Elite Dangerous 2.3 (The Commanders) – Mini Review

With the Horizons expansion content stretching out further than initially intended, players of Elite Dangerous have been hanging out for each new release with excitement. The latest content release from Frontier Developments is called “The Commanders” and brings players one small step closer to being an actual physical presence inside this vast procedurally generated galaxy.

First up is “Holo-Me” which provides players with tools to create an in game avatar. The focus here is on designing your character’s head as there aren’t any options for bodies apart from flight suit designs. You can’t do anything apart from have your avatar sit in a ship’s cockpit but it does tie into the next major addition to the game. Those Holo-Mes will come in handy now that you and your friends can share a ship with the new Multi-Crew feature. Previously, multiplayer in Elite Dangerous was either through the player-versus-player CQC mode or by joining up in a Wing in the main game but now everyone can share a single ship together.

My first “Holo-Me” – maybe not as awesome as the real thing and lacking any resemblance but it’s a start.

The owner of the ship retains helm control however those players wanting to join them can take over gunnery stations or fly fighters launching from it. Players are able to jump into another ship at will through a matchmaking system which means no travelling or organising a rendezvous point. It’s a great way for players to get a taste for different aspects of the game by hitching a ride with a pro. And you get a cut of the profits too. The only limitation is the number of seats your ship supports. My recent attempts at joining a ship full of strangers came to nothing so I think this is something that will be treated as a friend’s only feature in the future. Times like this I wish you could fill out slots with extra members of your hired (AI) crew beyond the current limit of one at a time.

All the new customisations are tied in with the increase in paid cosmetic options now available to players. Though I can understand charging players for unique features like tattoos for their Holo-Me, I’m frustrated that all ship name and ID plates are behind the same pay wall. Sure, you can name your ship at any time but if you also want to see it printed on the hull that is going to cost you extra and that sucks. Maybe it is a bit harder to charge for options with something like that but I wish there was at least a default option just so players could see how it looks.

Perhaps the feature I will use most is the new camera system which gives players a pile of new options when it comes to taking photos and filming your ship at its best. Getting the right positioning is much easier now and can encourage some more creative shots and videos. Already I’m feeling like I am taking some of the best screenshots of the game that I’ve ever done… Makes for good feature images here that’s for sure!

Visually, the first thing you’re going to notice is the change in lighting within the ship cockpits. Everything inside is much brighter now which lends itself to Multi-Crew and showing off you and your buddies as they take on the galaxy together.

Tweaks seem to have been made to the flight model that’s noticeable in supercruise, with travelling through systems feeling smoother and slightly faster than before. Menus and transitions are faster too so some decent optimisations have been accomplished across the board which are quite noticeable on the Xbox One version which could bog down at times on slower connections.

New locales to visit have been added as well, including asteroid bases. Excited to see what’s out there I checked out one of the known bases (Freeholm in the Artemis system) and I’m pretty impressed with the added variety. Seeing a hollowed out asteroid that appears to be still under construction looks incredibly cool.  I haven’t visited any Megaships yet but if the trailers are anything to go by they will be impressive sights too. Stories could be told about places like these.

Got to love asteroid bases!

Though it’s neat seeing an additional multiplayer option added to Elite Dangerous, and one that could encourage new and old players to fly together, it does feel like it may be a halfway step towards something bigger down the road. Having an avatar editor capable of the detail seen already with Holo-Me doesn’t make sense for just screenshots and isn’t really adding any gameplay value to Multi-Crew except add cosmetic variety to the cockpit.

For players who spend more time by themselves out in the black than with friends, the additions made in The Commanders is going to have little impact to their existing game and may even feel like a bit of a disappointment. A lot has been fixed and there’s some neat personalisation features added but unlike 2.2’s introduction of passengers and ship launched fighters it doesn’t hit the same high notes. I’m hoping though that what we have here are the first steps towards something much more substantial in the next update.

Elite Dangerous is out now for PC and Xbox One. Coming soon to PlayStation 4.

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