Frontier Developments has announced a major series of updates to the space shooting/trading/exploration simulation Elite: Dangerous this morning at the 2015 Gamescom conference: more ships, planetary landings and a simultaneous release of the CQC arena combat module.
Will be the first thing hit CQC, which stands for “close combat”. We had a chance to try out CQC at E3 a few months ago, and while the direct action combat was fun, we weren’t overly excited about the plan to launch CQC as a timed Xbox One exclusive. Fortunately, Frontier has dropped that idea: when the CQC extension launches in September, it will happen simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and XBox One (basically the entire game will be officially launched on Xbox One at the same time).
Following CQC will be another free expansion called tentative ships, aimed at – of course – ships. The update will increase the number of flyable craft from the current 20 to 30; several of the upcoming ships have already been dropped by Frontier (including the Panther Clipper, the Federal Corvette, the Imperial Eagle, the Federal Dropship Mk. II, and most recently the Cobra Mk IV). The Ships update is expected to be released this holiday season.
And that brings us to horizons, the game’s first major paid update. Horizons is expected to cost $59.99 and will include “an entire season of expansions,” according to an email exchange Ars had with Frontier’s PR team. Initial, Horizons will add a feature that many Elite: Dangerous players have sought since the Kickstarter phase of the game: Planetary Landings and Exploration. Here’s the relevant part from the announcement:
Elite Dangerous: The Horizons Planetary Landings expansion introduces players to planetary surfaces and the new Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV) ‘Scarab.’ Scanning worlds will reveal all-new gameplay possibilities on the surface as players detect signals, downed ships, mineral deposits, outposts and fortresses and initiate surface attacks. Playing alone, or with friends on the ground and in the air, players can explore, mine, deploy enemy troops, and attempt to infiltrate strongholds guarding valuable rewards.
Existing Elite: Dangerous owners get $15 (£10, €14) off Horizons and will also be able to launch the new Cobra Mk. IV. More in Q1 of 2016 Horizons content will be added starting with “a new loot and crafting system”. Additional updates will be announced after that, continuing into 2016. This model of “seasonal” upgrades appears to be how Frontier will support the development of the game – the company has always maintained that the planetary landings feature would be available as a paid upgrade , and it seems like a sure bet that annual paid content upgrades will be the rule in the future.
Frontier also reiterated that Kickstarter backers and Alpha or Beta players who purchased the “Lifetime Expansion Pass” during the game’s development phase, Horizons and all future upgrades for free. We’re going to try Horizons and the new ships as soon as possible and hope to have some thoughts on it in the near future.
(And as a quick aside, if I may, I maintain an unofficial noir theme Elite: Dangerous fan comic called “Fangs” that Elite players can enjoy!)