Not even a Review: Elite Dangerous

Haven’t reviewed anything for a while. This will barely qualify as a review because I don’t feel like putting a lot of work and efffort into it.

Just like the developers of Elite Dangerous.

This is a game in which you have a startship that you can upgrade with better modules to increase its stats, and you can fly to millions of stars where you can dock at space stations to pick up cargo to drop off at other space stations, collect rocks from asteroids to drop off at space stations, or get into fights with endless numbers of space pirates. Transporting cargo is no challenge, mining asteroids is slow and tedious, and ships handle very poorly in battle.

About 2 hours into the game, I was getting the impression that I’ve seen everything the game has to offer, just copy pasted and randomized over millions of star systems. Some 30 hours later, I now think that early impression was right. Yes, there are various kinds of things that you “can do”, but none of them are fun. And all you get is money to buy ships with better base stats and upgrade that provide better stat boosts. This lets you carry more cargo between stations to make more money, and I guess will make mining and combat less tedious, but then what? I’m a huge fan of Subnautica and Kenshi, two games without real plot or quests, where all you do is to go to new areas to find construction plans and materials to build new equipment. But in those games, new areas are different kinds of environments where you can find new things that create new interactions. In Elite Dangerous, every system is basically the same. In those good games, new equipment allows you to do new things. In Elite Dangerous, they only make the game less tedious.

I’m only some 30 hours into a game that some people have played for thousands, so I’ve not seen all of it. But that’s another crime of the game. It does nothing to indicate that there is anything more to reach later. Nothing that suggests the 500th hour will be different than the 5th. And it’s really bad at explaining its mechanics. You need to look up how some things work, and often people in forums say something to the effect of “yeah, the in-game text is wrong”.

Elite Dangerous is a game where I would say it’s quite an achievement if it was made by four friends in the their spare time over three years. But as an MMO? This is awful. It has average ratings slightly below 80%, but I think that is overrated. 80% generally means “good”. This game isn’t. User scores of 65% seem more appropriate. Because that includes thousands of people who actually love it. I don’t. I would give it a rating of “poor”. There’s just nothing about the game that is fun.

Oh, and also the setting is the most bland sci-fi world imaginable. I don’t think you could make a setting more generic and flavorless if you tried.

2 thoughts on “Not even a Review: Elite Dangerous”

  1. I’ve been on Elite since it launched, pretty much. I’ve never played the older titles and I’ve gotten into it by accident while looking for other genres. In the distant pre-millenial past, I played another similar title called Freelancer, which dominated my after-senior high school hours alongside a group of friends I still see to this day.

    Elite Dangerous carries a lot of that flavor of nostalgia. It is one of the reasons it appeals to so many people from that time of gaming. It is a very complex system that requires hard-core dedication to learn and master. Another reason some people might be in favor of Elite. The third I can think of is it’s aspiration to be a scale representation of our milky way and the ‘Science’ that is emulated through it.

    That said, I cannot agree more with you. Elite has been around for longer than Dangerous’ title shows on steam. In fact, it might even rub shoulders with Freelancer, or be it’s elder sibling. In all this time, Frontier Development hasn’t done much in terms of developing. Their AAA publisher mindset has always seen following gaming trends as a focal point for the direction they took with the title. This has resulted in the universe of Elite being a very bland and pointless one at best. I believe that Frontier could, and might still be able to, do more to bring this title to life. But so far no interest has been shown on their part for that. And that is a big shame.

    For me, personally, Elite is a title i revisit and have revisited countless time. It is a game I can put aside for months and return to at any point without having lost much, and without having much changed either. This makes it both a blessing and a curse.

    When considering the wider range of role-playing experiences out there, Elite Dangerous is one of the poorest ones to pull out. But within the realm of Space Simulators it is one of the strongest players.

    I think Frontier Development, as a publisher and a studio, has transformed from that four friends in their spare time phase into a gimmick market competitor phase. As with the case of many, many, others.

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