Dangerously Addictive


My initial thoughts on Elite Dangerous for the Xbox One

As I engage the thrusters of my little Sidewinder spacecraft, performing a surprisingly clean departure from the Trevithick dock, located in LHS 3447, I emerge into the vast nothingness of space and yet face a very real quandary: what the fuck do I do now?

For those of you that, like me, have never played an Elite game, the outset can be more than a little bit daunting. Although that is also part of the appeal, as Elite – for those that don’t know – is a sandboxy space-sim that isn’t meant to hold your hand. It doesn’t have a story. It doesn’t have a mission. It doesn’t have an end-game. What it does have is the mechanics that allow you to create those things for yourself.

I’d completed the tutorials, so knew the basics of flying, navigating and fighting. Armed with that knowledge I quickly decided my next move: I turned around (tail tucked firmly between my legs) and headed straight back to the relative safety of the starport. After performing a “landing” that can only really be described as embarrassing and/or crashing, I stuck the kettle on and reassessed the situation. I needed a goal.

Perusing the bulletin board of the starport services, I found a message from someone wanting some combat stabilisers delivered. These things weren’t very legal, so the pay was good and, having watched star wars before, I was pretty sure I had the skills needed to complete the task. Now that I had a purpose (and caffeine) I set out again, ready to Han Solo the shit out of Elite Dangerous. I performed a couple of epic hyperspace jump thingy’s, super-cruised towards (and then straight past) my delivery destination. I turned around, slowed down and made it successfully to where I was trying to get to.

It was at this point that I learnt my first Elite Dangerous lesson: Assume nothing. It turns out they hadn’t provided the combat stabilisers. I had to find them first, then deliver them. Bollocks. Anyway, I was well on my way in Elite now. Without knowing it, I was immersed. Whilst heading out to scour the universe for combat stabilisers, I decided I’d “Del boy it” and do a bit of commodity trading. My career had unwittingly begun and before I knew it, I’d lost hours to the game.

I think that is my first real take on Elite. It’s very easy to get completely immersed in the game even through performing simple tasks. I’ve probably stuck 10+ hours into the game already and I’ve not really done much at all. I managed to fry my ship once, narrowly avoiding destruction, and I’ve been in one dog fight, where I destroyed someone who was trying to raid my cargo. Apart from that, nothing all that exciting has happened. But here’s the thing; it doesn’t seem to matter. Somehow the game grabs you without the need for edge of your seat action or pant staining horror, instead using the somewhat unconventional approach of…..monotony?

All I’ve really been doing is intergalactic pizza delivery – with even the beautiful visuals escaping me for the most part – but it’s still got me really hooked. When I’m not playing the game for endless hours, I find myself thinking about it, contemplating my next move. Should I stick to the trading career? Should I dip my toes into a more exciting combat role? Or should I just let my path develop organically? The driving force in the background (for me) does seem to be money. Doing jobs to make money, money that I can spend on new ships, new upgrades, more power! As mans quest for power is historically limitless, this bodes well for the potential longevity of the game as well – as sandbox games can be a little inconsistent with their lasting appeal.

From a gameplay point of view, there are a few minor issues. The controls do take some getting used to, as there is quite a lot of actions that need to be mapped to a limited number of buttons on a controller. What this is means is that certain actions are mapped to button combinations – usually pressing and holding one button, whilst simultaneously pressing a direction on the D-pad. They’ve done a decent job with it, but it is a little fiddly at first.

As this game is pre-release, there are also a few bugs. I’ve had the game crash out randomly a few times, the occasional frame rate issue and weird inconsistencies in actions like the time it takes to open the galaxy map. On the whole though, it actually feels like a very complete build. I’ve seen final products that are in much worse shape.

The sandbox nature of the game means that it won’t be for everyone, and it’s probably one of the key things to take into consideration. If you’re a person that needs a deep narrative, a set purpose and clear direction, you probably won’t get along very well with Elite.

If however, you like the sound of getting into a space ship, jetting off into the unknown, with an objective that is unclear, having the journey drive the narrative, then there probably isn’t a finer game out there.