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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 is 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 over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I have this game and you are dead on with your "husk/meatbag" analogy. I played it for a while but lost interest. This new content looks amazing! I might even buy a VR head-set just for this game! I'm sure the immersion is incredible with VR.
  • Haven't tried with the Vive, but it's pretty awesome in the Rift.
  • I don't play in VR myself, but many players in the community have said that once you've tried it, there's no going back.
  • ED isn't a game, it's a lifestyle, a journey, that will takes months and months of involvment.  Just the exploration part alone can take hundreds of hours to enjoy.  I'm not even brave enough yet to hop in my fully-kitted Asp X and travel to Sag A.  There's so much to do.
  • I'm a late-comer to Elite Dangerous: Horizons (I see much less value in not having Horizons).  I just don't understand the whole "beautiful husk" complaint.  When I first came across ED, I felt it was pretty clear right off the bat that this "game" really was meant to be an experience, not a game.  The mechanics they employ strives to find a reasonable balance between the reality of interstellar/intra-galactic travel and keeping an experience playable. The socio-political activity, the commerce, piracy, mining, exploring...all of it is what one might expect in some hyothetical distant future.   I can understand people getting bored with ED.  What I don't understand is why you expected something out of ED that it wasn't designed to be.  If you are the type that enjoys the mindless, phrenetic chaos of arena games, then ED is NOT for you.  While I've always been an FPS-focused gamer, the arena/deathmatch modes don't interest me.  The quasi-realness of ED, with the VERY mixable options of what type of commander you want to be, was immediately attractive to me.  Some aspects remind me of the Wing Commander/Privateer games with a bit of Freespace mixed in.  I'm NOT a social player.  Even back in the old Day of Defeat days, I really wasn't one to get social with other players, and more than happy to never talke to anyone online (which is one of the many reasons all the social aspects of Xbox One annoy the heck out of me, with no way to completely disable any of it).  As soon as I started playing ED I began outfitting my ships toward Exploration.  In fact, I quickly realized that the Non-Player Commanders were a pain and that the only way I could ENJOY endless hours of just EXPLORING without interruption was to head as far into the black as possible.  Where I've gone, not even NPCs exist.  And I LOVE that. Now, having said all that, I made the journey in my Diamondback Explorer from The Bubble in to the Colonia bubble.  Because I erred on the side of caution, I balanced safety with jump range and this trip literally took me 3 months.  It was GLORIOUS.  But here I am now, with my home port at Colonia Dream.  I've accumulated 6 ships, the most recent being a Python (last night, as a matter of fact).  Speaking to the high degree of flexibility of who you can be in ED, I have outfitted a couple of my ships more towards minor storage capacity but higher firepower so I could accumulate Credits quicker doing shorter missions.  Now that I have the variety of ships I want, I can do a little bounty hunting if I want a little more excitement or do recoveries until I'm ready to embark on another really long exploration journey. I think jlzimmerman has it exactly right.  ED is more a lifestyle.  It's kind of like Second Life for spacecraft commanders.  Instead of customizing an avatar (although we now HAVE that) we customize our ships and we can be as interactive with each other as we want.  Of all the complaints of ED, there's only ONE that I really agree with--which is mostly going to be addressed in the next few updates: planet/moon surface variety.  The fact of the universe is that the strangeness of what the surface of a given planet or moon is as varied as the number of them there are.  Getting "away from the beige" is going to be great, and a much more realistic variety of planets/moons with make exploration even more enjoyable than it already is.   So, speaking only for myself, I don't know why anyone would be considering removing ED from their system in the first place.  There's as much 'excitement' as I choose (although, the random interdiction from NPCs and the resulting destruction of my ship is never welcome), I am thoroughly enjoying the experience now, and I'm really looking forward to the enhancements coming.  Elite Dangerous is, quite honestly, the ONLY reason I would consider getting a VR headset.
  • Good post.  Gamers don't understand that ED designed to be a simulator first, game second.  It's come a long way since 1984.
  • Honestly, I am ALL about the experience. I love how this game makes me feel like I'm actually flying these ships. I remember the first time I took my first ship out. I was so nervous!! The game gives each ship"weight" and a sense that you are flying a massive ship. I never felt so nervous about bumping into another person in a game. I think my hands were shaking from that experience, lol. I don't mean to undermine the experience this game gives in my post above. It is an incredible experience, but as soon as Horizons came out I stopped playing (simply because I did not buy Horizons) over time I lost interest, and now this article is bringing me back. I feel that VR will truly enhance the immersion and I'm excited to give this game a second try.
  • Will ED work with MIxed Reality Headsets?
  • Yes it will, but I'm sure only after steamVR support comes to Windows mixed reality. I could be wrong though. Not sure if it's already supported.
  • Elite DOES have some level of native VR baked in (it had been added before the game was available on Steam) but I haven't ever tried it with an HMD (except the PSVR hacked in via TrinusPS, which worked but not super well)
  • It has always worked with Virtual Reality (I started playing with Rift DK2 in 2014) but it is not an Augmented Reality game, so it depends what headset you are talking about and which definition of the buzzword you subscribe to.
    Elite: Dangerous has native VR support and works very well with Rift (I own the CV1) and the HTC Vive (I demonstrated the game on the Vive at EGX 2015), so as long as whatever headset you get supports VR and runs on Steam VR or connects to Oculus SDK, you'll be golden.
    Regarding the misleading headline, Elite has never been a husk. It just isn't a scripted "start, middle and end" story. Players used to hand-holding games expecting to be lead by the nose and bombarded with cut scenes are left cold.
    Elite is a simulator first and foremost. The night sky in the game isn't some arty bitmap, but a true 3D render of the sky from your relative position in the milky way. You can point to any star in the sky and say "I'll go there". And you can.
    The 2.4 Beyond is a year's worth of content updates that Frontier are shipping for no charge. They are implementing a long list of features that players of the game have been requesting over time since release and Frontier have taken the time to listen and act on it. It will take a good game and make it just a little bit better across the board.
    I've heard the "it's a mile wide and an inch deep" complaints from people who, in the next sentence say "I've played 1,200 hours" and totally miss the irony.