Elite Dangerous is a unique game on the PS4. It gives prospective starship captains their own ship and turns them loose on the entire Milky Way galaxy and, if you have the Horizons expansion, many of the planets.
After hours of playing, I have still only begun to scratch the surface of what it offers, and I cannot wait to jump back into the cockpit of the Scooty Puff Jr. to keep exploring and running missions. If the idea of a ship and stars to guide her appeals to you, you should really try Elite Dangerous.
The world of Elite Dangerous is literally the entire Milky Way galaxy with as much of a 1:1 scale as possible. Space stations range from massive structures that could house hundreds of people with heavy stellar traffic to smaller outposts with only a few spots to land.
Planets are truly colossal. If you approach one at high speeds, it slowly fills your entire view with a truly inspiring sense of scale. You can explore many planets in an SRV, basically a buggy with some guns attached. You can only explore planets without an atmosphere for now, but the game is receiving regular updates with new features planned for the future.
With over 400 billion stars, that leaves plenty of room for you and a group of your friends to explore, and playing with others requires a PS Plus membership. Either way, you are always connected online in a persistent world.
Elite Dangerous is full of incredible things to see, from nebulae to different types of stars to zipping through the debris that comprises the rings of a planet. I felt like I was stumbling across something new all the time, especially when I was just starting the game.
That helps, because I found the beginning of the game frustrating and confusing. Elite Dangerous is more dedicated simulation, going into such minute details as varying levels of planetary gravity and how they impact your landing, than a casual jaunt with Wing Commander, and I would not recommend jumping into the game without playing through all of the tutorials.
The developers realize the game is challenging for new people, and a list of tutorial videos can be accessed from the main menu. I went directly to their channel on YouTube and started to educate myself after being unable to reach destinations within the same solar system. I fell down a rabbit hole of videos showing me how to navigate, survive, and eventually start to make a few credits.
Even with all the assigned commands, the controller works excellently. By holding the square, triangle, or circle buttons, you can display a menu of choices, and switching to different information screens on your left, right, below, and above are easily and quickly accessed once you know what to push. The only problem I had was pushing the boost button one too many times to exit a menu. Unfortunately, this happened inside a space station turning my small craft into a battering ram.
Once the initial learning curve was flattened a little, I started to be able to successfully land my ship without being shot, crashing, or being fined. Believe it or not, it can be a lot harder than it looks, but it is necessary to really experience the game.
You receive a free ship at the beginning, and it is the same ship you receive if you run out of funds. If you purchase a new component or ship, there is a rebuy cost. If you are destroyed for any reason, this replaces what you lost for only a fraction of the total cost. If you cannot afford to rebuy your ship and/or components, you will lose them. Never leave home without some credits in your wallet.
Once you start landing on stations, outposts, or planets, you can pick up jobs from the mission board, refuel and repair your ship, buy a new ship or refit your ship with better items, and buy goods to trade. Not all items and services are available at every stop, so try to remember where you last found that 4A FSD for sale.
Finding your way around the galaxy is another adventure. You can see a flat map of the local solar system, or you can view a 3D map of the galaxy. There is a panel on the left to help you filter what you are seeing with different tabs to view and sort information. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but it is very helpful the more you use it.
At least once, zoom completely out of the map and realize there are stars in the game that no one has visited. According to NASA, there are at least 500 billion discovered solar systems (and growing) in the Milky Way. Elite Dangerous has 400 billion of those for you to explore. It is not the unlimited amount in other games, but it is more than you will likely ever see.
The jobs you take can determine how you play the game. Do you want to smuggle illegal goods, or do you want to be a legitimate trader? Do you want to perform kill missions and collect bounties or be a pirate dodging every lawful citizen trying to end your profitable career? Would you prefer to bring home the space bacon by transporting rich passengers on a fancy ship? All of these are valid ways to make a living, and you can even just mine an asteroid and avoid all of that. You can wait in the same asteroid mining area and scan incoming ships to see if they are wanted and blast them into dust for the bounties. The game never prevents you from choosing to do anything or nothing at all.
These jobs will impact your reputation on a local and galactic level with several different major powers. These reputation increases will grant you access to higher paying jobs with that faction and some different ships.
Powerplay is the ultimate extension of that influence. In Powerplay, you can join a power and work toward goals to help expand its influence with specific rewards for increasing your level with that power. Missions are generated based on those goals, and you can earn a few credits by helping to reach them.
It is part of the story-driven-by-the-players idea, but there is no constant narrative in your face, and missions are not given to you by a snarky voice at the other end of a radio telling you that drinks will be free if you succeed. This is a game where you have to make your own fun, but you have freedom to choose and all the tools are ready for you.
With that freedom, one of things I would like to try more in the future is exploration. There is so much space to see, and you can outfit your ship for long-range jumps with a fuel scoop to ensure you never need to worry about running out and being stranded. (That can happen, by the way.) You can even visit our own solar system, cruise by Earth, and even encounter some alien artifacts and structures.
The music of space is not alien. It is a symphonic and electronic, sci-fi movie mix, but it was never a hard-thumping discotheque. It was mostly quiet, rising to the top during some of my travels, but never getting in the way.
The graphics were pretty good, but there were a few times the frame rates dropped. It was not terrible, but it was noticeable. For larger objects like planets, you could see some textures pop in as you neared the surface, but it was never egregious. For the most part, I had many more oohs and awws looking out my windows than ughs.
On the technical side, the only real slow down was when I was waiting for the server. The indicator would move around, and finally move forward. It was never long, but expect it to happen whenever you are at a base and you choose to do anything with outfitting.
There are a few other things I should mention. First, there is no pause button. If my ship was blasting towards a station and I had to take out the trash or stop one of my kids from eating something off the floor, hitting the options button did not pause the game. By the time I came back, I would have rammed the base and destroyed myself or earned a fine.
If you want to fly more steadily, turn off the controller wobble. I seem to lack the basic human ability to keep a controller level, so my ship would stumble around like I had just finished half a keg by myself. Once I turned off the option in the exhaustive list of options, I was able to land successfully more often.
The third item is that this game is crying out for PSVR support. It already has it on PC, but it would look amazing on the PS4 when you turn to view various screens in your cockpit. The game is built for it, and I hope it is added in future updates. The immersion would be insane.
Despite some aggravation in the beginning, Elite Dangerous has grown on me, especially my OCD side. It takes a lot to learn, but it is worth it. The game really holds your attention, and there is always some new surprise.
Jumping around the galaxy is mostly peaceful (unless you want a little action), and I look forward to seeing more. There is still so much to see. I have not even mentioned engineers to improve your ship, the ability to launch pilotable fighters from your ship, or the ability to have crew members.
If you want a game that holds your hand, stay clear. If you want a little trip through space with the freedom to do mostly what you want and you have a little patience, you will love what Elite Dangerous has to offer.
Elite Dangerous PS4 Review
Elite Dangerous is a simulation with a steep learning curve, but the freedom to explore the Milky Way Galaxy and its 400 billion star systems is unlike anything else on the PS4. Whether playing solo or with friends, you have multiple ways to earn credits to buy and fine-tune your newest space chariot with better parts. You can also just be a tourist on a sightseeing trip.
Even though it does not have PSVR support, if you have wanted to go to infinity and beyond in your own ship, this may be the closest we get to the real thing. Despite any other issues, that sense of realism makes Elite Dangerous easy to recommend for anyone who has ever dreamed of voyaging across the cosmos.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a base PS4.