The third beta phase for Elite Dangerous is live now, and introduces two new ships, a larger area of the galaxy to mess around in, a host of visual and interface improvements, and new content for project backers to test before the game's anticipated release before the end of this year.
New gameplay content arrives in the form of enhanced interdiction mechanics - allowing players to interrupt the passage of others through local space - a new philanthropy missions system, asteroid mining, and the ability to scoop fuel out of nearby stars if you've rather awkwardly found yourself stranded in Alpha Centauri.
The game area itself has also been increased from the 500 systems available in the previous beta round, to nearly 2500 as of this morning. A galaxy comprised of 400 billion star systems is planned for launch, so there's still a little way to go before the ultimate scope of the game is realised.
As well as getting bigger, space is also a little prettier since the introduction of the new patch. Planets have been given an extra lick of paint, and now feature dynamic elements such as liquid levels and ice caps, while pretty little nebulae have been sprinkled here and there around the skybox. A few tweaks to the in-game navigation system has also made getting around the galaxy a little less fiddly than before.
Note that if you've played during previous beta phases, you won't be able to log in to your account using the current launcher. Instead, you'll need to click on the news article contained in the old launcher to download the new one, then verify your account and installation. We mention this to spare you the 15 minutes we've just wasted spamming the log-in button in exchange for error messages.