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Elite: Dangerous: Horizons - The Return
Score: 92%
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Media: Download/1
Players: MMO
Genre: Flight/Simulation/Online

26 OCT 3303 - Maia: Obsidian Orbital:

Sure, I've heard the stories. Everyone does, as a kid. Stories of strange aliens attacking human civilization from out in the dark. However, I've been around a bit and I've seen a lot of very real threats, and they all come from other humans, whether they're motivated by political agendas, motivated by greed, or simply psychotic, their mind having been addled by their time in space or, perhaps, too many jumps too close to stars. Even when I saw that there were strange structures found on certain far-flung planets, I figured they were a hoax, built by some unregistered human colony - or simply artifacts of something, alien or not, that was long dead. I didn't ever expect to have an encounter with a Thargoid, myself...

However, I had some time off and needed to head back to Maia on some long overdue personal business, so I found myself knee-deep in the Pleiades Nebula, when I picked up an emission that was "Non-human." Well, my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped to check it out...

When I popped out of Supercruise, I found myself at the scene of the aftermath of a battle. What looked like a Federation ship had been obliterated and was floating listlessly in a strange, alien green fog. There was a Thargoid facing the wreckage when I arrived, but I didn't see any weapon fire. Soon after I arrived, the Thargoid ship turned toward me and came close to scan me with its strange, green tentacle-looking scanning ray-thingie, which ended in a horrible sounding honk, which, come to think of it, sounded a bit like a system scanner. It then turned to look at the scene some more and then headed toward the star to jump out, leaving a strange wake behind. So. They're real.

I later encountered more of these Thargoids, in similar scenarios. However, I never observed the Thargoid firing upon the Federation ship; it was already wreckage when I arrived. Secondly, I have experienced the Thargoid ship turning red (a warning, perhaps?) and sending out a swarm of small drone-like craft or missiles that circle around it, when I accidentally got too close for their comfort, but I have never actually been attacked by a Thargoid. Given that they supposedly have the ability to simply shut down our ships - and have done so, only to scan and then leave without destroying the ship - I, personally, am of the opinion that they are not simply here to destroy humankind. They seem curious about us, as we are of them, but they don't seem to be openly hostile. I plead that pilots use caution when encountering Thargoids, but don't treat them with open aggression... at least until there are substantiated reports of Thargoids firing first. Furthermore, if the Thargoids I keep seeing at these wreckage locations aren't responsible for the attack, who - or what - is? We could be dealing with very different sects of Thargoids (as different as Federals and Imperials, perhaps) or even some other alien race that hasn't revealed itself to us as of yet. If that turns out to be the case, I'd much rather have the Thargoids as allies than as enemies on a second front.

- CMDR GameVortexGeck0 of the Corellian Faulcon

The Unfolding Mystery:

With Horizons 2.4: The Return, the Thargoid presence is more clear and present. Previously, you used to have to be carrying alien artifacts, taking corrosive damage, and jumping back and forth in the deep before you'd encounter one as they pulled you out of hyperspace and gave you a once over. Now, there are frequent non-human radio emissions as you fly around the Pleiades Nebula. Dropping in will put you face to face with a Thargoid. What you do after that is up to you.

Additionally, there are reports of INRA stations being discovered - from the first time that Humans encountered aliens... and some newly discovered large alien structures to be investigated. You'll want to share notes with others as we all probe deeper into this alien mystery.

Those more interested in preparing for the very real possibility of human on alien conflicts can help out with the community goals assisting AEGIS in their ongoing research of alien technology and development of weapons that can take it out. Tasks can range from sourcing some raw materials and delivering them, to arming yourself with some new Research Limpets and scrapping some biological matter from Thargoid ships, to taking them out and bringing back the still beating Thargoid heart. Or something like that. In return, AEGIS continues to introduce "AX" (Alien Experimental) weapons, designed to actually damage the Thargoid ships.

Creature Comforts:

The 2.4 release also sees several general improvements and enhancements. For me (and probably anyone else who likes to go exploring), one of the most notable upgrades is in navigation. Now, when you're plotting out your route, you can select from some additional filtering criteria, including whether you've visited there or not. While that might help Traders stick to their old routes, it allows Explorers to more easily chart new routes between places, visiting new places and scanning new things each time. Another couple of filters are available for trade data and local cartographic data. Remember, you can set your route to limit systems to respect these filters. And two changes that any Commander will love are the improved route plotting (longer distances and faster computation) and the new "Last Fuelable Star" indicator on your star map. So nice and so, so overdue. (Now, can we get some way to expand scan data storage? Please?)

There is also some filtering added into the Chat window's notification tab, allowing you to suppress message types you don't care about - including "read messages"; if you choose not to see read messages, then they automatically are hidden after you read them. Nice.


So, um, yeah... A word of warning: Be careful on the newly updated Ship Rebuy screen. I'm not a fighter, I'm generally a very safe pilot - staying out of fights as much as possible and avoiding terminal intimacy with stars and planet surfaces. As a result, it's been quite some time since I got blown up and actually had to use the Ship Rebuy screen. It looks like the appearance of the Rebuy screen has been changed, as of late, to give pilots more flexibility, but it's different and you have to make sure you don't mess things up. Specifically, there is a list of modules on the right side of the screen that detail your loadout. You can deselect certain modules, should you decide you'd rather do without them and pay a cheaper rebuy price. HOWEVER, there is also a button beneath the list that says "Rebuy All." I wanted to rebuy all of my modules, so I clicked the button. When that didn't take me to my ship, I searched the page and found a button in the bottom left to Purchase Ship, so I clicked that. Unfortunately for me, the "Rebuy All" button is a TOGGLE button, so when I had clicked it, I had DESELECTED all of the modules that I wanted. When I clicked on Purchase Ship, I had completed that action and solidified my mistake. There was no "going back" from there. After blowing myself up a couple times to even figure out what had just happened, I swapped into a Sidewinder back in the bubble and had to work to rebuild the Corellian Faulcon. Not fun, but she's better now than she was. Still, I wouldn't want to do that over again.

Additionally, if you find yourself unable to pay to rebuy your ship, but you have other ships parked around the galaxy that you could sell off, you have that ability now. On the bottom left, next to the "Purchase Ship" button is a "Owned Ships" button. Clicking this button will allow you to see your other ships and to sell them off to scrape together the funds to afford your current rebuy. Without any real explanation as to why, no you can't select one and jump in that ship from the rebuy. You can only sell them remotely.

Value Added?:

Any way you look at it, this is an unfolding story. There are things in 2.4 that haven't been encountered as of this writing, I'm pretty sure. Further, I fully expect the story to continue in upcoming releases. This does make it a bit difficult to really evaluate The Return as a "whole" and as a separate consideration to the rest of the Horizons expansion... at least as it pertains to the story. The "Creature Comforts" mentioned above are incredible boons to gameplay. Valuable? Absolutely. There are also Save Slots for the Holo-Me system, allowing you to create a few different looks (or even characters) and save them for rapid selection, later. Plus, 12 new hairstyles, slots for outfits and eyewear (and some that are free, currently in the store, to get you started). Not only that, but synthesis can now create heat sinks, chaff, limpets and top up life support. Now you've got more reason to get out there in your SRV and collect materials.

As for whether or not to get it, that's fairly simple. If you already own the Horizons season DLC, you already have The Return; consider this an update on what you own. If you don't have Horizons, you don't even have the ability to land on a planet. Furthermore, it's been announced that the updates in 2018 will be available to players who have Horizons. Quite frankly, it's getting harder to try to imagine what Elite: Dangerous would be without Horizons. Horizons doesn't feel like a DLC with an added map or some large dungeons, it's more like leaving the tutorial area behind. Mind you, before Horizons, I was happy with just Elite: Dangerous, but Horizons is, well... a game changer.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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