Look, Elite Dangerous is nothing new. It's just new to me. This year, anyway. I'd been bellyaching about wanting Elite Dangerous to come to PlayStation 4 for so long that our own senior hardware editor, John Yan, made me put a sock in it by piecing together a PC for me out of stuff he had lying around. It was all years-old stuff to him, but still gets me in the top 10 percent when I look up games today on Can You Run It.
So, finally, I'm digging into a game from 2014 that has easily (easily!) become my favorite game of 2017. On the scale of Afterburner arcade vs. MicroProse flight simulator, Elite Dangerous is definitely on the MicroProse end of the scale. My first dozen hours were spent drying to remember where my landing gear was, which direction I was supposed to land once I did find my landing gear, and then not accidentally clicking the boost button when I was only a dozen meters from the tower. It took some research to know how to approach planetary bodies with some civility, rather than getting stuck doing the "turn of shame" when I'd overshot my destination. Even figuring out how to read the commodities board, just to engage in some trading, was like doing homework.
It's a heck of a game. All those years I'd been wanting it, I had no idea what I was really asking for. And several of us staffers have been hooked hard for several months now. The aforementioned John Yan had been singing its praises for some time. You don't even want to see all the arms and side tables he's jerry-rigging to his office chair to get his flight stick HOTAS setup fully operational—and that's not even mentioning his HTC Vive VR headset he's got but is also getting hung from the ceiling. And then there's GN Editor-in-Chief Chuck Husemann, who's been playing with just an Xbox One gamepad, but has invested entire workweeks into his habit. There's Sean Cahill, our resident expert in blowing up anything and everything in whatever game he's playing, who's found his moment of zen in Elite Dangerous, pushing his way up the merchant marine ladder, always angling for a better ship for that bigger haul.
I just had to say something. This isn't news. Elite Dangerous isn't killing it when it comes to gaming headlines. Not this far along in its release schedule. But it's already finding a tender spot in several of our hearts, filling that niche that us old-growth gamers tend to have, with gameplay straddling somewhere between a relaxing grind and our actual day jobs. So here are a few screenshots from my time. John has bigger ships, Chuck has more drive, and Sean is just plain more violent than the rest of us combined, but that's okay. He works in customer service. Doubtless these other guys have some great screenshots to share, too. There's no way to convey the good times we've had in-game just from showing you a few photos. But know that as I was angling for these shots, we were all in Discord, chatting it up, cracking jokes, and generally having a grand old time.
The systems are detailed, thoughtful, and make the simple act of take-offs and landings feel good. The open world gameplay keeps the options on our HUD wide open, from mining and trading to exploring and murking. We all have our reasons, but I certainly love that it takes place in a somewhat procedural rendition of our very own Milky Way galaxy. Fuel scooping my way through the Pleiades star cluster on my way through the Orion constellation is something that brings the nascent astronomer in me great joy. All of us want to get our ranking up so we'll be issued the permits to finally make the pilgrimage to Earth in the Sol system. And Elite Dangerous is also the closest thing I've had to Wing Commander: Privateer since Wing Commander: Privateer.
So, here's to my favorite game of 2014 that I've finally discovered in 2017. See you out there, commanders. Fly safe.