Since Elite: Dangerous launched 4 years ago so many things have changed. Frontier Developments have been tirelessly working on adding and improving this Space Sim MMO of theirs. But until recently one aspect of the game that hadn’t really seen any of that is mining. I wrote in a previous article about how much I enjoyed mining, it is incredibly cathartic when you are in the mood for it; it’s easy to end up losing hours and hours chipping away at the seemingly endless space rocks without even realising. In the most recent update, Elite: Dangerous Horizons Beyond Version 3.3, mining has received a major overhaul alongside a whole raft of other changes.
Quite simply, they’ve added extra layers of gameplay onto what was already there. “Normal” mining consists of using a prospector limpet to see what is in a rock, using a mining laser to chip fragments off, having collector limpets collect the fragments, a refinery module to process them and placing the refined materials in your cargo space. Simple and either incredibly tedious & dull or calm & relaxing depending on your temperament. Now though, there are a lot more options in addition to this & some new tools to get to grips with.
First up are surface deposits that you dislodge with an abrasion blaster. The abrasion blaster acts more like a shotgun than the normal mining laser, your shot needing to hit the spot bang on in order to dislodge the fragment. Second is the subsurface deposits and the missiles that you use to exploit them. This one involves a small mini-game of sorts. When you launch your missile into the deposit, keeping hold of the fire button, it starts to drill down and then it is a matter of timing. If you release the button when the moving bar is in the blue, you will dislodge a fragment for collection.
Before I move on to the biggest and best change the Developers have made to mining, I’ve a few details I want to pick up on. The addition of Night Vision is a brilliant move, now the “dark side” isn’t so perilous – in planetary rings at least. The major disappointment though is the Pulse Wave Scanner (PWS), it works but it’s under-utilised in its current incarnation. Currently when using the PWS, with its sonar reminiscent sound, highlights rocks of interest in a heat map style of colour gradient. By “of interest” I mean that it contains one of the new types of mining activity. There doesn’t appear to be any other criteria at the moment which is a real shame. Ideally, I’d like to use the PWS to search for specific things that I can set myself. There are lots of criteria to search by; deposit type, rarity of composition, density of materials, by metal/mineral, mission relevance and so on. Basically what I’m saying is, it’s a missed opportunity but one I’m sure Frontier will revisit in the future.
Now then, let’s finish off with a bang. Quite literally in fact; because the third type of deposit is the Deep Core Fissures and the Seismic Charges that you use to exploit it. When you find a rock with a core, you can set charges in the fissures on its surface with the aim of breaking it open. When the first charge is set, a timer starts and a bar should appear on screen. The aim is to set the right amount of charges to maximise the yield. Too few and the detonation will fail, too many and you’ll destroy the deposits you are looking to collect. You’ll notice that I used “should” in there, that’s because the bar doesn’t always appear. There’s a few inconvenient bugs like this one that still need to be ironed out; but even so, the reward is worth it.
Frontier Developments have done a fantastic job with the Beyond series of free updates. Elite: Dangerous is in its 4th year now, with only 1 paid for expansion (Horizons) and all this free extra content in Beyond. The changes have been incremental, take longer than most would like to implement and there is always something that could do with improvement. I’m so glad that the developers & the playing community are committed to it in the way that they are. It’s a testament to both that even 4 years on, I’m still returning to fly around the Milky Way Galaxy in the year 3304. 1 Commander among thousands…