After a recent sale on Xbox Live, a few more friends have become fans of Elite Dangerous and taken up the challenge of making ends meet in that big galaxy we call home. It’s been great to see as these last couple of weeks there’s been at least one or two others playing at the same time as myself and in some cases even a half dozen or more. After so long accepting the solitude that the game often brings to players it’s a welcome shift.
But it’s not ending there. Conversation about the game while in parties is non stop and varies between advice for best trade routes, tips for boosting your ship, general strategies and tales of encounters both successful and less so. All the talk of the latter has got me thinking back to other games that promised that kind of experience but either succeeded or failed in delivering it.
Before Destiny launched the game’s developer Bungie would talk about how the game would create these watercooler moments where a player could tell their friends the story behind how they got a cool looking gun. The point was that players would have their own story to tell – unfortunately it didn’t work out that way as almost everything can be gained if a player is willing to grind for it. Now I won’t be going over my disappointment for Destiny again (done that enough) but that one promise of players having their own unique narrative was greatly missed.
Other games however have found their own way in delivering that kind of unique story for players. Even though MMO EVE Online is considered to be intimidating for many and impenetrable to the rest, it has succeeded in creating the kinds of discussion that no other online game has achieved before. I don’t play the game myself (I admittedly steer clear of MMOs) but the tales of espionage, sabotage and epic space battles with winners and losers both in the virtual and fiscal sense are brilliant to read about. Polygon has a some great articles on the game here and here that are perfect for introducing you to the amazing world of EVE where players themselves are creating the big stories.
Now, back to Elite Dangerous… with a few friends all playing the game now we’ve been talking about how some of us prefer to outfit our ships for general purpose use while others are going full blockade runner mode and making them all cargo holds and big engines. Stories of rookie mistakes abound as we let new players know they weren’t the first to crash a ship onto the side of a station or get shot down by the law enforcement. A recent community goal had me then talking about how my ship was interdicted (pulled from hyperspace) by an Imperial Clipper who quickly had me at a disadvantage and proceeded to target my hatches and leaving me leaking my precious cargo. It was an entirely unique situation for me but something that could be shared with others not because that exact same moment was recycled for them but from their own unique experiences through other random encounters or player contacts.
And then there are the wings. Though designed to help small groups of players coordinate for missions they’re also great for keeping people together who might just want to cruise the same bit of space together or take down a few bounties. In that respect the game becomes like the spaceship equivalent of open world racers such as Test Drive Unlimited or more recently The Crew and Forza Horizon – the stakes may be a little higher when you lose but a lot of enjoyment can still be had in making the long trip with a few friends and seeing what comes on the way.
Still, for those new to the game it could perhaps do with a little guidance to help them on their way even if they were just a couple of missions joined via a simple narrative it could set the scene for new players. That’s not to say there isn’t any other stories to tell. Factions and community goals help give players incentive to shape the galaxy by taking sides and completing tasks. More recently members of the wider community started finding alien artifacts and with what appears to be a crashed alien spacecraft being discovered, the developers at Frontier obviously have further plans in store for the galaxy. It’s been a slow burn with this information but it has had a strong effect on many, with long time fans of the franchise wondering if it means the return of some old foes. In my case it certainly adds further interest and incentive to follow up on the reports from the game’s news service and take a look for myself.
So it seems now that my own little corner of the Elite galaxy becomes a little less lonely, the world is also feeling more lived now that friends are traveling similar routes trying to make their own fortunes out there. Maybe when the game reveals a few of its own secrets in the future, we’ll have some of our stories to tell of epic space battles.
Elite Dangerous is available now on PC and Xbox One.