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Frontier: Elite II (DOS)

80
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.5
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  woods01 (154)
Written on  :  Mar 16, 2001
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars

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Summary

An exercise in frustration.

The Good

This game was the long overdue sequel to the classic 80s game Elite. It improved several things over the orginal. It expanded the trading goods available. Through its BBS system you could accept "quests" of a sort, mainly delivering parcels, passengers or dealing in black market goods. Best of all, it not only added more ships but also allowed you to pilot different ships other than the Cobra Mk III that was only available to you in the first game. And if that was enough the entire game was set in a gigantic recreation of our own universe.

The game is very open ended. There is no way to "win" instead you have various careers to pursue and a large universe to explore. The orginal game had the challenge of getting an 'Elite' combat rating, this is here too but along the way you can earn titles and medals from the two space armies by peforming missions for them. Other careers include mining, piracy, bounty hunting and of course you can trade.

This game uses a large number of classical musical scores for the soundtrack. This works very well for the game, especially if you are a 2001 fan, as its obvious the creators are.

The Bad

The biggest problem with this game was its flight system and combat. The author is obsessed with creating a realistic universe so he made space flight how it is in reality not the "Star Wars" style combat of the first game (and most space sims). Its difficult to explain it if you havn't played the game, but what this means is flight is affected by gravity of nearby planets and momentum. So battles end up being sling shot affairs between tiny dots on the screen. You fly past each other, if you're good you'll hit it a couple times, then spend a few minutes slowing down your momentum and turning around for another pass. Its not a lot of fun and takes a long time before you will figure out how to fight in space effectivly.

The various missions you can perform for armies or private citizens get very repetitive as there is little variety. Promotions in rank and elite rating are long in the coming and take often hundreds or thousands of kills/completions to advance to the next rank.

Although the game has a lot of options for "careers" being a straight milk run trader is the only way to really make any money. Mining only pays off if you are very very far away from the population centers and not enough to warrent the time invested. Bounty hunting is a waste as the bounties are so low when compared to the fines you get for attacking ships near a port (intercepting them in space is near impossible because of the combat). And as mentioned the army is a very repetetive career, however getting army promotions does unlock photo missions and bombing runs. Forget piracy unless you like poverty, as you play the game you will rarely encounter another ship, apart from pirates of course. In the orginal sometimes you would often run into neutral ships and sometimes had to wait to dock into a space station, this game its as if you were all alone.

Which brings me to the fatal flaw of the game: the universe is static and empty. You'd think that the various trading you could do (like bringing arms to a world in civil war or large numbers of slaves to planet that has outlawed slavery) would have some effect on a local economy or politics but it does not. As noted, apart from pirates, there is not really anyone else to run into in space. Your military missions have no effect on the political boundries. With the high rank I had with the Imperial Navy, I visited the enemy capital, Earth, expecting to be attacked but instead I payed a fine and they ignored the fact I had commited numerous crimes against their nation.

There are some interesting systems to visit, binary stars (watch the duel sunsets when landed on a planet), a prison planet and corporate worlds but apart from their descriptions and trading options at the space stations none of these systems have any real atmosphere to distinguish them from each other. And most of the alleged millions of sytems the box advertised are empty systems with little interest other than potential mining sites.

The Bottom Line

I am a huge fan of the orginal game and while I did play and enjoy this game for a good year, I can't reccomend it to non-Elite fans. The frustrating combat will turn off most people combined with the fact there is no way to "win". I liked the open endedness of the game and I tried all the career paths but I left the game with an empty stomach. The game feels rushed and incomplete, and none of the careers available are all that interesting or rewarding.