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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Elite Dangerous is a space-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Players have the option to be traders, tour guides, and explorers, or pirates and criminals. If players want, violence can be avoided as they play the game. When it's engaged, players use missiles, lasers, and guns to destroy other ships or damage buildings, although there's no gore shown; just explosions to mark the destruction of a target. There's some downloadable content to customize your ship, but it's not heavily promoted by the game. The same can be said about the existence of wine and narcotics, which can be acquired and sold in ports. The complexity of the game controls, especially on console, can be frustrating, especially because it requires multiple button inputs to perform one task.
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What's it about?
ELITE DANGEROUS is an MMORPG that provides players with the flexibility to determine what kind of experience they want to have in a truly open galaxy composed of 400 billion star systems. Players are initially given a spaceship and a small amount of money, and have to decide how they want to shape their lives. This means they can choose a legal pathway to fame and riches, like trading, mining, and tourism, or they can go into criminal endeavors, such as black market sales, pilot hunting, and assassination. Players can also choose to engage in galactic intrigue with rival galactic factions, which unlock new missions and ranks for players, as well as access to permit restricted star systems. How the future of the galaxy is shaped will depend on the actions of you and your fellow commanders.
Is it any good?
This space adventure is amazingly deep, giving players freedom to define their own tale, if they can deal with some confusing elements and frustrating controls. Plenty of open world games say that they give you the option to do whatever you want, but Elite Dangerous lets you define what you choose to be against the backdrop of 400 billion star systems that can be fully explored. What's more, unlike in other MMORPGs or single-player games, you can start to define your role as soon as the game launches. For instance, you can leap into a system, mine for resources, track down and discover materials from a destroyed ship, and then blast a pirate and collect a bounty before you dock at the nearest space station, just because you feel like it. You can even live out your dreams of being a space pirate or smuggler (if you feel like embracing your inner Han Solo). If you want a larger role in interstellar politics, you can choose to support or foil the goals of some of the galactic factions by taking on critical missions, which changes and impacts the entire universe. That's without taking into account trading opportunities, sightseeing missions, radio signal searches, etc.
Needless to say, you could spend weeks, if not months, circling a small cluster of planets and systems and still not exhaust the content in those areas. That's an incredible achievement. But not everything is perfect in this space odyssey. For one thing, if you're playing on a console, the button commands that you have to remember are very complex. Even when you know what you need to do, you can stumble into the wrong sequence in the middle of action because you forget which direction you needed to press or what your shortcut was. Another issue is that landing on bases or some space stations alternates between incredibly simple and unbelievably frustrating. Much of this is related to the angles of docks and having to tightly maneuver your ship into the right position. Honestly, until you have the money to afford a docking computer (and your ship has the power and space requirements for it), you'll have this constant push and pull between feeling like the best pilot in the stars and wanting to throw something at your screen. Finally, it would've been better if the icon and navigation system was a bit clearer to figure out. For example, finding the direction of a star system that you're trying to leap to isn't always easy. Your jump point could be 215 degrees behind your present location, but being able to always locate it, especially if you're just exiting a battle, means that you'll spend a lot of time hunting around for something that could be indicated in a better way. But even with these issues, the depth and content of Elite Dangerous is so incredible, this space adventure will easily draw you back into your ship's cockpit day after day. If you're a sci-fi fan, you really owe it to yourself to check this out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about space. If you had the option to command your own ship, would you be an explorer or a trader? Would you see a reason to do something more illicit? Why?
Families can talk about teamwork and communication. How does proper communication foster teamwork? Do you like playing with someone who’s polite or rude?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $29.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Frontier Developments
- Release date: June 27, 2017
- Genre: Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG)
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.