Having played a bit of the upcoming Elite Dangerous: Odyssey DLC in beta, I couldn’t help but think about how that universe is almost the perfect Star Wars sandbox. Granted, it doesn’t have any of the famous Star Wars names and trappings, but Elite has one thing that makes it a perfect Star Wars game - a massively open universe to explore.
Released in 2014, Elite Dangerous is a space flight simulation game that allows players to explore a 1:1 recreation of the Milky Way Galaxy. More than this, Elite Dangerous is a sandbox game that empowers players to experience the galaxy in any way they want. Want to be a space delivery driver? Go for it. Fancy hunting down bounties? Sure. Simply want to transport people from one location to another? Elite has you covered.
Elite Dangerous is probably one of the most comprehensive games we’ve seen in the past ten years. And it’s about to get even more impressive, as the next update for the series Elite Dangerous: Odyssey allows players to leave their ships, scan and collect flora and even engage in combat. It’s this latest update that I feel truly brings Elite even closer to being this weird roleplay haven for a budding Star Wars fan.
Elite Dangerous is not a Star Wars game, but it’s easy to find comparisons and overlap between the two. So let’s go into why Elite Dangerous really could be the perfect Star Wars title.
A wretched hive of scum and villainy
Whether it’s Han Solo being chased by them, or everyone’s favourite Mandalorian, Din Djarin, bounty hunters have always been close to the action in Star Wars. Elite Dangerous is no different. One of the most popular roles within the galaxy is that of a bounty hunter. With a capable ship and the right equipment, players can make quite a lot of money from taking down the Milky Way’s most wanted fugitives.
With some roleplay and a keen suspension of disbelief, it isn’t too difficult to imagine yourself as a bounty hunter in Star Wars. Better yet, an officially licensed Star Wars game that let you take on bounties of this nature would be pretty phenomenal. Could you imagine taking down members of the Hutt Cartel in space combat and on the ground? That’s the kind of Star Wars game I would love to play.
The Han Solo game
Smuggling is another important aspect of Elite Dangerous. If combat isn’t your thing, you can make your money transporting and selling items on the black market. There’s quite a lot of prep that goes into smuggling items aboard stations in Elite, including making your ship both small and heat efficient so you can avoid scans. Smuggling does of course incur quite a lot of risk, as factions and authorities will not only fine you, but potentially all attack.
Elite Dangerous’ smuggling role is basically the closest you can get to being Han Solo in a video game. Well known for smuggling all manner of items, the game would provide the perfect sandbox for anyone wanting to role play as Captain Solo. Tell that to Kanjiklub.
Arguably one of the most contentious plot points of the prequel trilogy, politics always played an important role in the Star Wars universe. From the Republic, to the Empire and even the Monarchy, politics shaped the narrative across all nine of the films. For those who are into politics, Elite Dangerous offers its own galactic power struggle across its numerous factions.
There are three galactic superpowers in Elite, The Federation, The Empire and The Alliance. All three currently sit at a relatively peaceful stalemate, but there have been instances of war in the past. Much like Star Wars, there are a lot of minor factions within the galaxy who refuse to align to any one of the major superpowers. If you loved the galactic politics struggle in Star Wars, there’s plenty for you to get stuck into in Elite Dangerous.
Players can even change the political world around them by choosing to work with specific factions. Change won't happen overnight, but the collective actions of players can alter what's referred to as the background simulation in Elite Dangerous. This simulation doesn't change moment to moment gameplay, but it can change who you speak to, what items and missions are available and what your standing is in an area. Much like real politics, it takes lots of little changes to bring in real change.
The galaxy is your oyster
Honestly, Elite Dangerous pretty much lets you do whatever you want. There’s so much room for role play in this world, and so much of it fits in perfectly with Star Wars. From passenger carrier through to trader and courier, there’s so many ways the world of Elite could fit the Star Wars lore.
When I initially researched for this feature, I thought to myself, “surely some dedicated modders could easily add in Star Wars elements”. It’s something we’ve seen elsewhere, such as this total conversion mod which converts Stellaris into a Star Wars related experience. Imagine being able to fly around in Elite Dangerous using the Millenium Falcon, while smuggling illegal goods no less.
Unfortunately, it’s never going to happen. The way Elite Dangerous is designed means that the majority of the game’s assets are streamed in. There are some minor mods that change some aspects of how the game looks and its audio, but in terms of texture packs and asset changes, it just can’t be done.
This is a shame because for me, Elite Dangerous is the best Star Wars game we’ll never get.