Elite: Danger­ous

When bor­ing is good

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Videogames / Miscellaneous -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

For­mat re­viewed: Plat­form PC Pub­lisher: Fron­tier

Elite:

Danger­ous suc­ceeds at much, but it isn’t fin­ished. A game of this scale might never be. Fron­tier has drawn a line un­der the game’s lengthy beta at a point where it is, ar­guably, fea­ture com­plete. It’s a space game where you can hunt, trade, pirate, smug­gle and ex­plore across a 1: 1 model of the Milky Way – but where many of those fea­tures lack the depth that might give them mean­ing, or the va­ri­ety that might re­ward last­ing en­gage­ment.

In part, Danger­ous is great be­cause it is bor­ing. This is a sim, com­mit­ted to its own part- science, part- fic­tion set of rules and me­chan­ics. It’s not in­ter­ested in be­ing a piece of en­ter­tain­ment that you pick up and con­sume. Elite’s Milky Way is a place that you in­habit, criss- crossed by ships that be­have like real ma­chines and gov­erned by sys­tems of trade, law and po­lit­i­cal power that churn away ac­cord­ing to com­pli­cated, di­rec­tor­less al­go­rithms.

Other games have at­tempted the same, but none have ap­proached Danger­ous’ de­gree of fidelity or vis­ual spec­ta­cle. Ev­ery player will, at some point, tell the story of the first time they dis­cov­ered a dy­ing star or saw a cap­i­tal ship ma­te­ri­alise in the mid­dle of a heated battle. You will, whether or not you ap­pre­ci­ate it con­sciously, ben­e­fit from the ex­tra­or­di­nary at­ten­tion paid to the lit­tle things: dock­ing an­i­ma­tions, sta­tion de­tail, ut­terly ex­tra­or­di­nary sound de­sign.

As an MMO ( a clas­si­fi­ca­tion that doesn’t quite suit Elite, but it’s an on­line- only game) it’s re­liant on in­flu­ence per­cent­ages and rep­u­ta­tion rat­ings to de­ter­mine who rules what. Sadly, you per­son­ally are un­likely to ever re­ally change any­thing. Even when the com­mu­nity at­tempted to force regime change in a sys­tem through mass in­ter­ven­tion, noth­ing re­ally came of it. The game also needs tweaks to its bal­ance and pro­gres­sion curves, in­tel­li­gent al­ter­ations to the al­go­rithms that gen­er­ate con­tent to dis­cour­age rep­e­ti­tion, and a sub­stan­tial in­jec­tion of depth into its in­flu­ence sys­tems. It needs more stuff, and deeper stuff.

But its weak­nesses only come to light be­cause of its strengths; Elite is ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing some of the best sto­ries about space­ships that you’ve ever taken part in. It’s a great game and, with time, po­ten­tially a clas­sic. Much rests on Fron­tier’s abil­ity to build on th­ese broad but some­what shal­low foun­da­tions. Chris Thursten This is the fourth in the Elite fran­chise, but the first since 1995’ s Fron­tier: First En­coun­ters. Which was rub­bish.

Could be in­ter­preted as hos­tile…

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