About a year ago, the game Elite Dangerous (from Frontier Developments) was released. As an early backer, I had already been playing the game for a while. It’s a fantastic space simulation, where you’re allowed to head out into the black and do whatever it is that you find fun. Fancy yourself a smuggler, trader, bounty hunter or political mover and you’ll find something to do. Explorers even got to have their name put onto unexplored regions of space. And for a year the game was quite fun, although I had always looked longingly at the behemoth that is Star Citizen, I knew it would be a while before I could play that game. With the newest expansion to Elite Dangerous I’m looking more at my screen and less at Star Citizen these days.
So if you’re unfamiliar with the Space Simulation genre, the idea is you’re just a tiny insignificant speck in the universe. You’re not the ‘hero’, there’s no real storyline to progress. There are lots (and I do mean LOTS) of faction in space, each brushing up against each other for space and influence. Small system level factions work for galaxy spanning ones and you’re working for all of them. And all this is in a close simulation to our galaxy. Frontier even went as far as to contact NASA to help them with their procedural generation, to ensure the most accurate galaxy possible.
This brings us to the expansion: Horizons. Frontier is a whole ‘season’ of content. That means buying the expansion gets you a bunch of content now, but also free content drops throughout the year. Last year the base game had four major content patches all free. Of course people who don’t buy the expansion get some new content as well, but mostly compatibility content. Buying the expansion gets you an exciting feature out the door: landing on certain planets and moons. Later in the year will be launchable drones and multi-crew ships.
Right now, most players are spending a good chunk of their time exploring the new celestial bodies. Only moons and planets without atmospheres are accessible now, but they’re massive and are detailed enough to make driving around fun on it’s own. Throw into the mix new planetoid bases, the ability to fly right from outer space all the way down to the surface and all sorts of new missions added to the game and there’s a good amount of content waiting to be played now.
However, all these new features come at a cost. Firstly, the requirements for the game have changed. Because it uses compute shaders (a way of running non-graphics code on video cards), directx 11 is required so it takes a slightly beefier system and means any Mac users cannot play the new expansion (although they can still play with their friends in space, even if their friends buy the Horizons content). Secondly it’s a bit confusing as to how to buy the game. Anyone who buys Horizons will get the original game for free. If you already own the original game, you get a discount. There are several preorder tiers, some giving access to physical copies and others giving access to the Beta going on right now. It’s a bit of reading to figure out which is the best option but there are lots of people giving advice on the internet as to which package would suit new players vs old.
The price tag is a bit heafty, at £29.99 (which converts to roughly 60 bucks canadian), less with the existing-owner discount and the ‘make your own fun’ mentality doesn’t suit everyone but I’ve been having a blast with the game and the community makes it very easy to fall in love with the game.