While all the other space exploration and combat games on 16-bit home computers flail around in their own mucky diapers, Frontier: Elite II makes a mockery of everything else in its class by not only being a staggering piece of programming, but also a damn fine, playable game too.
Being the sequel to one of the greatest games ever written, Frontier always had its work cut out. One half of the original Elite team, David Braben, pushed out Ian Bell and sat down to code a galaxy inside a game. Once he did that, he then made it playable.
Just like the original Elite, Frontier is mostly about trading. You buy goods from one planet and sell them to another for a profit. Knowing where the good markets are helps. Knowing how to get around also helps. As does having the firepower and the skill to take care of yourself, because it’s not all plain sailing when there are pirates around.
Frontier: Elite II doesn’t have a central story as such, but it does have a war going on between two sides and missions available for either, should you want to live out your very own Star Wars dreams.
Frontier uses realistic Newtonian physics for movement, but the game is fairly gentle on the realism when it comes to craft control. As long as you remember to request permission to take off when leaving a civilized planet you can easily zoom around on manual and hover safely and look around by pressing Enter and Right Shift. Travelling using Hyperspace is a little tricker, but easy enough once figured out.
Graphically, Frontier: Elite II is incredible. Considering how small the game is (in terms of code/file size), the variety in the planets, stellar visuals, and 3D models is quite amazing. Watching the clouds get smaller as you leave the atmosphere of a planet never gets old, because it feels so real.
Space, in Frontier, feels very, very big. Distances very, very far. As they should. Thankfully designer David Braben managed to fit a decent game into it as well. Not to mention a very useful time acceleration mode.
Frontier: Elite II is a quite remarkable game that should fascinate anyone with an interest in the universe and space travel, or David Braben‘s later games. Elite is good, but Frontier is just mind-blowing.
Frontier: Elite II was published by GameTek in 1993. Nine years after the original Elite came out.