Heard about a game called Elite: Dangerous? Yeah, I hadn’t either but Crapgame (and some YouTube gameplay research) recently convinced me to take the plunge. What I found on the other side of my purchase wasn’t what one expects from the typical gaming fare currently saturating the market. Allow me to explain.
Elite: Dangerous is difficult to master from moment one. You’re the commander of your own ship, out in the black, trading, mining, hunting, discovering, and surviving by wits alone. Handed a baseline Sidewinder spacecraft with severely limited weaponry and cargo hauling space, you arrive in the 400 million star universe with… well, little to nothing. There is no clear direction, no quest hub, no walk-through, or an obvious path to success. You simply arrive and are expected to navigate your way through a near vertical learning curve. The difficulty comes in the form of a keybinding section which is roughly seven pages long, the fact players must manually pilot their ships through every aspect of a landing sequence (feather speed, request landing permission, deploy landing gear, gently touch down, etc.), while the world around the player is a wide open PvP gladiator academy. Not to mention players start with 1,000 credits and the upper end ships costs 173 million credits!
And I love it.
Too many current games offer a care-bear attitude for players. They reward quickly, offer little penalty upon death, and tend to protect the player from poor decisions. The days of having a heart-pounding dungeon crawl, where death means all that hard (uh, gaming hard) work is down the toilet, are gone. Or when death means all your kewl gear hits the ground — a thing of the past. Elite: Dangerous takes a drastically different, and one may say, old school path.
In my first 5 days of bouncing around in the 400 million star universe, I’ve redone my keybinds about a dozen times (there are so many cockpit commands, I have to continually check to ensure I’m mashing the correct key), I’ve slammed into other players while attempting to land, I’ve been fined by system authorities for finding stolen wine cargo and trying to smuggle it into a port, not to mention the number of poorly executed trades in failed attempts to stuff my coffers with credits.
But I don’t care. Here is a quick narrative sample of my efforts thus far:
Making a run out to Dalton Gateway in the LHS 3447 system with a delivery of fruits and veggies. I jumped from Eravate with 12 mins left on the bounty but, unfortunately, Dalton is at the other end of the system so, even in Frame Shift, I’m going to be cutting it close. I’m actually writing this as I watch Dalton System approach, some 63,500 Ls (Lightseconds) away. I don’t think I’m gonna make it in time. Man, still have to dock and get to the Commodity Market, now 28,000 Ls away and 4 mins so perhaps there is hope. Too bad this station was so far off the main star. Now 15,000 Ls and closing but only 2 minutes on the closk. Better get behind the stick and hope I can drop out of Frame Shift right on target. Yeah, so didn’t make it. Was only two minutes late, but was still allowed to turn in the mission though at a drastically reduced payoff. Another learning curve event.
The thrill of attempting to smuggle goods into a black market only heightens the enjoyment of the game. Why? Because the penalty is has real impact. I want to be on the razor’s edge, scouting systems for unidentified signal sources, running from pirates, or discovering the massive deposits of rare ore in a random asteroid. I search for the win: the massive trade, the gold-saturated asteroid, or the high credit head-hunting bounty which rewards enough money so I can upgrade my jump drive and expand my exploration horizon.
With my trusty (read: soon to be upgraded) Logitech Sidewinder 3D Pro along with my keyboard, it has been an interesting adventure thus far. More to come.