Before I get started, I’ve posted an album of screen shots here for you to look at.
I thought space was big (not down to the chemists big, but really, really, big) however, planets are bigger.
But I race ahead. First, I started where I’d left off the 1.5 beta in my Imperial Cutter at Founders World. Okay, not the wisest choice for planetary landing ship, but hey, it had just been washed and was good to go! I went into Outfitting and selected “Planetary landing suite”. So far so good. No SRV. What else have they got? SRV transport bay. One of them. Ah, but many Classes of bay with different capacity. Mmm. Okay, grab a basic one and equip SRV. Purchase one shiny new Scarab. And I’m off.
Launching from Shinrarta Dezra, I needed to look for a moon or planet to land on. Open the system map and planets now have a blue crescent icon over the ones I can land on. Nice. Shinrarta A1 it is!
As I approached the planet in super-cruise I thought “What do I do now?” when my HUD changed and an altimeter appeared and subtle beeping noises kicked in. Ooh, shiny! So I get closer, and closer and closer. These planet things are friggin’ big! Dipping my nose made the lower part of the altimeter shade in red. Red looks bad. Don’t do that then.
Now the HUD changes again and I have a vertical descent meter with “OC” and “DROP” on it. When I hit the OC level the ship entered Orbital Cruise – slowing down and the flight model changing. So far, so good. No super-cruise-style dropout loading screen. Then as I hit DROP level, the sound of massive deceleration and the blue shimmer of super-cruise dropout. BANG. And then… nothing, I continue to fly down to the surface. Seamlessly. No jarring load screen. Awesome. Hats off to FD.
It’s at this point, finally paying attention to the increasing number of panicked beeping that my ship is going down much, much faster than it was going forward. Ah, poop. Gravity has me by the HOTAS.
A word of advice here. Cutting throttle works better than desperately mashing thrusters. Just saying. Also, remembering to deploy landing gear is also a wise move.
It was bumpy. But I was down.
As you approach the surface, the radar become a topographical map and it advises you when your ship is over a viable landing spot. Not easy to find in some rougher areas.
I then selected the new lower middle ship panel and selected Deploy from the SRV menu. A rapid switch to the SRV cockpit with a quick fade-to-back-and-back and I’m lowered all Thunderbirds style to the surface. And go.. nowhere; keys don’t work. Time to map those SRV controls to my stick! That done, I’m off and crikey; the Imperial Cutter is huge from the outside!
Driving the SRV is exactly what you would expect driving a dune buggy around Mars would be like.
Getting back in the ship is a process of driving back to the loading bay and positioning your SRV roughly under the orange hologram and clicking “Board Ship” on the lap menu. I decided to take off and fly to the nearest settlement and see what was occurring there.
I set course for Nixon Outpost and landed practically on top of the place. The second landing was less bumpy. Driving my SRV up to the structure it was little more than a tin hut, patrolled by Terminator-style HK drones. I got a 200CR fine for trespass. Oops.
By this time the BETA was buzzing and by virtue of the fact this was the closest planet to Founders World, ships were landing all over the place at my location. It was like a sci-fi alien invasion film! SRV’s everywhere!
I was joined for a while by CMDR SneakTiger from DeadMenWalking, who landed his Federal Corvette far more gracefully than my rocky first attempt. We proceeded to race around the settlement getting the hang of SRV motoring.
I took the opportunity to try SRV jumping and managed to mount a Viper Mk IV (see screenshots).
Damn! This is fun!
At this point I was hailed by Kerrash and after a brief chat, he suggested we try another system where there were rings and other sights to view from a planet. Winged up, I was off again!
Wing beacons work for planets well enough to find your wingmate on the surface and after catching up with Kerrash we landed our craft in a giant crater and went exploring. You can see the breath-taking view in the screenshot that shows the planet’s ring on the horizon, while Kerrash’s SRV races off in the distance. While I was taking photos, Kerrash managed to locate some Materials. As you can see in the cargo-panel screenshot, there are some interesting things you can do with materials, which I hope to try soon.
One thing I did do for the first time was dismiss my ship. As your ship lifts off majestically and tears off into the heavens leaving you behind, you feel very small. And very lonely.
After some exploring for a while, Kerrash suggested finding a station, so we summoned our ships. Again this is a sight to behold, especially with an Imperial Cutter flying itself. First you hear the bang of the ships dropping from super-cruise and then it roars overhead, finding a place to land.
We then took off and headed for a planet-based station – Antonelli Vision – for a second I thought it was Antonachi Vision! Zac almost had a station there!
The station was located on the dark side of the planet so I attempted a night landing. This was the smoothest by far and the view of space across the horizon as I touched down was truly amazing. It brought to mind scenes of Space 1999 from my childhood, Eagles landing on Moonbase Alpha!
My impression of Horizons is that I’ve stuck my head in the water next to the iceberg and realised just how little I have actually seen. This is going to take days just to explore the basics.