Who doesn’t want their very own spaceship? Elite Dangerous may be a few years old, but it has aged like fine wine — especially in VR.
See the stunning sights of our galaxy up close and personal. Battle the Thargoid menace from the helm of your very own ship. Sail among the stars in a living, breathing universe. The VR specific interactions are minimal (and seated). But there’s no better way to live out your dreams of being a legendary intergalactic smuggler.
- What is Elite Dangerous? A massively multiplayer space sim. Become a pirate, trader, or explorer. Work with other players to fight the alien Thargoid menace, discover strange new worlds, or simply make a living. The Milky Way is your oyster.
- Reviewed On: Windows, Steam, HTC Vive
- Price: $29.99 ($59.99 for the Commander Deluxe Edition)
- Developer / Publisher: Frontier Developments
- Release Date: April 2, 2015
- Multiplayer: Yes
Set a Course, CMDR
At the outset, the scale of Elite Dangerous is staggering. The entire Milky Way galaxy is procedurally generated and available for you to explore. That’s over 400 billion star systems. While human civilization in Elite covers only a tiny section of it, even that small sliver feels sprawling while warping across it.
Your first thought might be: “there’s no way a game of that scale can avoid mind-numbingly repetitive content.” And you’re right.
While there are plenty of anomalies and unique experiences to be had, after a while, the star systems start to blur together. If you’ve seen one main-sequence star, you’ve seen them all. And while discovering new planets can be awe-inspiring, exploring their procedural surface with the Horizons DLC can be equally repetitive.
Fortunately, Elite Dangerous makes up for these shortcomings in other ways.
The galaxy simply seethes with life. AI-controlled ships are plentiful; you’ll encounter everything from military patrols to luxury cruise liners on your adventurers. Not to mention the brigands and pirates who might try to relieve you of your cargo. Add in the instanced multiplayer aspect, and you’ll feel a little sonderous every time you pass another player-owned ship in the black. We’re all just motes of light in the infinite universe.
Only, some of the motes might shoot at you.
Han Solo, Eat Your Heart Out
The bulk of humanity resides in The Bubble — the tightly packed group of systems around the one we now call home. Numerous factions vie for political, economic, and military control within The Bubble. And that’s where you come in.
The main gameplay loop revolves around taking missions for the different factions. Each of these missions falls into one of three categories: trade, exploration, and combat. Some might see you shuttling goods between starports. Others might have you retrieving salvage from distant planets. And of course, there’s plenty of lowlifes populating faction bounty boards, with rewards for the intrepid bounty hunter to claim.
Occasionally, you’ll even find missions that involve acts of aggression against other factions. Picking a side comes with all the red tape that entails. In short order, you may find that you’re no longer welcome in certain systems. But that’s the life of the spacefaring freelancer.
For those who don’t wish to embroil themselves in such conflicts, there’s plenty to do besides. You can become a trader, buying low and selling high as you learn which systems need which goods. You can choose to explore for exploration’s sake — and folk in The Bubble will pay top dollar for the data you gather. You can even become a space tour guide, taking wealthy passengers on a sightseeing tour that’ll knock their socks off. Whatever your youthful dreams of space entailed, you can make them a reality in Elite Dangerous.
In VR, the sense of wonder is amplified ten-fold. A large part of the VR experience is the player’s scale in these virtual spaces, and Elite Dangerous captures it perfectly.
Interstellar bodies like stars and planets feel appropriately massive. Ever seen a black hole up close? The intensity of space combat also sees a considerable boost in VR. Dancing with your opponent through space, craning your neck to catch a glimpse of them out the window as you try to line up a shot… it’s top-tier sci-fi.
Looking around your cockpit becomes the primary way to access the different subsystems of your ship. It’s convenient when you want it, but sometimes you just want to look around at the sights passing by — a minor annoyance, but worth noting.
The chief complaint I have with Elite’s VR implementation is the downtime. You may find in your travels that you have several dozen frame-shift jumps between you and your destination. Each jump can take a minute or two, depending on whether you need to scoop some fuel from the next star. This time adds up — and in VR, there’s no way to occupy your time otherwise. In non-VR, you can capitalize on this with Netflix or a web browser on a second monitor. This may heavily impact which sort of missions you take on with an HMD and cheapens the VR implementation overall.
But that said, there’s no better way to see the galaxy than in virtual reality.
Shiny, Let’s Be Bad Guys
There aren’t many massively multiplayer space sims in the wild. And some have earned a reputation for being “spreadsheet simulators.”
Fortunately, Elite Dangerous is everything but. It’s an incredible experience with plenty to keep you grinding for credits, ships, and new adventures. And the VR implementation adds a ton to the experience. While it may not be perfect, jumping into a new system and seeing the star rush in to fill your view is awe-inspiring every time. It’s excellent for intermittent VR voyages, and it’s a great game overall, even if you choose to forgo the HMD.
See you out there among the stars, CMDR.
Combat - 9/10
Exploration - 8/10
Content - 8/10
Audiovisual - 9/10
Controls - 8/10
Elite Dangerous is the premier way to become the intergalactic smuggler, explorer, or pirate you’ve always wanted to be. Sci-fi fans are sure to be satisfied with the experience.
- Open-ended gameplay loop
- Remarkable sense of scale in VR
- Massive procedural galaxy and incredible visuals
- Too much downtime in VR
- Repetitive procedural content
- Occasionally annoying VR interactions