What I’m Playing Now: Elite Dangerous

I’ve made no secret in the past that I love space sims and that I’m on the lookout for the next Starflight. I’ve tried many games, but none really filled in that particular gap in my heart. Until recently.

I’ve been playing a lot of Elite: Dangerous, which is the next iteration of the venerable Elite series of space sims/traders. Until now I’d more or less passed over it in favor of other series such as Wing Commander. However, in my wait for Star Citizen to be completed, I’ve come across Elite: Dangerous.

The game is still somewhat in its beta stage, though rather advanced. Most of the game’s core features are there, and right now the development team is busy adding everything else around it. However, even in this state, it’s still a highly playable game. If you want to give it a try and are new to the genre, be warned that space traders are similar to subsims in that they’re rather slow games.

I’m currently enjoying life as a trader/smuggler, ferrying agricultural machinery from an industrial world to an agricultural one in exchange for smuggling tobacco back from the agricultural world to the industrial one. It’s a fairly profitable little racket, and I’m quite happy milking it for all it’s worth, especially because it allows me to navigate the game’s beautiful space and hyperspace vistas. I’m also not above racking in a fat profit when the industrial world announces a food shortage and demands that ship captain bring in grain in all haste in exchange for a 1000% increase in grain prices. Ahem.

The game’s universe is vast. The game includes an ambitious recreation of the Milky Way with over 400 billion individual stars to explore and discover. This adds to the feeling of loneliness that space traders tend to foster. And it makes for an interesting take on multiplayer gaming.

Elite: Dangerous is primarily multiplayer, you see. I’m not usually one to partake heavily in multiplayer online games, but Elite: Dangerous’ feel is definitely different from anything out there that I’ve experienced. The sheer vastness of the universe makes it so that you can go for hours without even encountering another player, and when you do, it’s a reminder that you aren’t alone out there. In fact, contrary to games like DayZ or Call of Duty, encountering another player can be rather soothing.

However, my favourite feature so far is probably the newsnet. Each time you make port at a station, you can keep updated on what’s happening around the universe. Interestingly, it appears (and this is just a hunch, I can’t confirm this) that the universe’s events and the galactic news are impacted by player actions. There’s a lot of fighting happening in one galactic sector? Weapons are suddenly in demand there. The Federation’s extended its reach? Seedier figures ask for captains to smuggle their slaves out of the system. A lot of trading is happening? Time for an economic boom! As I said, I don’t know if this is exactly how it works, or if this feature is fully implemented, but it does appear that this is the direction that the game is going. And I’m loving it.

That’s all for now. Time to go back to plowing the space lanes and evading whatever pirates are trying to steal my precious cargo!

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About Erik Bigras

Erik Bigras is an independent scholar. He studied as a PhD Candidate in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He graduated with a BA in Anthropology (2009) from the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada) where he focused on the creation of subjectivities through digital media. He's been playing video games since the mid-1980s, but expanded his gaming interest to table-top RPGs in the early 2010s.
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