Elite has been a stalwart of the space sim genre ever since the 80’s. Before Star Fox, Wing Commander, Descent Freespace, hell, even before consoles were a thing and videogames crashed.
Elite for those not in the know, is an absolutely revolutionary series that has far reaches and influences still felt in gaming today. The team at Frontier and series creators, David Braben and Ian Bell created a blueprint that has been copied, assimilated and used for decades to create some of gaming’s most memorable experiences.
Elite Dangerous is the most modern entry in this long running series, and basically arrived at a new onset of the space sim genre.
Like turn based titles, RTS’s and tycoon games, the space sim genre went away for a good number of years. Then all at once, a revival kicked in. Trailers of No Mans Sky wowed the casual audiences, and Kickstarter was an avenue for industry veterans to pitch new sequels to beloved games in a niche genre right to their audience.
It was a great plan, with Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous taking off on those platforms and getting new a new life.
Elite Dangerous had it’s first release in late 2014, and in many ways was a spiritual successor to the space faring original.
You played a pilot, starting off in the classic Sidewinder and the galaxy becomes your oyster. Elite, is one of the very first sandbox games, that truly allows you the choice to progress how you would like. Pirating, trade, bounty hunting, taking on missions or supporting hostile takeovers. All of that and more was how you progressed. Going the rank of harmless to Elite was the primary motivating factor and still is.
Ambitious as Elite Dangerous is, and polished, it took a different approach to game development. Around the time of it’s launch, the go to move was “Walk on foot, now go into this ship, and blast off into space in one seamless transition!”
It’s the entire pitch of that concept that pushed No Mans Sky and Star Citizen into the stratosphere while Braben and his team wanted to start slow and work their way up. After years of expansions, world building, and tech evolution, that next bold step for Elite is finally arriving this May in the Odyssey expansion.
After spending some time in the alpha, it’s pretty clear the wait was worth it. The first and most obvious advantage to seeing the world from the ground floor, is the sheer appreciate and depth of the scale on display.
Even the small and seemingly feeble Sidewinder are huge, sprawling with details and tons of surface. The capital ships are even more impressive, casting huge shadows and truly making their presence felt when they land or swoop over a battlefield.
Odyssey isn’t just hey, you can walk either. Like every other expansion or gameplay element, it’s a full and functional experience. It has it’s own progression, a multitude of mission styles and truly melds well with the existing content. Bounties, faction battles, even damage types and armor variety are all factored in.
Missions can range from a simple shootout, to a multi layered heist involving stealth, hacking and if things go bad, a daring escape back into the wide reaches of space.
Initially, it wasn’t perfect, with the space taxi system that was implemented taking far too long to get you into any action, but as the different phases of the alpha have progressed, most of the growing pains have dissipated.
I can’t wait to get in and see my hard earned ships close up. More important, being able to potentially explore worlds and see them from the ground floor can potentially lead into some exciting moments to share with a wider Elite Dangerous community. On it’s own the on foot mechanics and UI aren’t mind blowing, but the immersion gained from having this new way of seeing the games systems unfold are very impactful.
Only time will tell how much the new on foot experience will gel with Elite Dangerous over the long haul, but I’ll have a full review of Odyssey when it launches May 19th and I get to experience it with my own ships and save to work off of.
Stay tuned pilots.