In my recent post about Returning to Elite Dangerous, Ysharros of Stylish Corpse told me something that has become quite familiar to hear when talking about Elite — the first few hours are tough, and she chose to give up rather than continue trying. To be specific, she described the first few hours as, “like an aunt-knit sweater that’s both itchy and 4 sizes too small – it’s just not comfortable.” So she asked me what it was like in my first few hours and how I overcame that.
Now, I played Frontier First Encounters, also known as Elite III many years ago. Flight was completely different, and while it was sandboxy, it felt a lot more…”contained”, I suppose. I also played EVE for about four years on and off. I am familiar with steep learning curves, but even so when I first jumped into Elite: Dangerous I was very intimidated, for one reason and one reason only.
I couldn’t fly.
I’m not even joking, I was absolutely terrible. I tried with a keyboard and mouse in the tutorials, and mostly I just spun off into the distance. I couldn’t keep shooting in one direction because I spent most of my time panic-spinning and firing off my laser every 5 – 10 seconds when an enemy whizzed past my front viewport. And don’t even get me started on docking! I destroyed many a Sidewinder in my first few hours of play because I couldn’t quite master the docking experience. In fact, I couldn’t quite master finding the slot to get into the station, and spent a lot of my time rotating around it looking for the entrance.
But after a few hours of play, I started to master flight and docking, at least the basics. I went on to try combat, and it still wasn’t overly intuitive at first, but I got used to it after a little while and now bounty hunting is one of the things I spend most of my time in-game doing!
A few things that have made this easier, though: my Xbox 360 controller was much easier to use for flight than my keyboard and mouse at first, and a joystick/throttle even more useful; Voice Attack prevents me from getting keybinding overload as I just have to remember voice commands for my ship; practising in the combat tutorials was helpful, even if I never finished them.
Honestly, what I think made me persevere through the initial difficulty was the fact that the game is truly beautiful, and is more importantly our best guess at what our own galaxy looks like. It has endless systems and stars to explore; in fact, to give you an idea of just how vast it is, it would take one player 381 years playing non-stop to just visit every single system, let alone actually explore it. That to me is super exciting, and made me want to explore even more!
As someone who adores space and wishes she could go there, that was just astounding. This game gives me a way to do that, and with planetary landings announced yesterday at Gamescom, exploration has even more purpose.
On top of that, there’s the option to bounty hunt, run missions, or fight in wars. You can trade or mine. You can become a pirate, which for an ex-EVE pirate was pretty tempting, I’ll be honest!
All in all, there is just so much to do. You have to make your own fun to some extent, because it is a sandbox game after all, and I’ll admit it wasn’t easy to get into at first. But with all of the above in mind, I definitely think it was worth it.