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A remarkable simulation game of the 90s and still a game to go back to at least once a year.
The object of the game gives you some independence indeed and can be regarded as a sandbox type of give due to the options of being able to do what you like. You are a space pilot in control of a basic craft left to you in a will from a deceased relative, so a very basic storyline. There is no end and you can carry on forever if you wish. The game takes place around the year 3200, so society is pretty screwed up with lots of corruption. The Solar System is still active with a very old star. Earth is pretty much covered in water due to most of the polar ice caps melting. Many surrounding galaxies are based on the real universe, Alpha Centuri being one.
As you are low on money, your first idea would be to buy and trade goods. Players can check other galaxies and their star ports, to see where they can make a profit for certain goods. This is by the far easiest way to make money and only takes a few hours to rack in the cash. Within four hours, I already had the best spaceship in the game just from doing the stock market option. Another method which you can combine with your stock market run is to transport passengers to the galaxy they are looking to go. This can cause you a few problems, especially if that passenger has enemies, which as you expect can get people on your tail. I even had one passenger that didn't pay me when we arrived and just ran off! The player can take part in missions for the government the galaxy is in, there are two in the entire universe of the game. Basic missions at first with no risk for little money, working your way up the ranks whilst building up your reputation. This can also lead to promotions and medals if the mission was that important. The most enjoyable money making method is to be an assassin. Very risky, but very enjoyable. This can only be active depending on your fighting reputation and if you have a fast enough ship. The smaller the ship, the faster it is at hyper driving to another galaxy. Your craft will need to be able to beat the other first; otherwise you will have no chance of catching up.
Ship battles could have been improved; they become extremely repetitive and generally simple. Each enemy seems to have the same AI and skill, just by approaching you with all guns blazing and circling around you for another attack run. Another frustrating problem for me was not being able to have your extra guns being automated. Instead, you have to keep changing views to use them which becomes too much hassle. A few star battles can last some time depending if the enemy craft has some installed shield generators. Other weapons can be used, like missiles and energy bombs. Better laser cannons can be installed and even one based on the Death Star's laser in the Star Wars movies. Blowing a ship of any size to bits with one shot. Sooner or later, your craft will run into pirates too. It seems they want nothing but to blow you up, which I feel could have been worked on. Surely they would want to disable your ship to steal your cargo? Anyhow, it was still a nice feature to put in. Crafts can be inputted with a radar mapper, which can scan any ship in your sight. So scanning a pirate ship's registry can lead to a possible bounty for you. Like I said, it's too easy to make money and makes the game too easy for you once you are rich. There isn't much of a challenge anymore once you get the top craft.
There are many little pieces of equipment you can install to your craft depending on what you are going to be using it for the most. A fighter craft will need plenty of shields, an escape capsule, scanner, missiles, and a hull repair. Transporter types will need passengers' cabins and cargo bay life support. Otherwise live stock in your cargo will go pop in space when the pressure changes! Assassin craft will need extra items such as a hyper drive cloud analyser to find out where their target is heading. There is also a miner that any craft can be installed with. You can take your craft to a far away planet that hasn't even been discovered and mine for precious jewels or metals to trade back at a star port or planet.
The sound is very repetitive but acceptable. Laser sounds get very annoying as it continually loops. Sound is generally not the game strongest point; you can tell by the quality that their budget was not spent on it. For instance on a planet with a rough atmosphere, it sounded like someone just blew into the microphone to use as the wind sound. However, it does have a few decent music tracks. Many of them are classical and include all of them from 2001: Space Odyssey. These can also be customised to come on when you want them to. Either in a battle, when you dock, hyper drive, etc.
Graphics were one of the game strong points at the time. Lovely textures and models. This can also be customised to how the player wants their game to feel. Very high quality will slow down the game performance, so it can easily be notched down to basic to have smoother game play. Characters you interactive within game have animated photographs. Being in the year 3200, they look quite bizarre in terms of fashion.
The game has one of the most memorable introductions too with the main theme playing in the background. It's unclear if it has anything to do with the storyline, but immediately made me want to play it back in the day when I first saw it as a child. It can be found on YouTube now too, and many fans have created their own version with today's modern graphics.
If it sounds like you're type of game, don't hesitate to check it out. However the major problem is getting it to work on a modern PC. It's a DOS game, Windows XP and Vista will cause this lot of complications. Your best bet is to download an Amiga emulator and then the Frontier 2 rom for it like I have. I could honestly never get it to work for PC, even when following all the instructions off many websites. It's quite rare now too and make cost a few pound on places like E-Bay. I'm also having problems getting the sequel, Elite 3 to work on my laptop with the same problem being DOS. Also, fingers crossed they eventually make an Elite 4! Now that would be something special with today's animation and graphical abilities.