Elite Dangerous: Odyssey (opens in new tab) is about to completely rework the way the immense space sim renders planets. But if you don't buy the expansion, you'll be cut off from these strange new worlds entirely, effectively splitting the game's worlds in two.
Currently, players with the Horizons expansion can touch down and scoot around on no-atmosphere planets. I'd assumed that this feature would carry over into Odyssey, letting them touch down on the new versions of planets—which have been meticulously rebuilt (opens in new tab) with far more geographic detail, organic flora and atmospheric effects—minus the ability to step outside and explore on-foot.
But in a compatibility post (opens in new tab) on Steam, Frontier explained that there'll be effectively two versions of every world once Odyssey launches. Expansion owners will see the newer geography, while Horizons players will be stranded on the existing, lower-fidelity worlds. This almost means players will be separated by edition. Odyssey owners won't see Horizons players on their planets unless they deliberately opt-out of the new content in the Elite launcher.
This dimensional split won't last forever, mind. Frontier notes that once the console edition launches, it wants to reunite Horizons and Odyssey players on the new worlds. Pilots who still haven't bought Odyssey by then will be able to to touch down and drive around as usual, but won't be able to leave the cockpit or approach the DLC's new atmospheric worlds.
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey launches next week. Andy and I might have our misgivings over everything from its lifeless NPCs (opens in new tab) to surprisingly half-baked headline features (opens in new tab), but the views from its gorgeous new worlds more than makes up for this jank. It's just a shame those vistas will be locked behind a price tag for at least the next few months.