Entry two in my effort to understand the vast world of Elite Dangerous is no better. Having negotiated the first two training missions in the previous entry I was looking to polish off the others before jumping into the main game. These involved combat training, advanced combat training, mining and planet surface driving. All standard fare or so you would think.
Combat in Elite Dangerous is hard. Like everything else appears to be. This is a proper space sim and despite my historical ability at flight combat games, this is a whole new world. The first Issue I came across was actual visibility. Your target ships are little more than specks on the horizon and any slight change in trajectory or speed can take a moment to register with you. Being a game of strict naval combat, positioning is everything. A few times I was too far from the ship in front and it managed to turn and get its guns trained on me when I thought I was still pursuing its tail. A bit of concentration and drawing the curtains to hide some light from the room solved these issues. But I kept thinking my PSVR headset sitting in the corner would be the real solution. Light getting into the dark screen wouldn’t be an issue and your orientation would be immediately improved. We can only hope this follows one day, despite the developer saying it isn’t at the correct quality yet.
The mission itself is a good introduction to the bounty hunter style of play. Scan a ship to see if it is wanted then take it down and turn in the bounty for credits. Taking down a ship gives you a real visceral feedback. You have to chip away at its shields with lasers before finishing the job with either a missile or your cannons. In any other game, the tools would all be at your disposal and only a button press away. In Elite Dangerous you have to first deploy your guns, then select the correct weapon loadout from the right of your cockpit. It is definitely something to learn because on one attempt I chased after the enemy ship only to forget to fire on it because I hadn’t selected a loadout or deployed the internal ship’s core to the weapons. So in sci-fi films when the captain asks you to divert all power to weapons or shields it has an effect. Unfortunately, at the beginning of Elite Dangerous, you are captain, deckhand, and engineer all in one. You need to do it yourself. This is perhaps the mantra you need to take forward.
Advanced combat training is a completely different beast. In fact, I recommend you skip it after a couple of tries or else you will never make a start on the game. You will initiate combat and then you will get killed. It’s as simple as that. You can always come back when you are a bit more familiar with what is going on.
Mining is quite fun and certainly seems like a viable career if you want to keep your head down in Elite Dangerous. Find an asteroid get close and shear some ore off with your mining lasers. Then this small microscopic piece of rock needs to be scooped up by your ship in a process every bit as fiddly as landing your ship. There are automated collection drones available later on in the game but everything has a price. Surface exploration is similar to anyone who has played a Mass Effect game.
So after this, I decided to start the game. Everything I have read so far lauds the game as being a true role-playing game with little or no guide. The PS4 version with the DLC seems to give me a simple mission to another spaceport for 10,000 credits. This I manage to do easily enough if you count overshooting the spaceport and ending up too close to the surface of a neighboring planet to engage my lightspeed drive as ‘easy’.
When at the spaceport the mission board presents itself and I find that I am truly an ant in this universe. There are missions and space stations available to me yet I probably don’t even have the ship to get to them. I decided to try to take down another ship in a spot of bounty hunting. The tip here was to hang around a nav beacon and scan ships that drop into the area. Then pick one that isn’t going to shoot you down straight away. I managed this surprisingly easily. For a small bounty of 3250 credits. However playing the game you just know in the back of your mind that your ship isn’t good enough, neither are your weapons or shields. It was time to look around for better missions.
Available are smuggling missions, passenger missions, assassination missions and a few more. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell how difficult a chosen mission is until you are in the thick of it. My ego got the better of me and I chose a combat mission. Shoot down two enemy ships in the hostile zone around a planet. I was thinking they would already be engaged with much better ships and I could finish them off. The journey to the zone and actually dropping out of light space is a thing of beauty. Your hud is suddenly lit up with other ships and you can see the lasers and cannons tearing into other ships. Soon that ship is you.
For my next venture into Elite Dangerous, I think I should start smaller.