Elite Dangerous has been around for years at this point, and the game has steadily grown from a space simulator to what can only be described as the ultimate sci-fi fantasy sandbox.
You pick your ship, pick up missions, and can hunt bounties, run cargo, sell slaves, or go mining on planetary surfaces. It's a great time already, but the Odyssey expansion is arguably developer Frontier's biggest step yet.
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey Is All The Space Exploration I've Wanted
What is Odyssey? Simply put, it's an entire first-person shooter module that's bolted onto the existing framework of Elite Dangerous.
Up until now, you've been chained to your cockpit (or your lunar rover), but Odyssey releases those shackles - within reason. Now, you're able to disembark from your ship, adding a full HUD with oxygen, shields, health and energy, the latter of which will run down more quickly on less habitable planets.
Missions in the mode often revolve around securing some kind of item or material from a planetary base, meaning you'll land near a settlement and work your way inwards before fighting your way out, like in the trailer below:
While most of the settlements share much of the same DNA, it still feels quite incredible to step from the relative safety of a ship into the middle of a firefight with just a simple fade to black in between the two.
The only criticism we can level at the Odyssey expansion so far, unfortunately, is in its lack of heft in the gunplay. Weapons all feel a little on the 'nerf' side of the lethality range, and enemies often appear to be tickled by being shot - to the point where they'll engage while out in the open.
Despite this, there's still a lot to like. For one, it's not mandatory to fire your gun at all. There are explorable areas that require hacking and a keen eye for chances to cut through doors, and these can be ventured into in groups, too.
There are also space stations that you can step foot in, rather than just interacting with through your ship's menu screens. These shiny locations can appear a little sterile, but it's nice to stretch your virtual legs, especially when you've been floating from one end of the galaxy to the other to drop off some cargo.
It's also nice to see that Elite has received a bit of a visual upgrade, too. Terrain now looks more welcoming (perhaps because we can now step foot on it), and while the new bases you'll infiltrate lack visual flourishes, they're awfully shiny on my GTX 2070 Super.
Elite Dangerous arguably didn't need an entirely new mechanic grafted onto its already all-consuming space fantasy skeleton, but in my hours spent with it, I'm sure glad it has it.