This is Elite. It released in September 1984. I spent 3.5 hours last night playing it for umpteenth time. It was a great feeling to once more slide into the seat of a Sidewinder spacecraft and launch into space. It was like coming home after being gone for 30 years.
This is also Elite: Dangerous. In no way does it technically resemble the original Elite. It is far more beautiful for one thing, as the mosaic above proves. Yet given a three decade gap in the technology, the new game deftly captures the feel of the old game. When I first launched, there was no doubt I was playing Elite. It felt the same at a visceral level. I find that somewhat remarkable. Well done Frontier.
That said, it wasn’t easy getting the hang of the new game. There is no good tutorial. They are all about fighting your ship or flying your ship. There isn’t anything that really tells you how the UI, the program itself, works. I found my joy of flying an Internet spaceship dampened by the necessity of figuring out what buttons/keys/sliders controlled which aspect of the UI. For Elite: Dangerous, I purchased a Saitek x52 Pro HOTAS as an early pressie for myself. It makes flying the ship a wonderful experience, but it makes a hash of the UI. The left side panel is controlled by the POVs and buttons of the stick. The galactic and system maps are mouse driven. Nevertheless, some stick buttons are active and accidentally bumping one can send you anywhere. I find the same incongruity in Station Services. Most screens are mouse driven, but not all. Now, heap on this the fact the easiest way I’ve found to switch between UI screens is by using 1 through 4 on the keyboard, and there were times I found myself wishing I was an octopus with eight tentacles instead of only two hands. My desk layout is an arms width comprised of (left to right) throttle, keyboard, stick and mouse in that order. And I have to use them all! The lack of documentation for any of this leads to a level of obfuscation that is mind numbing.
Still, it is worth the effort. I can mitigate some of the obfuscation with a few reprogrammed HOTAS buttons and sliders. With any luck I can remove the keyboard from the equation. There are three modes on the X52 Pro and I haven’t taken advantage of the other two yet. To do that I’ll have to program the HOTAS directly though, and I’m not certain the controller interface will allow that. I’ve been struggling a bit between the naming convention in the game for buttons and things and what Saitek calls them. I’ve got a lot of reading to do. I’m sure if it’s possible someone has done it. Reddit don’t fail me now!
Elite: Dangerous is a fantastic experience, especially for those who played the original. Even if I had to continue with the present obfuscated learning curve, I would. I can see where younger gamers who never played the original wouldn’t put up with such a system, and not like the fact space is vast and even at 400 times C it takes time to get from station to station, but the fact this new game still feels like the Elite I came to love means I’ll live with it. It’ll get better. I may even be Elite when it does.