There is something magical about the amount of freedom you have while flying through the Milky Way Galaxy. There are more planets to visit than anyone would ever see in a lifetime of play. And with very little structure or goal, it’s easy to feel lost in the openness of space. It’s a confusing mixture of feeling completely free, yet having no clue what to do with it.
That sums up the core problem with Frontier Developments’ Elite: Dangerous, an ambitious space exploration title that found much success on PC, and has now made its way onto Xbox One. Elite: Dangerous provides the entire Milky Way Galaxy to explore, and considering it has been built on a 1:1 scale, it’s absolutely massive. There is so much to explore, yet the world can feel so empty if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Sadly, you’ll likely find yourself absolutely lost once you begin Elite: Dangerous. There is very little in the way of a tutorial, besides a few practice simulations that let you test a few basic mechanics. So once you begin, you’ll understand how to dock your ship, but absolutely nothing about what you’re supposed to actually do in-game.
Just a tiny bit of text from Frontier Developments explaining the core basics of the title would’ve gone a long way in making the experience more beginner friendly. Instead, players will have to look online and either read guides or watch YouTube videos to get a hang of the basics. It’s far from the best way to get used to a game’s mechanics, and it felt like I was doing homework again for the first time in 5 years.
Once you’ve done your research, however, you’ll be treated to a pretty fantastic game. Elite: Dangerous essentially allows gamers to play as they want. Do you want to be a space pirate who destroys any weak ship they see? Or do you wish to trade commodities in order to gain more money? It’s entirely up to you, and it can lead to completely different situations.
I ended up going the more passive route of trading goods, due to Elite: Dangerous having a very complex and unwieldy control scheme at first. Since Xbox One players don’t have a keyboard and mouse at their disposal, Frontier Developments has mapped several different functions to each button. To access these alternate functions, players will have to hold in a button, which will then pop up an overlay with several different options.
This control scheme was far from user friendly, but it’s definitely functional. As I spent additional time with Elite: Dangerous, the more the cumbersome interface became second nature. Having spent many hours exploring the galaxy with this control scheme, I’m not sure if I would make any changes to how its laid out. It’s complex, but it needs to be for something like this.
After I had come to grasps with all of the controls. I became more inclined to get into space battles. Elite: Dangerous‘ relaxed pace suddenly changes during battle, as it becomes as intense as any action game. There is a lot of nuance to battle, including knowing when to retreat, and there is a true sense of accomplishment once you blow up an enemy ship.
If you’re a fan of the intergalactic dogfights, you’ll want to play on Elite: Dangerous’ online mode, which turns the game into a gigantic MMO. You can play solo, although an internet connection is still require if you don’t want to deal with random PVP encounters. That said, playing with other people makes the galaxy feel so much more alive.
Some of the most fun in Elite: Dangerous is randomly running into other players and teaming up to take down common foes. I once teamed up with someone to take out a space pirate, only for the other player to turncoat and start firing at me. It wasn’t a great turn of events for me, as I ended up dying, but it was an awesome moment.
These types of random encounters are just one of the many things that make Elite: Dangerous so unique and special. It also manages to hit all the check marks, besides accessibility. While Elite: Dangerous isn’t Star Fox, where it’s purely about combat, it does have memorable battles. It’s also not a basic strategy game, despite having complex trade routes. Players will have to focus on supply and demand to earn a healthy profit on their business deals, but it’s just one part of the massive overall experience.
While it may seem clunky at first, Frontier Developments has done a fine job porting their space exploration title to Xbox One. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn the ins and outs of Elite: Dangerous, then you’ll find a game that is truly unlike anything else on Microsoft’s system. It’s just a shame that the game itself doesn’t manage to teach players much, and you’ll instead have to rely on online guides and videos. That said, it’s a small price to pay for getting to explore the entire Milky Way Galaxy.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which we were provided with for review.
There's a really special game inside Elite: Dangerous for those that are willing to put up with the steep learning curve. If you're not though, it's too confusing of an experience.