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SummaryQuite a bit better than Frontier : Elite 2 after you patch it. A lot.
The GoodFrontier: First Encounters is not quite the exact same game as FE2, but the similarities are enough to warrant it being more of an update than a separate game (indeed, FFE was going to be an expansion pack for FE2, but David Braben could not integrate the updates into FE2 smoothly and therefore decided to release this game as a stand alone product). So, that being the case, what has been updated? Quite a lot, as a matter of fact.
For starters, combat is much more reasonable, as it sets the enemy craft you are dogfighting as the object you are "relative" to (yes, the game still uses newtonian physics), so you no longer have the old 1000 km/s "jousting" duels and the combat is now much more close quarters. That's quite a bit of an improvment, if you ask me.
Also the sound and music is not longer of poor quality or ripped off from other games in the series, and actually have been redone rather well in places. The new sample based sound system instead of the old "Elite Plus" FM-based sound is a massive improvment to the enjoyment of the game, though you probably will tire of these new sounds after a bit anyway and will turn them off regardless. The remastered musical pieces from FE2 that are present in this game sound much better than they did originally. And the new music pieces done for this game, which were rendered by the Quality Quartet, are also very good and easy to listen to.
Apart from the said major changes, the minor ones make quite a bit of a difference as well. New features like newspapers you can subscribe to, various new ships (some of them very good and enjoyable to fly around in, the others being quite average) and items (like the Tractor Beam Cargo Scoop), plus a new political super power makes it feel like the game's universe really has progressed 50 years since FE2. Which it has. In the game, that is.
All and all this is a very solid update indeed.
Oh, and the Thargoids are back, but not in the way you imagine.
The BadWell, it's famous (or is that infamous) for being quite buggy. The only games that come to mind that are more buggy than this game in particular are the Battlecrusier games and eXtreme Paintbrawl, and those were heavily crippled due to the bugs! FFE narrowly manages to avoid this and remain playable, but only just. Even after these many years, it still doesn't work with Windows boxes in a natural sense, and only recently did a fan, John Jordan, manage to reprogram the executable file so that it would run in a Windows environment. While the fan made hacks do fix many of the problems the game had when it was released, it would have been nice to have it work properly in the first place.