Is Elite Dangerous a Game or What?

Elite Dangerous is a ruthless sim designed to leach away your credibility and will to live. Here are some tips for those lost in its vacuum.

The Way of the Warrior

A few weeks ago, my dentist passed on what I can only describe as a ‘heavy cold’ as part of my Denplan deal, the kind of thing that lasts for months. A few weeks into that, a local restaurant added food poisoning for £20. This caused an infection in my gums to flare up like a balloon. Eventually, I started to get better, and playing Elite Dangerous was quite good therapy.

But I have prepared another excuse as well. Ukie.org.uk says that there are about 18 million people aged between 6 and 64 playing games in the UK, or 38% of the population in that age group. So before you start on me, there are a few million other people you need to talk to first.

The Path to Elite

I’ve played Quake for years because it is quick, immediate and there weren’t too many keys to deal with. Elite is at the other end of the scale. It’s big, hard to learn, slow to get going and has lots of key presses. But for some reason, I’ve persevered anyway. I have to say that the last trip out really strained my patience though.

Landing in a space station

The Road to Nowhere

Elite Dangerous Fuel scooping
Fuel scooping

In order to make use of a different part of the game, and just for a change, I had trekked right outside of the PowerPlay space in a Vulture to pick up something as a gift for an Engineer, in return for upgrades.

The Vulture isn’t good with fuel so that means fuel scooping on every viable star you pass. Having gotten to the required location and loaded the gifts I then had to trek back to human space to find the Engineer.

She would then offer an upgrade to the ship in the form of a blueprint that would, no doubt, increase my defences by not much at all. That’s the Elite way.

The Gift is Mine

It was a long haul out to get the gift, and it was going to be an even longer haul to get to the Engineer. The route to the Engineer was a different location than my start point and it goes through a deep cluster of brown dwarf stars you can’t scoop fuel from. That meant using a slower more economical route which included checking that you don’t run out of fuel along the way.

All of that is quite time-consuming. While I’m doing the ‘jump-scoop-check’ loop over and over I’m wondering if this is really worth the trouble, and whether it would make the game worse if there were some non-simulated short-cut for this. But that’s a moot point, there are no short-cuts so you just have to make your choices.

A Welcoming Party

Elite Dangerous - the trek back to human space can be a long one.
The trek back to human space can be a long one. The route starts at the bottom right.

So after a whole afternoon, something like 4 hours of painstaking trekking across the galaxy, I arrived at the destination and was destroyed by a pirate in a panic-inducing and completely depressing attack that took about 60 seconds to complete.

I can’t begin to tell you how stunningly crap that was.

A Chance to Begin Again

With tears in my eyes, I paid 1 million credits and went back several hours to the start of the 50 or so jumps I had just made across the boring desert of brown dwarves. And that, mis amigos, is not what I would call a game as far as I’m concerned!

Throwing the Teddy Out of the Pram

I remember one reviewer saying that the rewards for playing Elite are few and far between. I would also add that the rewards are also stingy. It literally reminded me of stories of abused people feeling like it’s their fault when they get slapped about. Fortunately, I don’t feel that unworthy, so I packed up all the game gear and said goodbye. In fact, my ship is still there and I haven’t been back to the game since. I found Star Citizen and fell in love with its awesome geology.

A Few Tips for the Hardy Players

Although I have been battered into submission like a big girl’s blouse, I expect you guys are as tough as nails and are still plugging away. In that case, here are a few things I learned that I’ll just throw out the airlock for you to consider.

Elite: Unable to Dock?

Elite Dangerous - No contacts list!
No contacts list!

One thing I learned before all of the above shenanigans was how to get into a space station when you can’t contact it to ask for permission to land.

Having upgraded from an Eagle to a Vulture I got into a few scrapes with the bigger kick-ass weapons and instead had my own ass kicked. On this occasion, I made it out of the fight and over to the station only to find that there was no way to request a landing pad. I knew that was because of the damage I sustained, but not much more. I also knew that If you can’t contact the station for landing permission, your ship will be attacked if you go in. But since I had earned a million credits and didn’t want to lose that and spend another million on rebuy costs, I had to find another way.

Elite Dangerous - Reboot / Repair function
The Reboot / Repair function

By that I mean Google. While some people were saying ‘nope, your dead’ I found one that told me that the information on the Contacts tab is provided by the sensor module, and I found that mine was reading 0% health.

Although I had a Repair module on board, due to inexperience I had already wasted it repairing something useless, so that was down too. A little more searching revealed that on the right-hand panel is a function menu which contains a Reboot / Repair function. If you reboot your ship, it will shut down all the modules and bring them back online with potential repairs. After the reboot function had completed, the sensor module gained 2% health which was enough to light up the contacts panel and allow me to request a landing pad. I could then dock, repair the ship and claim a million from bounties instead of losing a million on rebuy costs.

Elite: Compartment Classes?

Compartment Classes
Compartment classes are shown in white

I needed a cargo hold for 3 tons capacity but only had 2 tons of space available. Whenever I looked at cargo holds in the space station outfitters I only ever got offered the 2-ton capacity, and it didn’t matter where I went.

Eventually, I tracked down a website that told me where I could find what I wanted but when I got there, I still couldn’t find it in the outfitters. It was then that I figured out what the screen display was showing me all along. Each of the compartments has a class rating number, shown in white here, and the dots under the compartment rating show how much of the capacity is being used.

You will need to use a higher rated compartment in order to be able to see and load a higher rated cargo module. That was possible because I was wasting a class 4 compartment on a class 1 discovery scanner, while the class 1 compartment held a cargo rack. All I had to do was swap around the sensor and the cargo rack so that the class rating matched their compartments.

Elite: No Power?

Elite Dangerous - Stuck on Launch Pad
Stuck on Launch Pad

Having learned about the compartment class system, I then attempted to swap the thrusters and power plant around. Those are core modules, and it didn’t go well. I put the power plant into store, messed about with the compartments a bit and then hit the launch key. When I got to the launch pad I had no power. Apparently, I had taken my power-plant offline and couldn’t do anything. In order to go back into the station services I first had to leave the station and return. But I couldn’t do that without power.

While I faffed about looking for something to help, the departure launch timer reached zero and the station security personnel destroyed my ship on the launch pad. That’s another million credits down the pan. An unpleasant side effect of playing a heartless simulation is that it didn’t check for such an eventuality and prevent me from using the launch key. They might argue that it was realistic, but I’d argue that they just didn’t think of it. Anyhoo, I was dead again. So I paid the money and reloaded the power plant.

Which Brings me Back to the Beginning

Needless to say, it was the expensive No Power mistake inside the space station that preceded the long, boring trip to the Engineer’s system that made for a really rubbish afternoon. Hey Frontier guys, are you kidding or what? And this time, instead of persevering, I’m going to paint my cupboards instead. Harsh but fair.