2018 could be the year Elite Dangerous really starts to shine

No one can argue that Elite Dangerous is a gorgeous space sim on an epic scale with excellent mechanics. That's not why gamers haven't stuck with it — the problem is the lack of substance. It looks great, but there's not a whole lot to do if you're not a fan of role-playing or creating your own enjoyment. That's set to change as we move into 2018. Frontier seems to be really stepping up a gear as we take a look at what the team has planned.

Return of the Thargoid

The Thargoid have been causing havoc across the galaxy for some time, but players have banded together to take this new threat head-on. Unfortunately, for us law-abiding citizens of the Milky Way, things aren't going to remain so peaceful if Frontier has its way and implements what we believe to be a solid-sounding roadmap.

This alien lifeform isn't quite done with humanity and we'll be seeing much more of them in the year to come. Not much has been revealed of the narrative, as expected, but it was highlighted as one of the key parts of the roadmap into 2018 — everything will be covered under the "Beyond" update.

More details on the Thargoid threat is promised to be revealed, alongside its relationship with the Guardians.

Deploy your hardpoints, you're going to need 'em.

The first quarter will see story-driven content added, as well as more community goals. Later in 2018 is when much of the new assets and features will be added, including new ships, GalNet news with audio support, revamped mining, crafting and trading systems, new anomalies to discover, as well as squadrons — essentially guilds (or clans) in Elite Dangerous.

Not quite as void

Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous (Image credit: Frontier Developments)

A major goal for the team is to address community and critic feedback by adding more things to do and making the galaxy feel more alive. What makes Beyond even more interesting is how Frontier plans to release it to those who own Horizons for free. That shows the company is committed to making Elite the game the community always dreamed it would be. Beyond could easily be packaged as another DLC.

But even with things to do, Elite Dangerous is mostly about piloting incredible-looking spacecraft. Speaking of which, two new units will be added in Beyond. The first is the Chieftain.

The Chieftain is the result of a partnership between the Alliance and Lakon Spaceways to create a new military-grade vessel. The second new ship is known as the Krait, which will be instantly recognizable to anyone who played through the original Elite game.

These new ships — and all other options already available — will be able to take advantage of new weapons that will be rolled out, likely with higher efficiency at dealing with Thargoid ships.

Best HOTAS for Elite Dangerous

Get social, CMDR

Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous (Image credit: Frontier Developments)

The second update in 2018 will focus on squadrons and the social features that are part of Elite Dangerous. Sure, it's a vast and expansive galaxy out there, but it doesn't have to be a lonely affair. Taking wings to a whole new level, the new squadron groups will have dedicated communication systems, as well as a large fleet carrier that can be purchased.

The Thargoid will be no match for well-armed and prepared squadrons.

This mobile behemoth can act as a base of sorts, allowing squadrons to refuel, resupply and respawn. And when not in battle, it'll be possible to touch down on planets (with Horizons installed, of course) with fellow squadron members and take in the new planet surfaces with enhanced detail and variation.

I reckon 2018 is going to be a strong year for Elite Dangerous. If the game doesn't make some solid ground next year, at least with the free updates we'll be able to rely on it as a time passer until Star Citizen advances a little further.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.