Note: The following are just my thoughts of the game during my regular play and aren’t meant to be an in depth breakdown of the latest update.
I’ve spent quite a few hours now since the release (see details here) of the latest chapter in Elite Dangerous‘ new season of content and it does feel like there is more of a direct direct attempt in bringing players into the narrative and in my case it was a successful one. Galnet (the in-game news service) would often post information to point players towards locations of interest related to the narrative but it was easy to ignore them after a while as they often felt like too much of a detour for my usual space-trucking.
This time around though the location provided was close enough to my regular haunts near Lowry Ring that it was worth the trip to see what was happening. Turns out it was a pretty good move as I got my first look at a Guardian beacon that quickly pointed me to another location containing some familiar looking ruins. However this time around there was incentive to spend some lengthy time there as the reward was a set of blueprints that let me unlock one of the new Guardian hybrid fighters.
Flying around in the Lance (the fighter I unlocked) made me realise that I need to practise flying the smaller ships more. These are super quick, pack some crazy weapons, the Gauss Focus Cannon on the Lance heats up too fast though, and they are brittle like glass. For the bigger ships I think it is always handy to include a fighter bay if you can as fighters can be VERY useful in providing distraction whether you are acting offensively or defensively.
Speaking of fighter bay capable vessels, I’m seeing the new Alliance Crusader a lot in the game. It’s probably the first time I’m also seeing fighters in active use by AI too. Having wanted pilots deploying their fighters to cause you grief in combat was unexpected… it’s usually me doing that! I’m currently flying the Challenger (the big brother of the Chieftain and Crusader that arrived in the previous chapter) and it’s a joy to fly. It reminds me a lot of the Asp Explorer in terms of handling but packs a lot more guns at the expense of potential jump range. Definitely looking to fix that during my next Engineer visit.
The reward choices continue to be a great way of helping you to decide the direction you may wish to go with regards to missions. I’m currently contributing to a community goal in the Amber system and I had noticed that there was a system permit available if I completed enough missions for a particular faction. So between chasing wanted crims and earning bounty vouchers I’m also working to complete missions with high reputation rewards to get that permit. Being able to focus more on exactly what you need to get to your next objective makes it feel like progression is more in your control than ever before.
After the excitement of new sights and getting a couple of sparkling new ships I’ve settled back into a routine again with my current aim being to earn enough credits and materials to upgrade the Challenger’s jump range but that is something all long term ED face when wanting to have the best ship at their disposal. Me still wanting to keep my old ships in a bid for that twenty ship achievement doesn’t help (a lot of money sitting there) but the desire to hear that little chime after spending years on the game is still a good incentive.
For those curious about the achievement side of Elite Dangerous on Xbox One, a lot of them are classed in the rare category now mainly because they take a substantial amount of time to earn. If you are wanting a quick 1000+ gamerscore this is not the game to play.
It’s a shame that carriers won’t be making it into chapter four as I’m certain there’s a few people out there who were wanting to go all Battlestar Galactica on everyone. I hope that whatever Frontier Developments slip into the update to replace it will make up for that loss because having that in depth co-op experience can go a long way to keeping the game fresh in the minds of players or draw in others who might not normally play. The new mission types help a little but do need players to establish themselves to a degree with a decent ship and upgrades. Multi-crew (allowing players to sit in with a player who owns one of the larger ships) is handy too but gives only a taste of the combat aspects as there is not much else for players to do otherwise.
As a fan of State of Decay 2 who spends a lot of time assisting friend’s communities, I see the value in being able to provide a cooperative mode that allows people to simply “jump in”. In the case of SoD2, you not only help find resources for your friends but can save some for yourself and you even get a little bonus when you return to your own game. Having that level of interaction in ED may be difficult to achieve but if the incentive was possible (like a carrier would bring eventually) then the game would be much less of a solo affair.
It’s been a good experience so far in this new chapter and it once again has taken me out of my comfort zone (even for a short time) and that’s made it worth my time. However I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will see something with a little more weight come to the final chapter and that it gives all players something new and exciting to try for themselves.
Elite Dangerous is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Impressions are from the Xbox One version.