Ah, that special day in any game with a colon in its name's life - when it releases its first expansion, and with it its first dash. Welcome, Frontier, to the hallowed ranks of the :- club. Now you too will be a nightmare for proof-readers and CMS tag databases the world over.
But wait just one gosh-darn cotton-pickin' minute: something strange has happened. Elite: Dangerous [official site] has quietly changed its name to Elite Dangerous, and thus the expansion is known simply as Elite Dangerous: Horizons. THOSE AREN'T THE RULES FRONTIER YOU'RE OUT OF THE :- CLUB
Elite; Dangerous #Horiz-on$ is out today, anyway.
Horizons is in fact an umbrella name for a series of mini-expansions, each of which adds a theoretically major new feature to the star trekking/fighting/trading game, and kicking off with planetary exploration. Further down the line, we'll be getting a new looting and crafting system, multi-crew ships and commander avatar creation. As of today, one controversial price gets you the lot as and when it's released, with a selection of "1:1 scale worlds" and a Scarab SRV wheeled vehicle available from the get-go.
Frontier describe it thusly: "an unprecedented, vast new experience that lets you journey seamlessly from space to any point on the surfaces of accurately simulated planets and moons throughout Elite Dangerous’ multi-player, cut-throat, full scale re-creation of the 34th century Milky Way galaxy."
Looks like they've entirely abandoned describing this as in any way a singleplayer game, then.
This part of Horizons has been in beta since the end of the last month, but now flings the doors open to anyone via both
E:D's ED:H's own store and Steam Early Access. Yep, they're calling it Early Access, what with only part of Horizons being out so far.
And this brings me to why the stealth rename is not just jolly grammatical funtimes: Elite Dangerous: Horizons is, in fact, a whole new base game. Despite how many times I've used the word 'expansion' in this post, actually anyone who already owns E:D can't simply pay a small fee to upgrade it, but instead they have to buy the new edition in its entirety. Yep, it's the Destiny: The Taken King model - the way that made old players have to pay almost as much for the add-on as new players buying the complete package did drew a ton of heat of Bungie's way, but they got away with it because Destiny is enormous. Whether Elite is big enough to weather a similar grumble-storm remains to be seen.
Proponents of the biz model argue that it's essentially paying an annual fee in order to receive every feature of an ongoing, MMO-like game, and on that basis yeah, you're paying significantly less than you would for a year of WoW. ED:H is nominally £39.99, though it's currently available to existing E:D owners for £29.99, a 25% discount. It still seems like a lot for an expansion, but then again it is a sort of ongoing expansion - and Blizzard get away with charging similar for new StarCraft II packs. And, of course, space game fans have very much set a precedent for reaching ever-deeper into their wallets.
Olden times Elite: Dangerous, meanwhile, will continue to exist and receive some updates, so it's not like you're not kicked out of the universe if you don't upgrade, plus the essential flying/fighting in space aspect is not at all dependent on having Horizons. Which is the only thing that stopped me from titling this post 'Elite: Dangerous is dead, long live Elite Dangerous: Horizons.'
I can't even slightly remember how to play ED, but I'm definitely tempted to blow the dust off my flight stick (hello nurse) and try out a bit of planetary landing. Anyone else going in?