Elite: Dangerous is a beautiful screensaver of a game that I have zero idea how to play, despite putting over 20 full days worth of time into it. I picked it up way back in 2016, had a lot of fun with it, then started getting frustrated when despite that fun I wasn’t really going anywhere. I’ve recently picked it up, and realize that while the grind truly is real, and the lack of player interaction that doesn’t involve getting blown up is indeed a concern, it can be a relaxing sandbox style space game.
It is weird in a way, getting back into it. After driving to a job, driving a forklift at a job, and then driving home from a job, why do I want to stare at a space screensaver game and drive a ship around? Why, indeed.
Elite: Dangerous is the most recent iteration of the Elite franchise. It this game, the player, known as a CMDR (pronounced like “Commander” but we don’t type it all out for some reason) explores galaxies while trying not to crash into things. When they are me, they fail, miserably, because I am garbage at this game. Sometimes they succeed though. Players get their name on a planet if they are the first one to have discovered it, or if they are the first to map it. There are literally hundreds of billions of planets, so even four years into the game there’s something for everyone to find.
I quit the game in 2018 after beating my head against the keyboard trying to figure out how to make good money. I had a Diamondback Explorer, which I was really excited for, but had to sell it back because I couldn’t afford to properly outfit it. People were talking about making millions of credits an hour; in my Adder I could expect to make a tens of thousands. One poor explosion could set me a week’s worth of credits. Given how I’d often shoot something I shouldn’t have with my Cobra MK III in an attempt to bounty hunt, or how often I’d get Interdicted by pirates trying to move product, one bad day of gameplay could set me back a whole month. Also, back then players who were signed up for Power Play could be quickly one-shot by NPCs of an enemy faction, and I signed up for Aisling Duval which meant I got blown up a lot for that as well.
So in this game, there’s a core section of the map which are influenced by 11 significant “Power” factions. To put it into terms readers of my blog who don’t play space games would understand, Aisling Duval is basically the Empire’s Belle Delphine, if Belle were royalty and instead of doing pornography she actively worked to eliminate the sale of slaves across the galaxy. 100% still all about the pictures and the marketing gimmicks like the bathwater though. I’m not even kidding, the way that Aisling Duval gains influence in a sector is by grabbing her propaganda which includes photos and other objects of her personal brand and delivering them to another system. More ironically than fittingly, I joined her Power Play faction because I wanted the damn Rainbow Shields, which are like the best defensive shield in the game. These days, I’d rather have better missiles, which would mean joining up with Li Yong-Rui. But that would involve quitting the Power I’m in now and I conveniently keep forgetting how.
It isn’t just getting shot at Power Play that killed me, however. Way back in the way back when you could stack kill missions, and it was suggested I grab a bunch of them near a planet. It didn’t go well. At all.
That isn’t to say I didn’t eventually find a groove. A little before I quit the game for a couple years, I found myself outfitting my Cobra Mark III and heading out to a conflict zone. This video is noteworthy because, for some reason, the Youtube algorithm gave it a boost and over 8000 people watched it. I am not sure why.
I found the game kind of enjoyable in short bursts, but constantly struggled to make any money or any real headway. I also was finding it really frustrating to unlock an Engineer that wanted 200 landmines, in part because I had a ship with a small cargo space and in part because I’d get interdicted, caught with illegal cargo, bountied and or exploded. At some point I had enough and as a result I made the decision to shelf it.
Well, recently a new expansion was announced, and it will allow pilots to 360 noscope snipe other pilots with their guns. Call of Duty: Far Future Warfare all up in space. I decided to give the game another go, and while it hasn’t been perfect I am getting a few reminders about what I liked about it.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this game was sharing it with my kids. I made the decision to grab the Diamondback Explorer again, so I could make my way out to the Maia system, which made my daughter happy… until I got ganked and she had to watch me get blown up by some other CMDR in a Krait II.
I also realized that if I change the galaxy map from “economy” to “maximum” I could change the number of jumps needed to get to the Maia system from 80 to, like, 14, which was a nice change of pace. Been doing some “Roads to Riches” which allows players to get money by scanning planets, which is kind of tedious but it’s also allowed me to make more money than I am used to which is good.
I don’t really have any goals in the game right now, outside of finding other players to enjoy the game with. Hopefully as I continue to poke at this game I can find a better place for myself in it. Might look at a better combat ship than the Cobra Mark III, for example. Just don’t want to be in a place where one bad move can set me back weeks.