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Elite Dangerous was one of my bigger games of late 2014 and 2015. It was the first out of a new wave of space simulators and we reviewed it in July last year. I played the original Elite on a ZX Spectrum and loved the updated version. Since my July review I’ve kept plugging away at it whenever I’ve had time and although I’m not the best player and don’t have the biggest and best ships I find it very relaxing and energizing to play. I’m going to focus on the Horizons expansion – my original Elite Dangerous Review holds up well.
Horizons was announced as an expansion to Dangerous and came out mid December 2015 – a year after Dangerous launched. They’ve chosen to do the expansion in an odd way. The original Elite Dangerous is still available as it’s own game for £19.99 but if you buy Horizons for £39.99 it contains a copy. In other words buy the original for £20 then the upgrade for £40 or just buy the expansion for £40.
So what is in Horizons? At the moment barring a few bug fixes and UI changes there are two things – planetary landing and new ships. The landings are in true Elite style on procedurally generated planets – currently only airless rocks. You can set down wherever you want and put down a wheeled vehicle called a SRV. This can run around on the surface (and jump short distances) and find resources, ship wrecks and fight with its little weapons. Like the ships the SRV’s are customisable with several base frames and a number of weapons and parts.
The new ships bring the total available to 31 (two in the CQC dogfighting mode) split between freighters, explorers, combat ships and multipurpose. The range of modules has also been somewhat expanded and it’s possible to setup your hulls just as you want them for whatever type of gaming you prefer.
There are a number of other things promised for Horizons in 2016. These include crafting, multi-crew ships, Commander avatar creation but at the time of writing they’re not available and there isn’t a clear timeline as to when they will be available other than “In 2016”.
If you have already bought the first ‘Season’ of Elite Dangerous there is currently a £10 discount on the Frontier store for Horizons making it £30.
About Frontier Developments
In 1984 David Braben wrote a game – Elite – for the BBC Micro an inspired a genre of space games and open ended games. It was hugely popular and was ported to a number of system at the time and in inspired two sequels in the early 1990’s. The market moved away from space sims at that point and although there were several attempts to get a new game made it wasn’t until 2012 and the coming of Kickstarter that the game got off the ground with around £1.5 million in funding.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
Elite Dangerous’s big appeal was the ability to strike off into the black, go to any system and play however you wanted. With the right ship and setup you could literally fly for a near unlimited amount of time without docking. The only place you couldn’t go was planets. With some exceptions that has now changed. Like the star systems the planets are for the most part procedurally generated when the first player reaches them and if the planet has a solid surface you can probably land on it.
You can land anywhere (landing safely is more difficult!) and drive whichever direction you can physically do. Most of the time you’ll want to look for outposts on the planet surface (which can be found in your scanner) rather than just driving around aimlessly but if you want the complete freedom it’s now there.
It is easy to focus on the fact that you can land and miss the fact that you can also fly near the surface and this turns out to be surprisingly fun. Think Star Wars piloting through canyons and you get the idea.
Once you get over the novelty of landing in random places you realise that the most important part of landing is the bases which you can hack into or attack, shipwrecks which you can loot and resources which you can mine.
There has been a lot of debate about the cost of the Horizons expansion. Some contend that an expansion should not be as expensive as the original game was particularly when it only adds a new aspect to it. Horizons is expensive but it’s not outrageously so. Assuming that Frontier carries on this annual trend (which they have hinted they will) that means that with the discount the annual expansion cost is £30. If that was on top of a subscription that would be too high but as it it is acceptable
Players: Online connection required but it can be single player or friends only. This is not persistent so you can play with other players when you want and on your own when you want.
Full Xbox controller support
Full flight stick HOTAS and joystick support,
Currently no Oculus Rift Support although it did support an earlier version of the DK2 and Rift is promised at some point
Language: English interface.
PEGI /ESRB rating T for Teen
Platform: PC and Mac for the main game and a spin off on the Xbox One
Windows recommended spec:
OS: Windows 7, Windows 8
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K Quad Core CPU or better / AMD FX 4350 Quad Core CPU or better
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GTX 770 / AMD Radeon R9 280X
DirectX: Version 11
Network Broadband Internet Connection
Hard Drive: 7 GB available space
Mac OSX recommended spec:
OS: OS X Yosemite (version 10.10.3)
Processor: 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M (2GB video memory) / AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB video memory)
Network Broadband Internet Connection
Hard Drive: 8 GB available space
Like any game the higher the PC’s spec the better your experience is likely to be. I had no significant problems with crashes although there were times where it took repeated attempts to log onto the servers.
Last year when I started playing Elite Dangerous the one word that kept popping into my head was potential. The game was huge and wide but needed depth. Frontier spent a year adding features but none of them ever made a significant difference. Horizons seems to be more of the same. The only things it has yet delivered add to the breadth of things available in the game and are fun to play but fundamentally it hasn’t added much.
Don’t get me wrong – if you’re already a player of Elite getting Horizons even at £30 should be a foregone conclusion. As a potential new player you should also choose Horizons over the older version of Dangerous if only to avoid versioning problems but the question as to if this does draw in new players probably answered no.
If you’re a space sim player and managed to avoid Dangerous for the last year Horizons is a great starting point but it nothing really new. Recommended for Elite Dangerous players.
The review is based on Elite Dangerous Horizons kindly provided by Frontier. This article was first published on the 21st January 2016.