Has anyone ever played a Dark Souls game and thought “man, would I like a game with absolutely no direction or help and in space?” Nope. Unfortunately, Frontier Development figured we needed a deep space exploration game with little to no direction in controls, travel, or objective. Originally released for PC and Windows in 2014, the game has finally made its way to the console galaxy. One thing is for sure: PC gamers differ from Console gamers. In my experience, PC gamers are far more patient and willing to put hours and hours of time into a single game, like World of Warcraft, DOTA, and the like. Console gamers like to jump into play, have their hand held a bit, and enjoy the quick campaign like Resident Evil and Alan Wake. I lean toward the Console gamer side, and I had a hard time getting into Elite Dangerous, even after besting 4 of 5 Souls games.
Let’s begin with controls. The game really gives you no direction how to control your ship, in the beginning of the game or in the tutorials I dabbled with. I went into the shooting tutorial, the first one on the list, and I assumed it would walk you through flight controls and such. All I received were a couple of quick flashes on the screen on what boost is and to shoot the canisters. No other direction was given. After about fifteen minutes I finally found a canister and blew it up. I figured out that “x” was shoot and — goodbye canister. I exited the tutorial and figured that I would have a better shot at understanding the game by just jumping into “solo play.”
I got to choose from one ship, the slowest ship in all the galaxy as my first ride. As you do more and more missions you can purchase faster, stronger, and larger ships, all of which help you be a better fighter, smuggler, or explorer; it all just depends on how you want to play in this galaxy. When I get enough credits, I’m going to explore, maybe find a black hole and drive right in, see what kind of Mandela Effect it has. Once I picked my ship I was put onto a space station with the prompts to leave the station and get things done. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to get said things done. The game didn’t alert me to any path nor tell me where I could find my quest. After about an hour of just flying around and playing with the buttons I “phoned a friend.” Thankfully this friend had played this game for countless hours on his PC and offered me what help he could give me that would translate over to console playing.
I found that Frontier Development really didn’t have a solid plan on mapping everything to the face buttons of the Xbox One controller. To do certain actions while piloting your ship, you have to hold down a face button so a mini menu comes up which allows you to chose what to look at. Since there are four face buttons, there are four mini menus, all of which lead to even more confusing things. I finally found the first message that told me to go to another solar system and start my money making ventures there. Great, I knew where to go, but no idea how to get there. My “phone a friend” told me that I needed to engage my hyper-drive and line up a little planet so that I blast towards this new solar system. After about half an hour or so of frantic messages to my friend and playing with my controller, I got into light speed and zipped toward my destination. Once I zapped out of light speed, I almost died seeing as I ended up right at the sun. Great star plotting there, Chewie.
After giving my ship a nice sunburn I tinkered more with message menu and travel menu. This helped me find my destination, but did not help me get to my destination. For another forty-five minutes, I kept zipping by my target with no real way to stop by it. I would slow down and exit my hyper drive which would then put me at a years travel away from the space station. I kept zipping by over and over until I finally gave up, turned off my Xbox One and sat down to write this review. I really felt that I had wasted a lot of time on this game, but lost in a wonder of what I was missing, this game seems so vast and full of so much potential. Will I continue to pick away at this game? Of course I will. Will I succeed? I have no idea.
That’s just the old portion of the game. I cannot relay to you just how vast and immersive this game is, and Frontier Development added even more bells and whistles with the Horizons update or “season,” as they are calling it. Now I can land on the planets that I was zipping by, and I can explore these new planets in SRV vehicles. On the planets, as you scavenge, you can find certain engineers that will add certain types of modules and customizations to your ship, but you have to have the funds to do that. Something I’ve been lacking since I started the game, seeing as I break every rule while flying around space stations. You’ll have to be a good smuggler to get the most unique ship in the galaxy. Once you loot and scavenge all the good stuff, you’ll need to take it to the expensive engineers to upgrade your ride. Now, seeing as this was the first time I’ve ever played this game, I don’t know how it changed the original gameplay. It does however add a very nice touch to the game and makes it even more immersive and giant than I once thought it was.
I’ve hit Elite Dangerous really hard in this review, but to be honest it is just my opinion of the game and I want it to serve as a warning to those gamers who don’t have 50 + hours to sink into a game. I spent about six just trying to learn the core mechanics of the game and failed miserably. Perhaps if I had a joystick for the Xbox One my experience would have been much better. My “phone a friend” did nothing but gush about this game and how many hours he has put into it, so obviously the game is not a bad one. It’s just not a console game. Or perhaps I just couldn’t devote the time to it that it truly needed.
The game was gorgeous, the planets I zipped by looked amazing, and if I could have stopped to look at them more closely, I would have. The scope of the game is massive too. Just opening the Galaxy Map made me wonder — if I devoted a large amount of time to this, would I be able to see it all? The music was a perfect science fiction melody that made me think of Star Trek, Mass Effect, and Forbidden Planet. So here is my warning to people who want to play in the stars: Have a lot of time to devote to this game, have a friend to phone if possible, and don’t expect really quick sessions of achievement. This game is Dark Souls in space. However, instead of dying, you float around in the ether hoping for a better tutorial.
An Xbox One review code for Elite Dangerous: Horizons was provided by Frontier Development for the purpose of this review
Elite Dangerous: Horizons
- Great concept, vast deep space exploration. Huge, huge game.
- Music is the perfect mix for flying countless hours in space.
- Graphics are amazing and you do feel like you're zipping around the cosmos.
- Controls are so difficult that even the tutorials confuse you
- Spent about 6 hours playing and never even landed on a space station
- Staring at the orange cockpit of the ship hurts your eyes after awhile.