For a few weeks now, Frontier has been giving clues about the next big upgrade of Elite Dangerous after the Wings, and has finally revealed the secrets of Powerplay, the power games that are going to be unleashed in the galaxy.
In Powerplay, we will be able to participate in an ongoing battle for control and conquest of the galaxy, something that will improve all aspects of the game experience. When the launch occurs, we will have the option to enlist with any of the various Galactic Powers, which will grant us valuable benefits, reputation bonuses and credits in exchange for our loyalty. As a valuable ally of the elected Power, we will be able to direct its strategy, take care of special goals to advance our common cause and dominate human space. Our choices and actions will have a direct and visible result on the balance of galactic power.
Each of the Powers will be an organization with a character who leads it, a biography, political inclination and specific advantages of it. Each of them will dominate a part of the territory occupied by humanity and our actions will cause its influence to grow over neighboring systems, or it will fall apart if we are unable to counter the actions of other players. The Powers will have certain inclinations, such as favoring trade routes, trade, combat… and they can also have sympathy for any of the three factions of the game: federation, empire or alliance. We will have the option to enlist with the one that best suits our style of play, or ignore them all and follow our path as before, but we will miss out on juicy benefits such as obtaining a license to attack ships affiliated with enemy powers without incurring a fine, better repair costs, parts for ships, etc., improvements that will increase as our rank in the chosen Power rises.
Powerplay comes hand in hand with more improvements for the game, such as two new ships (Imperial Courier and Lakon Diamondback), drones that will help us in mining, improved access to GalNet, the galactic communications network and an improved mission system to accommodate the Powerplay mechanics. The update will arrive for free to all Elite Dangerous players over the next few weeks, although we assume that it will do so in beta form first, just as it happened with the Wings.