Elite Dangerous – Is this love?

The announcement that Frontier Developments were going to produce a new version of Elite caused a stirring in my, long inactive, game-related synapses.  Since original Elite I’ve been a dormant gamer, other than brief interests in long-ago versions of Doom and Quake.  The stirring was sufficient to justify a crowd-sourcing contribution and some researching of GPU’s and a subsequent purchase (along with inevitable PSU and Cooling upgrades).  Now I’ve been playing the game for several months and it feels like time to share my experiences.

On my first loading of the Beta, I was instantly struck with a sense of panic.  So many keys to remember! So much coordination to learn!  As it turned out, this proved impossible for me and I forked out on a game controller.  Despite my hopes, this also proved completely useless to me.  Maybe the modern-day gamer, brought up on hours per day of Xbox can work one of those things but they can also type on a phone with both thumbs.  I am simply not that evolved.  What I needed was a joystick of sufficient proportion that the flight-control aspects of the game could all be performed on it.  My salvation came from the Thrustmaster.  I read about this beast and Googled it with some trepidation as I’m sure that name has been applied to a completely unrelated type of toy!  Despite my concerns, the Thrustmaster proved the answer to my needs and I was ready for launch.

Elite Dangerous looks a light-year more evolved than original Elite but, somewhat surprisingly, it quickly felt familiar.  Docking procedure was the same and the flight-control concept of rotate, up/down and speed was nothing new.  Pitch and rotate may be original but ED has the added concept of yaw.  Somehow though this just fell into place and I grasped movement in a 3D space with consummate ease.  I experienced a sense of delight at being able to do these things with relative competence at my, rapidly advancing, age.  With basic ship-control mastered, it was time to venture out into the galaxy and, umm, do stuff…..

This is perhaps my biggest issue with ED at the moment: I lack a cause.  Trading is an absolute necessity to begin with; it’s the only way to make money, and money makes the Elite world go around.  You need it to outfit your Sidewinder, to buy more profitable commodities and upgrade to ships better suited to specific roles; such as the gorgeous Viper for a spot of bounty hunting.  This was my chosen path and for a while my life was fulfilled but the limitations of the Viper soon become apparent: Very limited range and terrible cargo capacity.  Next upgrade was to the Cobra and, my love was refuelled.  It had sufficient cargo capacity for trading and sufficient bite in a dogfight that I survived all interdictions with cargo intact.  I made a lot of money with my Cobra but the endless backwards and forwards between two profitable trading points soon becomes horribly tedious.  I eventually solved this by buying another Viper and retaining my Cobra.  One worked for profit, the other for the thrill of combat.  Then I discovered the Lakon Type 6 and trading took on a new dimension.  This beast could carry almost three times the Cobra’s capacity making trade hugely profitable.  This came at the cost of terrible weaponry and manoeuvrability.  Cargo runs became a dangerous business, especially with almost a million Credits worth of commodities on board.  Turret-mounted weapons and missile launchers became my weapons of choice as there was little chance of getting the enemy in my sights with the turning speed of this lumbering behemoth!  Despite some hair-raising encounters, the Type 6 survived to the time when I, once again, grew bored with my pilot’s life.  Enter the Asp.

The Asp is the ship I’m currently flying and purchasing plus outfitting cost me my entire stack of Credits, including the sale of my beloved Viper.  In fact I set off to explore the galaxy with a far less than perfect ship, partly because I lacked exploration experience, but mostly because I couldn’t afford the best modules for the Asp.  Now I’m several hundred light-years away from any populated systems and relying on a fuel scoop to keep me mobile.  As yet I’m undecided about the concept of exploration.  It’s still quite new to me and it’s kind of fun but I suspect the interest will fade in time and I’ll, once again, need to find a new role in the game.  Despite my love of Elite Dangerous, I fear this will eventually condemn it to my gaming history alongside Doom and Quake.  The roles one can undertake are finite and my driving passion in playing the game is to progress from one ship or role to the next.  Maybe some players really care about the ranks they achieve and that will be sufficient motivation to keep them going.  Others may love the concept of exploration and will, forever wander the billions of star systems.  Me, I’ll probably just dust off my bicycle or discover a new fad to spend unproductive time (and money) on.  I love you Elite Dangerous but I fear you’re destined to be a passionate affair, not a lifelong partner.

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