Normally I write about development related stuff here, but today I decided to write about games, without which I would probably never get an interest in computers and IT.
I played a variety of games on Commodore 64, Amiga and then PCs. This time I would like to write about Elite Dangerous, a space simulation game.
I grew up playing Frontier: Elite II on Amiga and later Frontier: First Encounters on PC. They were amazing games allowing me to fly through countless space systems in the galaxy, trade, explore and fight enemies.
When I saw Elite Dangerous for the first time I hesitated buying it. It looked amazing and interesting to play, but it is an online game and I was worried of being griefed by other players (which is often mentioned in the game comments). I bought it finally and I love it!
First of all, the game offers SOLO mode, so if anyone is afraid of encountering other players, this is the mode to pick. I chose it at the beginning and could enjoy it in the way I was playing in the past 🙂 Later in the game, I switched to OPEN mode and found out that the galaxy is so huge that it is possible to enjoy the game without being nagged by other, not so friendly, players. Also, no matter the mode, I can rebuy my destroyed ship with all the equipment for the 5% of its original price which is cool as it allows to make mistakes during the game and learn it without too much pain 😉
I wrote this quick paragraph for those who like me were worried that playing online will be a pain…
So, what do I like about the game?
Elite Dangerous follows it’s predecessors and similarily to them offers a huge world with a set of different ways to play in it as a space ship commander. Unlike the previous titles, it is an online game, allowing interactions between players. Moreover, it means that any actions made by the player influence the world that other players are playing it, like economy, commodities, politics or game events.
I started my adventure with trading, the way how I remembered the game from the past. It is a pretty simple thing to do, as it is a matter of buying cargo in one station and sell it in the other. It’s a safe start, as no fight is involved and allowed me to learn the mechanics of the flight. With the progression of learning the mechanics, the simple trading may become a bit boring, however, the game offers a few things making it more interesting.
The first ones are missions, available at every starport, like transporting goods to a specific location, or obtaining them somewhere else and bringing back here or just delivering the data to some place. The last one is perfect for small ships as it does not require any cargo capacity. Those missions are better paid than just selling stuff by ourselves. They also become more challenging while progressing game due to time limits or pirates being sent to interrupt it.
If that becomes too trivial, it is possible to take some tasks to smuggle some illegal cargo or do other more risky trades…
Before moving forward with different play methods it is worth to mention what kind of settlements players can visit as there are few types to see.
I guess the most popular would be the large spaceports (that were present in the previous series as well). They have different shapes but all characterize with a “mail-slot” entry that ship has to enter through in order to land in docks. The inside of the station is always round and the station itself is rotating to produce gravity. When I was learning the game it was actually pretty difficult to learn how to rotate the ship, approach the dock and land on it. Moreover, with the bigger ships, it may be also difficult to go through the slot.
The good thing though is that as of now, all the ships are equipped with docking computer that can do it automatically. Like in old Frontier, the auto-docking process is accompanied with The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss II 🙂
Similarly to the old games, it is also possible to land on the planetary outposts (but as for now, only non-atmospheric ones). The platforms are located on the surface and they are rather easy to land on. What is more complicated here is the fact that in order to get to the landing bay, the ship has to first enter the planet orbit, then glide towards the city till achieving the close distance to it, and only then land.
Unlike predecessors, Elite Dangerous has also outposts which are smaller versions of the spaceports that do not have mail-slots but just expose landing platforms directly in the space. They neither rotate and they are much easier to land on especially for the beginners. Unfortunately, they do not have large landing pads, which means that they are not suitable for big ships.
Finally, there are also mega-ships, which are a kind of moving outposts but allows landing on them for all kinds of ships.
Passengers and tourists
Yet another type similar to trading, is transporting passengers between systems, including tourists that require a player to take them to a few different places on the route and often makes additional demands during the journey. The tourism itself is a new concept (not existing in previous games) and has a few interesting aspects. First of all, the ship has to be equipped with passenger cabins, which are of different types: economy, business, first and luxury class. The luxury class can be only fit on a special, passenger ships like Beluga Liners. The tourists themselves ask to bring them to various sightseeing locations such as Earth-like planets, gas giants with beautiful rings, geysers or some historical places. Other variations of passenger transport missions would be rescuing people from damaged stations, helping refugees to reach better worlds, transporting business people, helping criminals to escape or transporting prisoners or even slaves.
While most of the commodities are created in the colonies or space stations, the minerals and raw materials can be mined from the asteroid fields or planet surfaces. Mining is actually pretty interesting, especially with the expansion added to the game last year. The simplest way to do it is to buy a mining laser and refinery and fly to the asteroid field or planet ring, then fire at the asteroid. After a while, little rocks with minerals will start breaking apart from the asteroid surface. When collected, they will get refined into pure minerals. With more advanced tools it is possible to extract also sub-surface minerals or even detonate the whole asteroid to get access into profitable core minerals.
Very quickly, I have realized however that Elite allows much more than trading or mining. While all the system locations are generally known, it does not mean that all the planets belonging to the system are visible immediately. I noticed it when I accepted a mission to deliver cargo to a station that I could not locate in the target system! The game offers a set of tools and mechanics to explore the galaxy – jumping between systems, scan stars, discover planets and map their surface from the orbit. It was an amazing experience to see different star types, which are beautiful in the game. I still remember the thrill when I saw a white dwarf with its jets in front of my ship when left hyper-cruise – I was definitely not prepared for it!
Of course, like in the old games, it is also possible to refuel my ship directly from the star 🙂
If that is not enough, it is also possible to get on the planets surface, discover strange structures or settlements, as well as get off the ship and drive Surface Recon Vehicles directly on the planet.
Also, I have to mention here the asteroid fields and planet rings, which look lovely but also allows visiting them for mining or hunting pirates.
After enjoying your discoveries, you can sell the data at the station and get quite a lot of credits.
Finally, the Elite cannot be described without mentioning fights. It is possible to play it without fights but the space is huge and various systems have various government types (including anarchy) and security levels. Sooner or later it will happen that our journey gets interrupted by the pirate who would try to steal our cargo. Of course, there are a set of actions in the game that are riskier and involves fight explicitly.
When I started playing I tried to avoid battles until the point I learn my ship well. It was generally an easy task – just a matter of flying between secure systems and doing low-risk jobs. Elite has also ranking systems where you have separate ranks for your fight, exploration, trading skills (and one unrelated to the standard gameplay). Starting with Harmless rank makes the game spawning similarly weak opponents, which allowed me to learn the combat skills slowly.
However, at some point, I got interested in a bit of action, so I started checking what is possible to be done.
The first thing I did was to buy FSD Interdictor device and started hunting pirates. The device is pretty cool as it allows us to intercept ships traveling within the star-system. So, I started scanning the ships cruising around me, looking for ones that have a WANTED bounty and intercepting them. Why checking the wanted status is important here? Well, first of all, after destroying a wanted ship, it is possible to claim the bounty at the starport. The second, more important reason is however that shooting to ship that has not been scanned first (and which is not a hostile ship) is a criminal offense, meaning that your ship will become wanted. Here, I desired to be a good guy, so I was playing as a bounty hunter.
Quickly I learned that bounty hunting it cool, especially when combined with missions about hunting pirates – it basically means credits for the bounty rewards, credits for accomplished missions and a lot of reputation within the factions that made pirates wanted. A good place for doing such tasks are extraction points within the planetary rings, as they usually lure a lot of pirates.
Once, I decided to try the opposite and become a pirate for a while, ARR!!!
As I did not want to face full consequences of getting the System Authority Vessels on my head, I chose the system with anarchy government, where everybody is lawless and any action is allowed. After a few successful interceptions, I could just go to the near-by starport and sell the “borrowed” cargo on the black market.
The game itself offers many more options to check and improve battle skills. There are various missions available for fighting pirates, doing piracy, assassinations or just helping one side of the local conflict by entering the conflict zone and crushing enemies for some combat bound vouchers and fame 😉
Finally, I would like to mention one more thing that shocked me during one of the fights. The enemy ship broke and shattered my front window! It would not be a big deal, but first of all, my ship switched to emergency oxygen supply, sufficient only for 5 minutes, I stop hearing any voice messages from my ship computer, and most importantly I stopped seeing any details where I was flying because this information is displayed on the window screen that was gone!
After flying blind for a while, I managed to get to the nearest outpost and replenish the oxygen, but the fun did not finish here. I realized that this station was not offering the repair services so I could not fix my window! Hopefully, I could buy a bit better life support system for my ship, so I got an additional 25 minutes to find the next station and fix my ship! Here is the screenshot from that time:
My little expedition
Recently I decided to take a long journey and play as an explorer. Usually, my journeys were about jumping to neighbor systems, taking only a few jumps. This time, I took a passenger that wanted to fly to a system located around 10000 light years away, which required over 270 jumps with my current ship before getting to the destination. I got excited as most of this journey means flying in a totally empty, uninhabited space.
I am aware also that any mistake may cost my ship, all the discoveries made on the way and the life of the passengers, so to minimize the risk, I decided to fly only between the stars where I can refuel ship and avoid any neutron stars or white dwarfs, that could make my journey quicker but also destroy my ship.
So, to make my journey interesting but not that long, I removed any equipment that would make my ship too heavy (and shorten my jump distance), while I added a surface scanner and Surface Recon Vehicle hangar to make the most of this discovery journey. I also left a few weapons and good shields on my ship in case of meeting some pirates on the way.
So the journey began!…
After the entire evening of flying, I managed to get through 1/3 of the journey. I updated my route to omit also the M class stars (red dwarfs) to get a chance of spotting systems with more interesting planets. I discovered quite a few water worlds as well as one ammonia and one Earth-like planet. All of them have been already discovered by someone so my name won’t be visible in charts, but I also found systems that nobody visited yet. The nice thing though is that one of this planet has geological activity so I decided to land on it and use my SRV for the first time in my game. It’s a lot of fun to drive a rover on the surface of some distant planet!
After two more evenings, I got to the destination. The discoveries paid off with a very nice injection to my credit balance. On the way home I decided to take a few shortcuts thought and updated my route plan to include neutron stars and boost my engines. It was an interesting experience after all!
In a few days, I will try again something else and try to discover ancient ruins of the extinct alien race!
PS. I did all the attached screenshots during my game – just love it!