My love, hate relationship with Elite: Dangerous

If you’ve been a follower of mine over the last few years, you’ll have heard me talk (read “rant”) about this before, but I’ll explain for those who haven’t anyway.

I have a love, hate relationship with Frontier Developments’ open-universe space fightin’ sandbox, Elite: Dangerous.

Back in 2015, a mate of mine who stayed at my place for a LAN party was talking to me about it and said that because I loved Freelancer, he was convinced I would like Elite: Dangerous. He showed me a bit of gameplay on his PC, and I was really impressed by the visuals, and limited gameplay he was able to show off.

Over the next few weeks I considered the purchase of it. At the time, I was going through some training at work where I had a bit of free time to look at some videos on it. This is a fatal mistake for me, because the moment I start looking at videos, screenshots, articles and the like on something I’m interested in, it becomes a make or break situation.

In this case, it was make. I was sold on the product, with the exception of the price-tag. At the time, I paid $59.99 USD, which equates to $77.38 AUD as of the current date, but back then it was slightly more expensive in my local currency. So you can see where my obsessive reviewing of material at hand came in. If I’m throwing down that amount of dosh, I expect to get my value from it.

I downloaded the game, installed it, played around for a few hours and turned the game off. I was frustrated, more specifically with the game and the default mouse and keyboard controls. They were so incredibly complex, that I stopped playing until I went out and purchased an Xbox PC controller.

As I became comfortable with the controller and how to play, it wasn’t long before I was tearing up the galaxy as a bounty hunter with some mates, finding all the villainous scum in the universe and making some mad credits off their demise.

But the game at this stage was fairly limited.

At the time, players had the ability to dock/land at space stations, haul minerals, do quests from the board at a starport (the rewards were tiny and hardly worth doing). There were features we’d hope to see come into the game, but it was all wishful thinking. The game had very little to do, and grew stale after my 50th or so bounty kill.

It was believed that the cosmetic micro transactions for things like ship paint jobs, customisation and the like was sustataining ED’s development, and as such it was going to be a game with bursts of life as features trickled out as updates.

Nope. Later that year, Frontier Developments announced a season pass called “Horizons”, which was said to bring a whole heap of new content and gameplay features over the next 12 months. One feature of which was planetary landing, which realistically should have been a core feature of the game, not locked behind a paywall.

As my crew looked at the announced features list for the Horizons season pass, we developed a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. At the time, only planetary landings had been confirmed with a patch drop date, with the schedule of updates to be announced as each feature gets a spotlight.

For me, this wasn’t content. This was a company asking for an extra ~$70.00 AUD to continue development, after the game that I purchased (which was already approaching a year onto the market) had fuck all content with the base game. I flipped out, going into a rather huge rant on one of the podcasts I hosted that year, stating that I wouldn’t be purchasing or playing it.

But as it goes, someone else buys it, and the game is then segmented between those who own the content and those who don’t. Elite: Dangerous now had two game clients: one for the base game, and one for Horizons – and guess what? You couldn’t play with others who didn’t own the season pass.

Fuck me dead. I’m about to get shoehorned into something just so I can continue playing with my friends.

At this point I begrudgingly purchased the season pass, and immediately checked out the planetary landing mechanics to see what all the fuss was about. Once again, I felt like I’d been burned and I’ve just kept my hand in the flames in the hopes to feel something.

So I’ve just dumped $140.00 on a game that’s still in development, and doesn’t have enough to do to warrant playing it continually. Awesome. Not long after the release of Horizons, FD dropped the price of the original game, and then later dropped the price completely, bundling the original game plus the season pass together.

By now, I’d already spent well over the $140.00 purchase cost. All of the ship paint jobs, novelty items that was meant to be a steady flow of cash for development… man, just recalling and writing this out is sending me into a seething rage.

So we fast forward to today. It’s been months since I actively played ED. Thankfully, Frontier hasn’t announced some other bullshit DLC pass to continue development, so I won’t need to fork out (at least for now) to continue playing it.

There’s been a heap of content I’ve missed in my time away. Everything from big flowery aliens in space (called the Thargroids or something?), to the latest updated called “Beyond”. Upon checking the website to make sure my facts are right, it’s Season Three: Beyond. Eyerolling ensues.

I’ll probably check some of the new content out on stream soon, and thus begins the love hate cycle. Again. I want to give this game a chance, hoping that the next update is significant. I just hope “Beyond” doesn’t let me down.