For a bit of a change, I’m heading back to a blog post about games. Well, *a* game at least.
Growing up, back in the day, I played the heck out of a little game called Elite 2 : Frontier. This was an excellent little game from a development team based in the UK and I remember it coming on a couple of floppy disks for the Amiga.
Inside these few floppies was the sequel to a game pretty much as old as ome gaming gets, both that game and it’s sequel were flipping HUGE. The entire universe was recreated in all its 3D glory.
So when they announced that the team were working on a new Elite game I was excited. To put it lightly. A new Elite game for me to spend my free time playing? Yes please! Oh wait. No PS4 version was announced. Oh. Looks like I could try and play it on my PC (probably not a great idea – my PC is mainly laptop parts in a small form factor desktop case – Not a great gaming machine.)
So, no. No Elite: Dangerous for me.
Frontier Developments sneakily released a PS4 version with very little fanfare a few weeks back. Just before pay day. When I saw they had done this, I did the only sane thing, I ordered a copy on my credit card. A few days later it arrived.
So, what is it like? Well, hard. Rock hard. in fact, if you have the time, it’s harder than the diamonds broken up and used as the hardcore on Mike Tyson’s driveway.
Bearing this in mind th developers kindly offer a number of tutorials…
1. Flying controls (basics are easy)
2. Landing (I did this one three times – I thought it might be important)
3. Combat (just about managed to do this one a couple of times)
4. Advanced combat (Seriously? No idea how to do this one, I just keep dying)
5. Genuinely no idea as…
6. I gave up on the tutorials and started playing what I know as Space Trucker Sim 2017™.
I learned how to fly, and how to land. I know how to buy stuff and can jump between a few star systems and as long as you know your route and remember that this is more of a space sim than anything else, you ‘ll be okay.
It’s a relaxing experience flying though space but landing can be a trial.
If they say landing bay 2, then you’d better not block any other landing bays or you’ll get fined for loitering (!) and landing can tough, especially if you happen to be arriving at the landing pad from a strange angle. Oh and you have to remember to ask for docking clearance, and then you have a time limit.
Fly up to the *correct* landing pad, get your ship in the middle of the crosshairs and drop down onto the pad, except you might still be moving, or facing the wrong way, or not level… It does get easier but it can still be trial even after many hours if you aren’t paying attention.
Even flying through space can be dangerous (well, I guess that is quite literally the name of the game). The other evening, for example, I was happily bouncing from star system to star system plying my trade and some goit tries to attack me. For my total cargo of 2T of animal monitors. I bravely ran away… #BraveBraveSirRobin
You can play in what it calls “solo play” where the universe is entirely yours, with only the non player characters and AI to contend with. Alternatively you can play online in a sort of shared universe. The theory is that each star system is an instance and you can share those instances with other players. Warp to another star system and you get another instance. The warp sequence is a brilliant way of hiding loading screens (although I’m more than happy with these as it fits perfectly with the game).
But what about the controls? None of you are shouting…
Well, complicated doesn’t seem to cover it. Pretty much every button does at least one thing.
Left stick = roll and pitch
Right stick = yaw and altitude
Right triggers = weapons / increase speed
Left triggers = weapons / decrease speed
Face buttons? Landing gear, warp, cargo scoop, fuel scoop, super-cruise (The fast travel between bodies within a star system), change the camera, turn on / off ship lights… the list is endless as a single press will do one thing, but hold the face button and press a direction on the D-pad and something else will happen.
A few of the buttons you will use all the time and they become ingrained in your memory, others are less obvious and because of this every now and then I’ve incurred a fine for equipping my weapons in a no fire zone. Thankfully these fines are not overly expensive.
Even more thankfully, there are a plethora of websites out there that are very helpful for the new commander out there. There is a very extensive wiki which has hundreds of pages of information. There is an online database of planets, system bodies, trade commodities (and costs) and an exceedingly useful route calculator with added trade route information (listed by order of most profitable goods). Some dudes have even created an online radio station based around the game and it’s community.
I’m completely loving this game. It’s basically a space trucker simulation and scratches an itch that has been niggling for a long time. It has been a long time since I’ve played a game that has made me think about the game when I’m not playing it. I’ll find myself sat eating my lunch, reading up on the most profitable trade routes, or looking at what my next ship might be…how can I increase my cargo storage so I can make more money on each run?
I’ve been playing this few weeks and I’m still absolutely loving it.
I’ve progressed from “Penniless” to “Merchant” via “Mostly Penniless”, “Peddler” and “Dealer”, which is pretty impressive. I’ve moved up from my tiny little sidewinder (default cargo capacity 4T).
When I had shuttled enough cargo to afford an upgrade I traded it in for a Hauler (Default cargo capacity 8T).
Enough running around in this little machine (after some modifications I managed to get the cargo capacity up to 20T by basically ripping everything out (including the shields) and replacing them with cargo holds. A few hundred runs later I had enough to buy a swanky new Cobra Mk3 (Default cargo capacity 18T).
Again, after a while I could afford to rip everything out and replace it all with cargo holds, pushing my cargo capacity up to the heady heights of 56T. A few more hours of game play and I had pushed my credit balance up to cr2.6million. Time to upgrade again. This time jumping to the first mass cargo transport ship, the Type 6 Transporter (basic cargo space 50T). I quickly upgraded the basic cargo capacity up to a massive 100T and am currently running a really interesting trade route of Algae / coffee which makes me around cr50,000 to cr100,000 per run.
I have no idea how much time I’ve spent playing this game. The playtime counter is bugged (and this is a known issue), but I don’t really want to know.
I find the game a wonderful way to relax on an evening, watching the star systems fly by and plying my trade around the galaxy. I’ve got the hang of landing, and am slowing getting to remember the most useful button shortcuts (and there are loads). The only issue I have with the controls is that the button press for the landing gear is Circle and Down on the D-pad. Which would be fine were it not for the fact that Circle on it’s own is the boost button. Which committee authorised this combination of key presses? Really?
Every now and then “Oh, I don’t have my landing gear down… Oh bugger.” As my ship bounces off the walls of the space dock. I learned very quickly that if I remove the shields I really need to upgrade the ship hull, to compensate for my lack of dexterity.
Graphically, this game is beautiful. The developers have managed to put together a game that conveys the huge, openness of deeps space, but made it look interesting at the same time. The level of detail in the ships and docking stations is epic, there is always something new to see, explore, and new stations to discover.
The ship cockpits are all different (so far) and the yellow/orange of the HUD is pleasingly futuristic and yet kind of grimy.
Every now and then while I’m bouncing from system to system someone decides to try and relieve me of my goods. As already mentioned I learned this quite early on, but have learned how to deal with it. I’m sorry, but I worked hard for my credits and goods and you can’t have them. When you are pulled from the nice, safe super-cruise system (used to travel between places within a star system), you can choose to try and escape and follow the escape vector (which I did the first time this occurred and I escaped as I mentioned above), or you can do what I now do. Slow down, stop, and then boost away from the pirate, and as soon as possible jump back to super-cruise – leaving the hapless pirate staring at my space dust and all of my goods still in *my* cargo hold.
There is so much to do in this game and the game does very little to direct you down any particular paths. Preferring instead to drop you into the universe, give you ship and few thousand credits. Leaving you to make your own way in the galaxy, or not. This is something Elite has always done. It gives you a setting and the tools to tell your own story, and boy, could I bore you with stories about how I just escaped with my cargo from the space pirates, or the time my medicines saved a group of colonists. Or maybe the time I helped stop the civil war by providing the coffee for them all to drink while discussing their issues*
*Some of these may only be in my head.
My next job is to build back up my credits and progress through the trading ranks, and from there? Who knows… all I know is I’ll be coming back to this game for a long while. I may even write a long play post in a few months…
“but I was going to Tosche Station to pick up power converters”