If you want proof of that statement, look no further than the biggest gameplay addition yet: Planetary Landings. No longer are you forced to admire alien landscapes from afar. No longer will you simply cease movement upon reaching a certain distance threshold. As long as itís a solid body with no atmosphere, you can now land on it. Stars are still best used as stopping points for hyperspace jumps and scooping fuel for your ship, and most gas giants feature properties that are lethal to human life. Then again, if you wanted to see that kind of stuff in the hard science fiction context of Elite: Dangerous
, youíre looking in the wrong place.
Planetary Landings donít add a completely new dimension to the core gameplay pillars of the game proper, but they do freshen things up a fair amount. If youíre tired of traveling to samey-looking orbital space stations and drifting industrial ports, Elite: Dangerous: Horizons - Planetary Landings will seem like a breath of fresh air. Functionally, landing on a planet is much like docking at a port. Youíll still approach your chosen destination in supercruise, but dropping out at a safe speed is automatic with Planetary Landings; once youíre in the gravity well, you switch to orbital cruise, where you can determine where exactly you wish to go from your entry vector. Proceed with your descent, and the game will load you into the planet, allowing you to fly anywhere and land anywhere. Settlements and ports exist on these planets, so if youíd prefer to make your entrance the old-fashioned way, you certainly can. But you donít have to.
Deploying your landing gear and setting down in the middle of nowhere is an option, and an enthralling one at that. Provided youíve outfitted your ship with a Planetary Vehicle Hangar and a Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV), you have the option to leave your ship behind and take to the ground. Given my generally nonviolent playstyle, I invested in resource gathering and management; each planet is rife with points of interest and natural resources just begging to be discovered and exploited. And unlike many other games set in space, this one actually lets you get your hands dirty with all the minutiae. As casual and leisurely as it sounds, itís a refreshing change of pace from all the aggression.