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Elite: Dangerous: Horizons
Score: 90%
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Media: Download/1
Players: MMO
Genre: Flight/Simulation/Online

Introduction:

Elite: Dangerous has never been finished, per se. Given its structure and potential, itís easy to see why this is clearly for the better. It should be viewed as a work-in-progress, with no clear end to development in sight. When new ideas manifest, they are simply added to the experience as yet another option for players to enjoy. Most games canít get away with this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink design philosophy. But then again, few games champion the concept of player agency as bravely as Elite: Dangerous. Year two of Frontierís crowdfunded reboot flies under the moniker Elite: Dangerous: Horizons, and while weíre only halfway through all that it entails, it adds an impressive amount of replay value to what is already an incredibly addictive space simulator experience. Chances are, if you see a missing component in the core game, the developers are already working on filling that blank.

Planetary Landings:

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.


The Engineers:

New contacts come with new rewards in Elite: Dangerous: Horizons. The latest addition to its roster of previous token politicians, longshoremen, pirates, etc. is a cadre of unrelated but potentially helpful engineers. These individuals are professionals in at least one unique capacity, but they wonít take any special work orders from you unless you fulfill a series of very specific requirements. The first set of requirements earn you an invite into an engineer's base, while the second set unlocks his/her services. The requirements are different between engineers, and they pertain to a variety of tasks that are characteristically wide. While it might be annoying for some, it makes perfect sense in this world, in which reputation is everything.

Once you're in with the engineer, you can do business. What kind of business, you may ask? Well, the kind of business that makes your ship better, of course. Blueprints go in-depth on the required materials and commodities, as well as a general idea of where to get them. Invariably, the resource farming often comes from combat loot and synthesizing materials from planetary surfaces. This kind of stuff fits right in with the gameplay and ::gasp:: gives it a bit of a point, as well!


Value:

Elite: Dangerous: Horizons is sold both as a expansion pack and as part of the Commander's Deluxe Edition. If you already have the core game, it will set you back $29.99. If you don't, the Commander's Deluxe Edition is clearly the way to go, as it comes with everything released thus far.

I don't mean to harp on the point, but Elite: Dangerous: Horizons isn't done rolling out yet, and even then, it's not the end of the story as promised by Frontier. Looking at how far the game has come makes it extremely easy to get excited for the future.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:



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