Elite: Dangerous makes me feel incredibly small. With a realistic rendition of our very own galaxy, 400 billion stars each potentially with a system full of planets to see and scan, it would take over 12,000 years for one person to visit every single system if they only stayed in each for literally one second. Feeling small is an understatement; I feel positively tiny.
I have never encountered a game in my years of gaming that has made me feel like this before. I played Frontier: First Encounters — also known as Elite III — about 10 years ago, but even then I only darted between a few familiar star systems to deliver medicine and make money off other people’s plight. I didn’t really think about how big that game was; I just shot pirates and delivered my cargo, hoping I didn’t pop on the way. Most of the games I’ve played and truly enjoyed have felt pretty big, but I’ve felt like a massive part of them, and I’ve known I will explore every inch of the game within time. I will finish every achievement, complete every quest, tie off the storyline in a neat little bow and be done with it. Even the biggest games I’ve played, even the most open, have had some sort of finality after a while.
Not this one. I am very conscious of the fact that I will never explore every little nook and cranny of the Milky Way. I am reminded often that I have to decide where to spend my time, because I can’t see it all. And that’s surprisingly nice, for a change. There is so much for me to do that, instead of being overwhelmed or confused, I find myself cramming all of my time into doing the things I enjoy the most, and seeing the things I wish I was able to see in real life. Just the other day, I posted a video of the Acrux system, a stunningly beautiful system full of stars that glittered with a myriad colours as I scanned each and every one. That is something I will never achieve in my lifetime, but Elite: Dangerous has made that possible for me.
And yet, where space makes me feel pleasantly insignificant, like no matter what I do it ultimately doesn’t matter (and that’s reassuring!), I feel like everything I do in E:D has an impact. I can help overthrow galactic governments. I can hunt down interstellar terrorists and pirates, and make people’s lives that little bit easier. I can actually see the changes I am causing, even if they’re small, on the balance of power in any given star system or region of space. While the game is a sandbox, there are still some hefty decisions commanders will need to take on their journey through the ‘verse. Will you side with the extravagant and powerful Empire, who wiped out an entire species in order to set up their new home planet? Or will you prefer to stick with the corporate and arguably corrupt Federation? Alternatively, will you fight alongside me with the Alliance?
Or if you wish to steer clear of politics and blowing people up, you can always explore the vastness of our galaxy, alone or with friends, and do some interstellar sightseeing. When all is said and done, how will you become Elite?