Elite Dangerous Odyssey Alpha Phase 4 update: bringing it all together

A Ship In Elite Dangerous Odyssey Flies Over A Frozen Landscape
(Image credit: Frontier Development)

Elite Dangerous: Odyssey Alpha Phase 4 is live, bringing a snapshot of player's live-server Commanders into the 50-light-year testing bubble, along with their credit balances, ship fleet, ship loadouts, and reputations.

There isn't anything really new in this latest update beyond importing a snapshot of the live Commanders into the Alpha. Taken on April 23, the snapshot of your Live Commander is branched off into the Alpha, so progress in the Alpha does not transfer over to the live server and vice versa. 

Your entire fleet from across the galaxy has been brought in a reasonable range within the 50 light-year Alpha bubble as well, so you'll have access to all of your ships, no matter where you left them parked.

New contacts have opened up as well, including Search and Rescue, Research Station services, and Tech Brokers. Wing missions are now accessible and Powerplay activity is available now as well.

We've seen an anti-Xeno mission option on the missions board, though we so far haven't found any actual missions available while we were playing. That's to say that anti-Xeno activity might be an option in the Bubble for those so inclined, but we can't say for sure. 

A Keelback And Scarab SRV On A Planetary Surface In Elite Dangerous Odyssey

(Image credit: Frontier Development)

Final thoughts on Elite Dangerous: Odyssey's Alpha Phase

With the official May 19 release date right around the corner, we'll be doing a more formal review of the finished product once the Frontier developers have a chance to pour over the responses and bug reports from the Alpha Phase, but having participated in Elite Dangrous Odyssey's Alpha Phase from day one, through its combat and exploration updates, and the final week of its run, there are a few impressions that seem pretty solid.

First, there's no question that Odyssey is going to expand the universe of Elite Dangerous in a very substantial way. On-foot activity is a bit uneven at the moment, with combat feeling more developed than exploration, and both having plenty of room for improvement. But, there is something different about stepping out of the cockpit and roaming around on an alien world - even if that world is largely lifeless. 

Second, while seeing actual NPCs walking around does make the game feel more alive, it also pulls us out of the immersion somewhat - downgrading the in-cockpit, full-3D VR to a projected 2D display with gray borders whenever you are on foot definitely doesn't help in that regard, especially considering that one of the major appeals of Elite Dangerous is its incredible VR experience.

What's more disappointing is that the NPCs in the game are all procedurally-generated figures based on the same system as the player's Holo-Me customization, so after a while, you start seeing many of the same kinds of faces – and sometimes even your own. For players who've spent years staring at the same still portraits for various faction leaders on a missions board, this shouldn't come as a complete surprise, but seeing these people in the flesh, so to speak, kind of underlines the procedurally generated nature of it all.

In the end, though, we think the trade-off is worth it. There's nothing quite like landing a Python down on a planet's surface, stepping out onto a new world, and suddenly realize you've been piloting a small capital ship through space. The new on-foot missions add healthy variety to the kinds of activity you can engage in, even if they are still fundamentally the same type as before – whether it be combat, espionage, smuggling, or exploration.

It remains to be seen how the final product comes together and how the devs build on the new gameplay foundation they're laying down with Elite Dangerous Odyssey, but that foundation feels solid, even if the structure they're building doesn't feel quite complete just yet.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).