By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
Last week I got the chance to play two of the most promising space simulation games that are currently in development and both these games can only be tested by the backers. I myself am a huge fan of space simulation games; unfortunately there aren’t a heck lot space-sim games on the market and even though a lot in the past have been released, by now most of them are all dated and not interesting anymore. Honestly if you’re not a fan of EVE Online, there isn’t much else to turn to currently in the genre!
While some might have the patience to wait till Star Citizen arrives, Elite: Dangerous offers a far nearer option. Developed by David Braben, it’s been in the oven for quite a while and the results are clear. This fourth installment in the Elite series couldn’t come too soon, as the technology is now available to bring Braben’s vision of a true space simulator to life. Though it’s been a while, as most people reading this might not even be aware of the Elite series. The last rendition of it was released in the mid 90s after all. The goal of the game remains focused on realism.
Elite: Dangerous will be set around 50 years after the events of Frontier: First Encounters. And just like in the first three games, trading is set as the main setting in this space jam. And while features remain slim in the currnet beta, you can still trade away and influence the market! Currently in the beta you are able to travel to five different star systems, and each one of these star systems has at least one station that you can dock. And before I tell you more about this game, it’s important to know about docking and gameplay controls. Elite: Dangerous doesn’t let you set cruise control and relax while transporting your goods. Actually most find the controls take weeks to reach any level of mastery. Since you are in space and have a space ship full of fuel, you can basically go anywhere. Space has no invisible boundaries, and wild maneuvers in zero gravity are the name of the game. Though the limitations of your ship may determine just how quickly you can accomplish them.
Thankfully as a new player you start out in a simple ship free of charge, the Sidewinder. With this ship you are also given a simple pulse laser gun and if you crash this tiny ship, you are given a new one without paying a dime for it! This really comes in handy when you are new and still trying to figure out the controls. I highly recommend using your basic ship and getting into deep space to test out your limitations and maneuverability where obstacles are few. You’ll need it when you have an expensive shipment on board and need to dock successfully at a station. As I mentioned, everything is manual so any failure is entirely on your head! Through your communication system you will come in contact with the docking crew, they will give you a landing pad to land on and that is all, sounds easy huh? Well you’re wrong, and if you are new your first try of going through the gate alone is probably going to end up in a big explosion.
All the stations right now rotate. This means that the gate that is only on one side of the station is also rotating. So when trying to enter the station with your ship, you will have to rotate your ship while going through the gate. That’s the first step to a successful landing luckily, and once you made it inside your ship has a nifty option to connect to the gravitation field of the station to rotate automatically with the core. This makes landing a hell of a lot easier, and even though you can turn this option off, you’d have to be the kind of driver confident in racing down the highway intoxicated to do so. The challenge scales through the stratosphere and I advise players to only untick this option on a dare. Anyway, once inside you need to find an available landing pad to light up your descent. Then the fun truly begins!
After a few well expected explosive failures, you may get lucky enough to hit the ground in one piece. At that point the station’s market is accessible, allowing one to purchase repairs, buy new ships, or customize ones already in your possession. While this is currently a purely UI system, Elite: Dangerous is aiming towards enabling avatars to allow players to walk around the station on foot, checking out the various purchase options on a more personal level.
The Elite: Dangerous market system is a dynamic one, constantly influenced by supply and demand. Each station and each system requires a different resource, and it is up to the traders to figure out which one of the resources sell the best and get them there while the prices are still strong. If you are a big fan of trading, I am sure you will love Elite: Dangerous, but I for one am more of an action pirate myself. For aggressive players like myself, Elite: Dangerous offers the possibility of bounty hunting. This will involve hunting down and destroying NPC targets as well as mischievous players as well! There will be plenty of incentive I’m assured to play the villain, ensuring black market zones where dog fighting is encouraged. These battles are the ultimate test of your mastery over ship controls. Just like a car, you break when turning, and use your boost when catching up to a fleeing pirate! And just like in real life, if you spot a pirate on the highway you chase it and shoot his vehicle until it explodes.
Current State: Good
Elite: Dangerous still doesn’t have much to offer, even though it’s further in the development process than Star Citizen. Based on the developer promises, it seems far from finished. Currently it just went out of alpha and into beta, perhaps prematurely due to market competition. I’m sure the team behind this game knows what they’re doing though, and this is the beginning of a long drawn out beta phase to get as many potential testers fleshing out bugs before an end of year launch. I might be wrong for making assumptions but at least the game is in a functioning playable state for now. Elite: Dangerous is definitely on the way to become the best space simulation game, and currently there is more content than its big brother Star Citizen that only recently launched its dog fighting module. For a game that’s behind Star Citizen by a funding ratio of 1:50, Elite: Dangerous still stands as a valid competitor that should find a nice niche of space simulation lovers this summer.