Frontier: First Encounters

aka: Elite 3, FFE
Moby ID: 351

Description official description

Frontier: First Encounters is the third part of Elite series. You are a space pirate and you fly around through the universe in your space craft to fulfill different missions. You can also earn money by trading cargo with other races.

Groups +



Credits (DOS version)

45 People · View all



Average score: 73% (based on 16 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 30 ratings with 7 reviews)

Fascinating and complex

The Good
It was real fun looking at the starmaps, spinning and turning them around in 3D mode and look where to warp to next. If you have enough motiviation you can go and on, it's real fun exploring a whole universe that fits on only 3 disks! Also that trading stuff and the different missions are nice features.

The Bad
The problem is your motivation: if it isn't high enough, you won't get very far and you'll be disappointed soon. Also the controls are a bit complicating.

The Bottom Line
If you don't get lost too soon in games and a bit complexer controls don't disturb you and you're fascinated by this huge universe, then this is your game!

DOS · by robotriot (9015) · 1999

Quite a bit better than Frontier : Elite 2 after you patch it. A lot.

The Good
Frontier: 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 Bad
Well, 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.

The Bottom Line
This is a worthy update to FE2. In fact it is quite a good standalone game, and is worthy of your time and energy. However, you will have to search around the Internet a little bit for John Jordan's webpage with his fixed version of the executable file for FFE. Unless you don't want to play it in Windows.

DOS · by Longwalker (723) · 2002

Good but flawed, 33rd century space action as you partake the role of an interstellar mercenary.

The Good
Many of my friends who have seen this game alwys ask me questions like, how many levels does first encounters have and how do you complete it? I then tell them that there is no set goals or end to the game, which i believe is one of the games most appealing features. You can play the game any way you like, such as completing the missions to find the insect thargoids, or you can just cruise around space reliving the moon landings or trying to land on Pluto. The point being, there is no linear game structure, you can pretty much do what you like (barring leaving your ship, which is a pity.). This is not the only good point of FFE. Others include contacting the Thargoids (They were not present in Frontier.), completing both military and the set missions which are provided, which can include nuking reserch bases of the enemy militia, assassinating high ranking figures and even smuggling spies from one planet to the other. Finally the graphics of the game are on the whole improved from Frontier with texture mapped planets and more exotic space ports and orbital space ports.

The Bad
One of the most irritating issues to this game is the amounts of bugs present. Some of these remain even after the patch disks later released by Gametek, after the first unplayable version of the game was released. These bugs include the joystick going crazy, and certain problems with the set missions ( wont give away too much so as not to spoil the game for those who havent done them.), and some ships (such as a gun turret being placed behind the hull, which registers as a hit on your ship if you fire this gun. Very annoying.). The graphics can also be a bit dodgy at times, with problems such as cities appearing to "hover" on the planets surface and when you land sometimes your ship appears to sink beneath ground level producing graphical glitches. The auto pilot can also crash you rather than land you in a space port. But on the whole, the game is playable and enjoyable once you get into it.

The Bottom Line
So to sum up, if you liked Frontier, missed the Thargoids and enjoy a long running complex space sim, you could do worse than get a copy of First Encounters. But if youre in to blasting everything in sight and easily pick up and play games, then I wouldnt reccomend this title. But overall FFE is a pretty descent space sim which you can play to your own rules without following a set game plan.

DOS · by Stuart Stocks (6) · 2001

[ View all 7 player reviews ]



David Braben and Ian Bell were the original authors of the first Elite back in the 80s. Braben made this third game without giving Bell credit or royalties for the space ships and other ideas he created that were reused. Bell had to sue Braben for payment.


Frontier: First Encounters was originally intended to be an add-on disk for the second game, Frontier: Elite II. However, because they rushed that game, its engine could not handle expansion disks effectively. The engine was rewritten and the game was released standalone. Unfortunately, it was also rushed and filled with numerous bugs that made its initial release unplayable.


  • PC Player (Germany)
    • Issue 01/1996 - Most Annoying Bugs in 1995

Information also contributed by woods01 .


MobyPro Early Access

Upgrade to MobyPro to view research rankings!

Related Games

First Battalion
Released 2006 on Windows, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Released 1987 on DOS, 1988 on Amiga, 1991 on NES...
Elite Soldier: Shooter 3D
Released 2017 on Android, 2019 on Windows, 2022 on Nintendo Switch
Super Trux
Released 1989 on Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC
Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army
Released 2013 on Windows
Sniper Elite 5: France
Released 2022 on Windows, Windows Apps, PlayStation 4...
Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army 2
Released 2013 on Windows
Panzer Elite: Special Edition
Released 2001 on Windows
Combat★Elite: WWII Paratroopers
Released 2005 on PlayStation 2, Xbox

Related Sites +

  • Frontier: First Encounters FAQ
    First Encounters Frequently Asked Questions (Answers from David Braben)
  • JJFFE Central
    A conversion of the game for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, which additionally includes minor improvements and bug fixes.
  • Space: The Final Frontier
    An elite fansite covering everything elite.
  • The Elite Club
    Where you can download Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters, now released as shareware

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 351
  • [ Please login / register to view all identifiers ]


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by robotriot.

Additional contributors: Brian Hirt, Cravo, Rebound Boy, Longwalker, Indra was here, Crawly, Patrick Bregger.

Game added November 1, 1999. Last modified December 4, 2023.