Buckle your seatbelts commanders because it’s about to be a bumpy ride! This should have been the tagline for the newly released beta for Elite Dangerous: Horizons. Since the announcement of this major expansion all I have been able to think about is just how great this is going to be, and let me tell you in some ways I was not ready for just how much this would enhance the game, or how frustrated it could make me.
Horizons officially launched to beta backers with all of the usual first day headaches associated with being an early adopter. Frequent server crashes and bugs made the game mostly unplayable for the first 24 hours, but as always Frontier were quick to release the first update of many. This patch seemed to fix a few of those annoying day one issues. Once the update was downloaded the real fun could begin, or could it?
Excitedly heading towards my first planet, I found that I couldn’t actually land and drive around in my rover. As it turns out, the beta does not automatically give you access to everything you will need to start exploring these newfound worlds. Players are required to search out a high-tech station and purchase three items to begin their explorations. First, you are going to need a planetary landing suite, which gives you the tools needed for atmospheric flight. Once you have that you will need to purchase and outfit a Hangar module to carry your rover, and then purchase the Scarab rover.
So now I have everything I need and I can land, right? Well, you’re almost there and all that is left to do is to make sure your ship has enough power to carry all of this new equipment. Trust me when I say you don’t want to learn this the hard way! If you land on your first planet without fixing this power allocation issue, it will leave you with a ship that has shut down and a commander who is fighting for air. Needless to say, this is not a good feeling in the Rift.
Now with some of the negatives out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff. With the release of Horizons, Frontier has added yet another missing piece to the Sci-Fi dream that is Elite Dangerous. The planetary landings are smooth and seamless. At the point you start your descent, the ships handling immediately changes and you really get that sense of being in atmospheric flight. Frontier absolutely made these planets feel believable with each one having different gravity and surface tension.
Slipping into the cockpit of the Scarab for the first time you will understand why this expansion is called Horizons, the views from planet side are absolutely breathtaking. Coming over the peak of an alien mountain range to see a gas giant’s rings close in the sky is awe-inspiring. The surfaces of the planets are also not just barren wastelands, there are bases and settlements, ships coming and going and drones hovering above the surface performing laser scans which all help to create a vivid atmosphere at an impressive scale.
The Scarab rover also comes ready for combat giving the player the ability to shoot the guns from inside the cockpit or by manning an impressive looking roof mounted turret for a little more up close and personal laser blasting goodness.
Horizons has also brought us one step closer to solidifying the social aspect of the game when played with friends. Being able to meet on an agreed upon world is just plain cool! Watching your fellow wingmates land next to you and then going for a spin and doing some planet-side stunt driving in the scarabs is great fun. Playing with my friends VR Gaming Evolved and UK Rifter was even more amazing due to all of the new possibilities that Horizons brings to the table.
Overall, I have to say that even though the game has been plagued with those annoying but predictable beta problems, it is by far the best thing to happen to Elite Dangerous since it launched. Soon we will see more added to the planned expansions for Season Two and I can only see this game getting better over time. The beta is still available for purchase on Frontiers site for $74.99 and if you were a previous beta backer for Elite Dangerous, you may qualify for a loyalty discount towards the purchase. Elite Dangerous: Horizons is compatible with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Update: A previous version of this article mistakenly read that the whole Universe is explorable, Elite: Dangerous allows you to “only” explore the expanse of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Don Hopper an avid gamer and tech enthusiast with a passion for Virtual Reality and immersive technologies. He has been exploring virtual worlds for almost 20 years and is a true believer in VR’s future. Hopper shares his passion for the industry with the rest of his ‘VR Bros‘ on their YouTube channels, where he is better known as the “VRGamerDude” and now here on UploadVR. You can follow him on Twitter @VRGamerDude.