“Odyssey” is the newest expansion for the space-faring MMO, Elite Dangerous, developed and published by Frontier Developments. Before releasing “Odyssey,” Elite Dangerous was already a massive game that players could easily invest hundreds of hours into. A full galaxy to explore, player-influenced politics to follow, countless dogfights to participate in, and precious resources to trade in, players never lacked things to do in Elite Dangerous.
Now, with the launch of the “Odyssey” expansion, Elite Dangerous has become a game that a younger me would have only dreamt of. The flagship feature of “Odyssey” allows commanders to finally stretch their legs and get out of their starships. Previously, players were able to land on astrological bodies without atmospheres like asteroids and moons. Still, they could only travel the surface in small buggies stored in the holds of larger spaceships. So while the feature was an important stepping stone and exciting in its own right, there was not much to do on the planets other than driving around in the buggy.
The new on-foot capabilities given to players allow them to tackle two new activities. The most fleshed out and engaging of the two are new combat missions. These have players travel to settlements or fortresses on planets that are decently sized encampments with guards, locked doors, turrets, and various other obstacles. These missions have a lot of variety to them and allow players to tackle them in whatever way they want. Some missions have more stringent requirements, like players having to steal documents without being detected or killing every NPC at the base.
To complete these missions, players can build and customize their personal kit that consists of a multitude of new suits, weapons, and equipment pieces. The different suits that players can purchase all have their own shield capacities, equipment and weapon slots, and appearance. For weapons, there are enough options for players to customize their playstyle well. There are assault rifles, snipers, pistols, and shotguns that all can be upgraded and customized. Equipment pieces are essential, as they can heal players, recharge shields, create energy barriers, allow players to hack through security systems, as well as a couple of types of grenades.
The missions are a lot of fun, and there is an impressive variety as well. They are enjoyable to tackle with other players, as their completely open nature allows players to experiment and develop their own strategies for each mission. There are few experiences in the industry that can compare to tackling a mission in “Odyssey” with one player running strafing runs from a starship while another player snipes from a hill and another infiltrates the base with a shotgun. It is action in such a scale and of such an organic nature that it becomes something exceptional, especially when players tackle the mission after flying directly to the planet without any loading screens.
Getting used to tackling the missions can take some time, as there are many systems and mechanics at play for every mission. There are tutorials in place to give players a rough introduction on what to do, but new players learning the ropes will likely have to take advantage of community resources to really learn how they are intended to approach the new content successfully.
The second main activity using on-foot gameplay is the new on-planet exploration. Exploring uncharted planets and systems while surviving in the expanse of space is a big part of the Elite Dangerous experience for many players. Being able to land on the planets and explore them in person is a sizable addition. To earn additional credits by exploring on foot, players use a scanning tool to find new forms of flora and scan multiple strains of it to get complete information to sell. The on-foot exploration adds a lot to the experience, but it does feel less complete than the combat missions.
The biggest issue facing on-foot exploration is a lack of variety. There are quite a few different visuals for the plants players will scan, but their actions are all the same across the different planets. The addition of different fauna or more varied hazardous weather would go a long way in adding some much-needed challenge and engagement to the activity. Of course, those additions would require a considerable amount of resources on the part of the developers, but Elite Dangerous is always evolving, so it does not seem implausible.
A real highlight of the “Odyssey” expansion is the design and atmosphere of the new locations. Stations feel lively and futuristic while still feeling grounded with a lot of personality in their atmospheres. The design for the bases on planets is also a lot of fun to interact with as players can take advantage of their layouts and geometry by jumping in low gravity to post up on buildings or cover hallway choke points from a wave of guards. The noise design of weapons is also a standout as each weapon has its own distinct audio profile that sounds great during firefights.
With the launch of the “Odyssey” expansion, Elite Dangerous has taken on a new life as a next-generation space sim. It now feels truly unprecedented in scope, scale, and fidelity. Over the seven years since the game’s release Elite Dangerous has impressively continued to grow. The best part of it all is that “Odyssey” is just another step in the game’s ongoing evolution. It all comes together to make a space MMO that is a must-play for any fans of the genre. There is something to do for every type of player, whether they want just to build deadly ships, participate in dogfights, maximize a profitable trade route, team up with friends to explore the unknown galaxy or whatever else.
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey
With the launch of the “Odyssey” expansion, Elite Dangerous has taken on a new life as a next-generation space sim. It now feels truly unprecedented in scope, scale, and fidelity. Over the seven years since the game’s release Elite Dangerous has impressively continued to grow. The best part of it all is that “Odyssey” is just another step in the game’s ongoing evolution. It all comes together to make a space MMO that is a must-play for any fans of the genre. There is something to do for every type of player, whether they want just to build deadly ships, participate in dogfights, maximize a profitable trade route, team up with friends to explore the unknown galaxy, or whatever else.
Arron is a writer and video editor for But Why Tho? that is passionate about all things gaming, whether it be on a screen or table. When he isn’t writing for the site he’s either playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching arthouse movies, or trying to find someone to convince that the shooter Brink was ahead of its time.
March 20, 2023