Elite: Dangerous has grown and grown since its release at the end of 2014. We recently caught up with Frontier at Gamescom to see what the upcoming Guardians update will bring to the experience – here’s what we learned.
For those of you unfamiliar with Elite: Dangerous, it’s concept of a completely open galaxy in which you can explore and create your own destiny is not too unlike that of the recent No Man’s Sky. And as was the case in Hello Games’ recent title, Elite: Dangerous was also greeted with “there’s not enough to do” by fans and critics in reviews when it came out. The big difference here is that Frontier always meant for the Elite galaxy to keep growing – with new features and expansions being released at semi-regular intervals.
These regular updates have kept the game fresh for almost two years now – and it’s fuel for an ever-growing and loyal player base. The downside, of course… is that the original review scores still stand and they don’t reflect what Elite: Dangerous has become since then: in our eyes, it’s easily the best space game out there – no longer held back by the untapped potential in the original release.
When we met with Sandro Sammarco and Adam Woods, lead designer and producer for Elite: Dangerous, we talked about what’s next and discussed three major new features: passengers, fighters and fighter pilots. They’re all impactful, which is probably best illustrated by the fact that we quickly ran out of time talking about all the possibilities these options would bring to players.
The inclusion of passengers means that you will be able to serve as an intergalactic taxi/escort for a variety of characters. These missions can be fairly standard in nature, but can also bring a lot of danger with them when the desired destination lies on the other side (or even in the middle of) a warzone. To be able to take on missions like this, you’ll have to equip your ship with a passenger bay and some of the amenities that passengers require. If you take on VIP guests, these requirements will go up – as will the challenges that come with the mission itself. We’re extremely interested in seeing how these scenarios will play out, because there is tremendous potential here. I could imagine that at some point, dangerous or unruly passengers might affect crew morale or even worse… but the risk versus reward dynamic alone is enough to look forward to this update.
The other two major updates are more closely connected to one another, but we’ll start with fighter ships. These small and agile fighters can be launched from a fighter bay that you can add to your ship, and essentially function as deep space drones in the sense that they’re unmanned. When you’re piloting them, you’re doing so from the comfort of your ‘mothership’ – which is nice to know because fighter ships are relatively fragile in comparison. Nevertheless, the inclusion of fighter ships adds a new type of combat to the game – one that is potentially much more arcade-like than what players are used to and should lead to some excellent dogfighting opportunities. Fighter ships are relatively easy to replace as well, which is good considering how you might lose quite a few of them.
If dogfighting in outer space is not quite your thing, then you can also opt to have these fighter ships pilot themselves – or rather, hire a pilot to do it for you, as the case is. Being able to hire these AI pilots is the third major new feature, and is another matter of cost versus reward. You can hire extremely skilled and experienced pilots (who are of course way more expensive), but another option would be to stick with a more inexperienced pilot and see him grow through successful missions. Your AI pilot can, in addition to piloting fighter ships, also take over the helm of your main ship while you’re out picking a fight in deep space – here, again, you’ll have to decide who you want at the controls and hire the right person.
Aside from these three features, a number of other optimizations and features are also looking to make it into the next big update, due out some time in the next two months. Some of these include visuals updates to the game’s space ports, which will be more in sync with the primary purpose of the port. We’ll let the screenshots do the talking here…