It's been a little hard to keep track of the different ways to buy access to Elite: Dangerous, but it's a lot simpler since yesterday's launch of the Standard Beta. Players who want to start fighting and flying in the space-faring sequel immediately can now do so for £50/$75, and those willing to wait for the finished game can pay £35 to pre-order. The higher or additional costs of the Premium Beta and Lifetime Expansion Pass are no longer available.
What does that mean? Another notch along Elite Dangerous's attempts to make a space game with 400 billion star systems. I've outlined some of the notable Standard Beta patch notes below.
Here's the trailer for the new beta, in case you need your memory refreshed about what spaceships are:
As outlined on the Elite forums, there's a pile of new addition for the standard beta including: two new playable ships, the Viper and Lakon Type 6; an expanded playable area that's now
21 38,000 cubic lightyears in size; voice comms and text chat for swearing at space chums; and the introduction of fuel as a consumable resource.
The latter is important for the future of the game. Thus far players have been limited to a (relatively) small area of the galaxy and able to freely jump between its various 'islands': planets, space stations, asteroid fields. Making fuel conservation important is the beginning of giving Elite's empty outerspace a shape, and lays the groundwork for the trade and exploration mechanics to follow. Already players will have to make decisions about efficient travel routes, or what items to leave behind to make their ship lighter.
No matter how these systems end up, I liked the version of Elite: Dangerous I played earlier this year. There's a long way to go before it's an AI-populated universe full of traders and smugglers, all emergent and procedural and reminiscent of your childhood, but Frontier wisely began by creating a functional core of satisfying combat. It doesn't matter that there's still not much to do, because shunting power from shields, to engines, to weapons, and dogfighting with enemy craft is already thrilling. Never more so than when you're wearing the Oculus Rift.
Of course, it's up to you whether you're impatient and profligate enough to think it's worth £50 while unfinished. All I can do is point you towards Adam's impressions, our hot space chat, and Alec's interviews (one, two) series creator David Braben.