Elite Dangerous is currently in the throes of alpha testing its new Odyssey expansion, with pre-order players now able to put a limited version of the experience through its paces. Some of Odyssey's new features have proven more contentious than others at this early juncture, and Frontier has now moved to address some of its biggest pain points - including Odyssey's tortuous AI-piloted Apex Interstellar taxi service.
Apex Interstellar is chiefly intended to provide players who're enthusiastic about Odyssey's on-foot combat but less so about space flight with a means of getting round the galaxy without needing to pilot a ship of their own. It's an entirely reasonable idea in principle, but the reality is an excruciating bore, leaving players stuck in the passenger seat with nothing to do for many - often many, many, many - minutes at a time.
It's doubtful anyone would actively choose to use Odyssey's space taxis in their current guise (least of all those seeking instant gratification thrills), but their rubbishness is exacerbated by the fact taxis are the only way to get around in the current alpha phase, leading to considerable criticism over the last few days.
Addressing these complaints in a new post, Frontier admits its choice of starting location for the alpha - a station situated in the corner of the system map - hasn't helped matters, leading to particularly long journey times. To counter this, the developer may move the starting zone to a more central location, and will also be updating mission information to display the distance to target locations, making it easier to spot those objectives with shorter travel times.
Those hoping for a radical rethink of Odyssey's taxi cabs are likely out of luck, however; it sounds like Frontier is generally happy with their current implementation - although, in vague nod toward alleviating the tedium, it says it'll be introducing an increased number of load out and cosmetic customisation options to play around with during travel.
Crucially though, Apex Interstellar travel times won't be shortened below anything possible with a player-owned ship. "This would result in a fundamental change to Elite," says Frontier, "that contradicts the lore, physics, and potential longevity of the game". And of course, all this is likely to be moot for most players once they're reunited with their ships in later alpha phases.
Elsewhere, Frontier has addressed feedback that players are dying too soon after landing on planets - not ideal given those tortuous taxi times. Right now on-foot missions can be a bit of a PvP nightmare as players - all squished together in the same system for the alpha - go wild with weaponry, often terminally affecting others trying to complete their own objectives.
The issue will almost certainly be alleviated as players are given the ability to travel further afield in later alpha phases, reducing the likelihood of encounters, but Frontier says it'll be adding in the detention centre spawn loop for criminal players in a later update, and may adjust penalties for killing on-foot players if need be. In the meantime, alpha participants are reminded that Solo and Private Group sessions are also available.
The developer has also acknowledged complaints that on-foot NPC enemies seem far too deadly in their current guise, particularly at lower Threat levels. It says it's investigating how Threat levels are being "incorrectly assessed and reported in mission overviews" and that it will likely be making some changes in the future to remedy this.
"The team are collecting, organising, and relaying every piece of information from the feedback thread," Frontier concludes. "There's lots of time to go and we hope you continue to enjoy the alpha as each phase unlocks more content. We expect there'll be plenty more feedback and look forward to hearing your thoughts."
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey will get its full PC release in "late spring" this year, with PS4 and Xbox One versions now expected in autumn.
Will you support Eurogamer?