Check the official Elite Dangerous: Horizons site for more information!
Our second season, which gives all players access to Elite Dangerous, kicks off in December 2015 with the epic Planetary Landings expansion and that is just the start – it continues into 2016 with further major expansions dedicated to gameplay, community, and narrative, including:
Travel seamlessly from space to any point on the surface of accurately simulated planets and moons throughout Elite Dangerous' full-scale Milky Way galaxy, and drive new SRV ground vehicles. Each 1:1 scale world offers incredible vistas and countless gameplay opportunities.
Planetary Landings is an entirely new way to play Elite Dangerous, and is just the first in the Horizons season of expansions.
- Developer: Frontier Developments
- Release Date: 12/15/2015
- Elite Dangerous is 32- and 64-bit and available for PC, Mac OSX, and Xbox One platforms
- Horizons, however, is only available for 64-bit PCs currently; an Xbox One version is being worked on and is expected in 2016
- Price: 60 USD/50 EUR/40 GBP
Every copy of Horizons includes the full standalone Elite Dangerous game
While Elite Dangerous has always been well-optimized, Horizons brings an incredible amount of planetary detail to render. Development of the game is ongoing, so these specs may change over time.
From the Frontier Store site:
RECOMMENDED PC SPECIFICATIONS:
- OS: Windows 7/8/10 64-bit
- Processor: Quad Core CPU (4 x 2Ghz)
- Memory: 6 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 470 / ATI 7240HD (DirectX 11 functionality required)
- Network Broadband Internet Connection
- Hard Drive: 8 GB available space
There are no regional restrictions, although the game may not be localised into your language.
- OS: Windows 7/8/10 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K Quad Core CPU or better / AMD FX 4350 Quad Core CPU or better
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 770 / AMD Radeon R9 280X or better
- Network Broadband Internet Connection
- Hard Drive: 8 GB available space
Horizons is the first expansion for Elite Dangerous! Sometimes referred to as Year 2 or Season 2, the main feature is the ability to land on non-atmospheric "airless" worlds. These are 1:1 worlds, created based on our knowledge of the galaxy, as well as simulated worlds, and they can be explored in their entirety.
From these worlds, you can discover settlements and points of interest (POI), ship wreckage to search, ore to mine, minerals to synthesize, or pirate bases to raid!
For details on what is included in Horizons, please check out this compilation thread. It is comprehensive and regularly updated.
Frontier has released a Horizons video series:
Worlds in Horizons can be Metallic, Rocky, Rocky Ice, or Ice. To keep these from feeling too empty, there are points of interest on the worlds, as well as beautiful, naturalistic terrain and planetary structures.
Points of interest include:
- Mining/ore deposits and Materials
- Crashed and derelict ships
- Secret pirate bases
- Settlements (including military bases, prison colonies, surface ports, etc.)
- Distress beacons
The above was written before Elite Dangerous was released--the engine has been constantly evolving and now handles generation of the planetary terrain. This is not just a simple randomized heightmap--Stellar Forge is guided by scientific and geologic data. The movement of tectonic plates is simulated and informs the creation of the landmass, and the planet's chemical makeup also controls its color and geologic layers.
In Elite: Dangerous, when we are generating a system procedurally, each planetary system is formed from first principles. Bodies are gradually aggregated over a very long simulated time from available matter, taking into account its chemical composition. Depending on the angular momentum, this might begin to form into a single central body, or into multiple co-orbiting bodies.
As the gases collapse together under the force of gravity, matter tends to orbit these bodies in protoplanetary discs, which in turn further coalesces into smaller bodies within those discs. Tidal forces, orbital resonances and gradual accretion of mass gradually change their orbits, causing collisions, collapse and close encounters – which in turn means bodies might capture each other or fling each other into new orbits or out of the system altogether.
At some point the stars in the system ignite one by one, and the resultant stellar winds gradually drive off the lighter non-gravitationally bound gases.
Over its lifetime (different for different systems) close and not so close encounters with other stellar systems may remove outer planets and capture others, and the outer halo of comets and other bodies may pass through the other system, not just causing destruction, but also depositing lighter elements and compounds (like ice/water) on the bodies in the inner system that may have been lost during the heat of their formative years, making water-based life there possible.
The above processes are all modelled from first principles for almost all of our 400 billion star systems by an Elite: Dangerous system called Stellar Forge.
Not insignificant blindspot: horizontal displacement. Horizontal displacement (sharp cliffs, overhangs, etc.) is not currently utilized, but it has been said that it is something they plan to revisit.
A part of this simulation is gravity. Gravity while flying in Supercruise has always been a factor, but now it is more present than ever. If you are in a planet's orbit, loose cargo, debris, etc., can float (or crash, rather) down to the surface. Flying near the surface in ships not designed for non-spaceflight can be difficult, especially in high gravity worlds. Take care, commander!
When you land on the planet, you're going to need to be able to get around--enter the surface roving vehicle, or SRV. These vehicles (not a buggy don't ever call it a buggy it's not a buggy no no no) are designed for surface exploration and come with a number of supporting features:
- Turret: Use your turret to fend off enemy skimmers or to break down rock for ore/materials
- Thrusters: Thrusters help normalize your driving on the surface. With Flight Assist on, they automatically thrust to keep you on the planet in low gravity, and keep you from running aground in high gravity. Of course, you can also manually control them for sick stuntz
- Ship Control: Dismiss or recall your ship at command. This is useful if you want your ship to remain in standby or to come pick you up after a long day of surface exploration
- Planetary Insertion Module
- Planetary Vehicle Hangar
Similar to star stations/ports, settlements can offer a variety of services for your ship, as well as Bulletin Board missions.
Settlements are arranged in a way that reflect their purpose and economy. You will find variation between settlements, but take care, as many have robust defense mechanisms that can make short work of your ship or SRV. Some missions may even have you raid a base, which you can choose to approach as desired. Settlements can have power and drone control stations that can be destroyed...or you can go in guns blazing.
Remember: if you can't find an open landing pad, just land somewhere nearby!
New to the Elite series are materials. Materials are the building blocks of the Looting & Crafting system, coming with 2.1; however, even at launch/2.0, materials can be used for Synthesis.
Materials can be found from roving the surface and exploring POIs. Materials themselves are "discovered" as you find them and can then be used to synthesize certain components. These components have three tiers of quality:
- Tier I: Synthesized resource does its job (more fuel, more ammo, etc.)
- Tier II: Synthesized resource does its job + offers 50% bonus (shield capacity, jump range, etc.)
- Tier III: Synthesized resource does its job + offers 100% bonus (shield capacity, jump range, etc.)
Elite: Dangerous is the latest installment of a long series of epic space games, starting with the release of Elite in 1984. Elite is widely considered the forefather of space simulation games today. This installment is an open world space trading, exploration and combat sim set in a 1:1 scale of the Milky Way galaxy with around 400 billion star systems where you can choose what you do, who you are and where your alliances stand. In a true pioneer fashion, you are given a spacecraft, a few credits and are left to your own devices. Become a trader, pirate, bounty-hunter, explorer, assassin or all of the above!
Elite: Dangerous started as a successful Kickstarter crowd funding campaign on January 4th, 2013. In two short years David Braben and his team have managed to create a space simulation game of incredible scope set in a full–scale recreation of the real Milky Way galaxy's 400 Billion star systems. Allowing you to explore the vast expanses of our Galaxy and pursue an array of activities within that space.
Set in an epic, full–scale recreation of the real Milky Way galaxy's 400 Billion star systems, each with multiple planets of many different types, moons, and countless trillions of asteroids in fields and planetary rings.
It is the most advanced virtual representation of our galaxy ever achieved, and has been created in unprecedented detail using advanced simulation algorithms based on ‘hard’ science.
Every star, planet and moon in Elite: Dangerous have real chemical compositions and movement; spinning, orbiting each other in astronomical ballet. Every star in the night sky and every known exoplanet – all are scientifically accurate and yours to behold and explore in Elite: Dangerous.
Astronomical events take place across the galaxy every moment, from solar flares to black holes. Rare phenomena and atypical stars exist out there to be discovered and recorded by enterprising pilots. This galaxy is yours.
These are the main games modes in Elite:
- Solo: Play alone with AI/NPCs
- Private: Play with friends or a group with AI/NPCs
- Open: Play with other players and AI/NPCs
- CQC: Play arena-based fighter combat
Bear in mind that the universe is shared across all these modes (less so CQC, as it's not fully integrated into the main game yet). This means that you can influence factions, systems, Powers, etc. either alone or with other players.
GAF is particularly fond of Mobius Group, a dedicated PvE group. You can play online with a ton of other CMDRs who are dedicated to cooperating (no PvP).
Open Play brings its own set of risks and rewards. High population areas can be extremely dangerous, as pirates and other scum prey on new players. If you are aligned with a specific Power, you may be hostile, by default, to other players. Take care, CMDR!
Wings, added in the 1.2 Elite Dangerous update, let you group up with three other CMDRs and share rewards and experience. From the Wings page:
Rewards, including bounties and exploration data, are shared across all members of the Wing, provided the Wing member contributed. For something like a bounty, this means that you shot the target at least once--the bounty is then split amongst you and other Wing members. While this may sound like it cuts the profit too much, consider that you can destroy ships much faster as a team!
Experience unpredictable encounters with players from around the world in Elite Dangerous' vast massively multiplayer space. Fly alone or with friends in a connected galaxy where every pilot you face could become a trusted ally or your deadliest enemy.
The majority embrace the connected multi-player experience. Whether you experience the open multi-player galaxy on your own or in a Wing - where you can stay connected to a group of your buddies as you share in jointly-earned spoils – it delivers a constant, emerging source of new opportunities and people to play with and against.
With something like exploration, Wings are less practical, as exploration data is only shared if Wing members are in the same system as its scanned. This requires more coordination than is often possible; however, with Horizons, exploration of planets may make exploration Wings far more useful!
Added in the 1.3 Elite Dangerous update, Powerplay adds another layer to the background simulation metagame of the the Elite universe. From the Powerplay page:
Essentially, Powerplay is a metagame within the human-controlled space of Elite: Dangerous. You ally with a Power and then complete goals for each of them to increase your rank. Higher rank gives you better bonuses: weekly payout, access to Power-specific modules, and a greater ability to guide the direction of the power via Command Capital, which all allied players use to guide the growth and dominance of a power.
Powerplay is an ongoing battle for interstellar conquest and control that touches and enhances every aspect of the Elite Dangerous experience. Ally yourself with a galactic Power, guide their strategy, earn valuable perks and bonuses, and dominate human-occupied space together. Every player’s choices and actions can impact the balance of galactic power.
It's...complicated. First things first: check out this list of brief videos from FD:
- Powerplay Training Part 1: Overview
- Powerplay Training Part 2: Preparation
- Powerplay Training Part 3: Expansion
- Powerplay Training Part 4: Control
CQC, added in the 1.4 Elite Dangerous update, introduces arena-based ship combat to the Elite series. From the CQC page:
As you can see, this is fast-paced, quick action. Jump in, select a small fighter, and pick a mode to get started.
The Close Quarter Combat (CQC) Championships are the ultimate 34th century gladiatorial contest between Elite Dangerous pilots. CQC thrusts players into intense PVP action within the Elite Dangerous galaxy.
Equip your spacecraft with a unique loadout and compete in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag gametypes in custom-built arenas, supporting up to twelve players at launch.
Because the ships are much smaller than your average ship in Elite, fights tend to be over far faster, but are also more hectic. Smaller ships are extremely maneuverable and can stop on a dime--use this to your advantage as you weave in an out of stations and asteroid fields!
While CQC is currently completely separate from Elite universe, you can still earn credits by progressing in the mode. In the future, CQC will be positioned as a career that can be pursued within the Elite universe.
Elite: Horizons is the first major gameplay expansion for Elite: Dangerous. The full season of Horizons encompasses five expansions, starting with 2.0 "Planetary Landings". Iterations for the rest of "Season 2" will be 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5.
The following are some features and expansions that are coming in Year 2:
- Confirmed for 2.1: Crafting & Looting: Use raw materials to create new and enhanced ship components
- Multi-crew: Command your ship with up to four friends, each focused on a specific role
- Max four crew per ship
- Four roles: Helm (piloting), Fire Control (turrets/weapons), Countermeasures (shields, tactical), Engineering (sensors, navigation, repairs)
- Balance focused to make it on-par with having a Wing of four ships
- Uses Wing system
- Can "hotswap" between roles (even solo players!) but Helm has ultimate control over assignments
- Teammates can move to fighter craft and deploy from docking bay
- Uses SRV-style "neural link" or UI interface (source)
- Commander Creator: Create and customize your in-game avatar
- New SRVs: New variations of SRVs are coming, with different purposes and equipment
- More ships!
- Volcanism: Volcanic activity, including ice volcanoes, is coming! Geysers may make an appearance, as well.
- Weather Systems: Very rudimentary weather systems may come to Horizons (yes, this is separate/different from fully atmospheric worlds)
- Thargoids: Thargoids are on the cusp of making contact--expect to meet them in Year 2!
- Mission System Overhaul: The mission system is said to get a major reworking to make missions more desirable, challenging, and enjoyable
No one is certain what Year 3 and beyond will bring. This was shared on a recent (11/2015) community stream:
However, here are some of the features that Frontier has already discussed and has said is in the plan:
In addition, check out this Top 10 Future Updates & Expansions vid for an overview of planned features and expansions.
What are the expansions?
The expansions include significant new features such as seamless freeform (manual pitch/yaw/roll) atmospheric flight and landings and on-foot and out-of-ship activities (such as FPS combat, walking around and boarding ships, walking in stations and walking and driving vehicles on entire 1:1 scale populated living planets), multi-player crew and probably player executive controlled capital ships.
For example, the roadmap is to add these features over the following expansions (in no particular order): 
- Landing / driving / prospecting on airless rocky planets, moons & asteroids (Elite Dangerous: Horizons)
- Walking around interiors and combative boarding of other ships
- Combat and other interactions with other players and AIs in the internal areas of star ports
- Accessing richly detailed planetary surfaces
- Availability of giant ‘executive control’ ships to players