Standard Beta has been out for almost 2 weeks now, and that means I can include other people’s opinions and experiences along with mine. Before I get into the changes from the previous release (Premium Beta 2), I’d like to start with a video posted by a newcomer to the Elite: Dangerous (ED) world. This video should bring a knowing smile to the face of all who have been involved in ED testing, and serve as a quick introduction to ED for those who have just stumbled across the game:
Yup, ObsidianZephyr’s video just about sums up a major reason many of us love ED. It just feels, looks and flies like the best space-sim ever, and it’s still only mid-beta (with a ‘gamma’ phase still to come before full release)!
I also link the infamous Scott Manley’s brief video of the Standard Beta, and a longer, more thorough video from Digressive, at the end of this post. Now, let’s look at what’s new and/or different…
It’s bigger: With 55 systems now available to visit, it’s more than 10 times the volume of space than the Premium Beta, though it might take you a little while to get a ship that can visit them all (see ‘fuel’, below). We’re still a long way from 100+ billion systems of the full version, but this is almost undoubtedly to ensure useful testing of player interaction and network code, before we all fan out across the galaxy. It’s possibly also to allow time to manually craft the Sol system, and other well-known inhabited Elite systems, which clearly cannot be just procedurally generated. I haven’t seen half of the new systems yet, but I’ve already travelled enough above (or below) the galactic plane to see a significant increase in the glow from the galactic core. Cool.
Online solo, friends and private groups: These 3 new modes have been added to the original online mode (now known as ‘open play’). I have only tried the online solo and open play options, and they seem to generally work fine for me. I have seen some complaints of finding it difficult to login to ‘open play’, and/or finding some starports crazy busy, but this has not been an issue for me. Indeed, quite the reverse. It is rare I see more than 5 players at anytime, anywhere, and I wonder if my long ping time (I’m in Brazil) is limiting who Frontier connect me to. The friends/groups modes seem to be having teething problems, though I have not tried either yet. I can confirm that progress made in the ‘online solo’ mode is carried over to the ‘open play’ mode, and vice-versa. There’s a whole big discussion about whether this is a good or bad thing. In short, I think it’s great, and totally as Frontier and many backers wanted it to be.
Fuel: It’s cheap, but very necessary. Hyperdrive and supercruise ranges are, of course, limited by fuel Hyperdrive range is also limited by the drive type, which is currently not a changeable unit. This means that, at the moment, different ship types have different hyperdrive ranges. Add to this the fact that weight, including both cargo and fitted modules/weapons, also limits jump range, and you can see that getting around the galaxy becomes a puzzle in itself. This will lead to interesting gameplay, where one has to decide what to take/leave behind on long, and possible dangerous jumps. This/these features will obviously need some balancing over the weeks and months to come. Oh, and if you run out of fuel, you can activate a distress signal, which may bring help (probably at a price) or trouble.
Missions: It’s early days for the mission system, and most seem to find they are rather low paid for the risks/effort involved at present, except the simple cargo deliver missions. This seems to mean that, at the moment, trading is by far the most lucrative career, especially when combined with cargo transport missions. The instructions can be a bit vague, it seems, though I have yet to fully explore this aspect of the game. At this point, it appears that Frontier have really just added the framework to make missions possible, without working out too many of details.
2 new ships: The Viper; A heavy fighter that’s proving massively popular. It has 4 weapon mounts (2 class 4, and class 2, I think, as per the Cobra), and is now the fastest ship in the game. It only has a cargo space of 8 units, however. The Lakon Type 6, which I believe has cargo space of around 100 units, and therefore neatly fills the cargo capacity gap between the Cobra and the Lakon Type 9.
Trade routes shown in the galaxy map: This really is a nice feature, beautifully rendered, and will become more and more vital as the access to the galaxy expands.
A sudden increase in the number of useful and interesting posts over on the ED forums: I know my blog is great and all, but if you’re into ED, you really should be checking the ED forums, and even better, participating! You can get help there for almost any issue, and usually pretty darn fast, too. Many of the new posts have given me ideas for blog posts and items to add the resources I link here.
Supercruise & hyperdrive: Other players are now visible in either ‘frameshift’ mode! At first I thought the game was glitching, when I saw a small white star that winked out, then I saw more and realized they are other frameshift drives! You can follow, overtake, and target other ships whilst in supercruise! You can’t do much else with this feature at present, but it’s a pretty cool development. The 2 modes of ‘frameshift’ travel now do not need to be selected separately. The game will select either depending on what you target when selecting ‘frameshift’. If nothing is targeted, then I assume it will select supercruise, though I’ve not tested this.
Graphics improvements: There are many small, and often subtle, improvements to graphics and visual effects. I really like the new shimmering effect visible when you damage or hit another ship’s shields, and the shockwave/air bubble rupture now visible when a ship explodes, to give just 2 examples.
Boost, then FA off = continuous max. boost speed: At fist, I simply liked this, as it fits my idea of Newtonian flight more closely, and is a convenient way to travel fast. On second thoughts, and after reading this excellent post by CaptainKremmen, I am not sure since it seems likely to make dogfighting less complex and, therefore, less fun. I am not sure what the best solution to this dilemma is.
Cannon: A new weapon. A slow firing, heavy ballistic weapon, that is devastatingly damaging, but needs careful aiming on a moving target. It’s also heavy, and therefore may limit your jump range significantly.
More starport variation: There are some structural variations to both the Orbis and Coriolis starports, and the interiors of the docking ports show more variation in colours and overall polish, with at least one noticeably very different (see title picture, above).
A more complex market: The market is not fully developed, but even so the addition of so many more systems has made the market more complex already. Systems have become more specialized, and therefore, some new profitable routes have opened up, and some old one gone or become somewhat more specific.
New bugs: Yes, new release = new bugs! One of my personal favourites is the reward for pilots who very carefully try to disengage supercruise very near to their target starport, and get dumped into the middle of the starport superstructure 😉 Another good reason to never sink all your money into your cargo/ship.
That’s it for now. Let’s revisit Standard Beta when we’ve had a little longer to evaluate it, but for now, for me, I can happily report that frontier are continuing the quite stunning progress made so far, and some. I have never seen a game in development that seems to constantly under-promise and over-deliver!
To end this brief review, I’ve linked a couple of videos that show off many of the things I listed above, and a few more new aspects:
Video: Elite: Dangerous – A quick look at Beta, by Scott Manley (17 mins)
Video: What’s the deal with Elite: Dangerous Standard Beta 1? by Digressive (59 mins)