Oolite: a brilliant remake of Elite, the classic game of space trade and exploration


Oolite is an open source remake of the classic space simulator Elite. This non-linear title puts the player in control of their own experience. Trading, piracy, and mining are just a fraction of what you can do in this expansive universe.

Captain Jensen had traveled three systems to make this run. His cargo hold full of radioactives would fetch a hefty sum on this rich industrial planet.

But the swarm of blips fast approaching on radar didn’t look like innocent freighters. The only policed sector surrounding the station was on the far side of the planet. This is what you get for trading with a lawless system…

Oolite takes something old and makes it new again. This open source remake of one of gaming’s great classics Elite is solid gaming gold. In this incredibly non-linear space simulator players can fly around the galaxy trading, fighting off pirates, pirating, or taking intergalactic taxi missions. With no story except the one you make for yourself, Oolite is a member of a dying type of game.

Gameplay: This is one of the least linear games I’ve ever played. From the very start you are in charge of your own experience. Do you trade in your standard Mark III for something cheaper, letting you afford the much desired upgrades? Or do you struggle through the first few runs without a docking computer, fuel injector, or effective weaponry? The decision is yours. It’s almost intimidating to strike out into the vast game world without a mission. This trend continues for as long as you play. Your profession and actions are entirely up to you. You can prey on weaker ships, collect space debris for credits, and engage in both legal and illegal trade. Just keep an eye peeled for the GalCops.

Sound: The audio in Oolite leans toward the retro. The sound is inspired by the space simulators of yesteryear. Laser effects are clean without fizzles and pops, events are marked by conservative alert beeps, and your engine hums contentedly. It almost sounds like a cut and dry military simulation.

Lasting Appeal: Oolite is the sort of game you keep on your hard drive. Once you’ve gotten into the groove of things, it’s hard to not keep upgrading your ship, finding new trade routes, and fighting anyone who dares cross you. But for those who tire of the simple graphics and gameplay of Oolite vanilla, the game’s community has created an enormous amount of expansion packs. These addons, called OXP’s, drastically enhance the game. The modding community has created additional HUD displays, more detailed ship and space station models, mission types and ship upgrades. More than enough to keep even flighty players playing.

Graphics: The Original Elite was one of the first fully 3D games. Sporting rudimentary wire-frame graphics, players had to fill in the details for themselves. The vanilla version of Oolite comes with simply textured models, keeping this tradition alive. It’s not that this graphics engine isn’t capable of handling more impressive visuals, it’s that it doesn’t need to. This universe is full of activity, with traders zipping around dodging raiders, and galactic cops trying to keep the peace. It may take spoiled gamers time to adjust to the simple graphics. That’s fine, because it’s not the visuals that make Oolite great.

Controls: Oolite supports playing with both the keyboard and joystick. While it’s not strictly necessary to hook up your dusty peripheral, you’ll be short changing yourself if you don’t. Keyboard controls are workable, but in combat their is no substitute for the finesse a good joystick allows. The keyboard commands for non-combat functions are intuitive an easy to pick up.

The verdict: If you’re starving for a good space simulator, Oolite will satisfy. With a more rewarding trade system than it’s contemporaries, fast paced combat, and a healthy dose of retro appeal, this is worth checking out.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux, and Mac OS 10.3.9 and up.

Go to the game home page to download the latest version (approx 20.63 megs).