Elite got a little bit better

The world of Elite: Dangerous and Horizons has gotten more humanity in it. Both, the vanilla Dangerous and the Horizon expansion updates were launched recently, bringing the base game itself to version 1.6 and Horizons to 2.1. What all the players got out of it, among other things, is the inclusions of overhauled mission system and, as I stated, a bit more added humanity.

Before this new update Elite was a space sim with a lot of texts. Or maybe not a lot of, but all the missions and whatnot were just pieces of text, telling what to do and when. But now, while they still are a bit like that, there's a face that goes with them: instead of just text, we now actually see who we are dealing with. The factions have a spokesperson, who gives the missions. It's a small thing, to see human faces, but personally, I do think it does add to the experience if nothing else, a bit more warmth. It makes the game feel like that it's actually habituated by people.

Finally Elite shows, that there are people behind the missions.
The faces of the factions have been created by using the upcoming Commander Creator, which is an update that has been promised to arrive at some point as a part of Horizons expansions. While there are not millions of faces, there's enough of them to offer a huge deal of variation and it really does show a great deal of promise of what the Commander Creator can do.

What's more, there's now radio communication in the galaxy. Previously the most common chatterbox in the galaxy was your ship's computer, but now, each time you ask a landing clearance, you hear an actual voice coming from the station or a planet base, telling you where to land, as well as welcoming you to land. It's another little thing, but it again adds so much to the atmosphere. I do hope we'll get more of similar radio chatter in the future.

New store UI while upgrading the ship. Now you can easily see at a glance what the improvements are in comparison to your old hardware.
Another piece of the human touch is the engineers, a group of people scattered all around the galaxy. They are, as their name suggests, inventors and creators, who can provide updates to the ships. And unlike the standard store-bought updates, these can provide something little extra, like more speed, longer jump range, stronger weapons and so on. However,  they are just for Horizon owners.

The engineers themselves don't work for pro bono. First, you need to gain their trust by doing them favours, which range from just plain giving them a ton of cash or by providing them things they want, like system scan data. After you've established a relationship with them you gain an access to their technical know how. They tell you what kind of materials they require in order to, for an example, create a booster for your beam weapons. You then go out, hunt the material and return to claim your booty. As this is just the first iteration of the engineers, I'm certain more things will follow in the future.

Closing in an engineering base on a planet surface
While I'm personally the most excited about the human scale of the universe, the recent updates added also a lot more of other stuff as well. There are numerous bug fixes, re-designed UI elements, added crafting and a loot system to accompany it. All in all, the list of changes is several pages long and it really shows how committed Frontier still is towards the Elite universe. You can check the full change notes here.

As stated, the Commander Creator should be coming sometime this year as well. Other hinted updates will finally add the long-awaited alien races to the mix, at least in the form of insect-like Thargoids, which have been around since the original Elite.

Improvements an engineer can make on your hardware. There's also a list of stuff you'll need to gather before said improvements can be created.
Despite the wait between updates has been long, it's been worth it. I still haven't tried all the update has brought to the table, but the way I see it, Elite is again a bit closer to being the game I hoped it would be from the start.

Elite can be bought either through Steam or Frontier's own store.