Taking The First Steps in Elite Dangerous

Setting Off in Elite Dangerous For The First Time

I’ve heard a lot about Elite Dangerous over time but only recently started to pay closer attention to the game. The sci-fi series has quite a history but first came to my attention when a video surfaced of a player encountering the alien race known as Thargoids for the first time. This made me curious. The game has been officially out since 2014 but only now the developer was layering in alien contact. So what do you actually do in Elite Dangerous? I discovered the game was due to release on the platform of my choice, the PlayStation 4 and decided to find out for myself.

It should be abundantly clear if you watch more than a minute of Elite Dangerous footage that this is a space simulator and not an action game. If you’re anticipating fast-paced dogfights like Star Wars or the crafting or exploration of No Man’s Sky then you will probably be disappointed. What Elite Dangerous offers instead is an unforgiving learning curve, lots of travelling and complex spaceship controls. This makes playing the tutorials a must before jumping into the game proper and even then you might find yourself scratching your head at times. I, for example, managed to land my ship on a planet and hop into the Scarab (a space buggy) and drive around a little only to be asked to use my wave scanner without any further prompts. It took me a while to figure out that the wave scanner was already on my HUD and not one of the many controls that needed to be used. The tutorial missions are really to teach you the very basics and then Elite Dangerous lets you loose on the vast universe.

Elite Dangerous

Get comfy. You don’t leave the cockpit of vehicles at any point in the game.

The universe is vast indeed and Frontier Developments have created the Milky Way on a 1:1 scale meaning the distances from one system to far off ones are tremendous. Thankfully FTL space travel makes space flight quicker than it would be in real life but you will most likely be travelling long distances to get across systems. So what is the gameplay like? Well, you start off in a spaceship called a Sidewinder, the basic starter model which can be upgraded with different modules, weapons and tools or you can improve your spaceship by simply upgrading to a better one. This all costs credits which can be obtained in several ways. The first is combat, by accepting bounties from space stations you can hunt down a ship and return for the reward. The next is trade which is a deep system with different trade routes and politics affecting the number of credits players can earn but can be boiled down to supply and demand. Finally, if you’re an intrepid explorer you can chart far-flung systems and earn credits for the data in another system.

After firing through the tutorial missions and watching a few training videos I felt ready to jump into the vastness of space where plenty of other commanders were waiting. First I created a Holo-Me, your avatar where you can customise your character’s appearance and outfits although the majority of these require real money to purchase. I began in a space station where the depth of the game really began to take hold. The Galnet News informed me of the latest economic changes in the system, political changes that were afoot and victories won by one organisation or another. A quick look at the commodities screen showed that I was in an agricultural system and that high-tech items would sell well here. The mission screen showed a limited number of missions I could accept due to the size of my ship, my rank and my affiliation with different factions. The tutorial explained that large factions could be joined and contributed to but I didn’t realize that each system had its own sub-factions too.

Elite Dangerous

The galaxy map represents the vastness of space.

A message in my comms channel showed the barest hint of a tutorial. By registering my ship at a nearby space station I could earn 10,000 credits. Eager for some more cash, I set off stumbling through the spaceship controls until I reached my destination. After requesting docking permission I proceeded to screw up by accidentally activating my weapons and bumping into stuff as I tried to land. After taking too long, the station fined me 400 credits and wouldn’t let me request docking permission again. Disheartened I headed back where I came from to pay off my fine and to try again. After finally landing successfully and claiming my reward I decided to set off on a mission to recover a black box and earn some more credits.

From my short time with Elite Dangerous it’s already clear that what players put into this vast open-galaxy game is what they will get out of it. Sure, the game involves doing the same types of missions over and over again but there’s so much there if you want to dive headlong into it. The complexities of trade, navigation and politics are all things I’m looking forward to learning more about and the multitude of factions present an RPG-like pull for my commander. I can’t wait to jump back in and see where the game will take me next.

Have you played Elite Dangerous? What do you think of the fairly complex space simulator game?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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