I have traveled between the stars Dangerous Elite for quite some time now, often on business but mostly for pleasure. The space game contains the 400 billion star systems of our Milky Way galaxy, and I’ve already traveled three times the width to find things no one has seen before. It’s a huge game, but it took seven years of continuous development for me to finally feel small.
On May 19, Frontier Developments will launch its next big expansion, called Elite Dangerous: Odyssey. Not only will the game add tens of thousands of new destinations for players to visit, but it will add the ability to walk on its virtual two feet, which was not possible since the game’s launch in 2014.
After nearly a decade of playing, I am now able to raise my avatar, step out of the confines of my ship, and bring dust to new worlds. The experience was mind-blowing.
Part of the reason is that the ships in Elite are so big.
The Asp Explorer that I flew in most of my time with the game is just a bit longer than a Boeing 747, but it was impossible to perceive when stuck inside the cockpit. Even riding outside in a wheeled vehicle doesn’t quite do it justice. As it exits the landing pad, the huge orange mass of the Evelynne Christine threatening me is an incredible experience.
Of course, be aware that mine is a roughly square ship and many other models are much longer. Take the Federal Corvette, shown overhead in a recent YouTube video, which is about two-thirds the size of the USS Intrepid, the WWII aircraft carrier stationed in New York City. Slow, low-level pass feels like stepping into the original’s opening crawl Star wars.
In addition to the new sense of the scale of the game, another way Odyssey improves the gaming experience Elite is with a new and improved planet generation system. All thanks to a small team directed by Dr Kay Ross, a physicist turned programmer who revitalized the game’s rendering engine.
The upgrades are immediately visible as you get closer to land on one of the game’s trillions of bodies. There’s more detail, of course, including fist-sized rocks and clouds of dust. once you are standing at the surface. I can even see my own fingerprints in the dust. But the texture and complexity of these surfaces has been greatly improved. Craters are more defined, both by their shape and by the application of textures and shaders. The landscapes are more varied, less like a colorful ball of cake frosting and more like what I imagine distant planets with their own unique geology.
And are you just going to watch those sunsets? Planets with thin atmospheres – where there’s just a little bit of gas stuck to the surface, but not enough to alter your ship’s flight characteristics – create truly epic vistas.
Light from nearby stars can mix with the unique composition of gases in a planet’s atmosphere. Combined with the realistic periodicity of the star systems themselves, this means that they are different on every visit. I can’t wait to return to places like the Dryau Awesomes, known for their otherworldly purple lights, just to see how they’ve changed with this expansion.
There’s a lot more to the game that I haven’t explored yet, including first-person interactions with non-player characters and quest givers. When the expansion goes live, players will even be able to use background simulation (known as BGS) to impact the economic and political systems across the galaxy in 3307. Time will tell. so these new hooks – and the first person shooting mechanics – will expand the game to a wider audience.
But for now, diehards like me – or anyone looking to explore the Milky Way – are in for a treat.
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey will arrive for consoles later this year.