Looking for a way off this rock? Wish you could take to the stars to fulfill your destiny, but your uncle's idea of a good time is running down to pick up some power converters at Tosche Station? Quit whining, already... This is your ticket to explore the universe. A very, very vast universe, at that...
The graphics are beautiful and immersive. Distant stars become huge radiant suns with active plasma and solar flares, ready to burn your ship to a crisp or refill your fuel, if you equip a Solar Scoop... or both, if you linger too long. Ships feature holographic displays to indicate your speed, shields, hull strength, power distribution, nearby objects, changes in your orientation, your target's orientation... there's a lot of data to wade through, but it's easy to read, once you know what you're looking for.
Whether you're flying into a space station, jumping to hyperspace, navigating an asteroid field or flying past a sun, the models and special effects are awe-inspiring and worth flying around just to fly around.
Mind you, that's when playing on a single monitor. Bump that up to three monitors, and grab a joystick and you're on the way to a simulator. Try it with an Oculus Rift and... well, I don't even know, but I would definitely suggest packing a lunch - you might be in there a while.
Fans of the Elite series will see their favorite ships brought to life with great detail, in realistic-looking high-def embodiments of old favorites.
Sound effects sound good and fit the bill of keeping you informed of what's going on. One of the most useful audio cues in the game is the ship's computer: a female voice will warn you when you're under attack, when your landing gear isn't deployed (but should be), and similar generally bad conditions, as well as providing a verbal confirmation that some action you've activated has been completed (such as, "Cargo Scoop Deployed"). If any of these vocal cues are annoying, you can turn them off individually in the settings.
Music in Elite: Dangerous is primarily very light ambience. Personally, I found that I preferred to select some spacey ambience on YouTube and have that running in the background as I played. Since the mission descriptions are text-based and not spoken, this added music doesn't get in the way. Your mileage may vary, especially if you're a social gamer and you use your headset a lot.
At first, Elite: Dangerous can be a bit intimidating, if not overwhelming. Players of 4X games will recognize familiar elements of exploration, exploitation, expansion and, yes, extermination, but the detail involved was a bit surprising. You will need to familiarize yourself with controlling a ship that can move in all directions. If you're thinking "plane" here, I'm not explaining myself well enough. Hmmm, think "plane" with the ability to also lift straight up, down and to either side, as well as turning left and right even at a dead stop, like a helicopter. It takes some practice to really wrap your head around it. Some of the more exotic thrusting directions can really be useful in lining up your ship to enter a space station or to settle into your assigned parking spot and can also give you an edge in combat or close quarters navigation.
So, buy the game, load it up, strap into your Sidewinder and you're ready to... space. It's a big world universe out there, and there are just oodles and oodles of galaxies to explore and even... discover. Exactly what you do out there is up to you. Whether you decide to explore the universe and to go where no player has been before or you opt to take cargo from one place to another... or just relieve over-laden ships of their cargo, your fortune awaits. Will you be a bounty-hunter or start a mining operation or will you play the commodities market? Will you pledge allegiance to a faction or just take care of yourself? Do you plan to make your fortune on the straight and narrow or do you aim to misbehave? Perhaps a little from column A... a little from Column B?
The main things to pick up are how to fly your ship, how to land on stations (and navigate between them) and how not to get blown up. After that, it's pretty much wherever your whim leads you. Making your way across the 'verse takes three different types of travel, each with their different speeds. Normal muck-around flying is done using fairly normal propulsion and is used for combat, mining and lining yourself up with stations. When you need to move across a galaxy, you're going to need a Frameshift drive. (Don't worry - it's a standard feature of every ship.) You'll have to charge up the drive and then shift into Supercruise, which allows you to cover vast distances in galaxies in relatively short order. Need to go further? No problem, just charge the Frameshift drive up and jump to Hyperspace. You'll have to select a target and line up with it before starting the jump, but after that, you're pretty much on autopilot until you come out of Hyperspace hurtling straight towards a sun. You might want to be ready to turn when that happens. Call it a "pro tip," if you like.
Well, that's more common sense than actual tip, so I'll throw in a tip on completing missions, as well. When you accept a mission and you go to complete that mission, go back into the Bulletin Board option in the Station that you're supposed to complete the quest and look for a "new" mission with the same name. I was trying to complete the mission by referring to my navigation computer, since I had a copy of the details of the mission there, but the only options were to set my destination or to abandon the mission. To actually complete the mission, you have to go through the destination's Station Menu to the Bulletin Board and select to complete the mission. For me, that seemed a bit counter-intuitive.
Okay. Yeah, there is a bit of a learning curve, here. Given the maneuverability of the ships, it shouldn't be surprising that controlling them can be a bit complex. While you're trying to get the hang of it, you can generally expect to get blown up by players who have been in the game longer than you have and are trying out a spot of piracy.
Don't like getting blowed up? You can play in Solo Mode, which plays much like the normal, Multiplayer Mode, but with A.I. controlled ships, which tend to be less interested in ruining your day. You will still encounter pirates, but they seem easier to escape from.
In addition to Solo Play, there also some tutorial scenarios that can help bring you up to speed. Another great thing to do is to watch some videos on Elite: Dangerous. There are links to some from the game or the launcher, but there are lots of them out there to pick from, so just doing some searches will likely yield some nice tips.
In addition to the Multiplayer and Solo Modes, there is a CQC Mode (Close Quarter Championship) that will pit you against other players in small arenas that feature stations or factories and often, nearby asteroid fields, providing obstacles to hide behind (which, in this mode, will break a target lock). This mode is actually a decent place to "cut your teeth" in multiplayer combat. Obviously, play the combat tutorials first, but then jump into here on Deathmatch and see if you can stay alive... actually shoot another player... take down another player. You will gain prestige as you play and you earn some experience for simply finishing a battle. Also, this is a "simulation," so you're not losing your ship, any cargo, etc. You're just working on your skills and trying to prove yourself.
I really liked Eve Online back in the day. However, I always wanted to be able to play in first person, as if I were there, and despite asking for this feature, you could never "get into" the ship. Elite: Dangerous puts you in the ship and I find that getting into the ship helps me to really "get into" the game.
I don't have a Rift, but based on what I've heard and seen about it, it feels like this would be a perfect game to use with it. The U.I. for shipboard systems will pop up the different "station" holo-screens when you look in the appropriate direction, even when using the Free-look mode and a mouse. It seems like it would be very natural to turn your head in the direction of the desired screen to pull up, say, the Galaxy Map, and then look forward again to focus on flying the ship or, you know, shooting things.
Short of playing with a Rift, I have to admit that Elite: Dangerous is one of the few games that makes me really want to build a simulator cabinet. Sure, you can play this game with just keyboard and mouse, but there are so many things you can access directly, that simple key mapping falls short of what is ultimately possible. If I actually do build a simulator cockpit, I will do a story on that and, if you find that you have the same urge and you get to it before I do, send me a link to your build and I'll share it with others.
While there are upgrades you can pay for (such as ship skins and dashboard decorations), these aren't necessary, by any means. This leaves you with a game that costs around $40 USD to purchase, with no monthly fees (other than the money you're spending to add monitors, get a bigger, better joystick or build that simulator cockpit), which is nice.
If you're looking for a more immersive, highly detailed space enterprise simulator game, welcome to Elite: Dangerous. You'll be glad you came.