By – Thomas Faust

Trade fairs like Gamescom and E3 are usually said to bring about lots and lots of sequels and expansions for existing franchises. Innovation is supposedly found elsewhere. While I do hope that our Gamescom coverage has been helpful in shedding light on some smaller games that would otherwise fade from the spotlight, there’s no way I could not talk about some of the expansions I’ve seen in Cologne. If its more of a good thing, it’s worth talking about. Without further ado: expansions at Gamescom 2015!

Elite
Elite: Dangerous Horizons (Frontier Developments)

The first major seasonal expansion for gigantic spacefaring sim Elite: Dangerous aims to make the game even more humongous by allowing players to go down to the planet surface. Your drop from planetary cruise into orbital flight will be a seamless transition, and you can land in star ports or on any flat surface. Frontier aim to first introduce smaller planetoids and moons that offer no life-supporting atmospheres, and then step by step open up this system until there’s a wide variety of planets to explore. They take the same approach to things you can actually do on those planets. There will be military outposts and other installations that can be assaulted, both from the ground and from the skies, but there will be more objectives in the time to come. You won’t be forced to explore on foot. Instead, you’ll have buggys equipped with thrusters called ‘Surface Recon Vehicles’ – off-road vehicles that allow for all kinds of driving shenanigans, essentially. Eventually, Frontier plan on having an equivalence of ground and space-based gameplay, which makes Horizons a pretty big deal overall.

It is worth noting that Horizons will not be a forced purchase, but it will significantly increase the tool box at the players’ disposal. It comes with a $59.99 price tag for new players and also includes all content from the main game. Existing players get a loyalty discount, as well as the ability to buy the Cobra Mk IV with in-game currency. This is the first new Cobra model since the original Elite, so if you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise, this spacecraft should be on top of your shopping list. The second major expansion of Horizons, included with the purchase, will be released early next year, introducing a looting and crafting system among other new features.

Frontier are very hard at work to make sure the new content doesn’t affect performance. As it stands right now, if your computer can run Elite Dangerous, you’ll be able to run Horizons just fine. Sadly, there are no in-game screenshots of the new features yet. Elite Dangerous: Horizons will launch this Holiday season and is already available for pre-order.

Cities Skylines
Cities: Skylines After Dark (Colossal Order / Paradox Interactive)

Cities Skylines was, excuse the pun, a colossal runaway success. Ever since the game was released, a steady stream of free updates added to its features. One of the most requested additions has been a day-and-night cycle, which will finally be delivered free for all players in an upcoming patch. However, Colossal Order went one step further and built a paid expansion around this, which will add an actual, tangible impact to the night-time.

During those dark hours, the citizen AI changes; they won’t be leaving their houses as much and only go out for night shifts and participating in the night life. The new leisure specialization for the commercial areas allows you to control where exactly they go to do… whatever it is that people do at night. These centers of night life influence activity and traffic of your city. Tying into that, the crime system has been completely redone. Crime in Cities: Skylines was generally too low and didn’t feel that realistic. Now it will be much easier to have crime become an issue to worry about, with most incidents happening at night, of course.

A bunch of other new features add some extra value to the expansion. New cargo hubs promise easier handling of traffic, and dual-purpose buildings such as airports with built-in metro stations make your life easier. Most notable is probably the addition of bikes and bike lanes – watching your little citizens pedal around is just lovely. All in all, the new expansion should make the cities feel so much more alive, and the day-and-night cycle looks quite beautiful. Cities: Skylines After Dark will be released on September 24th with a $14.99 price tag.

Divinity Original Sin EE
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition (Larian Studios / Focus Home Interactive)

The Divinity series by Larian has always been a labor of love. Its mechanics reward experimentation and using the environment to your advantage, offering probably the closest approximation to pen-and-paper roleplaying on the PC, and its shrewd sense of humor makes it stand out from your average grim RPG fare. With over a million units sold and a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel that reached its funding goal after mere hours well underway, Larian still went back to their last game, Original Sin, in order to improve it some more. Of course, the impending console release made some changes necessary, but the amount of work invested into the Enhanced Edition far surpasses your average porting job.

The most notable and apparent new features are the decidedly less clunky user-interface that’s optimized for playing with a controller, as well as dynamic split-screen co-op. While you could play cooperatively online before, this new addition now allows you to play locally. If you if you move away from each other in the game world, the game will automatically enter split-screen mode, which lets you explore freely, even when your co-op partner is currently engaged in turn-based combat. A lot of small changes, like being able to move items from one inventory to the other, no matter how far the characters are apart, make this feel like an almost natural way to play the game – as if this was how Original Sin was supposed to be played from day one.

Apart from that, there’s new quest and story content, a changed mid-game and improved ending, as well as a new, extra-tough difficulty. This sounds like an altogether better experience overall, and most importantly, the new version will be a free upgrade for owners of the game on PC, so what’s not to love? Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition will probably be released around the end of October.

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