Elite Dangerous is one of the largest space sims available today. Starfield appeals to a very similar audience with its promise of vast space exploration and the act of discovering brand-new planets on your own. However, the games have a different approach to the overall execution. Today, we'll take a look at both and see which one is fit for you.
Starfield has over 100 Star Systems available, with 1000 planets that you can discover. You can land your ship on most of them and freely explore the entire surface. Each planet you land on will have a bunch of procedurally generated events, structures, and facilities for you to explore.
However, there are also tons of handcrafted content and several dozen hours of carefully crafted side missions and areas to lose yourself in. Starfield's game loop is that of a single-player Bethesda RPG with the option to travel to 1000 planets.
Elite Dangerous has a radically different approach as it has tried to create a 1:1 reproduction of our universe. It has over 400 Billion star systems, an astronomically large number, and the player base hasn't even discovered 1% of the total content available. Naturally, this means there is A LOT of procedural generation, which can get fatiguing. Furthermore, Elite Dangerous is an online-only game. Even if you go solo mode, you'll still share a server with all the other players.
Elite Dangerous doesn't really have a story available, as you're a space captain going from star system to star system, interacting with various factions and observing their wars for control. To put it simply, in Elite Dangerous, we play as background characters performing menial tasks against the backdrop of a large-scale cosmic struggle between massive power-hungry corporations.
There is story content available in these missions, but it's generally a variation of other quests you'll find on the other side of the galaxy. The procedural generation and AI writing are pretty visible here, and it can make much of the content feel meaningless. There's a character creation screen but not much in the way of story choices like Starfield.
Meanwhile, Starfield provides a fully fleshed-out story with some excellent characters and tons of unique stories to discover and play through. From the main campaign to random side missions and the various faction storylines, you can quickly lose yourself in 50+ hours of handcrafted story content. The dialogue is decent and can be pretty fun sometimes as well.
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Elite Dangerous involves piloting a ship across billions of star systems and performing various tasks and operations. These can include bounty hunting, assassinations, mining, deliveries, and anything else that can be performed with your ship.
The primary emphasis is on your ship, and you won't be involved in ground combat involving guns or role-playing shenanigans. A lot of the focus goes on resource gathering, understanding the economy, and learning how to maximize your profits. There are lots of systems at play, and it can feel overwhelming for someone new to this genre. The gameplay loop can end up becoming very grindy at later stages of the game.
Starfield is a much more broadly accessible game as it has elements of FPS and RPG games, and its space exploration is relatively simple. Starfield is a Bethesda title with space exploration slapped on. You'll perform all the typical Bethesda activities, such as quests with choices, different build styles, combat, and tons of looting. The addition of space travel gives you access to a bunch of space activities and a dedicated ship-building system.
Ships are the forte of Elite Dangerous, as the game revolves around the upgrade and upkeep of your spaceship. Everything has been thought out quite well, and from the ship HUD to the sound effects, it ensures an immersive experience.
Piloting a ship feels smooth, and the various upgrades feel impactful once you understand the system. You're free to fly, land on any planet, and pass by any stars or planetary rings you find interesting. All these systems have a lot of depth and care put into them. You can also change most things about your ship and its modules, including the appearance. Combat, especially, is quite fun.
Starfield, however, only partially emphasizes spaceships and space travel. Many players consider space travel to be a glorified loading screen. While this is true when it comes to actual travel, it doesn't mean Starfield is lacking in space activities. There are a bunch of them you can partake in to make space exploration and shipbuilding feel meaningful.
Speaking of shipbuilding, the advanced shipbuilding feature is a joy to learn, and you can make some truly marvelous ships where you can customize both the exterior and the interior to your liking. Ship customization in Starfield is somehow superior to Elite Dangerous in this regard. However, Elite Dangerous wins when discussing space mining and space combat.
If you want to play an immersive Space Sim that exists to be a timesink and lets you invest hundreds of hours into its core mechanics, you'll feel at home with Elite Dangerous. However, this is a very specific niche that will appeal to only some people. Starfield should be the no-brainer between the two games if you're looking for a solid space gaming experience with story, combat, and various activities you can enjoy for around 50 or so hours.
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