Harmless, Penniless, Aimless and Helpless
by Khal Ynnoth
So, Microsoft rather generously gave me £4 credit for Black Friday, which I didn’t notice until after Christmas. This happened to be in time for the New Year XBox Gold offers. Scrolling through them without much hope of getting a good game for less than a fiver I saw Elite Dangerous, a game I’ve wanted to own since it was announced. Score! Elite Dangerous for £2 of my own money! That's less than the price of a coffee from your favourite high street coffee chain - thank you very much Microsoft, don’t mind if I do.
The Name of the Game
Over the years I’ve played my fair share of space sims. For some reason though, I'd never played the previous Elite games. The X-Wing series, Conflict Freespace, I-War and Freelancer were all played extensively, and all owe a HUGE debt to Elite. Elite Dangerous for me should meld these more combat and first person driven games with an explorable and exploitable universe comparable in size and scope to THE space MMO, EVE Online, which I spent more hours playing than may have been good for me in the early 2000s.
The aim of the game is literally the name of the game; become Elite ranked in Combat, Trade and Exploration or for the truly die-hard: Triple Elite. More likely though is that I won’t manage a single Elite rank, but will have a lot of fun pootling about the galaxy, finding some new places making the people who live there buy stuff and vaporise the odd pirate whilst I’m en route.
Not quite the “Best Starfighter pilot in the Galaxy”
Ok preamble and a reasonably hefty download out of the way, I got to playing the tutorials. Yup, I chose based on both my space simulation rustiness and the likely complexity of the game to actually play the tutorials and I’m glad I did.
Whilst this isn’t a flight sim of say Falcon 4 / EF2000 ilk, this is not a Star Wars space sim. This is much more like I-War, though with flight assist enabled by default, it’s somewhere in-between.
Better training wheels required
I’ve completed the tutorials apart from the advanced combat one. This is partly due to my rustiness, but also because I may need to turn off the Flight Assist and its faux aerospace flight characteristics in order to win!
The tutorials do a fair job of preparing you for “the real world” but I would have preferred something more akin to Eve Online’s approach with the tutorials occuring in “the real world”. This means participation in them nets you “real” rewards for your wallet and influence in game.
If they had chosen to do them this way then they could have been greater in depth and detail as well as covering some otherwise missed concepts. The galaxy map and fuel scoops for example both needed covering in a tutorial or as part of your new pilot acclimation process. I’m all for being able to take the training wheels off, but if something is likely to get me killed and a game doesn’t let me know or fails to inform me of a key concept before it’s too late then I have a tendency to hold the game designers as being at least a little at fault for my stupid death.
“Time to die”
Suffice to say I had my first death at about the 4 hour mark. I was trying to get to a destination that I didn’t have the fuel to get to, on one tank, that also left me dry, in a system with no stations to refuel at, and without being told that it “might be a good idea to buy and equip a fuel scoop” by a friendly NPC, I could not refuel using the star.
I’m not bemoaning my death, other than losing a contract the downside at this point in the game was the loss of time and a little bit of frustration that I had managed to get myself killed in a stupid and mildly grisly way. Listening to yourself suffocate as your life support slowly packs up due to your ship running out of power was a little disturbing, but also visceral and quite immersing.
I adjusted my expectations and the next time I headed out I made sure to keep both my fuel levels higher and take pit stops more often. I still hadn’t been told about fuel scoops, though I had a recollection that Elite had ram scoops and that there must be some mechanism other than space stations for refuelling.
A further 4 hours later, some more new skills involving Full Spectrum Scanner mode, I’m still a little hazy about how to enter this mode. But with 250k in credits burning a hole in wallet, I decided to go shopping.
I almost plumped for a new ship, but decided that pimping my current ride might be the better investment, especially if I could go further and faster than just buying a new ship would allow.
It was whilst buying new modules that the existence of a Fuel Scoop was finally revealed and the signposting of “Fuel Star” now seemed less contradictory!
Huzzah! - another step up the learning curve and a Pilots Federation Explore rank to boot!
I’ve not managed to land myself in combat in the “real world” yet, but I have invested in beefing up my ship a little. I may go for a combat contract in the near future once I’ve practiced flying with Flight Assist off. If this ends up being anything like I-War, which I hope it does, then I can guarantee some attempts in showy flying that will initially end up with me repeatedly flying past my target at high speed and missing a lot.
I’m already missing having a decent joystick and I can only see this increasing my desire for one.
I knew the learning curve was going to be relatively steep going in and that this was a game for the long haul, this is definitely turning out to be my kind of game and an absolute steal for £2.
I know there’s plenty of material out there for the novice pilot and some is even linked to in the game, but are there any resources you particularly like, if so, please leave me a comment with your recommendations!
Safe flying, see you online!