Elite: Dangerous remains, to this date, one of the most immersive yet impenetrable games Iíve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Its unapologetic obtuseness might be a badge of honor for the hardcore, but even without anecdotal evidence, thereís no question that the game has scared off many prospective space truckers/ pirates/ mercenaries/ cabbies. So when it continues to grow at the stunted, fragmented clip that developer Frontier has established for it, it manages to become even more overwhelming. While Iím a huge fan of the game as a whole, its continued pace of expansion feels like a dripfeed, which makes the game as a whole quite difficult to return to after lengths of time. I wish that they simply released the game when it was actually finished according to their own standards. But we'll take what we can get when we can get it, and now is one of those times.
Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė The Commanders is another of those strange growth spurts that nevertheless injects some personality and welcome features. It neither makes nor breaks the core game; itís neither a sequel nor a complete downloadable content pack. Itís an add-on of an add-on; if you bought the Horizons season pass, youíre not on the fence: the decision has been made for you.
For me (and I suspect for most), the biggest addition in Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė The Commanders is the option to go Multicrew. The spacefaring jobs carried out by the denizens of our galaxy have accommodated lone wolves since launch. However, anyone whoís played the game has an undeniable itch tickling the recesses of our memories where Star Trek resides. Cooperation furthers mutual goals in most aspects of our daily travails, and that certainly includes the operation of spacecraft. While Elite: Dangerous has always had cooperative play, thereís always been a certain distance to the proceedings. The Commanders closes that gap by allowing you to invite up to two friends into your home away from home planet.
Multicrew play comes with a few caveats (or depending on how you look at them, restrictions). You canít just do what you want, open-world role-playing game style. There are roles that must be filled. Three, to be specific: Helm, Gunner, and Fighter. Helm and Gunner stay on the primary craft; the Helm is occupied by the pilot, while the Gunner deals with your secondary firing groups. So yeah, that scene from A New Hope? You can pretty much do that in Elite: Dangerous now. The Fighter role relegates your third player to piloting a ship-launched fighter. This role seems like a bit of a missed opportunity at first, but in the event of interdiction, youíll want someone out in the field harassing your targets.
A word of advice: if you want to get involved in Multicrew play, I strongly advise getting involved with people you trust; it's a shared experience, from the glory to the heartache. My experience being grouped with randoms was fire and ice; I liken it to playing Overwatch solo. You will live or die by the actions of your crewmates, and one member's failure to perform can be incredibly costly. But as all team endeavors go, when everything clicks, it's a thing of magic.
Most of the rest of the new features in Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė The Commanders could easily be mistaken for stuff youíd just find in patch notes for sizable updates; though, again, thatís mostly what this is. But these other additions, while not game-changing, are welcome ones.
First, we have Holo-Me, an avatar creator. If youíre into this kind of stuff, youíll likely dig it; if nothing else, it puts a face (or to be more specific, faces) on whatís largely been a very impersonal universe. Personally, I find that these kinds of features verge on pointless. Every time a game has thrown a character creator at me, Iíve almost always stuck with whatever was considered the default. My experience with the Holo-Me was no different. But again, itís not like youíre forced to mess about with it. And after all, the only stories in Elite: Dangerous are the stories you make for yourself; the Holo-Me exists in service to that noble goal.
So with all of this said, do I recommend Elite: Dangerous: Horizons Ė The Commanders? Well, yes, but since it's technically a patch/update and not a standalone release, this review needs to be taken in the context of the expansion as a whole. That score you see at the top? Disregard it and conflate it with my opinion of the second season (or the Horizons Season Pass, however you wish to look at it). Since Season 2 hasn't closed out yet, the jury is still very much out in terms of overall value; since we don't know how much or what kind of content is coming, it's a roll of the dice. But it's an appropriate metaphor; Elite: Dangerous is all about risk and reward.
Ultimately, Elite: Dangerous: Horizons -- The Commanders is more of a ten-second supercruise trip than a full-fledged system jump, and whether or not the additions are more than the sum of their parts is entirely a matter of perspective. The multiplayer expansion promises a bit more than it actually delivers, but hey, the door is still open for improvements. The customization and viewing options add yet another dimension to the experience, while the new sights and spacecraft make the galaxy feel more lived-in than ever before. As a component of a component of a game that happens to be as massive as Elite: Dangerous is, The Commanders is a good step forward in transforming potential into possibility. It continues the process of filling the void. Considering the venue in which it operates, thatís no mean feat.