Skip to content

Is Elite Horizons Free? Yes, Here‘s the Complete Details

The short answer is yes, Elite Dangerous: Horizons is now free and included with the base game! But let‘s dive deeper into the full details on this expansive DLC.

As a space sim enthusiast with over 200 hours in Elite Dangerous, I was extremely excited when Horizons was first announced back in 2015. The idea of actually landing on and exploring atmospheric planets in the Milky Way was a dream come true!

When Horizons launched, I happily paid the $45 price tag to get access to the new planetside content and features. But even more exciting was Frontier‘s decision in 2020 to make the DLC free for all players!

In this guide, I‘ll give you a full overview of Horizons – what‘s included, how it expands the game, and why you should absolutely grab it if you haven‘t already. Let‘s launch into hyperspace!

A Game-Changing Expansion

For some key context, Elite Dangerous is a spaceship simulation game that launched in 2014 to critical acclaim. Players explore a 1:1 scale recreation of the Milky Way galaxy set in the year 3300. You can take on jobs like trading, mining, bounty hunting and more.

The base game offered an incredible spaceflight experience unmatched in its realism and scale. But earthlings like me longed to one day land on and drive around on the galaxy‘s countless planetary surfaces.

Horizons fulfilled that dream in late 2015 by introducing iconic features that became core pillars of the Elite Dangerous experience:

Planetary Landings – Seamlessly fly into planetary atmospheres and land on airless moons and planets ranging from icy worlds to rocky bodies. This alone added thousands of new worlds to touch down and drive around on.

Engineers – These NPCs can modify and upgrade your ship‘s parts for boosted performance. Unlocking Engineers gives you access to an almost overwhelming number of ways to specialize your ship through engineering.

Ship-Launched Fighters – Certain ships can now equip fighter bays to launch an AI or multicrew member in a separate fighter craft during combat and elsewhere. Completely changed tactical options.

Passenger Missions – As part of the 2.3 update, commanders can take on VIPs, refugees, soldiers and more as sightseeing passengers and transport them around human space. Added fun new mission types and roleplay potential.

Multicrew – Invite friends to join your ship as a gunner or fighter pilot. Amazingly, other players can seamlessly drop in and out of your ship in real time. Made cooperation and playing together even more rewarding.

New Ships – Horizons introduced iconic new ships like the luxury Beluga Liner, the alien Taipan Fighter, the multipurpose Keelback, and several others.

Loot & Crafting – While landed on planets, you can drive your Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV) to shoot probes at material deposits which yield crafting loot. These materials are used to engineer modules and synthesize ammo and repairs on the go. An addictive grind loop for loot hounds like myself!

Holome – Your in-game commander creator was expanded to allow customizing your avatar‘s suit, accessories and emotes seen by other players. I loved collecting new flight suits and bobbleheads!

In summary, Horizons took the magic of spaceflight in Elite and expanded it into a whole new planetary dimension. As a fellow space game fanatic, I was absolutely floored by how seamlessly Horizons blended atmospheric flight, landings, ground exploration, loot grinding, and more into the core Elite experience.

Planetary Landing – A Key Feature

Now let‘s dive deeper into one of the most important additions in Horizons – planetary landings. This was truly a game-changer for Elite Dangerous back in 2015.

Previously, planets were only visual backdrops you‘d fly past. But now, thousands of airless planets and moons across the Milky Way were fully explorable surfaces you could land on and drive around!

Here‘s an overview of how seamlessly Horizons weaved planetside exploration into the game:

  • Approach Suites – Your ship‘s outfitting can now equip Planetary Approach Suites. This allows you to safely enter into orbital cruise around planets with an atmosphere.

  • Surface Recon Vehicles – Your ship carries a lightweight planetary rover known as a Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV). Once landed, you can drive the SRV to explore craters, canyons, mountain ranges and more. So cool!

  • Points of Interest – While orbiting a planet, your scanner can detect points of interest like crashed ship sites, mineral formations, and alien ruins that you can land near and investigate in your SRV. Added fun activities and lore.

  • Material Deposits – You can locate and shoot probes into material deposits to collect elements like iron, nickel, and rare elements. These can be used to synthesize repairs and ammo. An addictive grind and loot loop!

  • Efficient Flight Model – Switching between orbital cruise, gliding through atmospheres, landing and taking off again is extremely smooth. Horizons really nailed the technical challenges of planetary landings. Kudos to Frontier!

Overall, the sheer thrill of flying seamlessly from space down to an airless planet‘s surface made Horizons an absolute must-have expansion. Exploring craters and mountain ranges on moons and planets brought back fond memories of classic sci-fi films like Star Wars and Alien. An amazing experience!

Free For All Elite Dangerous Owners

Now, the big question – is Elite Dangerous: Horizons free? The answer is yes!

Horizons is now bundled with every purchase of Elite Dangerous. If you already owned Elite before Horizons went free in October 2020, you automatically got the DLC added to your account.

Here‘s a quick timeline summarizing how Horizons went free:

  • 2015: Horizons launched as a paid DLC costing $45 on top of Elite Dangerous‘ base game price. Offered the expansion at a discount to existing owners.

  • October 2020: Frontier announces Horizons will become free and part of the base version of Elite Dangerous. An amazing gift to the community!

  • Present: Horizons is now bundled free with every purchase of Elite Dangerous, even the base $30 package. A huge value add for new CMDRs!

So in summary, whether you‘re a new or existing player, you get access to Horizons and all of its content at no additional cost. Frontier was extremely generous with this move to bring the planetary landing experience to all Elite players.

For new commanders just starting their space adventure, my advice is to immediately take advantage of Horizons to unlock planetside activities. And if you already owned Elite before Horizons went free, make sure you claim and install it from Frontier‘s store or digital platform to access the DLC. Happy flying, and may the stars guide you, commander!

Is a Paid Upgrade to Odyssey Worth it?

With Horizons now granting amazing planetary content for free, you may be wondering – what about Elite Dangerous Odyssey? Is the upcoming paid expansion worth buying?

As a fellow Elite fan, I would say yes, Odyssey looks to be another leap forward adding some incredible new features:

  • Space Legs – The long awaited ability to disembark on foot and walk around starports, settlements, ship interiors and planets. A hugely immersive addition.

  • Social Hubs – New social areas added to stations where you can hang out and plan missions with other commanders. Great for the community and roleplaying.

  • On-Foot Gameplay – New mission objectives revolving around on-foot combat, exploration of derelict settlements, infiltration, boarding disabled ships, and much more.

  • New Weapons & Gear – An exciting arsenal of pistols, rifles, grenades, tools and other equipment for exploring and combat while on foot.

  • Updated Planet Tech – Major graphical improvements to existing planetary landscapes along with new planet types like gas giants, lava worlds, icy bodies, mountains and more.

While the Odyssey expansion will cost $40-50, Frontier has clearly invested significant dev time and resources into delivering a massive on-foot evolution of Elite Dangerous.

As someone who loves space games, I‘ll happily purchase Odyssey day one to experience that pure childlike wonder of stepping out of my ship onto an alien world for the first time. Priceless!

But even if you just stick with the base Elite + Horizons package, there are hundreds and hundreds of hours of spaceship adventure and exploration awaiting you. So whether you upgrade to Odyssey or not, see you in the black, commanders!

A Guide For New Players

For new Elite Dangerous players taking their first steps into the daunting Milky Way galaxy, here are my top tips for getting started off on the right foot:

Follow the Training Simulations

Don‘t skip the training missions! Elite has some great guided simulations that teach the basics of travel, docking, combat, and now even planetary landings. They really ease you into the controls and complex systems.

Take It Slow, Commander

Elite throws a heck of a lot at you. Don‘t feel rushed to do everything all at once. Focus on one beginner activity like courier missions or exploration to slowly learn the ropes. There‘s no wrong way to play!

Use Third-Party Tools

Sites like EDDB, Inara, and Coriolis are almost mandatory tools. EDDB helps you find trade routes and stations to buy ships and modules, Coriolis lets you theorycraft ship builds, and Inara tracks your commander profile.

Join a Player Group

The Elite community is amazing. Joining a newbie friendly group like the New Pilots Initiative helps you learn the ropes while making friends and having fun. You can wing up to complete missions together.

Appreciate the Journey

Elite is an open-ended sandbox with no prescribed path. Set your own goals big or small, and appreciate the journey itself moment to moment. Grab missions if you want more structure. Most importantly, just have fun!

Elite Dangerous has a notorious learning curve, but if you take it slow and lean on the community, you‘ll be cruising around the galaxy in your own spaceship in no time. And Horizons will let you land that ship on over a thousand worlds. See you out in the black, commander o7!

Elite Dangerous vs. No Man‘s Sky

For space game fans trying to decide between Elite Dangerous and No Man‘s Sky, here‘s an overview of their major differences:

Gameplay Focus

  • Elite Dangerous emphasizes realism, sandbox freedom, and emergent gameplay arising from its complex interlocking systems. You blaze your own trail.

  • No Man‘s Sky provides more structured gameplay loops focused on progression, base building, resource gathering, crafting and expanding your inventory.

Scale & Exploration

  • Elite features a 1:1 scale, scientifically accurate recreation of the Milky Way galaxy with over 400 billion star systems. Realistic space travel times.

  • No Man‘s Sky utilizes procedural generation to create over 18 quintillion unique planets across 255 galaxies. Planet hopping is faster.

Flight & Combat

  • Elite has a Newtonian flight model aiming for realism. Complex ship modules and loadouts to master. Strategic, skill based combat.

  • No Man‘s Sky opts for simplistic arcade flight mechanics for accessibility. Ship handling and combat is faster and more forgiving.

Multiplayer & VR

  • Elite has persistent multiplayer servers where you can encounter other players. Full featured VR support.

  • No Man‘s Sky multiplayer is primarily co-op focused. Limited VR support currently.

Visuals & Art Style

  • Elite uses high quality visuals and audio for immersion into a realistic sci-fi galaxy. Detailed ship and planetary physics.

  • No Man‘s Sky has a lighter, more stylized art direction. Vibrant alien worlds that lean into the fantasy of space.

For players looking for a scientifically grounded space simulation sandbox in a 1:1 full scale Milky Way, Elite Dangerous is a premier choice that delivers unprecedented immersion. Hardcore space game fans should absolutely try it out.

But players seeking guided progression loops, base building creativity, and multiplayer cooperation may enjoy No Man‘s Sky‘s upbeat gameplay formula more. Relaxed space adventurers should give it a go.

Ultimately, these two titles each provide amazing experiences. At their core, they both capture that magical feeling of touching down on uncharted alien worlds. There‘s room for every type of sci-fi fan under this big cosmic umbrella!


Let‘s recap everything we‘ve covered:

  • Elite Dangerous: Horizons is now free and included with every copy of Elite Dangerous

  • Horizons introduced huge expansions like planetary landings, loot/crafting, engineers, fighters, multicrew and more

  • Planetary landings alone added over 1000 new worlds to seamlessly land and drive on

  • While optional, the Odyssey DLC looks to be another leap forward adding immersive on-foot gameplay

  • For new players, take it slow and use all the training tools and 3rd party sites available

  • Compared to No Man‘s Sky, Elite Dangerous caters more to hardcore space simulation fans

Whether you‘re a new or veteran commander, the Horizons expansion is now freely available and a must-have addition to get the full Elite Dangerous experience. See you among the stars! Never stop exploring.

Fly safe, commanders o7



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.