Archive for February, 2015

Elite dangerous: Great mechanics but little content

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

I quit a lot of games early with plenty of unplayed content because the core mechanics suck. The game may be unbalanced, or the UI has flaw(s) I can’t get over, or the player may be punished for things that were not their fault. Elite Dangerous is unusual in that it has the opposite problem: great mechanics, but very shallow content?

In terms of mechanics, Elite Dangerous has the best controls I’ve ever seen in a space fighter game. The level of remapping is overwhelming at first but somehow all works together to support any way you want to play. The user interface is crazy complex for a game, yet provides almost all the information you need when you need it. The galaxy interface, at first sight, blew me away with how much information there was.

But as I said earlier, where’s the content? A computer cannot generate new or meaningful content; it can only randomly do the same thing different ways. So once I’ve killed X pirate ships I’ve killed all of them. Once I’ve seen a few galaxies, I’ve seen them all. Once I’ve visited the 4 or 5 different types of space stations, they are no longer interesting to look at. Like someone on Reddit said, the content is a mile wide but an inch deep.

While you can see other players fly around in a system they might as well be AI controlled. Besides rare text chat and trying to attack someone for no reward you have no interaction with other players. You cannot fly together, you cannot fight together, and even if you could you wouldn’t want to because there are no challenges that require this or systems in place to support doing so.

Just off the top of my head things that are missing:
Unique content, besides giving a few planets (such as Earth) a special texture
Quest progression. All missions are one-shot, at most giving you the choice between supporting one of two identical factions.
Meaningful interaction with other players
In-depth reward system. There’s no unique or special loot.
Meaningful differentiation between factions
Meaningful impact of rank and reputation
Capital ships
Planets and stars are just obstacles
Large scale combat

The launch trailer is actually a lie, as you can’t do the important things it shows, including large scale combat, working with other ships, multiplayer, or capital ships. Maybe they should have spent that money on level designers instead.