When you think of Elite Dangerous, you think of late nights, sitting in the dark and traveling through space for hours unend, delivering space cargo. Combat can crop up now and then, but you never imagine it as an arena shooter. Until now.Today marks the release of Elite Dangerous Arena, which is a standalone title for PC and Steam for a price that’s hard to turn your nose up at. Basically you’re buying the online competitive side of Elite Dangerous, and cutting out the expansive universe the game is known for. The price of entry is £5/$7.50.
Fans of the title need not worry about this new release, as it is at its core just the CQB mode from the game’s main menu rebranded as a multiplayer only title. You can still access Arena via the game’s main menu; this standalone release grants access ONLY to this game mode. If new fans pick this up and really enjoy it, they can opt to buy the full Elite Dangerous title and get their money back for this digestible portion.
“We’ve done an awful lot of shows now, and what we’ve found works best is to actually set people up in Arena around a table against each other, either in teams or as individuals,” says David Braben, Frontier’s CEO. “They get into it really quickly, even people who haven’t played the game at all.”
The Arena mode includes four maps, multiple ships to choose from and a handful of game modes. You can’t bring your own custom ships from your space career into the Arena, which helps level the playing field.
“It lowers the entry point,” says Braben. “There are a lot of people who wouldn’t play [Elite: Dangerous] who would go, ‘Oh I’ll play [Arena].’ And there will be some who will want to carry on to Elite: Dangerous, and we’ll have an offer where you can get your money back if you want to buy the full game.”
“If you’re thinking of having a session of Call of Duty or FIFA or an RTS or whatever, this is another alternative that you can put in the mix,” he adds. “The main game actually has a very steep learning curve, which is actually too steep for a lot of people. Whereas this, although it has a steep learning curve, it’s not as steep.
“I think when you start to realise those levels of subtlety, as you build up through the levels – because we have explicit levels of progress, which open up certain unlocks – it let’s you realise it’s actually very rewarding the more you get into it. If you think of some of the things you do when you’re building loadouts for Call of Duty or you’re building your FIFA team, things that let you build up that richness.”
There’s no word of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One release of Elite Dangerous Arena, and the full game is currently available on the latter.