Tuesday, January 12, 2016

6 days of Elite Dangerous

How I broke my other addiction

It wasn't that long ago that I picked up Elite: Dangerous by developer Frontier but I haven't had the chance to really examine how much I enjoyed the experience with that game until lately. I had developed a nasty habit of only playing DOTA and other MOBAs over the last couple years and I really needed something to get me out of that habit. Enter E:D and all my problems seemed so very small as soon as I opened up the galaxy map. 

As a matter of fact the entire games scope right down to the politics were just so intimidating that it was hard not to put the game away as soon as I opened it. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that the game immediately puts you into a ship that you can use to explore the galaxy with. The only directions you get are some sparse directions on how to pilot this small ship and where everything is located at your friendly local space station. Then the galaxy is your oyster. 

This galaxy represents a 1:1 scale of the Milky Way galaxy with 300 billion stars and other stellar objects to visit. The scale is very much lost in the imagination until you actually open up the map and look at the vast amount of stars that you can travel to. Even then it's difficult to imagine the entire map actually being explored at any time in the immediate future. To this day with thousands of players on the single map that was generated less than 1% of the entire game has been explored. 

I've always been a fan of science fiction and the related genres, so the exploration of the mysteries of the galaxy appeals to me greatly. Seeing a star many light years away and being able to travel there in a matter of seconds felt amazing. Watching the star expand rapidly on my screen as I pulled to the jumping point never became less than exciting. Especially since if you're not careful you can quickly burn up when jumping to a new system. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the missions and jumped right into combat. There are enough weapons to keep you entertained for a while, but if you really want to optimize it isn't too long until you'll discovered gimballed lasers and auto cannons. When I stumbled on this it ended my exploration of other weapons since it was just so much more efficient and rewarding for bounty hunting. This is one of the quickest ways to make money while still being challenged in the game. Now let me first say that playing games for me has been about the challenge since I first played Super Mario World on the SNES. There are other ways to enjoy games though and in E:D there are other ways to play as well. Trading, mining, smuggling, exploring and political missions are all ways to complete objectives and move forward.

There is no goal in E:D besides what you set for yourself so you can play the game however you want. For some people that kind of freedom is seldom put forth in games. For others it leads to a grind-fest where there is no end goal besides the largest ship and the best weapons. I can see how this could be entertaining for both sides of the spectrum but in the end it is easy enough to put down. The real treat isn't fighting or trading. It's the feeling of everything that you do.

Every ship has a different weight to all of it's abilities. This isn't apparent in the initial statistics but it's fun to buy every ship along the way (since it's only a 10% fee to sellback) and try them out. See how they fly and then move on. Along the way I tried out some trading in the trade ships and even took an expedition to the upper most regions of the galactic plane in an explorer. Ultimately this sandbox is relaxing and entertaining and easy to put down at the drop of a hat. 

The sound design though is what I enjoyed the most out of E:D though. It is my belief that the only way to play this game is with headphones that do the sound design justice. It's just that amazing. Every thrust and every firing of the weapons have a distinct weight to their sound and every engine fires up with a different feel. It's quite amazing every time you play the game with a new ship.

The only complaint I have with E:D is that there isn't enough consistent, variable content available to provide a different experience every time you power up the game. Eventually you'll be shooting down the same ships, making the same trade routes, or exploring very similar star systems. Eventually you either succomb to space madness or leave the game for later iterations. Which there will be since the game is going to be continually updated for the next 10 years according to the developers plan. 

You'll like this game if: You are part of the generation that will never see the stars in our own galaxy. Too late to explore the Earth, too soon to explore the Milky Way. 

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