As it stands, the Elite Dangerous: Odyssey Alpha is absolutely miserable. For the past 2 days I’ve ferried myself between broken missions, waiting at the bus stop for a taxi to ferry me from one utterly broken mission to another. With intra-system trips often taking upwards of 15 minutes, I’ve become intimately familiar with the cabin of an Apex Interstellar shuttle—and I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.
When I first saw that Odyssey would feature its own budget airline, I was embarrassingly excited. I really do miss airports, delightfully liminal spaces as they are—packed full of overpriced perfume and weary businessmen. Seeing Elite would be getting its own cheap check-in desks and shuttle gates got me hyped as hell.
Of course, I’m not sure those spaces entirely work in practice. Andy K has already written on how seeing wonky humans destroys Elite’s sense of place, and the game’s style hasn’t really adopted the right kind of “mall lobby” aesthetic to make for a convincing departure lounge. But Apex Interstellar’s cheap cabs instilled me with such a deep sense of wanderlust that I could practically smell the airline food.
That sensation formed in full last night, when I realised I’d committed to a return shuttle to a settlement 150,000 light-seconds away (roughly 20 minutes of actual flight time). Over the course of the trip, I started putting on podcasts and flipping through youtube videos. I pulled out my Switch for a few rounds of Splatoon. I even got up to stretch my legs a few times and grab something from the refreshment trolley (kitchen).
You know, exactly the sort of things you do when you’re stuck on a flight.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s awful that the only way to travel Odyssey’s sole system right now is by booking a cab. I can’t imagine the sort of player who would solely avoid flying to take ground missions across space. As your sole mode of transport around Odyssey’s alpha, I hate it.
Even so, I love that this isn’t fast travel in disguise. Frontier played the interstellar taxi card entirely straight—if you want someone to fly you across the galaxy, you’d bloody well get used to sitting quietly and watching the stars go by.
If anything, I want to see Apex lean further into its role as a low-cost galactic Uber. What if, instead of sitting silently for the duration of the trip, your driver started prattling on about the latest hover-football game, or moaned about the prices at the Crown Dock services? Let me hunt around for a charger for my space-phone, or read an in-flight mag three months out of date. Book NPC passengers onto my flight so I can complain about the kids crying in the back seats.
Turn Apex Interstellar into the Milky Way’s premier Ryanair rip-off (or United, for our US readers). Hell, it’d be more interesting than the broken and boring missions I’m flying out to in the first place.