Even though Elite: Dangerous was officially released last December, the development team at Frontier Developments has more plans for its vast space-faring game. Last month at Gamescom, the company introduced its new expansion, called Horizons, which allows players to land on planets, among other features. However, Horizons won't be coming until the end of the year. At PAX Prime, Close Quarters Combat (CQC) was shown, offering a fast-paced and small alternative to the ever-expanding galaxy or the core game.
Xbox One players were the first to get their hands on it, but in the days following the show, the beta version is out for PC players. Unlike the long traveling, trading and exploration that comes in the base version of the game, CQC is a more competitive format. Situated in smaller maps, players compete and rise up the online rankings in an attempt to be the best commander in the universe.
Deathmatch In Space
The demo pitted two teams of six players in team deathmatch. The map was a small station with asteroids dotting the space around it. It was big enough that any pilot could easily weave around obstacles to lose opponents, but also small enough that the action was constant and exciting. The rules were simple enough: The team with the most points at the end of the round wins.
Each player was on equal footing with the same ship and set of weapons. The only way to stay alive and shoot down enemies was to outmaneuver enemy fire and keep a weapon close by for potential targets. One prevailing strategy that everyone figured out in the early minutes was to abruptly stop the ship during the chase for a quick turn, or turning the table by becoming the hunter instead of prey. Other tactics included flying through tight spots on the space station or hiding behind asteroids until the perfect moment arrived to flank enemies.
Another way to gain advantage was through the power-ups scattered throughout the map. They're easily spotted thanks to their bright colors and the ring that the ships need to fly through to activate the power. Four different bonuses are available in the map: a speed boost, shield boost, stealth mode and enhanced weapons.
The round lasted for about 10 minutes or so, but it was more intense than most of my sorties in the open-world game. Instead of running illegal goods and contributing to my faction in Powerplay, the game's faction-based content, (both of which require patience and many hours of travel), I was fighting for every single second in CQC. There were many moments that required finesse and aggression as each player tried to catch an opponent for a quick kill only to realize that they're being chased by an enemy, as well. It was exhilarating from beginning to end, and the good news is the amount of time invested doesn't have to be lengthy. You can play a few short matches and then move on to something else.
For now, CQC is a separate entity from the full game. Of course, there's a possibility that it might make its way into the large universe, but executive producer Ben Dowie said that fans enjoy the split between the two because it's a relief that they wouldn't have to use the ship and modules that took so much time and money to build. In other words, CQC is, ironically, a more relaxed mode to play.
More To Follow
With the CQC beta ready for PC, it's only a matter of time until the full version is released. Still, the developers are now working on two fronts after its release: another gameplay update called "Ships" and obviously, Horizons. More news will come out for both updates closer to their respective launch dates, but Dowie mentioned a few more tidbits about Horizons. Aside from landing on a planet, the surface can also hold exclusive items that aren't found in the deep reaches of space. Obviously, this will tie into the game's eventual crafting add-on that should come next year.
As for the landing sequences, he mentioned an orbital sub-speed that players need to encounter before landing. At the moment, docking with a spaceport requires players to slow down to a certain speed and then warp to the ship's regular speed when you get close. This orbital speed mechanic seems to work the same way, but he cautioned players to keep their ships at a decent speed to land safely on an alien planet instead of crash landing into it and adding another crater.
Other than that, he said that the development process is ongoing. Horizons and its landmark planetary landings have been a fixed addition since the game's genesis. It was only a matter of time until the green light was given to the project so that it could become a reality. As for Ships, it should be coming soon. There are only three months separating fans from Horizons, signaling the end of the first year of Elite: Dangerous and ushering in a second season of new updates.