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

Introduction:

Every now and then, the act of writing for games media features a unique challenge. Most releases tend to follow a concretized business plan. (When itís done, itís done.) Over the last few years, however, new factors have begun challenging the preconceived notions weíve normally had of gamesí lifecycles. Some, such as massive day one patches and the rise of pre-order culture, havenít been exactly welcome. Others, such as Early Access, have been more promising. One trend that Iíve noted with equal parts enthusiasm and apprehension is that of games as platforms. By that, Iím referring to games that are released and then built upon for years at a time. Weíve seen it in the past with several music games, but itís really come into its own recently. My main fears regarding this trend lie with games that shall not be mentioned here, but games like Elite: Dangerous have my complete, unbridled enthusiasm.

2016ís season expansion to Frontier Developmentsí excellent space sim reaches a fever pitch with Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė Guardians, an infusion of worthwhile content that goes a very long way in both establishing the Milky Way Galaxy as a living, expanding human territory and deepening the core experience in a number of meaningful ways.


Scramble, Scramble:

With the launch of Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė Guardians, we have the addition of a highly-sought feature: ship-launched fighters. Letís face it: as much as weíd all like to be Han Solo, the odds of a lone, undermanned spacecraft surviving in the far reaches of deep space are incredibly poor. When you find yourself interdicted by a fleet of wayward pirates, your best options so far have been to either submit, jettison your cargo, and leave yourself to the mercy of the scumdog interloper. Well, not anymore.

Provided you have the right ship and have made the necessary purchases/hiring decisions, you can opt to utilize a series of smaller, different-handling spacecraft in your engagements. These are game-changing as far as the combat goes; while your tactics have always had to shift on the fly (what with shifting power to different subsystems, prioritizing targets and objectives, etc.), this deepens your options many times over. Shifting between fighters and your "mothership" is simple, and the A.I. that drives the autopilot for the craft youíre not controlling is competent.


Crazy Space Taxi:

Elite: Dangerous has always been an easy game to get lost in, and itís always been accommodating towards all sorts of playstyles. Those who are big into space battles are all but guaranteed to be satisfied by Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė Guardians. But what of those who simply love to travel? This season expansion has those people covered, too Ė in a way they might not have seen coming.

While Elite: Dangerous is certainly many things, there are some things itís never been. Among those things itís never been is personality-driven. Sure, regional politics play a role in several aspects of the core gameplay, but you never really get a sense of the people who actually live in these places. Guardians changes that.

You can now outfit your craft to take on passengers, which is a delight. If youíve kept to delivery and trading missions, the prospect of becoming an independent Uber/Lyft driver in space, you can do that now. Even more interesting is the amount of personality that passengers add to the mix. Taking regular passengers provides the requisite gameplay patterns youíre undoubtedly accustomed to, but higher dollar passengers have their own requests and demands; letís just say that people never fail to surprise. Satisfying these individuals is a wholly unique and rewarding challenge in and of itself, and failing to do is deliciously enraging.


Conclusion:

Frontier Developmentsí plans for Elite: Dangerous are ambitious and more than a little confusing at times, but one gets the sense that they are doing everything in their power to ensure that all that ambition is brought to tangible fruition. A galaxy simulation is no small feat, and each time we get a release like this, the finished product becomes more and more impressive. Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė Guardians is a substantial update, and an excellent reason to return to the fold.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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