The Elite: Dangerous Trailer
Launch fever for Elite: Dangerous continues to ratchet up to new levels of excitement. Yesterday ‘Gamma 2.0’ was released to early access backers with a whole slew of bug fixes, graphical enhancements and some new ships – mostly notably the ‘Adder’ from the original game, completing a comprehensive pantheon of ‘Snake Ships’ – one of the most recognisable aspects of ‘Elite’.
Last week we got a teaser that there was a new trailer coming, showing a pilot walking past and heading towards a ship (A Viper I believe) with an Elite logo (glowing Apple Mac style) on his shoulder.
Yesterday an, or possibly the, official launch trailer for Elite: Dangerous was revealed across the major gaming sites and on youtube. If you haven’t seen it yet – watch it first…
Right then. Here’s what it shows.
It opens with a group of seven pilots leaving an airlock, each individually heading towards their ships with an undertone of menace and danger. The accompanying music driving and discordant; a major stylistic departure from the classical soundscape that characterises the actual game and previous trailers.
We are flung into space where it’s just possible to grasp a mining operation is underway when our protagonists (or are they antagonists?) fly in and launch an apparently unprovoked attack on the miners, destroying a number of ships. For some reason no one appears to have had their shields up – numpties. A battle then rages through the asteroid belt.
The attacking ships then flee across a short span of space into the vicinity of a space station, whereupon they set upon the stations defensive forces, looping and swirling around the station in a manner very reminiscent of the opening scene of ‘Revenge of the Sith’, episode III of Star Wars. They evade fire from a series of larger ships, and pulling off some radical manoeuvers, taking advantage of the three degrees of movement possible in space. Having stolen a single canister of gold ( you spotted the ‘Au’ right?), they jump into hyperspace and make good their escape…
Cut to credits.
So, what did I think? My first impression was that I didn’t like it. This was mostly down to the music. No disrespect to Royal Blood, (a British Band from Brighton apparently – good to note) but it’s simply not my cup of tea and just sounded like noise. Yes, I’m old. Had the backing track been ‘Real wild child’ by Iggy Pop then I would probably have enjoyed it a lot more.
On more measured reflection my views are as follows.
This trailer is clearly aimed at a younger demographic than the crusty compadre of commanders from the 1980s such as myself. The focus is on instant and accessible conflict, show-boating your spacecraft, epic space battles and a devil may care attitude to law and order. It was GTA V in space, which Elite: Dangerous has been compared to before given its open ‘sandbox’ environment.
In this it succeeded. It certainly looked ‘Dangerous’. There was exciting space borne combat, a lot of different ships, impressive graphics and a variety of weapon load-outs featured.
But that was about it.
It is a ‘cinematic’ trailer for a game and as such is entitled to play fast and loose with the idea behind the game, rather than the actual experience of playing it, however…
I was disappointed to note that it seemed to enforce gender stereotypes. The seven pilots are universally male as they strut across the station launch apron, with what appeared to be a female character standing at the boarding ramp of one of the ships clearly awaiting the pilot. Subliminal message – it’ a boys’ game, and girls probably aren’t up to it – “Is this your boyfriend’s, ship luv?” A poor show in this day and age. – **EDIT – Apparently I missed that two of the pilots were female. Ed Lewis (Community Manager at Frontier) has told me that an equal number of males and females were shown, so I’ll retract that criticism.**
The models from the game are being used, but the effects are not. The ships are clearly animated, moving in a way not possible in game, the ubiquitous “Not Actual Game Footage” moniker spelled out at the beginning of the trailer. Why not, when the game looks so good?
The gameplay presented was closest to the ‘Pirate’ role, but it was beyond that, it was anarchic. The story asked us to believe that a group of pilots would viciously attack a bunch of (presumably innocent?) miners and run the not inconsiderable gauntlet of a well-armed and fully defended space station for no good reason other than looting a single canister of cargo. Why?
The single message that this trailer conveyed was that Elite: Dangerous was simply about opportunistic ship to ship combat and nothing else. First time visitors are going to see a ‘twitch’ game where you pummel everyone into submission and go on a rampage through the galaxy with little thought for the consequences.
The plot made little sense and felt contrived simply to showcase the fighting ships. Unfortunately virtually everything shown in the trailer is not possible in the game. You can’t fight in close proximity to a station, you’ll be killed instantly by overwhelming firepower. You can’t yaw 180 degrees on a sixpence in the manner shown, the in-game flight model specifically prevents it. The high speed evasive ‘warp’ doesn’t exist, you have to charge up your drive first…
I can only assume it was a trailer targeted at a very specific demographic – young male gamers. It contained no depth, and ignored much of the rich tapestry of the game as a result. The Royal Blood Lyrics are all about violence and revenge.
I got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it
But a trigger for a heart beating blood from an empty pocket
Assuming that’s what it was for it was well targeted. If that’s one of the trailers for the game then that’s fair enough, you can spin Elite: Dangerous in a number of ways depending on who you’re pitching to. If that was the ‘Spotty male adolescent’ trailer, game on.
But if that’s the only trailer, then it’s selling the game seriously short.
There are a lot of aspects to the game that are more appealing and measured. Trading requires more thought on how to portray it successfully in a trailer, but a combination of stealth, tension and high value goods being moved between murky destinations could have been visually enticing. There have been enough fan videos showing smuggling to demonstrate that. There’s romance in the ‘tramp-steamer’ model that could have been woven in.
Exploration would be an ideal opportunity to showcase gender equality. How about an obviously female pilot locating a rich source of rare metals or an earth-type planet hidden in some distant nebula? Amelia Earhart anyone? **EDIT – See earlier correction about male/female pilots as I was deliberately exaggerating for effect here.
Whilst there, there’s no reason that we couldn’t have had a cut scene at the end of the current trailer where a female pilot in a large powerful ship, unimpressed by the prepubescent antics of the inexperienced male pilots as displayed, presses a trigger and calmly obliterates them all. Bounty hunter. That would have been an excellent twist – hinting that there was more to the game than first impressions would suggest. **EDIT – See earlier correction about male/female pilots as I was deliberately exaggerating for effect here.
The scale is missing too. Previous trailers have talked about the billions of stars, making your own way in the universe. Where was that sense of wonder? A pan away from the action at the end to make it very clear that the galaxy is unbelievably large and your part in it is very small indeed…
What about the politics? There is a rich and growing story line about to be revealed regarding the machinations of the Empire and the Federation… there was no indication of this at all.
With the music veering tangentially away from the themes that have been used to date, the focus on nothing but instant gratification in ship combat and the lack of depth portrayed I can only give it a half-hearted recommendation. It’s pretty, it’s exciting, and it’s Dangerous…
But it wasn’t Elite.
Let’s hope there are some other trailers that will have more ..ahem.. universal appeal.