And when I say that, I mean "500 new star systems" bigger. You might remember Elite from our very own Kirk "No, Not That Captain Kirk" Hamilton's two-week-long space odyssey, wherein he did a bunch of things both crazy and mundane. That's kinda the point though: Elite is a space sim, short for simulator. It's not always crazy exciting (or even dangerous, for that matter), but there's a whole wide universe of possibility.
Oh, and you can do wild, Han-Solo-style stunts like shutting down your engines — effectively freezing your ship — to avoid detection while moving at hundreds of miles per hour. That's also pretty neat.
And all of this stuff was possible before. On September 30th Elite: Dangerous is entering the second phase of its lengthy beta process, which means it's getting all of these things:
- Combat ratings from 'Harmless' all the way up to 'Elite'.
- Reputations per system and galaxy-wide that influence attitudes and prices offered to you.
- Ability to discover and explore and scan new systems and sell the data on them.
- Detailed system maps.
- Around 500 additional star systems to explore.
- Lakon Asp Explorer ships added.
- Much greater variety of upgradable Life Support modules, Engines, Hyperdrives, Power Distributors, Sensors, Shield Generators and Cargo Racks for all ships.
- Ships are subject to gradual 'wear and tear'.
- New weapons including mines and a new non-lethal missile-deployed cargo hatch disruptor for piracy.
- Outposts (small, exposed 'roadside café' stations in remote locations)
- Occelus starports, a version of which can move around for early civilisation of new systems and space tourism.
- Visibility of other ships in supercruise, and track others through supercruise and hyperspace.
- Newsfeeds about events from the rest of the galaxy and player activity in your local system.
- All backers names (from the appropriate crowd-funding reward tiers) have been added to the NPC naming database.
500 new star systems? Reputations? Real exploration mechanics? Roadside cafes? Nnnnnnggggh.
Sorry, sorry. Don't mind me. It's just, like, when I think of THE video game — my Platonic ideal of our magical cyber toys — it sounds a whole lot like what Elite: Dangerous ultimately aspires to be. And the crazy part is that all indications suggest it's getting there. It's not there yet, nor will it be on September 30th, but it's well on its way.
That's legitimately exciting to me, and these days I don't get legitimately excited over many things that aren't weird ice cream flavours or pictures of dogs. But just, like, I get to go hang out in space, fly to the moon, play among the stars — all that stuff. And it's all kinda vaguely real, or at least as "real" as these things can be. Good job, video games. You can be pretty cool sometimes, you know that?
Elite: Dangerous beta access will run you $US75. It's a steep price for an unfinished game, so — despite my praise — spend wisely. It will eventually become finished (or at least, that's the plan), but you never truly know with these things.