The Engineers: An Overview Of Elite: Dangerous 2.1’s Best Improvements

Today marks the launch of update 2.1 for Elite: Dangerous. This is a highly anticipated release that has been in the works for nearly half a year. Following two weeks of beta testing, the patch has hit the live servers and looks to improve the game in major ways for both PC and Xbox One players.

 

The patch notes for update 2.1 are very long and filled with items of "low importance". To help you get a better idea of what to expect, we'll highlight the changes you need to know about most along with a description.

 


The Engineers Have Arrived

The biggest element of 2.1 is the addition of NPCs called Engineers. These NPCs are available at new and unique planetary bases around the Milky Way galaxy, and must be visited in person.

At some point during your travels you will be contacted by one of these Engineers, and he or she will inform you of where to go to meet them. Upon docking, you will be surprised to hear the Engineer speak to you with voice communication, which is completely new for Elite: Dangerous. You will also see the face and description of this NPC, adding some tangibility to interactions.

There are a small number of Engineers, and they are very important content-oriented NPCs to visit, which will certainly bring players together in the areas from which they dwell.

Get Ready to Craft

The main purpose of Engineers is to craft upgrades. How these work is an Engineer will task you with collecting materials or information from around the galaxy. These materials or information can consist of a variety of options, ultimately promoting your exploration of star systems and planets.

When you turn in what the Engineer has requested, he or she will reward you with one of five grades of upgrade. These upgrades will alter your stats randomly. On one hand, they can be very powerful, increasing your jump range and other stats to noticeable degrees. On the other hand, their random rewards nature already has some members of the community upset. Nonetheless, as you complete quests offered by an Engineer you will build reputation with him or her, opening up new opportunities for quests and upgrades.

Weapon upgrades in particular will result in some unique styles of offense that are made better by modified visual effects. You will encounter these modifications both on player and NPC ships.

This system is the first Elite: Dangerous has ever had that truly promotes collection of materials through exploration. Traditionally, these materials would only be looked at for their sale value. Now, they can be used to become more powerful and build relationships with the most important NPCs in the galaxy.

On A Mission

This has been a long time coming. Elite: Dangerous has had a very underdeveloped mission system since launch. Issues ranged from unclear objectives, to poor payouts, low variety, and a lack of interaction with NPCs.

The entire mission board interface has been revised. Now, you will see the portrait of the NPC that you are working for in a mission, which is dependent upon the location and style of mission. Upon accepting the mission, you will be provided much clearer instructions, including additional information in the Contracts menu.

Mission rewards now scale depending upon your reputation with a faction. Previously, it was all about getting lucky and having a high reward mission open up for you, but now you can simply grind reputation and consistently engage in more lucrative missions. Supposedly the rewards are still on the low side, but they are much better than before making them a better option for players looking to progress.​

Planetary Face Lift

Planets have seen huge improvements when it comes to visual quality. You'll notice that ground textures have higher definition, especially on ice planets, making exploration of these celestial bodies much more wonderful. You'll also see tire tracks left behind from your SRV. It's important to note that despite the improvement in visual quality, performance has seen great improvement thanks to code optimization.

This is a very important improvement given the fundamental importance of planetary landings in post-Horizons Elite: Dangerous. Planets haven't been a very interesting place to visit during the past few months, but now they serve as beautiful landscapes that you'll need to visit for Engineers and material collecting.

Get Outfitted

When equipping your ship with various parts you will find it much easier to find what you're looking for with the new Outfitting interface. Everything is categorized much more effectively, and full screen real estate is utilized instead of the vertical-only menus of before.

In addition to navigation of modules being easier, you'll have access to a few new options. 2.1 includes some new weapons and equipment that should provide additional variety.

A POI Worth Looking For

​You may find yourself revealing a point of interest after scanning a planet in 2.1. These have been tailored to incentivize planetary landings, a rather unfulfilled element of Elite: Dangerous 2.0.

Once you know a POI is located on a planet, you will need to fly around looking for the specific spot where the POI is located before landing and deploying your SRV. The POI locations commonly have materials that can be acquired using your SRV's cargo scoop. You may encounter dangerous NPCs, so have your trigger finger ready. Oh, and enjoy the new sights while venturing the landscape while you're at it.​

Killer A.I.

One of the most noticeable changes to the day-to-day combat experience is the improvement of enemy A.I. Dog fights with enemies in resource extraction points and nav beacons will be much more challenging going forward. The A.I. will make player-like decisions, boosting away and waiting for shields to recharge after taking heavy damage, and making a strong effort to get behind you and pummel you with gunfire.

This improvement to A.I. will make bounty hunting more challenging. So, players may want to consider taking advantage of the new mission system when trying to earn money.Mission Redesign.

This change is also significant given the rather anti-social nature of Elite: Dangerous. While it bills itself as a massively multiplayer game, let's face it, you rarely encounter other players, especially in any meaningful way. Having A.I. behave like real people is a big step toward making the game feel more alive.

Grab Your Mining Laser

Mining will be much more attractive in 2.1. First, you'll encounter crafting materials from mining, which will be important for Engineers missions. There are also new commodities to be acquired from mining locales.

Speaking of locales, icy rings are now not only visitable, but ice asteroids can be mined for a variety of materials. These locations are some of the most beautiful that Elite: Dangerous has to offer resulting in attractive spots to not only setup mining operations, but perform bounty hunting.

Refer to the Star Map

Navigating the star map has traditionally been a pain due to a lack of Z-axis control. That changes with 2.1 which adds new navigation options. This will make it much easier to plan your travels across the galaxy, removing the need for you to individually hop between each star in the Star Map to progress through various layers.

In addition, you'll have new filters for options such as system states as well as access to community goal markers. This will make it much easier to find what you're looking for, including Engineers.​

HTC Vive Got Some Attention

Many HTC Vive owners have complained about the poor quality of Elite: Dangerous on the HMD, including myself. Issues have ranged from unreadable, blurry text to low definition environments.

2.1 will include an option to alter the UI scale on both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. This will make text much easier to read for the HTC Vive in particular. Future updates will be required to address issues with aliasing and blocking textures, though.

What's Next?

Frontier Developments has a very long road map for Elite: Dangerous. This Summer it will release v2.2 The Guardians, which will include ship-launched fighters  This Fall's 2.3  The Commanders will allow for multi-crew ship functionality. Other confirmed upcoming features include planetary life, submarines, landing on asteroids, walking around in ships, and out-of-ship activities.