The world of Elite: Dangerous is undoubtedly a cruel one. Exploring the vast reaches of the Milky Way (based on a scientifically accurate model of the galaxy, of course) brings with it some dangers. The open-ended gameplay is vast in its nature, allowing you to explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy, encountering factions, which are perpetually at war with each other, as well as organising various things such as mining expeditions and trading of goods – this is before the bounty and bounty hunting mechanics of the gameplay have even begun to surface. This is game, therefore, whose persistent universe is directly affected by the decisions of the players that comprise its MMO player base, making it an ambitious fourth title in the series, but one with gameplay that becomes more rewarding the further you delve into it.
Gameplay with Depth and Breadth
Elite: Dangerous’ gameplay is about as far from being one-dimensional as the universe itself, and has also moved on from Frontier: First Encounter (Elite: Dangerous’ predecessor). You’re really open to do what most tickles for your fancy, in fact. You begin with a very basic ship and a limited quantity of money, and what you do with these beginnings is really up to you. Trade missions are a staple of the gameplay of course, which involve engaging with one or more of the many opposing factions which make up the political landscape of the game. Mining expeditions are also available for you to try your hand at.
The trading of commodities and other cargo is also a must, with the economical mechanics of the game possessing such a wonderful complexity that, among other things, dictates that certain products taken far enough away from their source will increase in value substantially. It’s up to you to navigate and plot the safest and most efficient routes for your ship when dealing in commodities, even taking into account things like agricultural exports (such as food and livestock) and their tendency to spoil. The realistic nature of this facet of the gameplay is simply astounding.
One of the most notable features of Elite: Dangerous, and one which serves to dictate a significant part of the game, is the attention paid to integrating bounty hunting mechanics. Bounty hunting plays quite a big part in the day to day running of the game, demonstrated first and foremost in your Ship Scanner’s ability to determine if other ships have a warrant out for their demise. Some of the other hardware in the game only serves to further demonstrate the importance of bounty hunting, such as the Kill Warrant Scanner and the Frame Shift Wake Scanner, both of which increase your capabilities when scanning your surroundings for potential bounties to collect.
There are dangers to bounty hunting that go further than the inerrant and immediate risk of simply entering into conflict with another ship. One of the biggest dangers is in having one of your stray cannon rounds accidentally clipping a regional security service ships – this can lead to a bounty being placed on you. Don’t expect the sort of hands-on bounty-hunting tactics that you would find in terrestrial-based sagas such as Hitman, but do expect the next best thing considering the limitations of firing weapons over large distances in space.
The above elements of the gameplay only comprise a fraction of the day-to-day opportunities for entertainment found in the game. Everything down to the flying of your spacecraft is wildly entertaining, and realistic (Newtonian) physics can even be activated if you wish to increase the challenge in flying your vessel. Combat is a feature which in itself requires a few hours of practice just to get to grips with its sheer complexity.
It is easy to say therefore that Elite: Dangerous is currently your best bet for epic-scale bounty hunting and space exploration, period. This may all change with the release of Star Citizen of course, but until this time, one should keep their eye on the Elite: Dangerous website for news on the game’s updates as well as information about the game’s expansion, Elite Dangerous: Horizons.