Butter verses Potato: Elite Dangerous vs Microsoft Flight Simulator using a Quest 2 VR

I bought a Quest 2 specifically to play with Microsoft Flight Simulator using a Link cable. I had a GearVR previously, but this has been my first experience with PC based VR. It’s been a mixed experience. Does it work? Sort of. But you have to put in a ton of time either following settings recommendations or spend time yourself tweaking settings to find what balance works for you. It’s currently a compromise between graphics quality and framerates – unless you drop a few thousand dollars on the fastest hardware and current top of the range Nvidia 3090 (which alone will cost you around $3000) you have to make a compromise.

I’ve followed a lot of online guides for settings recommendations and came up with a combination that worked ok for me. However, I’ve come to accept that this is really two different games with completely different experiences:

  • playing with Ultra everything on desktop and enjoying the incredible graphics (which honestly is incredible)
  • playing in VR with seriously dialed back settings to get it to run smooth, but being amazed at the emersiveness and believable feeling of being in a plane cockpit and actually flying

These are not the same two things for me, at least with the hardware I have. It’s two different games with two different experiences.

Knowing that I’d probably get a much better VR experience with native Quest 2 games, I’ve tried out a few had a great experience (Star Wars Pinball, Job Simulator). so I know the Quest can give a good experience. Standalone it works great.

I’ve played a lot of hours previously with Elite Dangerous, and I remember it was one of the earlier games to get PC VR support. I’d been so focused on getting the settings just right for MS Flight Simulator that I hadn’t even tried any other PC games. So I gave it a go.

I was surprised. So very, very surprised. Compared to MS Flight Simulator it’s a night and day experience. I didn’t bother bringing up the Oculus tray and tweaking any settings, I was just initially curious to see what it would be like. I started up the game, turned on VR headset support in game (didn’t even start it from Steam, and since I’d already started Link it just went straight in. The experience was smooth, it was fluid, no lags, no stutters, it was really an incredible experience. No tweaking settings, no lowering graphics features, it just worked.

The incredible thing was the sense of massiveness of the environment that I’d never experienced playing the game sitting in front of a monitor. The insides of the ship are massive, the ships themselves are massive when viewed from your SRV outside. Flying across the vastness of space feels like you’re there. Approaching a planet you get the sense of how massive the planets are as you approach.

In summary, MS Flight Simulator has not been optimized enough to be comfortably playable yet. Elite Dangerous on the other hand is incredible in VR. The Quest 2 with Link cable can work flawlessly out of the box. I hope MS Flight Simulator will get there but it’s hit or miss whether you can get the settings tuned enough to be playable on your hardware.

Admittedly I have’t tried any other PC games at this point, but if you want a showcase experience of what’s possible, try Elite Dangerous with the Quest 2 over Link. It’s incredible.

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