During my recent move from the UK to Australia, I had to downscale. Pretty much everything I owned was crammed into a suitcase or a cardboard box set for a ten week journey across the pacific. One of the things that sadly didn’t make the list was my old iMac which, with some help from Apple Bootcamp, would also run a copy of Windows and, along with it, a number of games. In its absence I’ve since found myself listening to a lot of the game soundtracks instead, most notably the Elite Dangerous soundtrack. I’m not going to lie, I absolutely love Elite Dangerous.
Why The Love Affair?
As a child I would sit and play this game’s predecessor, Frontier: Elite II, for hours upon end. The basic premise of the game was that you were a space pilot with the entirety of our Milky Way galaxy modelled out. Set over a thousand years in the future you were free to travel wherever you wanted, trade whatever goods you wanted and run missions for whoever you wanted. The sheer scale of everything blew my mind and captured my young imagination like nothing else. My Dad, armed with a pen and some graph paper, would often come and sit with me and plot out star maps while I played, noting down useful trade routes or places that hadn’t been explored yet. Not bad for for wireframe graphics and general MIDI.
Coupled with my Mum’s enthusiasm for all things astronomical, including the occasional episode of The Sky At Night with Patrick Moore, this sparked a life long obsession for me with all things space. I was first in line to see the 1997 rereleases of the original Star Wars films and visited Jodrell Bank many times. Once I was old enough to own a car and a driving license, I would often go cruising for hours in the middle of the night just so I could stop and look up at the stars.
During this time, the developers behind Frontier: Elite II would go into hiding and although rumours of a sequel persisted, nothing would ever materialise. In time I found a new fix, courtesy of Egosoft and their vastly immersive X Universe series of space simulator games. Thanks to an interesting turn of events, mostly me being a major fanboy, I would ultimately end up working for Egosoft and composing the soundtracks for both X3 Terran Conflict and X Rebirth.
Introducing Elite Dangerous
In November 2012 a Kickstarter campaign appeared, with the aim of crowd-funding the relaunch of the Elite series. When I first saw this, I’ve got to be honest, I was excited but I was also skeptical about how successful it would be. Although David Braben, the man responsible for the gaming experience of my childhood, was behind the project there wasn’t much of a precedent for crowd-funding at the time. Over the next two years the game was developed, mostly behind closed doors, by a large community of fans who backed the campaign and put their money where their mouth was. The occasional vague preview would be posted on YouTube and when the game was initially released in December 2014 it received mixed reviews. Warning lights started flashing.
Whenever a long anticipated sequel is announced, for example the recent return of the X-Files after fourteen years, there is generally a great deal of hype. This is, sadly, often followed by a wave of disappointment. Was the same going to happen with Elite Dangerous? After much consideration I decided to take the plunge and buy the game in December 2015, putting my sacred childhood memories on the line. The verdict? Pure awesomeness.
In a way that I could never have imagined, Elite Dangerous takes all of the aspects that made Frontier: Elite II so utterly fantastic and combines them with the latest advancements in gaming. Twenty years on and my mind is being blown once again. I have never experienced such immersion or depth of atmosphere in a game. Everything has been thought through in painstaking detail and is as scientifically accurate as possible. As in the original games, the entire galaxy has been modelled based on real-life observations, but now there are stunning graphics along with a soundtrack and sound design of the highest level.
With the recent news of the Oculus Rift being available for pre-orders, I’m left seriously regretting the decision to leave my iMac in the UK. It looks like an investment in a decent gaming rig might be on the cards pretty soon, along with this Virtual Reality headset. This impressive bit of kit seems set to revolutionise the gaming industry, not to mention wipe out my bank balance, and is a perfect match for games where you find yourself strapped into a cockpit for the majority of gameplay. VR is made for games such as Elite Dangerous, and also Project Cars which is another firm favourite of mine.
To pass the time until that moment, however, I’ll be listening to the rather awesome Elite Dangerous soundtrack by Erasmus Talbot which can be purchased and downloaded from Frontier Development’s online store.