A call has been sent out to all commanders in the Pilot Federation for help. Apparently things have been getting a bit rowdy over in the Rakapila system, and they’re after some able pilots to come and hunt down any wanted ships in their system. The rewards are good, and with the credits you earn you’ll be able to buy some much needed upgrades for your newly acquired Cobra MK III.
You’re a few jumps into your journey to Rakapila when you enter a system that has a star that looks absolutely mesmerising. With shafts of white light projecting from cones at both poles it looks unlike anything else you’ve come across in your travels. As you move in for a better look your frame shift drive suddenly fails and unexpectedly drops you out of faster than light travel. Something is wrong. Very wrong.
If you’d paid attention in astrophysics class – or indeed even bothered to take any classes – you’d know that what you’re looking at is a white dwarf star. You’d also know that they give off an immense amount of heat – even for a star – and this is what’s currently cooking your ship with you in it. As you see the heat display for your ship's systems rapidly tick up towards 100 per cent, you panic. Plotting a course to another star system, you align your escape vector and fire up your drive for the jump to witch-space.
Unfortunately, doing this only causes the heat levels of your ship to jump even higher, and you cross your fingers and pray that you’ll jump before your ships blows up. It seems to take an eternity for the drive to charge as your ships heat levels tick past 120 per cent. You’re sure you’re going to die, but suddenly, your ships jumps, and with a sigh of relief you realise you’ve managed to survive another brush with death in Elite Dangerous.
As exhilarating as these sorts of encounters can be, it’s safe to say that for any new players coming to the PlayStation 4 version of Elite Dangerous, the first few hours can feel downright cruel at times. With no critical path to follow, and very little guidance as to what to do once dropped into the galaxy, you’ll need to be prepared for failure whether it comes as a result of getting destroyed in combat, running out of fuel, or crashing rather spectacularly while trying to dock at a space station.
Sure, there are a number of tutorials and videos to take you through various aspects of this space-sim, but these only really scratch the surface – while also ironically overloading you with information at the same time. As a result, no matter what role you decide to assume in the galaxy – whether pirate, smuggler, bounty hunter, trader, or explorer – you’ll need to be prepared to take a certain amount of ownership for learning how everything works yourself, because in many cases Elite Dangerous sure as hell isn’t going to tell you.
The steep learning curve in Elite Dangerous will be too big a hurdle for some to get over, and if the thought of spending your first few hours with the game just learning how to fly, take-off, and land sounds far too tedious then Elite will undoubtedly rub you up the wrong way. If you do manage to get past this initial challenge, you’ll start to feel much more comfortable delving deeper into this vast galactic playground. That’s not to say things get easier as you’ll be repeatedly butting heads with some frustratingly implemented systems, but there’s a satisfying sense of achievement when you do finally get your head around another vaguely explained aspect of the mechanics.
While you can play Elite Dangerous in a solo instance absent of other players, the best way to experience it is in open play. Being able to cross paths with fellow commanders provides an exciting wild card element to your travels, and coming across another human in a remote area of space – absent of any law enforcement to intervene – can be a tense situation as you try and figure out if they might try and attack you, or join you on your adventure.
The fact there’s no way to opt out of player-versus-player combat in Elite – unless you go back into a solo instance, of course – can make it a little nerve wracking at times, especially when heading to high player traffic systems. But with as much fun to be had by evading assailants as fighting them, you won’t mind paying out the insurance charge on those occasions your ship ends up orbiting a moon in pieces.
One of the hardest parts of playing Elite Dangerous is deciding just what to do with yourself. Whether you pick up the base version of the game or the Deluxe Edition that includes the Horizons expansion – that gives access to additional content like surface landings and passenger missions – you’ll find plenty to do: going for a drive in your SRV on the surface of a barren planet, exploring undiscovered star systems, trading goods, grouping up in wings with other players to kill pirates – the list is long and varied. That said, it can be easy to get in a rut and spend too much time doing one thing in particular – especially if you’re making good money doing it – and when this happens it can begin to feel a bit repetitive.
With the total absence of a specific end goal for players you’ll need to uncover those activities that’ll appeal most to you. Fortunately, the simple act of flying your ship around is perhaps the most consistently engaging aspect of Elite Dangerous. This is mainly due to a flight model that requires you to not only carefully manage your throttle, but to also look after the power distribution between the various ships systems. This ends up adding an interesting dimension to the combat as you’ll be frequently shifting your system priorities between weapons, shields, and engines, all based on the ebb and flow of an engagement.
From fighters to freighters, there’s a variety of ships to pilot, and the ability to easily change modules and configurations means you’re never locked into one role. Tweaking the setup of your ships to suit the tasks ahead can become a bit of an obsession too, and if you really want to personalise your ship further there are a number of cosmetic items such as paint jobs and body kits – available for an additional charge – that you can use to stand out from the other commanders.
Another part of Elite Dangerous that makes flying around so much fun is how great the game looks and sounds. If you’re playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro you’ll have the option to run the games visuals optimised for performance or quality, but however you play you’ll be consistently impressed. Whether it’s the sight of lasers stabbing through the blackness of space, flying into a planetary ring, or docking at a vast orbital space station, you won’t help but be drawn in by what you’re seeing.
The sound also helps elevate your immersion further through an understated soundtrack that conveys the loneliness of space well, and a suite of sound effects that really sell the stress and strain that your ship would go through travelling at faster-than-light speeds. While the lack of PlayStation VR support is certainly disappointing, and will hopefully be added at some point in the future, you’ll still find it all too easy to lose yourself in your galactic voyages.
With a legacy stretching way back in gaming history, the Elite series has always asked a lot of its commanders and Elite Dangerous is no different. With so many game systems packed into this gigantic space-sim, it’s unsurprising that for new players the first small step can feel more like a giant leap. Even after getting over any initial frustrations, the frequently vexing mechanics will test your patience time and time again, but despite these issues there’s a magic to Elite Dangerous that will keep you playing. Whether it’s a close encounter with a white dwarf, an intense dogfight, or just a cruise between star systems, the freedom and opportunity laid across its billions of stars means that Elite Dangerous offers spectacular space-tourism all from the comfort of your sofa.
loved playing the original as a kid but this is something else it looks amazing and once you get paced the steep learning curve its spot on well worth the money and time
If this ever gets PSVR support I will buy it off the bat but right now, not sure I can fit this in. Great review though - really brought back memories of Elite I had on my BBC and NES.
Great review! Things get quite interesting when you and a few mates get stuck into a big fight with a big dangerous wanted ship and by the end, you're all on critical damage with multiple systems offline and a cracked ship screen.
I love the game though, first 2 to 4 hours are hard as you figure out how stuff works but the lack of hand holding is refreshing.
I'm available in the comments if anyone has any questions about Elite Dangerous. Just @ me and ask.
I love it! Even just flying for about 5-10 minutes towards a tiny unexplored dot in the distance when exploring systems gives you that sense of mystery, adventure and dread. I'm still trying to figure out a lot of things but I'm really enjoying it.
Do you recommend the season pass? I was considering purchasing this last night, but held off due to contemplating whether to get the base game or the add on.
Also, how does it save progress through the tutorials? I understand that they can be quite lengthy, but I will most likely play in one hour sessions. I don't want to get stuck rehashing things I've already learned.
About to buy it, got badly burned by NMS last year, so just a tad apprehensive, but it looks amazing...
@lacerz I think getting the version that includes Horizons is well worth it, though, if you're on the fence you can get the base version and upgrade later for the same price overall. I think you just miss out on some ship paint jobs by not getting the more expensive version straight away.
Tutorials are divided out on a main menu and are completely separate to the actual open/solo play.
I don't think that there are any that take that long. Certainly not an hour. I don't think they save progress, but to be honest I've never left one and gone back in again.
I feel it's a Amazing game! You can play multiplayer or Solo with NPC's both are used on the same background simulation. Both add to the Effects and outcomes so they are the same on both.
Wasn't a great fan of the original despite owning it on several platforms back in the day.
Anyone remember Captain Blood? With the Jean Michel Jarre soundtrack? I preferred that...
Doesn't seem to perform too well - even the Pro version has 'issues' but at least you can get closer to the full 60fps with 'performance' option. Both Performance and Visual modes are 1080p on the Pro. Maybe they should have offered a high res 30fps mode as it seems to flick between 60 and 30 - like the base mode does
No performance issues for me on my PS4 Pro. I play in Quality Mode.
@BAMozzy Captain Blood. Now that's a blast from the past. As fun as it was to hunt down those clones I always preferred Elite myself.
In terms of Elite Dangerous' graphical performance: At least they've fixed the awful v-sync issue that cropped up at launch.
But does it play Sprach Zarathustra as you approach a space station? And can you trade space drugs? Narcotics smuggling FTW!
@Wesker Yes it does, if you buy an automatic docking unit. You can most definitely sell illegal goods on the black market but I'm straight up legit yo.
@ApostateMage Brings back good memories. I will get this game for sure.
@AlexStinton LOL well I am OLD...
@BAMozzy I'm sure you've aged like a fine wine. Just like me.
@AlexStinton have you turned sour and acidic, like Vinegar too?
@BAMozzy Yeah.... pretty much
I'm not sure about this. I had it on the C64 way back in the 80s and loved it, but never got very far. I've watched a stream and it seems more finicky than I think I can be bothered with at the moment.
Unlike many, I actually enjoyed No Man's Sky, with its emphasis more on exploration and minimal combat. In fact, even in that, the sentinels and occasional pirate attacks got on my nerves. I just want to explore, and sod everything else. In fact, I should probably get back to that at some point.
I had Captain Blood on the Speccy. Did not have one clue what I was doing tho. I'vel got it on a R4 flash card on my DS (and Elite) so I think I'll look up a guide and give it another go.
@AlexStinton Is there online co-op? If I could play this with a few buddies this could be a must have.
Really interested in the game, but the steep learning curve is making me hold back a purchase..........
@Fandabidozi Don't know if its aged well now but at the time I quite liked it. It had more direction than Elite and being a fan of Jarre's music, it was always going to be preferred anyway...
I double-dipped on this game, since I moved away from PC gaming shortly after I bought the PC release. It kinda felt like I was learning how to drive a car all over again - in a good way - so I'm glad it got ported. I do notice some quality issues here and there (especially with the servers since launch), but nothing game-breaking.
@AlexStinton Is it easy to just use a standard controller or did you try it with a joystick? Tempted by Elite but don't know if I'll have the patience to work through the learning curve. I'd probably just drift back into Battlefield and with Destiny 2 close I shouldn't add to my backlog. Still tempted though!
@BlaBlaBla Yes. You can wing up with three other people in your own ships, and even get into some of the bigger ships together to man different stations.
@angrygrolsch I have no issues playing with a controller, though, it understandably uses a lot of different button combinations so it takes a little time to get used to. I've not tried a joystick yet but I may pick one up in the future.
So much to do!
Ive tried everything from bounty hunting to trading to mining(bore) to tourism.
The Dolphin liner is great for getting you big bucks too, but it requires Horizons, as does planetary landings and SRV use.
Sunk hours in and still enjoying it.
@AlexStinton Can I can play Solo mode if I have online but no PS+?
@andreoni79 According to the PS4 FAQ for Elite Dangerous you don't:
"Will this require PlayStation®Plus membership to play?
Solo Play will not require PlayStation®Plus. Anything that requires direct multi-player interaction, such as Open Play, CQC, Private Groups will require PlayStation®Plus."
@AlexStinton Thanks, I wasted time checking for forums while I forgot to visit the official site. Sorry!
@andreoni79 No need to apologise. I was more than happy to help. It's not easy to find answers to those sorts of questions.
@AlexStinton Can you please include in future reviews whether games require PS+ online, have a single player campaign, etc.? I would really love to try something like this, but I am not going to spend money on a game that will be 100% useless when/if the severs are taken offline.
@Hordak I thought I'd detailed that Elite didn't have campaign, though, I appreciate I didn't necessarily use that sort of explicit terminology when I talked about it, so I can see how it might not have been clear.
At this point I think it's safe to assume if there's an online component then PS+ is needed. So, I'm not sure there's a need to always mention this in a review.
Funnily, I did have a line in the review about needing to be connected to the servers for both solo and open play, but cut it during editing as i felt it was also a given with the way games with an integral online component work these days. Though, given your constructive comments - thanks for taking the time to post by the way - I'd probably leave it in now.
@AlexStinton Thank you for the response. As a consume,r I would love bullet points like I've seen on the back of a box, but I understand that's not necessarily information for a "review" of the game. Maybe it could be added to the "Game Info" sidebar? Things I would love to see added for the convenience of lazy consumers like myself who don't want to "google" it (from my particular buying perspective) are:
Believe it or not, those criteria are more important to me than a Review Score, although I understand I might be in a very small minority. Either way, thanks for the excellent writing and the enjoyable reviews.
Amazing review! Actually the first one that makes me want to get the season pass
Also highly impressed with so many old school gamers from Speccy time. Now I don't feel embarrassed to admit I had an original one fully working until a couple of years ago
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