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‘Elite: Dangerous’ Review: Spacepilot VR Fantasy

by David Jagneaux • March 31st, 2016
Boldly going where no HMD has gone before.

- Beautiful graphics
- Pitch-perfect audio presentation
- Limitless depth and complexity
- Immersive VR integration


- Overwhelming for new players
- Very difficult to pick up and learn

elite dangerous screenshot 1

Studio: Frontier Developments

Platform: Oculus Rift (reviewed) and HTC Vive (coming soon)

Price: $59.99 Deluxe Edition (previous owners can redeem Rift version for free)

Release Date: March 28th, 2016

Let’s get this out of the way at the very start: other than the fact that Elite: Dangerous and EVE: Valkyrie both feature names with colons and ships flying around in space, they are about as different as two games can be. Whereas EVE: Valkyrie is all about dog fighting and combat among the stars, Elite: Dangerous is more akin to a simulator experience. Meaning, you’re not just fighting people, but you’re performing everything from takeoff checklists, to maneuvering individual thrusters, docking, trading, pirating, and anything else you could imagine. It’s an open-world space sandbox. Elite: Dangerous is the Gran Turismo to EVE: Valkyrie’s Twisted Metal.

Elite: Dangerous has just as many confounding and vague mechanics as it does moments of pure brilliance and intensity.

That’s it, I’ll end the comparison discussion there. Suffice to say that even though Elite: Dangerous has existed for quite a while outside of VR, there’s no hiding the fact that playing this one inside the Oculus Rift feels like the ultimate version of the game. Previously, we saw a peek into what it was like being a pilot in an intergalactic machine of light and wonder, but now, we get to actually sit in the cockpit and venture out into space on our own. The training wheels come off once you strap on the Rift for Elite: Dangerous.

elite dangerous screenshot 2

For those unaware, Elite: Dangerous aims to be one of the most realistic (or at least as realistic as fictional space fantasies can be) spaceship flying simulator on the market and it succeeds. It’s an overwhelming and daunting experience, to say the least, that has just as many confounding and vague mechanics as it does moments of pure brilliance and intensity.

Simply put, if you are interested in the most hyper-detailed and immersive way to pilot a ship in outer space, you’d be hard pressed to find a better solution than Elite: Dangerous. For example, the simple act of lifting off from the docking bay and exiting a space station deserves practice in and of itself. After several hours of playtime I still have issues landing and docking from time to time. Combat can be extremely exhilarating, but it’s far from an entry-level experience.

Elite: Dangerous is the Gran Turismo to EVE: Valkyrie’s Twisted Metal.

These caveats aren’t meant to downplay the excitement I felt while playing Elite: Dangerous in VR, but it is meant to serve as a bit of a cautious warning to the uninitiated. From trading between spaceports, light travel, exploring the galaxy, and yes, engaging in fast-paced dogfights similar to EVE: Valkyrie, albeit with less ingrained and accessible progression systems, Elite: Dangerous has no shortage of things to do as long as you have the patience and imagination to go out and do them yourself.

elite dangerous uploadvr mining

The addition of a VR headset takes that intense, simulator-level experience and brings it forward even further by a massive magnitude. I can lean forward in the cockpit and turn my head to view different panels and screens of information, instead of hitting a hotkey that disables the rest of my interface. With the Deluxe Edition it even includes the entirety of the Horizons expansion, which allows you to start landing on and exploring planets. VR is absolutely the best way to play this game.

You’re well on  your way to about as close to full-immersion as is humanly possible in 2016.

In fact, if you really wanted to take things even further, you can even download an Elite: Dangerous voice pack that lets you speak to your ship directly, just like the pilots do in all the movies. From there, all that’s left is the suspension of whatever shred of disbelief you have left and you’re well on  your way to about as close to full-immersion as is humanly possible in 2016.

While it would be useful to have a simple way to queue up activities and missions other than a job board with imprecise instructions, that’s also part of the charm. Many of the game’s more intricate and rewarding systems are just as deep, dark, and unknown as space itself.

Elite Dangerous Review UploadVR

Final Score: 8/10 – Great

What Elite: Dangerous lacks in accessible entry points for newcomers it more than makes up for in massive labyrinthine volumes of sheer depth and rewarding activities. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel like the champion of the galaxy for landing your ship correctly and a few hours later has you blasting across the stars to track down your latest bounty. With the right cockpit and HOTAS setup, it can quickly become one of the most immersive and accurate implementations of VR to date.

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