    You generally work out all the other stuff when you need to. For example, messing around with the ships systems from the cockpit. By the time you feel the need to tweak, you basically understand what it’s all about. However, you don’t really need to tweak at all.

    As for stuff to do. You do some mission, you trade some goods, you shoot some stuff. After a while, you get into a groove. I currently spend an hour at the start of a session hauling goods in a T6, it nets me over half a million credits. It’s not boring as I’m constantly trying to shave minutes and seconds off my journey. It’s like a racing game where the more you learn the track, the faster your lap times, except in this case, you also increase your profit rate per hour. You start to come up with some fun manoeuvres, such as a handbrake turn into a landing slot.

    After that, it’s into to Viper to help out the ‘Gold Ring’ gang, increasing their influence in a particular system. I’m helping out the anarchists as I need a nearby anarchy system to drop off ‘salvaged goods’ without interference from the space scuffers. Also, the star system is a link in a lucrative trade route, so it would be nice to have a location to interdict heavy haulers, again, without interference from the scuffers.

    It takes a while to get out of the WoW legacy mindset and into a truly open MMO. Everything you do has an affect on the galaxy, but unlike the current MMO model, it doesn’t happen immediately. There’s no queuing for dungeons, no loot rolls and no grind (yes, no grind) for better gear. The changes happen slowly, but they do happen.

    I currently have a mode of operation in my Viper which is a lot of fun, but requires patience and planning. No one told me to do this, the game never even hinted at me to do this, there were no quests involved; I simply came up with the idea myself and refined it. No doubt there’s other people who do the same thing (and it’s not an exploit, cheat or bug, just a mode of operation), but it’s not the sort of thing you want others to know. However, it’s great fun, full of tension and suspense, and really immerses you in the game.

    • yuti says:

      aircool wrote: “It takes a while to get out of the WoW legacy mindset and into a truly open MMO. Everything you do has an affect on the galaxy, but unlike the current MMO model, it doesn’t happen immediately. ”

      Shame Frontier staff don’t spend less time writing comments like this and more time fixing bugs, adding the missing content, and answering the massive backlog of complaint tickets.

      Elite Dangerous is not “truly open MMO”. It is not any sort of MMO. It is so lacking in MMO functionality that is is a complete joke to claim it is an MMO. Last week Frontier removed the claim of MMO from their ED advertising.

      Everything you do DOES NOT have an affect on the galaxy. David Braben’s promised “dynamic evolving galaxy driven by players” does not exist. This was one of the many features that Frontier promised and failed to deliver. Just have a looks at the forums . Players reporting thousands of hours being spent in tests of the responding galaxy, showing no material change whatsoever.

      The Elite Dangerous currently shipping is is tiny fraction of the game for which people paid.

  39. Gibster says:

    Still debating, getting Elite, or buying an Avenger from Star Citizen?

  40. Deviija says:

    Definitely agree with the review and the pros/cons of it all. Only in my experience, my interest in the game began to wane much faster and much sooner. I’m not someone that enjoys the dogfighting/combat side of the game, it’s uncomfortable and I’m poor at it, so I stick to ferrying goods around for profits and exploring. As magical and beautiful as it is to live our my space-faring dreams, the vast openness (so much supercruising and idling) and lack of content and manually getting into a station and landing etc, all are fairly tedious in their repetitious drone. After you do it for several days, many hours, there’s not much there to keep it engaging.

  41. Sunjammer says:

    I landed on a viper and bounty hunting and have had tremendous fun ever since. The game’s single biggest flaw right now is the busted multiplayer features, a *baffling* neglection.

  42. StockportJambo says:

    Early backer here (planet naming level), been playing since alpha, sadly caught out by Frontier’s despicable offline bait & switch.

    Your review is very fair, accurate, and sadly all too true.

    I suppose it might be worth mentioning that many of the negative things being mentioned in the review are in fact being addressed in the next couple of months with the next couple of updates? Not that this matters… the game is released, the damage has already been done.

    At the moment though, and for the foreseeable future, it’s not a game I can recommend to anyone. Which is a shame, as I was one of it’s biggest fans… but I feel badly let down, both by Frontier’s behaviour as a company and the shell of a game itself. It’s about two years away from being playable.

    • Phier says:

      I’ve recommended it to a lot of people myself. They all really like it.

  43. Big Murray says:

    Sadly, where is the team which is going to fill this world with interesting things?

    Imagine the mechanics of this game with the world of Mass Effect. THAT’S the game we all want.

    • Janissaire says:

      I am so happy to see i am not the only human reading pc gamer.

  44. PC-GAMER-4LIFE says:

    Before I happily pay my £39.99 it needs:

    1: Offline mode for Solo thats all I am interested in.
    2: Steam integration would be nice as well that way I can feel safe it will still be playable in 5 years time!
    3: Way more content.
    4: Manual save game feature.
    5: Working Pause mode for Solo.
    6: Bluray Offline retail version (if not coming to Steam due to Braben not wishing to give Valve their 30% cut!!).

    Braben overestimated the popularity all he has to do is put it on Steam sales will skyrocket as long as he adds the save game, pause mode & offline features then perhaps Steam Workshop integration & he can move onto putting on the consoles & reap tens of millions…as it stands the game will die out once Star Citizen launches so Braben needs to quickly decide what he wants to do with this game its almost the game most Elite fans wanted it to be but the save game, pause & offline mode stop it from selling strongly 300,000 copies sold is not too bad but its going to struggle along without extra content, features & bug squashing!

  45. Mezmorki says:

    I curious what all the people who’s hopes and dreams rest(ed) in the game think about the X3 series (X3: Reunion/Terran Conflict / Albion Prelude).

    The comment below is a nice summary of X3:

    link to rockpapershotgun.com

    I’ve played most of the X-series games (ignoring X: Rebirth – thankfully) and I’m struggling to see why they wouldn’t meet many of the demands/wishes that people have for Elite an the like.

    – Large sandbox world
    – Intricate and functioning economy that the player can actually have an impact on
    – Offline solo play (solo only though, no multiplayer)
    – Can command any single ship up to controlling entire fleets/stations/starbases/etc.
    – Huge modding community
    – Tons of ships
    – There is a story line – but it’s optional for the most part
    – Still looks gorgeous
    – Fun dogfighting + combat (particularly with a few enhancement mods)

    I don’t know … X3 is a fantastic game. The biggest downside is the learning curve and the UI taking some getting used to. But for a complex sandbox space-sim game – what do you expect?

  46. Godly12 says:

    I think this write up was a great one. By far one of the best reviews I have seen on this game yet. I have had the game ever since it released and I have had trouble with it ever since. Not really technical issues, mind you. but playing the game. I will try to explain. When the game released there was but only a very very short manual if you can even call it that. Even with the new one thats over 100 .pdf pages in length, it still doesnt explain things that you can do in the game. Take smuggling illegal contraband into a station for instance. I know you can do it because I have seen the videos on Youtube. It just doesnt tell you things that you really need to know in order to really enjoy the game. To this day I still dont know all the controls and what Im capable of doing unless I hear about it on the forums or a video. And if you ask a question on the forums you get flamed big time because thats just a “stupid” question to ask. Damn elitests. They announce that they are cutting the single player out of the game at the last minute basically and then give you scant info on HOW TO PLAY the damn thing. Its like they just assumed everyone would know how to play right out of the gate.

  47. Godly12 says:

    While Im here I am going to post a link for everyone. I am trying to raise money to start my own website and I am asking for donations. The reason Im asking for donations is explained on the site. If you could go and check it out and help if you can I would greatly appreciate it more than you could know. Thanks. link to gofundme.com