Elite Dangerous: Beyond Chapter Four Impressions (So Far)

I’ve spent a few hours now getting a handle on what’s new in the “world” of Elite Dangerous with the final chapter in the Beyond update out and there’s plenty to discuss already in what I’ve seen. Like the previous update, this is not so much of a review but more of my experiences so far in playing the game.

Two moons playing interstellar billiards?

Squadrons are now the biggest addition to the social aspects of the game and allow communities of players to get together and organise themselves. The process still seems very similar to how Xbox Groups were handled with a name for your group and tags for identifying specific interests and play styles. Fitting in with the game you can also define your squadron’s allegiances and even the rankings too if the default isn’t appropriate. To avoid new players from spamming the game with new groups, a ten million credit fee applies that I’m assuming is non-refundable. For the achievement hunters on Xbox there’s incentive to try it out too.

I was short a few credits on both the PC and Xbox One versions and at first attempted to earn some quickly but failed miserably. First up on Xbox it was flying an Anaconda into a system where my ship was a wanted vessel… you’d think I’d know better but it cost me ten million credits in insurance to replace it after a station identified me and shot me down. Then on PC an attempt to gather illegal salvage backfired after I missed my target with the cargo scoop and I flew right into a wing of authority vessels. Another million down on that one too but I learned my lesson (at least for the next few weeks!) and chose my jobs a little more carefully to earn the money I needed. Passenger missions can be a nice earner here if you have a nimble ship with a good jump range.

The suite of scanning tools now available to players (such as the FSS shown here) adds another discipline for players to become proficient in.

With the update came some changes to both exploration and mining that build out the work required to maximise your profits in either vocation. Exploration is where I usually focus as it’s been a useful way to earn some extra credits whilst on long trips. The most obvious change is that now your heads up display has two modes; one for combat and one for scanning. That seems fine for the tasks that you are looking to perform but can I filter out my firing groups to one mode or the other? More often that not I will switch to my discover scanner once arriving in a new system only to find I need to change over to the other mode before it will work. The same happens with weapons in combat. It can be cumbersome to deal with and it’s already an aspect of the game that takes time to understand.

The new scanning tools available are pretty neat and I do like how you get a running tally of the percentage of the system you’ve covered. The more in-depth your investigation is the higher your rewards. The process of hunting for planets and moons using the Full Spectrum System Scanner (FSS) does take a bit of time, especially if you’ve found yourself in a system with a lot of them but the controls do try to make it intuitive enough. Even spending a few more minutes using it does seem to suggest it works well in that respect and you may be able to earn more from scanning few systems too. It didn’t take me long to get a half million credits during one trip. For players short on cargo space, if you’re willing to get good with it you apparently might even be able to forego having a discovery scanner and free up some space. There’s also a new Detailed Surface Scanner (DSS) to replace the old one that lets you get even more data from what you discover and plays out in a manner that may be familiar to those who’ve played Mass Effect 2.

These new systems really enforce the idea of having specialist vessels in your collection as a “jack-of-all-trades” ship is likely to be far less effective in the various disciplines (combat, exploration, mining, trading) than ones outfitted for purpose. That can be a difficult prospect early on when you are starting with a small ship which needs to do a lot but once you start to earn enough credits it may be worth spending time on specialising your next one.

The Pulse Wave Analyser works just like it did in the trailers and looks pretty cool in action.

I used that tactic so that I could try out the new mining tools and fitted out a Type-6 Transporter with a few items such as an Abrasion Blaster, Pulse Wave Analyser and Subsurface Displacement Missiles. Like exploration if you want to get the most out of it you need a full suite of gear such as Seismic Charges for breaking apart asteroids but you can still make do with the basics. The existing tools are still relevant and if you’re already making good with mining lasers and prospector/collection limpets they’re still as useful as ever.

Mining takes on a more hands-on approach compared to exploration with its combination of scanning and subtle manoeuvres to get at all those riches. Patient players willing to take their time to scan systems (the DSS has uses here too) and work through resource extraction zones are going to benefit the most from the new additions which in the very least are going to add a little more variety to the experience.

There’s a couple of quality of life improvements that I’d like to mention. The first is the Codex which acts as a log and quest guide. Your discoveries are all logged here as are all your statistics. It also teases some “rumoured” discoveries to give you incentive to check out some sights on your own. The other is we finally have a night vision mode in the game. A lot of outposts and settlements are located on the dark side of their worlds which can make them difficult to navigate to so having this on both your ship and SRV will make it a lot easier to get around and even do a little prospecting too… useful for mining too. Like the Pulse Wave Analyser, the system uses some nice graphical effects.

I’m still taking screenshots of ships and stations and I still think they keep looking better over time.

This marks the end of the Beyond updates and with it close to three years of updates following from Horizons, the only paid expansion to the game. With a likelihood that some future updates we will be charged for, hopefully we’re going to see some bigger changes in the game to convince players to the part with their money once again. It may not have always been what we wanted but three years of support from once expansion is still good value. So here’s hoping the next round will keep up the good work.

Elite Dangerous is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

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