For the record: Elite: Dangerous is easily the best game I wouldn’t recommend. It takes a very particular kind of patient to put up with it’s many, many failings enough to enjoy the amazing nuggests of space underneath. This is a game where the space is great. Things are to scale and there’s just enough magic sci-fi tech that a trip from Earth to Mars doesn’t take months, but is still tedious enough to drill that scale into your brain over and over again. But the problem is that there’s nothing there but a high-resolution texture on a sphere and some damn fancy lighting effects.

It falls largely into the same trap of all procedurally generated universes in that it can really only create a finite number of different things, just in infinite combinations. The game falls into a baseline of noise that you impose a plot on by flying through it. I’ve always argued that this simulates the so-called real universe a little too well. A lot of the value in exploration is in the innovative technologies that it requires and the conquest of existential risk, both of which are missing by nature in most vidjagarmes.

When the developers try to liven this mechanical void up with some plot-driven gameplay, they flub it up. Most recently they introduced a whole new way to participate in a campaign, and it started with a vote on the website forums between three indistinguishable choices. Then it slid into a month of simply combining a few existing gameplay modes, which in their defense are pretty fun if you take them seriously. The reward? A special new version of a gun we already have that optionally takes ammo that’ll work on the NPC aliens we’ve been seeing for the last year or so. And it uses the same model as the baseline weapon. And that alien-fighting ammunition you have to craft yourself by grinding rare materials in parts of the galaxy utterly devoid of civilization. That’s the reward for a months-long campaign.

So yeah, there’s a lot of tech in here, and the space is great. But the game is mostly in my headcanon, and Commander Samson Raines is on vacation, again.