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Elite: Dangerous: Horizons - The Commanders
Score: 98%
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Media: Download/1
Players: MMO
Genre: Free-Roaming/Simulation/MMORPG

Commanders Unite:

The Commanders update to Elite Dangerous: Horizons features a variety of changes, here and there, throughout the game. Most of these are geared toward supporting more social gameplay, the most obvious of which is the Multicrew gameplay, which allows a player with a ship capable of multiple crew (with more than one seat, essentially), to invite other players to "beam in" to another player's ship holographically, to join them in their ship and to operate secondary stations: the Gunnery Station and Fighter Control (for ship-launched fighters). Ship-launched fighter control allows another player to control your fighter while you control your ship, so you don't have to rely on the A.I. crew members, but it also allows you to use two fighters at the same time, if you like, either with one player-controlled fighter and one A.I. controlled fight or with two player-controlled fighters. Of course, you'd have to have at least two ship-launched fighters in your fighter bay to try this. The Gunnery Station allows another player to control only Turret weapons, so if you want to have someone fill your Gunner seat and actually help you out in battles, you'll need to make sure you have some Turret-based weapons. The Helm position is retained by the Commander that owns the ship and encompasses the operation of the ship, including non-turret weapons, flight control, synthesis and, well, anything that's not using the turrets or using fighters. And, for that matter, the Helm can be turned over to the A.I. if the owner of the ship decides to take over the fighter that was controlled by A.I. Other than that, control of the Helm can't be turned over to anyone else.

While it might, indeed, sound like a neat idea to let another player "take her for a spin," it's important to keep in mind that, ultimately, in the case that the ship gets destroyed, there is no real penalty to the visiting players, while the owner of the ship would have to pay the insurance fee to get the ship back. Mind you, the insurance cost is reduced if the ship is destroyed during Multicrew gameplay, so even that aspect is cushioned a bit, but still, it probably wouldn't have been a good idea to turn over the keys to a random player with nothing to lose.

I've talked about launching multiple ship-launched fighters and manning turrets, but it doesn't have to be all about blowing things up. You can also jump into the ship of someone doing exploration, if you prefer. Since my gameplay tends to be more exploration and less pew-pew, that's exactly what I did the first time I tried Multicrew. As it happens, I found myself joining another explorer in their Asp Explorer, which was a bit amusing, since the secondary crew station is directly below the primary in the Asp Explorer, so my first Multicrew experience was in a ship that I couldn't see the other player.

While I'm sure that a lot of more socially interactive players might think Exploration dull and slow, we explorers enjoy the pace, the sights and the thrill of being the first to see something. And, although I was a "Gunner" on a ship with nothing to shoot at and I couldn't even see the other player, we were still able to see the same systems together and to have a nice chat about exploration, hardware we used and ...just enjoy the trip. I had my one pip on my console, which I took out of Weapons and put into Systems so he could jump quicker or Engines so he could get to the next planet to scan a bit quicker, but other than that, it was just a ride-along. And it was delightful. I even experienced my first neutron star-powered jump, which was not only my first time experiencing that in-game, but was also my host's first time trying it. When you're hundreds of light years out of the bubble, exploring systems never before visited, the only thing missing might be the ability to share that experience with someone. Even if it's only for them to say, "Nice Jump, Commander."

I'm Ready for My Closeup:

Of course, if you're going to be flying in the same ship as someone, you need to be able to see each other. That's why Frontier added "Holo-Me", a deeply detailed and impressive character creator that can be used to make a unique Commander appearance, with enough variation to approximate the look you're going for, whether you're creating a young girl fresh out of flight school or a grizzled veteran who has seen his share of battle, close up.

There are enough sliders, settings and do-whats-its to recreate actual people pretty well. I've seen some very good likenesses done by Frontier Developments, but I was able to get a pretty close likeness of myself, as well. Of course, you don't have to create your own likeness in the game. You could be a young man and play as a female veteran with a nasty eye scar and a cybernetic eye replacement, if you like. Further, you can change your "Holo-Me" whether you're in a station or flying around in space, so you can change your appearance whenever you like.

What You Get:

In addition to the introduction of Holo-Me and Multicrew, the Dolphin has been added as both an NPC and a playable ship. The Dolphin is the smallest of the passenger ship line that includes the Beluga and the Orca, featuring the same sleek lines, but costing just over 1.3 million Credits. Note, however, that while the Dolphin is a fan favorite, it only has 1 seat, unlike the two in the Orca or three in the Beluga, so it's an interesting ship, but not one you're going to Multicrew in.

In fact, the issue with selecting a ship with the maximum (3) number of crew stations is that, of the three possible roles: Helm, Gunner and Fighter Control, the last one requires the ship actually has the ability to have a fighter bay. It appears(1) that there are currently five ships that can have Fighter Bays and also support a Gunner, giving you the maximum of three crew seats (well, including the Helm, which is always the owner): Anaconda, Type 9, Beluga, Imperial Cutter and Federal Corvette.

The Classified Cam is no more, replaced by a much more involved and fully featured Camera Suite, allowing various interior and exterior views, with a slew of motion controls, the ability to Hide the U.I. and to even Blur and Focus for effect. If you used the camera before, you'll likely be excited to see the control you now have. If not, you can still expect to see better screenshots and videos created by those who do.

What else? Well, new Asteroid bases (yes, you go inside an asteroid), as well as Megaships, which are technically ships, but act more like stations, some of which you can land on. There are also new Scenarios in the Training Menu, including fighter training "Incursions" scenarios (that actually helped me a bit!), as well as Speed Docking, an SRV Driver Challenge and ship-launched fighter Scenarios.

Additionally, there have been mysteries added into the game, furthering the storyline of humans' interaction with the mysterious alien races whose ruins and artifacts we've found in various places in the galaxy, for those players racing to encounter other intelligent life out in the galaxy.

In the spirit of promoting a player identity in Elite: Dangerous, The Commanders also includes the ability to give your ship a name. (Yay!) If you read the forums, you'll see that players have been informally naming their ships for quite some time, completely outside of their games, including it in their signatures on posts and such. Well, now you can give your ship a name and Commanders will see it when they target or scan your ship. Additionally, your ship will have a 6 character call sign that you can set as you please. Assigning a name or call sign to your ship is done in the Outfitting menu, so you'll have to be in a station that offers Outfitting to change either. Also, simply setting these values won't physically do anything to the outside of your ship. That requires an additional in-game purchase. There are a few different packs of ship Name Plates, each pack being themed (Pirate, Explorer, Passenger, Trader, Combat or Practical) and costing $3.00 USD. For that, you get three different styles, which primarily affects the graphics that accompany the name and these name plates can be used on any/all of your ships. This seems to me like a better bang for your buck than a paint job for a specific ship. If you've played for any length of time, you'll know that you're going to change ships from time to time.

While we're talking about in-game purchases, there are also some different Holo-Me options you can upgrade to. There are some exotic face tattoo packs available ($1.75 USD) and a variety of different space suit packs. Mind you, there are some face tattoos available in the Holo-Me character creator, and there are two space suit packs (of 6 options, each) available, but if you want to be unique and you're looking for a space suit that stands out or, perhaps, is camouflaged, you'll need to spend $3 to $4 dollars to distinguish yourself.

What You Don't Get:

This is a huge update, but there were a couple of things I would have liked to see (that are directly related to this new content), but aren't in there. First off, when I first saw some video of ship names in the Beta, the names were always in the Adjective-Animal format, such as "Rancorous Bison," which led me to think we might have gotten a limited selection list to choose from. We didn't, you can name your ship whatever you like, but I was hoping that a limited-scope might have meant that the traffic control at stations could address me by my ship's name. Even as it is, I would love to see the call sign used for this purpose. They're already using the first three letters of your Commander name, why not go six characters and call us by our call signs? Ah, maybe in a future update.

Further, one feature I have been wishing for is the ability to view separate panels (such as Panel 1, the Navigation Panel) on a separate monitor. This would be extremely helpful when trying to build a simulator around Elite: Dangerous. No, Frontier Developments didn't even tease that this feature would be supported in any way in this release, but when I saw the new camera features being added and the fact that Multicrew allows multiple accounts to all have views into the same ship, I got really excited at the possibilities. However, having a chance to kick the tires a bit, I'm sorry to say that the interior camera views, which would be the way to view those panels, are fixed cameras, which can only tilt and pan around; they are not free to move about the cabin. Shame. The Gunner station does have an interesting interface for combat, which could be useful in a simulator, but it edges into actually having a second seat and needing a second player. So, can Multicrew be used in a simulator build? Sure, but mainly to give you additional exterior views (which could be really nice) or to simply build a two or three seat simulator, where everyone shares the main view and the secondary seats have their own view, as well.

Final Thoughts:

Not being a very social player, I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed jumping into someone's ship and riding along. Even during Exploration, riding along and chatting with someone was pleasant, indeed.

Further, I stay away from firefights like my life depended on it, but the new Incursion training scenarios gave me a good venue for getting a better handle on targeting enemies and managing distance in a firefight. And if it can help me, it can most likely help anyone.

I've seen some people complaining about the fact that the ship name doesn't appear on the exterior of the ship unless you buy something extra, but I'm not bothered by that too much. It comes up on scanners without paying for anything, and in the vast distances involved in crossing the galaxy, getting close enough to another ship to read a nameplate is a rarity. Unless, of course, you're trying to blow each other up... but even then, you're not likely to sit still and let the other Commander read your nameplate. No, these are more of a Vanity Plate than anything else. I'm a big fan of Star Wars and the Millennium Falcon, which doesn't have a nameplate anywhere, so while I think it's really cool that we can name our ships, I'm on the fence about slapping it on the exterior. If you, on the other hand, are more of a Star Trek fan and like to see names and call signs emblazoned on the side of ships, then by all means, pay a few extra dollars. You won't be alone; on launch day the store was rendered almost unusable with the number of players buying in-game purchases.

All in all, I am excited at the Commanders update and look forward to the rippled effects these new elements will bring. I look forward to seeing you out there and, if you're exploring the vastness of space, keep a hot chocolate handy and a seat warm for me. Until then, stay safe, Commanders!

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

Windows Project Highrise: Las Vegas Microsoft Xbox One Elite: Dangerous: Horizons - The Commanders

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