PC Gaming Highlights: Hyperspace Jump in Elite Dangerous

Great PC Gaming Moments are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Elite Dangerous

(Image credit: Border)

Year 2014
Developer: Frontier

Whether you’re a bounty hunter, explorer, or glorified space trucker, doing almost anything in Elite Dangerous means jumping between systems. It’s one of the most basic interactions in the game, something you’ll do multiple times to complete a mission. As such, the mechanic is pretty straightforward: you plot your route on the galactic map, head to the target system, and press a single button to start the streak.

But simple does not mean banal. It’s one of the most common interactions in the game, and yet it’s full of wonder and ceremony. It kicks in when you first activate jump, with the on-board computer chiming to announce “Frame Shift Drive charging”. The drive winds up, an intense, low-pitched hum that increases range and depth rather than volume. And then the countdown kicks in – your computer tells the process again and ends with an unbiased “Engage” signaling your departure.

Elite’s version of hyperspace is known as “witch-space”, a sort of mysterious and creepy alternate dimension that ships use to move between systems. It’s not just a lore-based hand wave to explain hyperspace travel – at least it’s not. fair this. As you travel through hyperspace, you hear the sound of wind, or perhaps ghostly whispers – clues that there is something here beyond your understanding of the universe. And then the calm is interrupted.

Much of Elite’s atmosphere is carried by the unmistakable sound design, but your exit from hyperspace – the sudden, violent arrival – is also a visual shock. Your target system’s star rushes into your field of vision, forcing you to take immediate action to move away. Even after hundreds of hours of doing what is ultimately a routine action, it’s an uncomfortable experience, just startling enough to still make me nervous.

There are also other rarer hyperspace experiences in the game – twists on basic interaction that produce some truly memorable moments. Seeing a capital ship emerge from hyperspace is undeniably awe-inspiring – experiencing the imposing artificial roar of a massive craft tear a dimensional tear in space. And then there’s the sheer terror of a Thargoid hyperdiction, which takes the disturbingly familiar experience and turns it on its head – letting you experience what happens when the everything goes wrong.

Elite Dangerous haven’t had the best time lately. Its Odyssey expansion has been widely criticized for bugs and poor performance, and even after numerous patches it still holds a mostly negative rating on Steam. In the end I didn’t care about the new features in the expansion – foot combat is not what I want from the game. When I play it’s for the simple escape of traveling the galaxy , enjoying its simplest pleasures as I plot a course to the next system and prepare to jump.