I have to start by saying that I have never really played any space simulation games, but was very excited to try Elite Dangerous. The game was started through a Kickstarter campaign, which seems a popular route for developers nowadays. The game was backed by over 25,000 players. The game has now been going for three years, and they are now releasing a new expansion called Elite Dangerous: Horizons.
Horizons aims to continue to add new content and improve the overall experience. The first major addition to the game is Planetary Landings. Since the game has been released there have been many things added like ships, bug fixes and general improvements. This new update allows you to now land on planets. Horizons is effectively Elite Dangerous 2. The planets you land on feel pretty bland and empty at the moment, but there are plans to add more to these worlds down the line.
You have the ability to enter ‘Orbital Cruise Mode’ which means you can fly around the planets. This gives a real sense of freedom to explore the galaxy. Once you land your ship on a planet you can use your SRV buggy (Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle) to explore the surface of the planet. I started the game by simply taking the time to play through the training missions, that help introduce gameplay mechanics and combat. It took me some time to get used to the controls. You have to learn how to launch and dock your ship, engage in combat and also learn how to travel to areas of the galaxy.
Once I got a hang of the gameplay mechanics, I tried landing on various planets. The ability to go from space, and then down onto the surface is seamless and visually impressive. You also have to make sure that you are fully familarised with the HUD. The HUD changes when you enter your buggy, along with the controls. The environments you explore are procedurally generated, which helped make the game feel unique and exciting every time I went exploring. The planets looked impressive, but they do feel a bit desolate. This felt realistic though, and they have said they will be adding more. What I liked about the planets was the aspect of gravity. The planets have different gravitational pulls, meaning you have to approach your landing carefully.
Once you have successfully landed your ship on the surface, you can deploy your SRV buggy. This is again an area of gameplay that requires some time and practice in getting used to controlling your buggy. You might want to spend some time sorting out your controls in the menu screen. The buggy has two sets of controls. The first is for driving, and the second is for the gun turret. The ability to now explore the surface of planets mixes up the gameplay, and feels like an excellent addition. Some of the planets are more troublesome to navigate than others, with rocky environments.
The planets are absolutely massive, and even the smaller ones are huge. Even from space the planets look massive, but actually driving around on them shows just show large they actually are. I literally found myself exploring planets for hours. You also have a scanner that helps you to locate certain materials and items. The planets have bases, where you can refuel and dock your ship. The bases can have security, that have various levels. The presentation of the game is simply awesome. The galaxies are massive, with plenty to explore and discover. You can spend hours simply flying around and taking in the beautiful sights. Combat can be challenging but fun.
The developers have said that they will continue to add free updates, fixes and optimizations as the game grows. Horizons is only just beginning with the ability to land on planets, but will soon add more like close Quarter Combat and brand new missions. This should be considered as a season pass for new and upcoming content rather than an expansion pack.
Overall my time so far with Elite Dangerous: Horizons has been amazing. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this game and was blown away by the scope of it. I usually like a game to have a strong narrative, but this game is heavily focused on exploration, which it absolutely nails. The game looks amazing, plays well and I’m excited to see how the game develops over the coming months.
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