Every so often a game will come along that feeds my need to relax and forget about day to day life. I often find these games are the complete opposite of what I would expect. Games will depth but a fantastic surface layer of repetition.
Elite Dangerous is one stuck game which has made its way into my collection (at last!) I've always had a soft spot for sci-fi games set in space, currently Stellaris is holds the crown as my favourite, but it's not generally my go to theme or even genre.
As with most games I end up buying, I watched an hour or so of game play and decided I could sink some time into this. Thankfully, a good friend of mine has been playing the game for a number of years and passed on some good advice. Wait for a discount and buy the horizons DLC at the same time.
I followed his advice and picked up the bundle for £11. After finishing the training (and seeing why the horizons add-on is worth the extra price) I was ready to venture out into the world.
At this point I should explain why I picked up the game and what I was hoping to get out of it. I wanted a slow repeatable exploration and logistics game. When I saw and read through what Elite Dangerous was, one thing stood out. It's hauling cargo in space with lasers. Which, I don't need I need to justify, sounds fantastic.
Any game which I can play on my Xbox controller on my PC and just become immersed in a repeatable, engaging loop is perfect for me. I have a few games which fit this bill not because they are designed that way, it's because I have played and completed them so many times already. It's the ultimate escape, a very simple pattern which is rewarding and a bit of a time sink.
I have my controller in hand, my account ready, training complete (flying is not as easy as I expected but that feels a bit of the charm,) and I was ready to go.
The game feels slow and laboursome, but I mean this in a good way. Every action is deliberate. To land your ship you need get within a set distance, make a docking request, get approved, then fly in following the rules given to (or use the auto-docking if your ship has it.) To land you need to put out your wheels, you need to be pointing a set direction, you need to land in a set space. If you take too long, or mess around, you'll get shot down.
Flying between planets is real time, and the game is a scale model of the Milky Way. Going from one side of a solar system to another will take you 10 minutes in real time, of just flying. It's slow, it's boring, you'll do other stuff while it's happening.
Not to say that is the whole game. There are dogfights, you can transport passengers, you can mine, land on planets, explore new worlds, and so much more. For me, I just want to haul stuff through space and make a profit.
The added danger adds the spice I wanted to the game. This for me is the difference between Euro Truck Sim and the same game but in a spaceship. There is a risk, it's complicated, when it needs your input it requires your attention, other players can be unpredictable, a live market to try and play against, and unknown risks with every jump.
All in all, the game has been a pleasant and welcome surprise for me. I'm enjoying venturing out deeper into space and find my own little trading routes. I don't feel the pressure to be the best trader in the universe, or the most min/maxed ship in the galaxy.
I happily fly along, stick some YouTube on the other monitor, and just enjoy being distracted. Enough danger and unknown to excite me, with a predictable loop that I don't mind grinding.
For right now there is no other way I want to relax, than flying my space ship through the Milky Way enjoying my life as a space trucker.
Alister Sneddon - February 7, 2020, updated February 7, 2020