Now Playing: On the hunt in Elite: Dangerous

Elite Dangerous 1


In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Chris is on the hunt in Elite: Dangerous.

Andy’s starship slips out of the darkness near the station at Dahan Gateway. It’s an Anaconda, a 300 metre gunboat clad in dark chrome and shaped like an arrowhead. It looks like Batman’s Star Destroyer and I’ve been hunting it for more than an hour.

We’re playing Elite: Dangerous live with the developers, but server problems (the game is still in beta) have made it difficult to find each other in the vast expanse of the cosmos. Phil, Ben, Sam and Tom have made their own alliances and are off looking for Andy elsewhere. I rushed to intercept him at Dahan, and the gods of server-side matchmaking brought us together. This is my chance.

Andy’s ship bristles with missile launchers and auto-targeting pulse lasers.

Well, sort of. I’m flying a Viper. It’s the fastest ship in the game and respectably well-armed, but an Anaconda is a serious challenge. Andy’s ship bristles with missile launchers and auto-targeting pulse lasers. If I’m going to take him out, I’m going to have to glue myself to his tail or risk a war of attrition that I won’t win.

He’s not alone. A handful of developers from Frontier have opted to act as Andy’s bodyguards. He’s flanked by a Sidewinder, a Cobra and another Viper. I flew too many cargo runs to risk losing my hardearned ship to impossible odds, so I decide to take another approach. I move in closer and open a voice channel.

“Is that you, Thursten?”

Elite Dangerous 2

I’m about to propose a temporary alliance when a flash of red lights up my shields. One of Andy’s escorts—the Sidewinder—has opened fire. Time to go. I turn and boost my engines to hit my top speed of 500m/s, then disable the flight assist: without it, my ship will no longer auto-correct to give the impression of flying against gravity. This allows me to maintain my momentum indefinitely. My Viper vanishes into the black, and the Sidewinder has no chance to catch me. But their Viper does.

I still want that alliance, and Andy doesn’t seem to know what has happened. “You still there, Thursten?”

“I’m here. Get your wingman to stop shooting at me.” I hit the flight assist back on, turn, and boost back towards Dahan Gateway. Throttle up all the way to the station’s perimeter before turning to gently line myself up with the station’s rotating flank. Inside the no-fire zone, I can hail Andy more safely.

Best laid plans, and all that. Somebody risks firing a missile within the no-fire zone and I’m forced to bolt again. Pulling the same speed-boosting trick, I flick through my target list to see who this new aggressor is. Andy’s Anaconda is lit up in angry red. A volley of pulse laser fire hits me from behind.

The voice channel is still open. “Andy, you dickbag.”

Elite Dangerous 3

Then, something strange: Andy’s shield bursts. Then his hull: 90%. 46%. 23%. 17%. Having chased me inside the no-fire zone, he’s now facing the concentrated firepower of Dahan’s surface-mounted guns. Bright streams of fire converge on the Anaconda from equally-spaced points. He’s the unwilling pinnacle of a pyramid of hot space justice.

“Oh, bollocks.” The Anaconda takes a few seconds to come apart. Apparently, the phone still works. “Hahaha, shit,” are Andy’s last words.

He was carrying a few units of gold when he died, so taking a chance, I return to the station and I hail one of his former escorts—the Viper pilot. “You didn’t see some gold float past, did you?” I ask.

“No, it was destroyed,” comes the reply. “But I’m looking at an easy kill right now.”

He deploys his weapon hardpoints. I shift power to engines. Here we go again.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.