Elite: Dangerous on Xbox One Review

Posted Oct 8, 2015
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  • Developer/Publisher: Frontier Developments
  • Platforms: PC/Mac/Linux ($44.99)/Xbox One ($37.99)
  • Xbox One version tested. Review code provided by Frontier Developments.

The galaxy is a very large place. One filled with immense opportunities for success, and also for failure. You’re given a modest ship, a small sum of credits and thrown into an absolutely humongous procedural generated representation of the Milky Way galaxy. The possibilities are just endless.

Is Elite: Dangerous big enough for all of us on the Xbox One?

The Xbox One, nor any console at this point, has a game that quite matches the breadth of this Elite: Dangerous. Nor is there a space simulator available currently that allows such freedom to be had. The PC is rife with a plethora of good examples of open-galaxy games that let you romp around doing your own thing, but here on the Xbox One, and on any console for that matter, its own.

First of all, a very important thing to note. This is a space simulator, meaning you’ll be flying through space doing what we believe that our future selves will be doing. You’re on a ship, and you can do one of four things; go out and blow up other ships, set up a trading empire, mine for your own resources to sell (of which you’ll have to go find them) and explore. And with anything in this genre, if you aren’t a self-motivated individual, then it might not appeal to you. Nothing is handed to you here, and the only objectives are the ones you create. If you aren’t prepared to go outside of your own comfort zone, then you may not like the main portion of Elite: Dangerous. It take a serious investment of your time to get the most out of it, and not everyone is willing (or able) to commit.

If those activities do sound exciting to you, then there is plenty to do. Running around collecting bounties while in the midst of ferrying goods from one station to another, destroying pirates and helping the local system fight off lawless vagabonds is kind of thrilling. And this might sound a bit strange to some, but even exploration and going from system to system scanning for new astronomical objects is a blast. If you’re a completionist, just don’t think that you’ll ever actually be able to explore all 400 billion systems in your real life-time, not even in game will that be possible.

What about that repetition? Do things inevitably become a bit boring over time? For the most part the activities do become rather similar, but isn’t that also true for most games? Quests can only, at their most basic, be about going somewhere, killing something or retrieving something. This is no different, except the scale is much larger. Of course you could become bored, and if your attention span isn’t so long, then this type of game might not be for you anyway. I haven’t become bored yet.

One of the unfortunate things with the console version is that there is no true cross-play enabled. You won’t be competing against friends in CQC, or even going on group missions with them either, if they’re on the PC. But, even though you won’t be blasting pirates together, the underlying political and economic system will be shared among the platforms. Prices for commodities and the waxing and waning political environment will be the same throughout.

Graphics

This isn’t exactly a showcase of the best that console can offer. No, it’s a bit less impressive than the PC version by a few notches.Not enough to be considered horrible looking, but it’s not what one would initially expect. Draw distances are set fairly close, and the level of detail is a smidge lower. But overall there’s little aliasing to be seen, and the framerate appears to be steady, and it’s at a full 1080P as well. It’s a good looking game, a very good-looking game.

Controls are obviously going to be an issue in a space sim, especially one that’s as complex as Elite: Dangerous. On the PC you’re able to enjoy using a keyboard and mouse for system management along with an actual joystick for flying. Or just relieve yourself of the keyboard/mouse experience. Here is’t not quite so simple, The single Xbox One controller is responsible for allowing interaction with all the cockpit elements, flying, fighting and everything in-between.

Because of the layout of the controller and the sheer complexity that comes with this type of space simulator, it can become a bit awkward as you try to contort your hand to perform a myriad of actions all at once with one small(ish) gamepad. Let’s say you’ve been interdicted (happens too often to me at least), and as you’re so unceremoniously dropped from supercruise, waiting for that frame-shift drive to cool down, and you’ve got to somehow fly towards the target (inevitably behind you) target actively target them, and also try to lock on to your favorite sub-system to destroy first. It’s an exercise in acrobatics and nimble fingers.

But once you’ve used the control scheme for any length of time, you’ll become used to it, and it actually seems to make good sense considering the wealth of control you can have. And let’s not even get into the yaw debate, where

The connected galaxy

One of the primary complaints from the PC version also carries over here. Your actions don’t necessarily effect the political environment much. That and there’s really no real reason to be a part of any one faction over another. The values and even the events in the galactic news that you can read about aren’t anything you can actively take part in. It’s all superfluous at the moment. There isn’t an overall feeling of being part of something greater with those.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t less fun, just that there is less of an impact than I’d like with my actions. One would expect that there be absolutely everything under the sun included with a game release to be considered ‘complete’, that every conceivable feature be on the list of things we can do. Elite: Dangerous, right at this moment is more than complete, but with the promise of more content coming in the future, we’ll see

 

The next eSport in the making

CQC is exhilarating. It’s very fast paced and the Newtonian physics can be used greatly to your advantage, flying in all manner of acrobatic maneuvers to avoid getting shot at. It really is a thrilling experience. There isn’t quite the social aspect you’ll sometimes have with any number of other FPS’s out there, but the challenge and unique aspects to it make it a fun experience. You can participate in an all out deathmatch, a team deathmatch and a capture the flag mode.

Though there are only a view maps available at the moment, there’s enough variety for it to be an exciting experience at the moment. Weapons are mostly balanced, though small ship upgrades can be unlocked as you level up, though they make little difference if you’re a terrible pilot.

CQC even has the makings of an entirely new eSport. In fact, Frontier Developments is holding a tournament, with a $100K prize.

Conclusion

And so too with life, the possibilities here are also  somewhat daunting. It’s a massive galaxy out there, and though it might at first seem a bit sparse, it’s the reality of the proportions. Life won’t be absolutely everywhere, nor is it here. There are moments of complete and utter silence and loneliness as you try to explore closer to the galactic center (not a good idea by the way, unless really prepared). New stars and planets can be discovered, perhaps an unidentified signal source that ends up being wreckage from an explorer who wasn’t as lucky as you. It might even end up being a trap, designed to lure you in by the very curiosity that brought you so far away from civilized space.

When you have the infinite freedom to explore what’s presented here, you also have the potential for infinite boredom if you can’t make something to do. There’s plenty in the game for you to accomplish, it’s just not thrust in your face or given to you. Your hand isn’t held in Elite: Dangerous, but, then, that’s the beauty of it as well.

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