Despite Frontier’s highly anticipated perambulation simulation, Odyssey, starting with a bit of a limp, some of the issues hint at the potential richness of gameplay that Odyssey can provide.

For example, my personal odyssey had taken me 500 light-years away from the densely populated human bubble and out into the (ahem) frontier, where I sought an experience akin to the austere bleakness of The Expanse series with a dash of 2001’s I-War 2: Edge of Chaos videogame. What I’ve actually experienced has been entertaining and frustrating in equal measure, but has the hallmarks of a fantastic sci-fi canvas for a billion unique stories.

New Growth Asteroid Base

In the remote Pencil Sector region, human settlements are rare (a fact that I will later be frustrated by) and my chosen destination, New Growth station in Pencil Sector EL-Y d5, was the only major port in the only populated system for 200 light-years.

I began my frontier experience by setting about the business of exploring the local planetary bodies and doing a bit of opportunistic scavenging. I soon stumbled across a point of interest on one of the local planetary bodies. On investigation, I triggered a trespass warning and a number of ‘wanted’ skimmers associated with the controlling system faction, Seven Stages Movement, deployed and became aggressive. I destroyed them, but my delay in the trespass zone resulted in a price being put on my head.

On my return to New Growth station, as expected my inadvertently acquired criminal status meant that I couldn’t access many of the services. It was a colourful and engaging turn of events which put me at an ethical crossroads; should I embrace my new shady status or come clean?

I wasn’t quite ready to go rogue at this point, largely due to the fact that I would be unable to use any of the station services and there were no alternatives for hundreds of light-years. To clear my record, I had to face the brutal justice system and turn myself in, which I did from one of the many convenient terminals scattered around the concourse. 

This turned out to be a mistake, but one that could so very nearly have led to an incredible unscripted gameplay experience.

Pilgrim’s Ruin: 5 stars on Trip Advisor

I was immediately transported to an isolation cell in Pilgrim’s Ruin, an orbital penitentiary in the HR 3005 system some 200 light-years away in the Synuefe region. My cell door was unlocked and the guard in the corridor seemed indifferent to my emancipation proclivities, so I made for the nearest exit. I triumphantly arrived at the lift to the hangar expecting to escape back into the space scavenger ecosystem. But the lift refused to comply, and a helpful dialogue box pointed out there was no available ship. My Cobra had been left behind!

Fortunately, the one available facility in the discharge concourse was Apex Interstellar Transport. I could get a space taxi to freedom. However, it soon became clear that destination options were limited. The HR 3005 system I was in comprised only two stars and the spaceborne Pilgrim’s Ruin facility. Nary a planetary body or space rock to be seen.

‘Sorry mate, I’m clocking off in an hour.’

Looking further afield, Apex Transport, like fussy inner city cabbies, apparently have a limit to how far they’ll take a passenger. The 200LY route back to the Pencil Sector system and my nearest ship was about twice as far as they’d take me. Out here in the galactic wilderness, the only reachable system was quite nearby, a mere 17 light-years to the snappily named Synuefe EN-H D11-96 system which encouragingly contained plenty of planets, a couple of stations, and a fair few player-owned fleet carriers.

I quickly concocted a plan to book an Apex to one of the stations, swallow the cost of getting my ship transported over, and spend the time that would take to check out the local flavour. This was actually turning out to be an unexpected, but quite welcome adventure.

Until reality hit.

Emptier than it looks

On arrival at The Prospect, one of two orbital outposts in the system, I quickly discovered the flaw in my plan. Unlike the major Coriolis and Orbis starports, minor Outposts do not have an Inter Astra ship vendor which is required for on-foot access to shipyard facilities including ship transfers.

I suddenly felt very small, and the galaxy very large and far away. I was marooned.

I consoled myself with the thought that at least I had one system I could explore and do on-foot missions in. Alas, a quick check on the station terminal revealed that there were no missions available. This explained why there were only two viable Apex destinations in the system – there were no planetary settlements.

Realising that my gameplay was now reduced to exploring the identikit social zones of two outposts with variety provided by the occasional taxi ride was disappointing and a game experience opportunity missed. I’d gone from an ex-con going rogue in an unsuspecting system to Tom Hanks in The Terminal. 

There were only two solutions left open to me. I could log out of the Odyssey version of Elite Dangerous and log into Horizons, which I believe would automagically force me out of the station and into my last ship, but this felt defeatist and an option which will be unavailable come the Great Reunification later this year.

So my remaining option would be to once again turn to the Elite Dangerous community for help. I’ll document the ensuing hilarity in an upcoming post. Suffice to say thanks to Commanders Camel Number 1 and Gerald Burger, the challenges of early Odyssey were met and overcome, only for Odyssey to have the last laugh.

I’ll also be putting together a highlight reel of my predicament and subsequent rescue over on my Freebooted stream. You can already view the raw footage here, (skip to here for the (first) rescue or here for the final twist).

In summary, I hope this anecdote is taken in the spirit intended. It was an amusing sequence of events caused by Odyssey’s idiosyncrasies, and I think serves to emphasise the sheer potential of the gameplay experiences which are almost within reach.

In this particular case, I can see a number of ways to resolve the problems I encountered.

  1. Increase the range of Apex Interstellar Transport (the boring option, please don’t.)
  2. Ensure remote systems like Syneufe EN-H D11-96 have an Odyssey accessible shipyard facility, to enable ship purchase and transfer, which would be supported by…
  3. A minimal mission ecosystem in all populated systems to enable content and means to profit.

Personally, I’d like to see 2 and 3 to give that surviving-on-the-isolated-frontier feel. But let me know if you can think of any other ways to resolve this problem.

In any case, I’m looking forward to more emergent and unscripted entertainment as Odyssey evolves to allow its gameplay to equal its technical achievements.