Thursday, August 25, 2016

Frontier - Elite II

After a worrying delay, Frontier Elite II was finally released back in early 1994 by Gametek and was unlike most other games due to its sheer size.

A whole universe of countless stars to explore which basically meant many long gaming nights are ahead (well, over the decades and through to the present day!)

Commander Jameson has sadly left this realm and you came along just in the nick time to reap the benefits of his will reading. Being his favourite grandson, he left you 100 credits with strict instructions to stay clear of Vegas. He also left you his pride and joy, an Eagle Long Range Fighter - so be careful and don't scratch it. You now have the means and opportunity to explore the heavens so jump into your shiny new spaceship and begin the journey of your lifetime!

After watching the awesome intro, various menu options are available to begin your first adventure and I advice selecting Option 1 which places you safely in the Ross 154 System. Or more precisely, at the Sirocco starport on the planet Merlin. You have 100 credits and a rather funky piece of 3D called your space ship so starting at Sirocco is a great place to learn the ropes of the GUI and basic trading skills along with brushing up on your piloting skills.

Frontier is an open world (space!) sandbox game which doesn't restrict you in the traditional sense because you are free to travel almost anywhere and do almost anything you like. However, even gaming folklore doesn't come free and this style of living costs money so use the space ship to provide yourself with a good living by means of contracting and trading. Everyone needs something, so this is where you come in to make your hard earned cash!

Frontier's universe has two major factions, and this is the Trekkie part, for me. Firstly, we have the Federation who are based in the Sol system and then we have The Empire which is based in the Achenar system. Both offer a haven to live and trade but aren't exactly the best of friends and, outside the safety of their space, you chance a greater risk of running into pirates. Dog fights with these are probably the most difficult part of the game to master. Gone are the arcade style controls in favour of realistic Newtonian physics that affect the control of your spacecraft. Momentum first needs to be compensated in order for you to slow down, stop and change a direction. Perhaps now I should advise saving your game at regular intervals? Learn its physics because the pirates are tough cookies!

Ultimately, Frontier is about living a lucrative and adventurous lifestyle by means of trade across the heavens. Use your galactic map to explore a 3D perspective of creation and plan your first route, dig for information to find out what they need, buy in bulk and begin your journey (there is nothing quite like making your first hyperspace jump - very exciting!)

This will automatically end once you are within the vicinity of your destination, but the distance to your destination is still huge, so don't forget to use the Stardreamer buttons to pass the time quicker! Auto-docking is (finally) supported so once you're boarded get the goods sold and reap the profit. Before you begin looking for another trade route, remember to refuel your ship, otherwise, you won't be able to make another hyperspace jump! After earning lots of money, you might want to consider checking out the Bulletin Board where you can upgrade your ship or search for extra jobs like transporting passengers, help to find a missing person, mining, military work or information. Heck, there is even a black market for those without a conscience, where you can trade slaves, weapons, narcotics or even be an assassin. However, this dark lifestyle will definitely take you into dangerous waters and will almost certainly attract the attention of the law. Are you ready for that heat, bad boy?

Frontier is one heck of a game and one with immense potential and I'm hoping this feature will regenerate your interest to restart playing? Frontier is all about progression and making the right choices to build up your own little empire. Do not expect to jump into the pilot's seat and see the entire universe in one sitting this will take time, money and commitment. Oh, and several months of your life because Frontier is quite literally one of the best games, ever.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable version to download.
 - AtariMania has this life-sucker within their ST database which includes scans of the manual.
 - Yikes Station has a web page of the Frontier manual.
 - Here are many YouTube videos by JimPlaysGames and they offer invaluable advice for new players!
 - Fancy a gander at the Frontier universe?
 - I've put this off for some time but I am considering buying Elite Dangerous for my Apple Mac. Any thoughts?
 - I've been talking with Marko @AtariMania and between us, we cannot decide if Frontier was released at the latter end of 1993 or the first weeks of 1994. Research is conflicting... I personally remember buying it early 1994.