What's new in Elite: Dangerous 3.0, Beyond (2018)

It's been a while since I've written anything about Elite: Dangerous, the modern MMOish incarnation of the classic space simulator Elite. The last time I wrote about it, Frontier Developments had released a 2.3 update, which brought in an ability to customize your own pilot, in terms of giving them a face, gender and assortment of different coloured flight suits or even clothes, if you're willing to spend some real money at the cosmetic store.

After that quite a bit has happened. The latter half of the version 2 updates saw the emergence of an alien race, an insectoid race Thargoids, who are now wreaking havoc in the universe. With the now ongoing 3 series of updates, dubbed Beyond, Elite has finally begun to get some much needed in-game features, that are aiming to make the gameplay much smoother and less reliant on external web services, which have been previously been essential for those serious about trading. There's also some very nice quality of life updates.

The Thargoids returned to the galaxy with the 2.4 update, aptly named the Return. Before that, the alien presence had been only rumoured, with some alien artefacts been found here and there. A large majority of players hadn't witnessed these beings themselves, but these events were handled in the in-game GalNet service. And finally, when 2.4 came out, the players witnessed the power of the alien ships at first hand.

2-series of updates, dubbed Horizon, brought in changes, like 9 save slots for Holo Me system, allowing multiple different kinds of appearances for each player. Despite your name will always be the same, you can always change your skin if you get bored and with the very well done character editor, it's actually pretty fun in its own right. Another major Horizon related additions were Synthesis, which allows players to create new, better equipment like heat sinks or life support systems.

For all Elite players there were updates to the navigation systems, bringing in QOL changes like a star chart marker for the final fuel scoopable star on the plotted course, the ability to design a course using neutron start jump allowing a longer distance travel, 20 000 LY travel plotting. For no explorers, there was a new type of mission revolving around rescuing people or cargo from destroyed ships.

All in all, 2.4 brought in a lot of changes for everyone. It wasn't really about new content, but improving the game systems, which was a good thing, considering how dangerous some aspects of the game are, especially if you're into exploring. The new mission types also add something to do and the appearance of the alien life finally gives a new form of opponents.

So, that out of the way, let's jump on the Beyond update.

3-series of updates has been divided into chapters, Beyond being the first, and relatively substantial one and are provided free for all those Elite players who own Horizons update. Some bits and pieces of it do dribble to the base game as well, but a vast majority of it is reserved for the Horizon owners.

For those interested in the Wing gameplay, there's now a possibility to pick Wing missions, clearly marked as such. These missions allow the sharing of risks and rewards with other members of the Wing. Also, the missions can be turned in only partly completed, but this is reflected in the reward amount.

And speaking of rewards, there's now a possibility to choose between three reward options. You can take only the money and small basic effect on the social effects or a smaller amount of money but a bigger boost on your status or a rare components reward and less money. This is a good system, especially for those who aren't that interested in trying to scourge the planets and the asteroids for rarer items.

The biggest quality of life update improves one of the core aspects of Elite, trading. Previously this was a thing the required you to keep tabs on what should be sold and where or to utilize an external tool to do that for you. With Beyond update it's easy to directly access the trade data in game and see what should be exported or imported as well as the profit you can expect to make. The only thing you need to do is to scan the systems and after that, you're set for easier, more fun trading experience.

Before Beyond I didn't care that much about trading, largely because of its dependence on the external services. Now it feels like something that is actually simple and fluent like it should have always been. I had owned a Type-6 freighter before, but because of the hassle of jumping back and worth to an external web service, I haven't used it much, but now it feels like a ship I can get some light years out of so that I can upgrade it to an even bigger transporter.

The final QOL update I need to mention is the GalNet Audio, which finally makes accessing the in-game news network sensible. Before GalNet Audio you had to access the network in text mode and spend time reading the news, now you can put a reader to work in order to heat a robotic voice giving them to you, so you can listen to the news while you travel onwards.

GalNet has been another aspect I haven't used that much before, but now thanks to the reader, it offers some needed distraction during those long voyages.

These were only some notable changes from the Beyond update, If you want to see what else there's on the table, you can check out this wiki link. If all goes as planned for Frontier and the Beyond update, the fourth chapter should bring in even more improvements to the gameplay as well as graphics as well. In the between, there should be new mission types, new ships and so on, so it should be business as usual.

Personally, the improvements in Beyond have made the gameplay feel so much better. The market system alone was enough for me to make me actually jump in actual space shipping, as the system just feels right. You can plot your commercial ventures through the shopping screen or on the map itself, for me the import/export options on the market are enough to see quickly what should be taken and where. How fluent it all feels depends on how many places you've visited, but the longer you play, the quicker it becomes.

More 3.0 stuff is slated to come out during this year and Frontier is aiming to release stuff more frequently. in addition to 3-series, there is some premium content coming out as well, so it's not all going to be free and those lifetime pass owners will get some more bang for their buck.

So, if you haven't played Elite since 2.3, it might be a good time to give it a new spin. What there is now has rekindled my flame towards it and overall, it feels like a game I like more now than I did a while ago.