Star Citizen vs. Elite: Dangerous
I love Spaceship Games. I really do.
When Star Citizen (The heir of wing commander) came on Kickstarter i had to back It.
Basically at the same time there was Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter as well – something i didn’t know about, because it was not hyped as much. So i didn’t manage to back it that early there.
During the course of last year I raised my pledge to Star Citizen (considerably), as i was reading a lot of the marketing stuff CIG did publish. Then shortly before Christmas, when ED published their first Alpha Release (and announced Oculus Support in Alpha 1.1) i bought the alpha package of Elite: Dangerous as well. Both have been about the same amount of money for me in total. Now – half a year later ED has left alpha phase and entered Beta (friday last week) and Star Citizen has published their so called Dog Fighting Module (or “Arena Commander” how they have started calling it.
I have played ED in Alpha a bit, and last weekend quite some amount of time more the Beta. Star Citizen: Arena Commander was released today, and i’ve spend about 1 1/2 hours playing it now. Since it doesn’t come with much functionality i feel like now is a good time to write a few words in comparison.
Also, let me mention what i’ve been playing those two games on:
Gaming Laptop, Core i7 with an nvidia GTX 660M graphics card and plenty of RAM, and a X52 HOTAS Setup as a controller.
When reading this, please keep in mind, Star Citizen is in… alpha/pre-alpha/whaterver, Elite: Dangerous has reached Beta.
The Beta of Elite: Dangerous is all that i expected it to be. While it still has a lot of bugs, and the content sounds more than it is, it is already a game which i can enjoy playing, especially with its multiplayer mode, and non-consentual PvP.
So what is playing Elite Dangerous like? It feels like an old friend (and i didn’t play much of the original Elite – i know it, i liked it but i spend a lot more time with games like wing commander or freelancer). You have a world you can freely travel in, with the most beautiful star systems i’ve seen in a game. While the ships are model wise quite simple models, the environment is just gorgeous. You can just fly around, you can hop on supercruise to go faster than light within a system (the closer you are to gravity wells the slower you’ll go though), and you can use the hyperdrive to jump to other systems. And if you want to dock at a station, say you need ammo, want to repair, or you want to buy a better ship, you actually have to dock (match the rotation speed of the airlock, enter the station, and then land on a landing pad).
There are currently 5 playable ships in the Beta, that you can gain access to by actually playing the game and buying them for ingame currency.
The Dogfighting is fun, even if it at times feels a bit too slow paced. Flying a curve seems sometimes to take ages.
The NPC’s aren’t the smartest ones, but they have a selection of tactics that they use against you (Some attack Close Quarters, others will try Boom ‘n’ Zoom attacks, others will attack 3 at once, and sometimes when its looking bad for them they will try to run away)
The game can completely be controlled by my HOTAS setup, and feels like it is made for such (Mouse+Keyboard or Gamepad just don’t work that well).
Graphics: the graphics run absolutely fluent on my setup. The ship graphics sometimes seem a bit low detail, which probably is because the ships in the end are trying to resemble the simple geometry from the original elite game. I mentioned the environment before, its gorgeous.
Performance: i already mentioned, its running quite fluent, however sometimes you will have rubberbanding and lag issues when other players are in the same instance that you are in.
A few of the main issues of the current status of Elite Dangerous (keep in mind thats ok for a beta):
- It currently lacks any sort of Community feature – while i can play with other people, i can not team up or communicate
- There are *many* Bugs, you wont be able to play for an hour without hitting one.
- While there is 5 Star Systems to travel through, and you can literaly spend hours traveling around, the content itself is not-that-much. You end up with a hand full of random events (interdiction) and a hard set of instances you can fly to and run for farming some money and/or kills
With its big hype this game has already created a myth that it will have a hard time to live up to. Personally my confidence in this game was slowly drained over the last 12 month. The hangar module was the first, lets call it shock, since as an EVE Player i don’t react to well on anouncements that they spend their development resources on Walking in Stations, rather than flying in space. I was surprised that a lot of people on the Star Citizen forums actually got even more excited by this overglorified model viewer.
Then when the DFM module was not released (as they announced before) around christmas last year, and Chris Roberts posted it would be a bit longer because they didn’t want to crunch over xmas, i started to actually lower my expectations. It was obvious (to me) that the “no crunch” excuse was just an excuse, and not really honest – if you are just a crunch away you don’t need several month more if you don’t crunch. Well anyways, enough of that rant. The DFM Module got pushed a few more times & during that renamed to Arena Commander and released yesterday. And as much as i’m trying to be objective, and as much as i’m trying to like this game, keep in mind that my first impression might already have been influenced by some disappointment before. In sincerely hope it isn’t, but it wouldn’t be honest to not mention it.
So what is it like to play Star Citizen? Well you start in the Hangar Module, where you can hop in your ship (either one of the ships you own, or if you don’t have any eligeble ship the one that they give you). In my case i do own a variant of the Hornet, but they have given me another Variant for Arena Command. Then you can chose between two game modes (free flight / Vanduul Swarm) and two maps. In freeflight you can just zoom around a bit on the maps, and in vanduul swarm several waves of vanduul ships will come and attack you (and some of your wing buddies)
A lot less crashes than in ED.. which uhm.. well they kinda over optimized for an alpha
Supposedly there is a multiplayer mode as well, however that one has not been enabled yet, and apparently they plan on enabling it step by step, Gold Card owners first, then backers by oldest backer id first, and once those are all enabled they want to allow those who bought an arena commander pass
In the vanduul swarm mode you will “dogfight” against npc controlled ships, where the npc don’t really seem to be too smart, they mostly try to circle around you and every now and then shoot at you. The same goes for your wingbuddies, they don’t seem to behave that much smarter. The controls seem more sensitive than the ones of elite dangerous, and the ships will feel faster and more agile. That said, they have a tendency to tumble, and with being so sensitive that makes aiming hard. The field of view is a lot smaller in SC’s Hornet, compared to all ships i’ve tried in Elite Dangerous. It is improved a bit by the lock-symbols not being projected on your ships screen, but on your characters helmet, so you will see the lock at least when a ship is behind one of the non-transparent parts of your cockpit.
What is really amazing and great is the damage model, if your shields go down and you take hits, its not just removing a hull counter as on ED, no, it actually starts destroying parts of your ship – and your ship will lose functionalities. And it is pretty cool that after battleing 6 or 7 vanduul fighters you are mostly a tumbling wreck with guns.
Controller wise, i tried with my beloved HOTAS setup, which didn’t work out too well. only the smallest amount of functions is mapped to the x52, and i could not find a menu where i can map the other functions to the buttons, axis and switches that i have left and while the pinkie switch annoyingly switched to a set of.. lets call it screenshot-making-views, i had no buttons for strafing or using my lateral thrusters in any other way, no headlook mode and could not use any of the HUD items.
The Xbox Controller i tried actually worked better, because here where more controls mapped. I did not try Mouse+Keyboard, but apparently by looking at the help, thats the only way how you can use all functions.
Graphics: Star citizens strong suite? *maybe* The Ships are looking amazing. They look like.. well i’d expect such ships to look, they really really did a good job there. BUT.. Basically the game has 3 maps right now, a hangar map, and two arena maps. And those maps are.. not so nice. The hangar looks ok, but with the ships showing *all* details it gets quite low in framerate with my setup and feels quite sluggish. The Arena Maps both have a nice skybox, and the asteroids look almost as good as Elite: Dangerous ones. The ships seem to be tuned down a bit on detail here (which to me is good), but still even with low details it just feels like you have a low framerate.
And then there is this thing (maybe i should have mentioned that under gameplay) that this is just maps. While in ED even the first maps felt gigantic (i’ve not once hit a wall) Arena Commander seems extremly small. You are basically in a sphere, and as soon as you get to the borders (Which happened to me constantly) you will first get a warning, and then see your ship drift away and get the option to respawn. This is visualised with something thats probably best described as a spherical holo grid. And it really breaks immersion.
Then the weapons firing. Uhm lasers shoot some sort of laser projectile, that travels slow enough that when you are turning your ship fast enough, you can actually see it from the side. At those distances a laser should be an instant hit.
Performance: i didn’t get to test any netcode yet, but as i mentioned under graphics, it is a bit slow AND as i havent mentioned yet, you have huge loading times for the game and for the maps.
And here a list of my main issues with SC/AC
- Controller: i want to configure mine. and i want it to work properly, i want more than 9 of the keys/functions mapped to my 32key times 3modes Hotas Setup. I don’t need a picture showing me on a graphic screen what key is what, if most keys aren’t in use.
- Tumbling: it would be nice if while staying as sensitive as it is now, the inertia that causes the tumbling could be adjusted just so you can actually aim with a joystick.
- The Walls: running into an wall of a map in space.. get rid of it. even if you don’t have content to fill the rest of space around it with anything, let us just fly in nothing then.
- The Performance: please a) performance tune the cry engine better, i know it can run much faster from other games.
For now Elite: Dangerous seems far ahead of Star Citizen. Lets hope that CIG manages to get back on track and improve the gameplay, rather than adding even more detailed ships, and fishes for your in-hangar-aquarium (wtf).
PS: i will post a bit more once i had the chance to try Star Citizen Multiplayer