Elite Dangerous: Horizon (2017)

From the get-go, it's even what Horizon will bring to the world of Elite

 It's a big, albeit a tad expensive, step for Elite Dangerous. From now on it's not tied only in the void of space. Horizon expands the scope of the game that already is massive in terms of the size of the playground of billions of stars, as now on you can land on some planets as well and some of those planets are already dotted with bases and small cities.

Before anything else, let me explain the difference between base Elite Dangerous and Elite Dangerous: Horizon. It doesn't matter which game you own, as all the players share the same universe. Elite Dangerous is still getting updates, in fact, 1.5 updates came out the same time with Horizon. ED:H is the 2.0 version of ED that inserts planetary landings to the game and will get exclusive updates through the year, while base ED will be getting updates aimed for those who don't own Horizon. Horizon itself is a paid expansion to ED, though it includes the base game as well, so if you're interested in getting ED now, get Horizon directly, as otherwise, you'll just be wasting money. Or if you already own ED, but not a lifetime pass for it, you can always wait for ED:H to go on sale, as it is a tad expensive.

Landing to a planet base. There's bigger places as well than this, filled with high-rise buildings.

Granted, there are no planets with atmospheres yet, as that, according to Frontier Development, takes more time in order to get the fidelity they want. And besides, planets with atmospheres aren't even promised to be a part of this expansion. But this expansion still generates even more playable space, as those balls with ice and dust and rock are created in 1:1 scale. Not all that space is or even could be, full of interesting things, but technically speaking it is a marvellous achievement, especially if you think even the barren planets can mean multiple planets and moons you can land on any given system.

Planets and moons you can land on SOL system alone. While all the gas giants and places like Earth and Mars are off limits in Horizon, the places you can actually land make the majority of the system.

Now a small moment of honesty: as of YET Horizon doesn't actually bring that much new to the table in terms of gameplay. Sure, you can land on the planet. You can fly around it and land anywhere you see fit. And I mean anywhere. You don't need a landing field, only an open space where you can drop your ship. And then you can board your little SRV and drive like a madman all around the planet. And all that is fun and mesmerizing and amazing, at least for a couple of first times.

Bases and cities on the surface of Europa. You can get missions from them and complete them the same way you do from the space stations.
And then you realize, that the missions you do on the surface as of yet aren't that different. You can smuggle stuff, ferry stuff, get kill or rescue missions. There are also missions done on the planet surface either using your SRV or your ships. These require you to sabotage, salvage or scan other points of interests or bases. The mechanics of it is really pretty much the same. Instead of docking on a space station, you orbit a planet, locate the base and land there. And that's that. It all again is just a base for something bigger, just like the original Elite Dangerous was just a base, that is still in development.

Through the future updates, Frontier will add more stuff to Horizon. There's already a base for the crafting system in the form of synthesis: you mine rocks (or shoot them really) on planet surfaces and gather minerals in order to use synthesis for better ammunition and FSD injectors, which increase the jump range of your ship. There will be multicrew system that allows multiple people to board and operate one ship. And then there's a commander creator which finally allows you to craft a pilot of your liking to occupy the ship you fly.  Frontier has plans that go even further than that, but as usual, they're tight-lipped about it.

Closing in Charon. Notice, that the shape is irregular now instead of just an even sphere.

As said, with Horizon already an enormous world of Elite has gotten even bigger. It's not necessarily much better, especially if you disliked it previously, as the game itself hasn't really changed. But personally, I think it's much more interesting now. The whole planet landing phase has been executed very well and the flying to the surface feels as fluent as ever. And cruising the surface and looking around in the SRV is surprisingly fun, despite controlling the little buggy can at times be a challenge if the gravitation and the traction are low.

The mountains of Charon

While Horizon is a good and welcome addition to the world of Elite, I do hope that Frontier will rethink their pricing policy for the future. As of now, as an expansion, Horizon is a tad expensive especially if you own the base game already. Granted, as I did pre-purchase it, I did get it cheaper than what you can buy it now, but it still felt like a bit too expensive. Had it not opened up a feature I had wanted to see since I first bought Elite Dangerous I would have waited for a bigger sale. But I am weak and the planets called me.

SRV fun in the surface

But looking at the future, I don't know. This whole model Frontier is on feels a bit too punishing for the old customers. Sure, had I not previously owned ED, I wouldn't feel a bit soured about the price. But even with the discount I can't help but feel a bit disappointed.  So, again, I do hope that Frontier rethinks their price model for the future, as Elite Dangerous is a game I'd love to see getting stronger and even bigger, as, despite its flaws, it still is an impressive achievement getting more and more impressive.

If all goes as Frontier is planning, at some point, this might take place on a planet steaming with life. But for now, dead worlds have to suffice

 If you want it, you can get it either from Steam or Frontiers own store.