A stellar experience

by Shane Dillon

SPACE is an awfully big place, but when it comes to games set in space – on contemporary consoles, at least – gamers are pretty much stuck on terra firma.
The reasons are many and varied, but by and large they boil down to the view that space-set games are probably too potentially complex, and too niche, to bother developing a game for.
Still, console gamers can now set off on their own galactic adventure with the recently released Elite Dangerous (PS4, XBO, Cert 7, c. €25) – a long-awaited port of the popular 2015 PC title.
On whatever platform, ED is a modern take on the legendary 1984 BBC Micro title, Elite, following pretty much the same principle, but with shiny 2017 visuals and some serious programming grunt under the hood.
Now as then, gamers are given an entire galaxy to explore – our own Milky Way – with countless star systems to make their way to, with their starting spaceship (little more than a tin can with big dreams) getting traded in for ever bigger, better ships along the way.
It’s down to the gamer to choose the way they want to play the game, and thus shape the unique adventure that they’ll find along the way.
For example, miners might happily dig around in asteroid fields looking for lucrative minerals; space pirates might raid shipping lanes for goods to sell; couriers might ship sensitive information around – there’s even space for people to run glorified taxi services for rich snobs, if they like.
Whatever you want to do, ED provides lots of choice to do so, as you set about choosing the missions you want to try, and then spend time upgrading your ship and tinkering with all kinds of systems to help you stay on the right – or wrong – side of the law.
As a game that can be played solo or with others online, players can even spend their time exploring, trying to find and blow other gamers out of the skies, further adding to their loot and reputation (or they can be a big wuss like me, and just run a lucrative freight service with no weapons but one hell of an engine to outrun any trouble).
Needless to say, there’s an awful lot of content here, with a daunting amount of stuff to see and do in a vast game, which requires serious grinding (levelling up) to progress.
However, alongside some content set behind a paywall (see left), the daunting choice in the game, its steep initial learning curve, as well as the frequently clunky controls, could leave Elite circling the shelves in search of a patient owner.
It’s also worth noting that despite the relative paucity of some parts of the game, the graphics can stutter at times, with some unwanted lag.
Still, despite its flaws and ED’s niche nature, those who stick with the game will find it a rich and uniquely atmospheric experience.
After all, there’s just nothing quite like Elite on consoles at the moment, with it bundling in some of the add-ons that have fleshed out the PC original since its release, further adding to its value.
Ultimately, the spirit of the 1984 original is also very much to the fore here, with ED providing a truly vast amount of things to do.
Elite Dangerous is another ‘Marmite’ title – some gamers will love it, while an awful lot will find it deathly dull.
Would-be Elite commanders are unlikely to find themselves making the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs here, but if you have the time and patience to tinker around with ship loadouts, galaxy maps, warping about solar systems and planning your rise from Harmless to Elite, it’s a must-buy.

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