More Details On Planetary Landings For ‘Horizons’ Expansion In ‘Elite: Dangerous’

At PAX Prime, Frontier Development’s executive producer Ben Dowie provided some details about the Planetary Landings feature coming as part of Elite: DangerousHorizons expansion. With the months dwindling down to Horizons’ release later this year, the development team revealed more about the transition from outer space to the surface of a planet in its weekly newsletter.

Prior to touchdown, Dowie said that a sub-orbital speed will slow down the ship for an easy and safe landing, but in fact, the process goes through stages before your ship makes its mark on the planet. After entering a new system, your ship enters supercruise speed to quickly travel around the area, but once you get close to a planet, the ship will automatically stop to prevent crashing to its surface.

In Horizons, this will change with a new module automatically attached to your ship, which slows it down to a new speed called Orbital Cruise at a certain altitude. At this height, you’ll still be able to zip around the planet at high speeds if you’re scouting for a suitable area to land. In terms of the UI, it will also change to show the height limit for Orbital Cruise.

Go below a certain mark on the screen during Orbital Cruise, and you’ll immediately switch to surface speed. Prior to landing, the plane will change its movements based on the planet’s gravity as well as your thrusters compensating to stay airborne to avoid crashing. The UI also changes once again to show information such as altitude and pitch.

At the moment, players can land only on various starports that orbit planets. However, implementing these docking areas are easier compared to the gargantuan size of planets. The challenge now for the developers is to make the transition from supercruise to surface landing a seamless experience. In the following weeks, more details about interaction on the surface will also come to light — specifically, the landing process and how to set up a defensive base against enemy players.


Rexly Peñaflorida II is a Contributor at Tom’s Hardware. He writes news on tech and hardware, but mostly focuses on gaming news. As a Chicagoan, he believes that deep dish pizza is real pizza and ketchup should never be on hot dogs. Ever. Also, Portillo’s is amazing.

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  • childofthekorn
    Real time? Instanced? Is there a finite amount of players that can land on a planet? Is there going to be PvP while sub-orbit of any sort? Sounding cool.
  • NightLight
    the game mechanics are really good at the moment, but it's way too generic. every station in every system you visit is the same, and it feels like a second job if you trade for money or go mining... More variation is needed, and more freedom.
  • larkspur
    childofthekorn - I haven't played the beta, but they have said the transition from super-cruise to orbital-cruise is seamless and without any 'loading screen' or whatnot - If there is a transition, I'm guessing it will be similar to what it's currently like when you shut off super-cruise without a destination lock. Not sure about limits on players landing on a single planet or how they handle instancing, but they've said there will definitely be PVP and PVE when sub-orbital.

    NightLight - Yeah, I've been playing off and on since August 2014. The missions have gotten better at times but are still repetitive. At this point (having made enough credits trading/smuggling/hunting/etc) I play the game much more casually and spend most of my time exploring. Not for everyone, I know, but I've always liked astronomy and exploring some of my favorite stars and nebulae in a 1:1 Milky Way is pretty cool. There are some amazing sights out there - Frontier's art-team did a great job. I still can't get over the beauty of some of the asteroid fields and planetary rings out there. I'll often just fly down into the rings, dodge rocks and ice, and then 'land' on a large rock and take some pictures (indeed we explorers are an odd lot). But anyway, unless you actually find these things interesting, it's probably best not to go exploring as it might bore you to the point of self-destructing ;)

    I was really excited about Horizons but then found out that only airless (no atmosphere) planets work for orbital-cruise and landings. This includes high-metal, rocky, and icy as long as they have no atmosphere (I assume metal-rich would be included too but haven't seen it said specifically). I was hoping to go back and land on the Earth-likes I've discovered, but not with this expansion :( They've stated that atmospheric landings are to be included in a future expansion but not Horizons.
  • Alec Mowat
    Here's a new detail.
    I'm not buying it.
  • gaborbarla
    This is going to be a standalone game at the original bloated standalone price?
    This should be a cheaper expansion.
  • kiniku
    Many people will enjoy playing a space travel/combat/trading simulator. With the emphasis on combat But not me.