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Elite: Dangerous
Game Reviews

Elite: Dangerous

A gorgeous space trucking simulator that makes a lot of bizarre design choices to appeal to a very specific demographic.

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Thanks to the rise of crowdfunding we’ve seen the revival of some declining genres. We talked about this when I reviewed Broken Age – the point-and-click adventure is one of those genres, though really those games ended up becoming casual hidden object games and didn’t really go anywhere at all. Space sims have become increasingly less available, though. Thanks to crowdfunding, we’ve got another flagship space game to enjoy in Elite: Dangerous, now available on Xbox One

Much like Steam’s Early Access scheme, it began life via Microsoft’s Early-Access-alike Xbox Preview Program before graduating to full-fledged, commercial product. Before long it’ll be the same game available on PC, including taking place in the same galaxy so exploration achievements and so on are shared cross-platform.

Most of what I said about Elite: Dangerous in my original review stands; understandable, given it’s the same game and all. It’s still a gorgeous game that makes a lot of bizarre design choices in order to appeal to a very specific demographic. I’ve seen it described as Euro Truck Simulator in Space and that’s pretty accurate. Combat and excitement are out there if you want them, sure, but they tend to be something you have to build up to; that buildup usually involves trading and exploration, activities revolving around going from system to system very, very slowly.

At its core, Elite: Dangerous is a cash grind, and the most effective and safe way to do that appears to be trading. At least you’ll enjoy the scenery as you haul space junk halfway across the known cosmos. One plus in recent versions is the addition of the Close Quarters Combat Championship, or CQC – a battle-only arena combat mode that makes for drastically more exciting gameplay than the usual trucking.

I’d talk about how playing on a controller makes Elite: Dangerous more or less difficult, but it’s actually the same control system I used when playing on PC! This can take awhile to figure out, with myriad controls involving holding buttons while using the d-pad to manipulate systems like landing gear and cargo bays, but once you’ve got a handle on things you should be in good shape. There’s an extensive number of tutorials to assist with acclimatization, and frankly despite the intimidating exterior this really isn’t that difficult of a game to play. It’s a good fit for the Xbox One.

There have been a few changes since I last checked out Elite: Dangerous, of course. The biggest of these is the inclusion of actual MMO elements in this space MMORPG. Wings allow you to form groups with other players, the main benefit of which is simplifying travel and ensuring that all players in the Wing stay together. On the one hand, this is great! On the other, it’s still not possible to trade between players directly, with the closest option being awkwardly shuffling cargo from ship to ship.

The reasoning behind this is clear – Elite: Dangerous is very focused on a cash grind and being able to artificially skip this would drastically limit the game’s lifespan. As mentioned, this isn’t unusual, as design choices that might seem obvious were avoided in order to achieve a more hardcore style of gameplay. See my previous review’s discussion on docking if you want another example of that.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: if you’re after this sort of space sim, Elite: Dangerous is one of very few options available to you right now. You’ve got the X series, which is PC-only, and Star Citizen, which doesn’t actually exist outside of a questionable crowdfunding campaign (and which is allegedly in bad shape.) If living the life of a space trucker is what you crave, then this is your game. We’re just lucky it both actually exists and is relatively well made. PC is probably the choice platform for this one as you’ve got a greater variety of control and graphics options, but the Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous is still a solid game if that’s not a direction you can go.

About the Author: Cory Galliher