LifeisXbox’s Elite Dangerous Odyssey Alpha preview | Today we’ll be previewing the Elite Dangerous Odyssey alpha phases 1 through 3. This game, developed and published by Frontier Developments, the Odyssey expansion is the long-rumored “new era” of Elite Dangerous that was hinted at by Frontier back in 2019. Taking the step down in scale from massive hulking spacecraft to extend its already existing gameplay to the human level. Neither the expansion’s release date nor the alpha’s end date has been announced, so let’s go over what has come thus far.
The first steps
Kicking the Elite Dangerous Odyssey alpha off, all players were provided with a fresh save, 50.000 credits, access to the new Apex Interstellar taxi service, a range of kinetic and laser weaponry plus the Maverick scavenger suit available for purchase. With these assets at our disposal, we had to go out there to complete missions and earn more credits, so we could actually afford any of the new toys. This is where the initial stumble of the alpha happened. Since most missions required either the maverick suit or better guns to complete them. Paired with having to use Apex Interstellar for our travel across the Adityan star system, and being sent all the way back to a space station upon death, let’s just say the first day or two were rather frustrating. The ball did get rolling once I had my Maverick scavenger suit. Now, the crucial tool this suit gets access to is the Arc Cutter. This laser allows you to cut away at certain well-defined panels to access certain ports or consoles beneath. If a guard sees you do this to the base they’re guarding, however, they will generally raise the alarm. I had to remember to be sneaky, because “Panel is cut, Panel is down” will quickly turn into “Panel is cut, CMDR is down”.
War, what is it good for?
For phase 2, the focus of testing expanded, and so did our available toys. A small “bubble” of roughly 20 lightyears was opened up, and we were once again allowed to purchase ships. Every player also received the iconic cobra Mk III, a classic multirole ship to traverse this bubble with. However, the main event in this phase was war. The background simulation had been set so that the majority of locations were in a state of conflict. This meant that the previously rather peaceful or empty settlements were now active battlegrounds we could partake in. We could do so in two ways. Either fly there yourself and choose a side or go to the Frontline Solutions desk present in larger stations or planetary ports. From here you can simply choose a settlement you want to deploy to, and get a dropship ride there. While the dropship sequence is very cool, and you get to see it each time you choose to respawn, it does mean you get the Apex Interstellar experience, which is a bit on the dull side. Another new toy we got access to from this phase on is the Manticore dominator suit. This combat suit sets itself apart with its powerful shields, increased grenade and consumable capacity, and access to two primary (main) weapons. This is very useful as there are two damage types in elite, thermal for the shields, kinetic for armour, meaning you can get one of each. The conflict zones are a 12 vs 12 mix of capture the point and team deathmatch. While I think they got the feel of combat right the enemies feel very spongey if attacked with the wrong type of weapon. It’s also a bit strange you have to shuttle all the way back to the station if you came via dropship, where a commander who brought their own ship can just reset instance on their own. Leaving a lot of undesired downtime between fights.
Onto phase three, where we are at the time of writing. Once more the focus for testing has shifted to another aspect of the update, which this time is exploration under the form of exobiology. Exobiology might sound scary, but is really just a word for life in outer space. To go about researching the flora now found in various regions of life-supporting planets is the Supratech Artemis suit. The sleekest looking of the bunch, this suit boasts the best protection against the elements, allowing you to survey longer with the included genetic sampler tool. With this tool, you may take samples of specific species to collect data you can later sell at a social hub. Now this gameplay is in the most need of a rework from what I’ve played so far. Taking a sample prompts you with a reaction-based minigame where you assemble a genome blast ring. While there’s no losing this minigame, it kind of goes against the other methodical and logic-based gameplay exploration offers elsewhere in Elite Dangerous. Another aspect I’m partial to is the fact that you have to get three biodiverse samples. That itself is fine but from my findings biodiverse means at least a certain distance away from each other, which is quite annoying if the area you’re in doesn’t spread out far enough. Maybe looking for specimens in different stages of their lifespan, or with certain mutations would be a nice alternative.
Of the many Elite Dangerous alphas and betas I’ve tested, this has to be the best one so far. It’s in a very stable state when on your own, and doesn’t completely break down when teaming up with friends or strangers. The gameplay that’s there already is pretty solid and if correctly finetuned and optimised should go a long way in resolving most of the minor issues plaguing the alpha. Well, that and stability improvements, but memory tells me those always take a couple of weeks to get ironed out. All in all, I can’t wait for the final phase of the Elite Dangerous Odyssey alpha, and the full release of course.