Why does Elite: Dangerous succeed where No Man's Sky fails? The clue's in the title

Elite Dangerous

This isn’t my first haul, though it’s definitely going to be the most dangerous. Trawling through the job postings at the morally bankrupt Robigo Station, I can’t believe my luck: a million credits to ferry some slaves across the galaxy. At ten jumps, it’s a risky trip, but well worth the payoff. Being a space games journalist, I abandoned ethics long ago.

Why not delve into our list of the best space games?

The first jump goes without a hitch, and I decelerate just in time to see the system’s star fill my ship’s canopy with its blinding glow. My hull’s temperature is rising, but I’m at a safe distance from the burning sphere, despite its intimidating size dwarfing my Cobra Mk III. Boosting away, I charge my frame-shift drive - ready to jump to the next system - and I shoot forward, stars trailing past me in neon streaks. 

The next four jumps go by just as uneventfully, but then during the next - just as I try escape the pull of a red supergiant, luring me towards it like a metallic moth - a warning message pops up to tell me I’m being interdicted. Pulled out of supercruise by the interdiction, with my engines powered down, the pirate tells me to surrender my cargo.

So I open fire. 

Elite Dangerous

We’re like intergalactic dance partners, gliding past each other and trading shots. Thing is, I’m being outdanced. Luckily, I hold him off just long enough to power my FSD, so I divert power from my weapons and pump all the juice into my engines, boosting away from the incoming fire as I prepare to jump away.

Battered, bruised, and exhausted, I arrive at the target system, ready to turn in my human cargo. I just need to supercruise to the station and then sneak my way aboard without being scanned by the security forces there.

I’m interdicted again on my way - this time by a security ship who asks me to hold still for a scan. I pop some chaff to throw off its scanners and deploy my hardpoints, forcing it to deploy its own weapons. It’s just enough to buy me some time to retract my weapons, divert energy to engines and boost away in the confusion, charging my FSD and slipping back into supercruise. 

Finally, my ship intact, I reach the station. Once within range, I request docking permission... Denied. All the bays are full. 

Elite Dangerous

At any time, I could be scanned by the station’s security and, if they succeed, I’ll be fired upon and a bounty will be placed on my head - not that I will survive the incoming salvo. I request to dock again. This time it’s approved, so I make my approach to the letterbox opening at the rotating station’s waiting maw. Just then, my HUD picks up a scan from another security vessel, so I push my throttle forward and attempt to speed into the station, fines be damned. All I need to do is pull up at the last minute and sail into the opening inside like the smoothest mofo in the Milky Way. 

I smash straight into the station’s hull. My human cargo, myself, my ship and all my dreams of being an Elite: Dangerous millionaire go up in flames. “Lol” pops up in the open chat window.

While maddening, this series of events during an Elite: Dangerous session seared into my memory, creating an unforgettable gaming experience that was purely driven by the game’s systems and my own choices within them. No Man’s Sky has a lot in common with Elite: Dangerous: both release you into the void of space and allow you to create your own objectives; both allow you to trade, fight in space battles or live your life as an intergalactic pirate; and both allow you to set your ship down on the surface of countless planets. 

 No Man's Sky

Elite: Dangerous currently only allows you to land on planets without an atmosphere, cruising around icy and rocky planets in your SRV buggy, mining rocks, attacking installations and using your boosters to glide safely down to the basin of giant canyons. Meanwhile, No Man’s Sky lets you explore on-foot and mine materials with a beam weapon, scanning flora and fauna for extra credits, taking shelter from the hostile elements on its randomly generate hellscapes, and admiring the verdant alien fields of its lush paradises.

On foot, No Man’s Sky has a clear advantage, on account of you not actually having feet in Elite (yet). As you progress through No Man’s Sky, however, the novelty of setting down onto its worlds begins to wear off, and you only begin to do so to mine the resources needed to craft fuel and make the next jump to another star system as you continue to chase icons across its galaxy map. 

The only story No Man’s Sky can create is where you land on a planet and you can’t find the resources to take off again, so you have to trek across the planet’s surface for hours in pursuit of the right rock to shoot. That or you land your ship somewhere that you can’t reach with your jetpack, forcing you to hike across the planet for a trade platform where you can call your ship to your location. This is because Hello Games decided to let the game automate almost everythingthing remotely dangerous. You can die by being shot by a planet’s robotic sentinels, chewed by a rampaging carnivore, or blown up by attacking ships, but it’s rare and it’s also very unlikely you’ll die because of a tiny error.

 No Man's Sky

To reach a destination in No Man’s Sky, you hold a button and the game boosts you straight there via an autopilot. Stop, go and fire are your only methods of control. Entering a space station, the game steals control away from you as soon as you approach its mouth. You can even aim the nose of your ship at a planet and fly full speed at its crust, but the game will remove your control and pull your nose upwards. Even landing is automated and happens with the push of a button, taking away any feeling of accomplishment. You can, however, crash into an asteroid, but you just bounce off like a bumper car made entirely of rubber. 

In Elite:Dangerous, every station approach is tense, whether you have a cargo hold full of humans or legal trade produce. Landing on planets feels different every time, thanks to different topography and distinct gravitational influences - the entire flight model changes as you approach Elite’s spheres. Try pulling off an aerial stunt on a high-G planet and you will drop like a brick.  

It’s arguable that the two games serve different purposes, with Elite: Dangerous more a space sim, while No Man’s Sky is about galactic tourism. I’d argue that part of galactic tourism should be the danger, as it invests you more into the experience, immersing you more in its many worlds way better than any half-baked survival mechanics ever could. Nothing stops you appreciating the beauty of a primary-coloured solar system as bouncing off an asteroid, or flying towards the system’s star and realising it’s actually just painted on like a skybox, unreachable. These planets are orbiting no star. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Frontier clearly have a much bigger team and more resources than Hello Games, but it just feels like the No Man’s Sky team could have learned a lot about player agency by spending some time with Elite: Dangerous. After all, No Man’s Sky might have 18 quintillion planets, but everything between them feels like empty space. 

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@iamgingerbear avatarmidimaker avatarBambi avatarmonkeyfritz avatarplibb avatarTextra avatar+6
@iamgingerbear Avatar
11
7 Months ago

There are so many moments in ED that bring a smile to my face when i remember them. (E.G. There are hundreds of stars out there with my name on them now and that's one hell of a feeling). The biggest difference between the two for me is that ED spent time making a flight model that felt satisfying, NMS didn't seem to bother with it and that is where a lot of their focus should have been. I can spend hundreds of hours in ED just flying my ships, they feel different from the other ships. Can't say the same for NMS sadly.

6
jakseth Avatar
2
7 Months ago

I remember ED at launch was far worst and i gave up after couple hours. but thanks to your article i am definitely going back. Regarding NMS, after 40 hours I have to say I am really enjoying it. Yeah it’s definitely flawed but discovering and exploring new planets is an absolute blast. And honestly you can’t really compared the two games. NMS is definitely an astonishing technical achievement and I am pretty sure the game will get better in time like ED did..

2
F99 Avatar
2
7 Months ago

I am an Elite Combat CMDR in ED. Jaques needs help. I am willing. Ran a poll on Twitter. Most my CMDR friend voted Jaques. Dropped everything (I was hunting materials at that time). Stripped my Anaconda bare. Made my first long range jump in my 1000 hours career.

I never thought exploring would be a bliss. So calming. Planned to arrives at Jaques in 1 week since it was 22,000 light year away. Progress halted due to my affinity to scan beautiful stars.

2 weeks past. Still half way to go. Bad news. The Community Goal finished early. 2 week earlier than planned. Not surprisingly, thousands of CMDR braved 22,000 light years to help Jaques repairs the mobile station. That is the power of ED Community.

Still carrying cargo for the Community Goal. I ran a poll again. Go back or Continue journey. The same awesome community voted to continue. I dropped all the cargo so I my jumping range increases.

Closer to Jaques, stars are getting denser. Beautiful view. Reached Jaques in just a few days due to my increased jump range. How do you describe the feeling? 1st time far away from home. 8,000 light years closer to the centre of the universe. Greeted by another CMDR and congratulated on my achievement. Amidst the threat of a killer CMDR wandering around, I am happy.

Days later, I decided to mine some Osmium for Jaques. Planned to head back home afterward. I've been saving all the system/planet scan data so I can sell them to the Engineers to level up my tier rank. 1000 ++ systems scan so far with 900++ of them with my name. My first long range exploration.

Mining is done. Head back to Jaques. In front of the station greeting CMDR. I am going back home after this. Granted the permission to dock. Head to the mailslot. "BOOM"!

Exploded. Dead. All the scanned data is gone. All those selfie taken is irrelevant. My 4 weeks of exploration. Evaporated.

I was killed by a notorious CMDR-killing CMDR whom was waiting in the station and ramming CMDRs to oblivion.

I am cool though. Nothing to be done now. Go back and scan again. This is what ED provides you. Moments. You won't find this in No Man's Sky. Why? I played No Man's Sky. Trust me.

TL;DR: It is called Elite: DANGEROUS for a reason.

2
midimaker Avatar
118
7 Months ago

I know banging on about the pre-release NMS videos is probably getting a bit tiring but the game really looked a lot more dangerous, more varied and far more immersive. It's a big shame that so much got stripped out.

I am honestly surprised to see so many new people in the Elite subreddit, people who had hoped for so much more from NMS, who didn't get that itch scratched and are now looking for something that provides more gameplay, more depth and more immersion.

I am really looking forward to Thargoids (or whatever) making the galaxy a terrifying place.

1
Bambi Avatar
1
7 Months ago

They are two very different games, both with the same goal in mind. I am sure NMS would love the realism of Elite, and they would love the planet side details of NMS.

ED had a 10 year plan from release, so I hope Hello Games keep building on what they have started from.

People often say 'a mile mile wide but an inch deep', the universe is, its what we do in it that counts.

1
monkeyfritz Avatar
95
monkeyfritz(17 days 21 hours played)
7 Months ago

Didn't E:D get slammed for being incomplete, and very shallow, for like, the last few years? It's only really picked up favor since horizons, and even then there is that whole 'charge you full price every year for features that were promised way back in the kickstarter campaign' thing that blew up the internet.

(Not trashing the game at all, just saying it's had it's own, very very similar love/hate relationship with gamers, journalists and streamers. Until, suddenly, now.)

Also, the two games are not even the same genre...

"It takes place in space" is not a genre.

One is a simulator, one is arcade. (Burnout v Forza)

One is about space ships, with nearly pointless planets. One is about planets with nearly pointless space stuff.

One is a space trader with a side of piracy, one is an (admittedly low key) survival/crafting game with a piracy salad.

One is an MMO, and one is a single player explorer.

You might as well compare LOTR to Star Wars, because E:D and NMS are complete opposites with only some base similarities. (Magic swords, wizards, evil sorcerers.)

I happen to think they are both great, but I would not compare them at all. Neither one of them should try to be more like the other, because they are nothing alike in the first place. I realize you have to jump on the hate train for the clicks, but if anyone likes one more than the other, then they should play that one.

1
Dipso Avatar
8
7 Months ago

"Charge you full price every year for features that were promised way back in the kickstarter campaign' thing that blew up the internet."

This is simply not true. They where clear from the very beginning that the major additions to the game would be payed expansions.

Some quotes and examples can be found here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/31kc3r/the_future_of_elite_dangerous_paid_expansions/

4
plibb Avatar
10
7 Months ago

@Dipso "This is simply not true. They where clear from the very beginning that the major additions to the game would be payed expansions."

At the very beginning Braben touted planetary landings and never said it would be a paid expansion. Then only a long time later, after he'd flaoted the company on the stock exchange and failed to deliver the game on time, did he start saying he was going to charge for planetary landings.

> Some quotes and examples can be found here: [reddit]

That attempted apology for Frontier's appaling behaviour doesn't EVEN MENTION the Kickstarter campaign we're discussing.

Braben's statement to the Kickstarter backers are a matter of public record on the original site

www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous

1
plibb Avatar
10
7 Months ago

"Didn't E:D get slammed for being incomplete, and very shallow, for like, the last few years? It's only really picked up favor since horizons"

ED Horizons has been a big flop. Very few ED owners bought it . When the first update episode Engineers recently released late was panned by players, Frontier scratched all dates for the remaining updates. Frontier took money in advance for Horizons but when and whether they will actually complete it is anyone's guess.

0
T Avatar
5
T
7 Months ago

Umm... what? That's... that's just not true. The next big update in the season pass has just been covered in detail at Gamescom, ship-lauched fighters and NPC crew, new ships and passenger missions. This coming 2-3 months after the massive 2.1 update which revamped the mission system and added ship mods. The pricing of the DLC may seem daunting to some, but it's a pittance when you consider most MMOs make you pay a subscription, or bombard you with pay-to-win packages.

I'm sorry, but I feel like you haven't done much research.

1
plibb Avatar
10
7 Months ago

@T "So the fact that there was a well documented delay in production means what?"

It's not a well-documented delay. Frontier simply vaped the release dates without any announcement or apology to the people who paid for four expansions this year.

"If you think that 19.99 are too many euros to spend on the DLC"

The DLC is not 19.99 euros it's 24.99.

1
plibb Avatar
10
7 Months ago

"Umm... what? That's... that's just not true. "

Yes its true. Check the Frontier store. All further Horizons delivery dates are vaped. Same on the Steam store ED page.

"This coming 2-3 months after the massive 2.1 update which revamped the mission system and added ship mods. "

The 2.1 update which was due to be finished four months ago and still is missing half of its thirty Engineers.

"The pricing of the DLC may seem daunting to some, but it's a pittance when you consider most MMOs make you pay a subscription"

Hey, most MMOs are good enough for people to want to pay a subscription. ED's multiplayer is so bad that any attempt by Frontier to charge a sub would get a swift "**** off" from the many ED players who have still not received the game they already paid for.

Sorry, but you're the one that's short on research.

0
T Avatar
5
T replied to plibb
7 Months ago

So the fact that there was a well documented delay in production means what? That there will be no further updates? I don't really follow your reasoning.

If you think that 19.99 are too many euros to spend on the DLC then that indicates that you don't like the game, but it's objectively not an unreasonable price to ask for 4 updates.

I feel like the central problem here is that *you* don't like the game, and you're coming on here doomsaying like it's all crumbling and won't be supported anymore, which simply isn't true.

Your opinion regarding the gameplay is valid, not everyone likes Elite and it has its problems, but claiming that there's some kind of development melt-down is misinformation and you need to check yourself.

2
monkeyfritz Avatar
95
monkeyfritz(17 days 21 hours played)
7 Months ago

" It's only really picked up favor since horizons"

I didn't mean that Horizons actually improved it, just that somehow, inexplicably, a full priced dlc with nothing more than promises of future content (content that was originally promised to be part of the main game) has overall generated favor in recent media and reviews of the game.

Recent meaning the last two months. Steam reviews are up, and it suddenly gets a lot of positive attention from the media (like this article). And as you can see here, there are now defenders of the yearly subscription for vapor.

0
plibb Avatar
10
7 Months ago

"Frontier clearly have a much bigger team and more resources than Hello Games"

Despite which Hellow Games' No Man's Sky has in two weeks sold more copies than has Frontier's Elite Dangerous in two years.

No Man's Sky must be doing something right.

1
Dipso Avatar
8
7 Months ago

Three words:

Sony. Marketing. Department.

Sony pushed ALOT of money at marketing.

ED has had very little marketing.

2
plibb Avatar
10
7 Months ago

> ED has had very little marketing.

ED had Microsoft.Marketing.Department plus a ton of international publicity from its Kickstarter crowdfunding.

0
stanscut Avatar
58
7 Months ago

I played the free flight for star citizen the other day and even though the game has many problems, I had more fun with it than I had the first couple of hours in ED (I do not own any DLC's). I hope that SC clearly supersedes ED once both games are more playable.

1
silverkobra Avatar
1
7 Months ago

I very much think that the two games should be merged for a maximum quality space sandbox game.

1
Textra Avatar
1
7 Months ago

I'm annoyed with the gaming media right now. For the past couple of years they've been hyping No Man's Sky, telling us that it's the 'ultimate' game, or the last game you'll ever need. Finally after its disappointing arrival, those same gaming media sites are whacking us over the head with "well, it's your own fault if it isn't the game you expected it to be". It can't just be that the game sucks or that the gaming media over hyped it. No, somehow it's OUR fault that we're disappointed by a crappy game. If 90% of your audience didn't like the game, it probably means it's not a good game. Yet instead of being humble and acknowledging that you got it wrong, you try to shame us into thinking we're the bad guys for not liking it. ("Am I so out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong." - Kotaku). I don't even blame Hello Games. They just tried to make the game they wanted to make. Nothing wrong with that. It's the gaming media I'm pissed at. Lesson learned; don't read gaming media hype. I should have learned my lesson back with the GG revolt. -_-

-1
monkeyfritz Avatar
95
monkeyfritz(17 days 21 hours played)
7 Months ago

Full disclosure: I actually love the game.

But I fully agree with you. It was very much the gaming media that highlighted every "false promise" based on simple vague statements by Sean. But completely ignored every attempt to downplay things and comments like how he expected people to actually hate the game, and knew it would never live up to this insane hype.

But hey, we've got major news media writing articles about how it is there "responsibility" to be biased in their political reporting when they personally don't like a candidate. So what can we expect from anyone these days?

1