Elite Dangerous: Odyssey has entered the final stage of its alpha period, letting pilots finally make landfall with a snapshot of their pilots from the live game ahead of the expansion's launch on May 19th.
After weeks of restricting pilots to limited sections of space, Odyssey testers can now jump in from wherever their commanders in the live game left off (from snapshots taken last week). The entire galaxy is now open to explore and make landfall on, giving us the best picture yet of how Odyssey will look on release—and you'll have one more day to preview it, with the final phase now extended into May 5th.
That said, I'm not as optimistic as I'd like. Since we first set foot in Odyssey, my PC Gamer co-pilot Andy K and I haven't been too hot on the expansion. Station interiors are filled with uncanny plastic people, the much-hyped combat system is a bit naff, and while I respect the commitment to tedium in Elite's budget airline, I can't imagine the kind of person who ditches spaceflight to travel by Apex Interstellar.
With phase 4, none of these systems have fundamentally changed—nor did I expect them to. But there's a sense that the expansion is somewhat undercooked. For example, on importing my main pilot, I noticed that my commander's outfit (cosmetics paid for in real money) were gone, seemingly replaced wholesale by an underdeveloped Flight Suit system with little-to-no personalisation options.
Deliberate replacement or simple oversight, it's a change that seems emblematic of the Odyssey experience—an underdeveloped feature that clashes with or overwrites what came before.
Despite all this, I'm still excited for Odyssey's release for one, simple reason. Stepping out of your ship is phenomenal. It was neat when I touched down in a throwaway vessel picked up in the alpha, but there was an even more powerful sensation to landing a craft I've been piloting for months—a ship that's seen me through hundreds of bounty hunts, near-death experiences, shattered canopies and actual-death experiences—and seeing the brute from a human perspective.
Turns out, I've been flying a ship the size of a large house this whole time.
Elite's worlds are staggeringly huge. Landing on one, horizon stretching off for thousands of miles, feels like a real Neil Armstrong moment. It echoes Sean Murray's "planet-sized planets" quote more than No Man's Sky ever could.
But coming into the end of the alpha, I'm not convinced the expansion needed anything more than that. Odyssey's back-of-box features feel serviceable at best, but often just feel outright broken. Even so, I'd probably still recommend picking it up when it launches on May 19th, if only to leave your first footprint somewhere no man has gone before.