Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Game 50: Elite

Publisher:Firebird Software
Developer:Ian Bell and David Braben
Genre:Space Simulation
Time: 2 hours

The first of potentially many attempts at playing Elite, this time for the BBC Micro. I lay the failure of this particular attempt squarely at the game's targeting system, or lack thereof. There are other little flaws, but most of these are bypassed if I just know what I should hit. You can't really play a game like that.

Its a shame because otherwise I could see myself spending time getting to the highest rank. Its a big universe, one you could get lost in. Elite is the predecessor of every big space game afterwards. Travel across the universe, doing something, but mostly flying. Trade, bounty hunt, and fight in a war...By the same token, it also shares those failures. A lack of depth to content, the game being so slow, a cool start but a struggle to keep going. Perhaps its a sign in how little the genre has changed that a game approaching its 40th anniversary only lacks in modern quality of life improvements.
However, unlike its predecessors, Elite has a few new problems. The aforementioned targeting system, difficulty in trading, learning controls, menus and even docking are obstacles to playing this game. By themselves, these wouldn't be insurmountable problems, but together? Overwhelming.

Simple but effective lasers and missiles. 1/10

There is a wide variety of enemies, but the problem is this isn't some straight shoot 'em up, and there's no way to detect which ships are your enemies. 1/10

See enemies. 1/10

There aren't any as such. 0

Player Agency:
Elite is unique, among the space sims I've played so far, admittedly all down the pipeline, in that instead of turning left and right, you spin. Now for a game that's so big on realism for 1984, that seems crippling. Probably because it is. Other than that, its fine as long as you read the manual. A few awkward button placements, but otherwise its well-thought out. 4/10


In many ways, its an accurate depiction of space. Nothing is going on. 0

Simple wireframes. 1/10

There's a novella, but I didn't bother reading it. There's no story inside the game, but you can pick up that there's an intergalactic war going on. 0

Very simple, very rare sounds. 0

That's 8. I'm going to revisit Elite at another time, but with one of the later editions. I like Elite in concept, but in execution I like being able to identify friend from foe. I'm going to try to wrangle myself a Archimedes Acorn emulator, the best version of Elite is allegedly there. I'm not going to consider this a true test of Elite's strengths and weaknesses, so I'm not going to bother reading any other reviews.

Elite, on the BBC Micro is of note for having a fan mod that greatly improves the game, even including something that identifies if someone is an enemy or not. I think if you were interested in playing it on this system, that's the system you should play it on.


  1. Played on Commodore 64. Docking was terrible until I traded enough to get the auto-pilot docking. Then it was nice to set the ship to dock and then just listen to the music and watch your ship line up with the rectangle port. If I remember right, the music was blue danube.

  2. Bro, do you even lift?

    I played the Speccy version as a kid, and I loved it. There was some intense dog fights when facing packs of Kraits and Sidewinders. And it had some of the best sound effects I heard from the Speccy. But the enemy variety was rather low, with only about six or eight different types of ships. The Amiga versions had more ships.

    Enemies should appear as red on the radar IIRC.

    I had no problems with the controls, the spinning seemed natural to me. No problems with targeting either; you get the enemy ship in the cross hairs and fire. Only docking was a problem until you could afford a docking computer.

    You should definitely read the novella. It's not the usual fanfic, but written by a professional SF writer.

    1. I was a lot less inclined to give a fair shake to games like this back when I was playing this. These days I would try to ride it out a bit or at least skip ahead to one of the other versions like the Acorn 32-bit one. I'll be back to this one sooner or later.