After two years of teases and mysteries, something big started happening to players in space combat sim Elite: Dangerous over the last two days: players traveling in certain regions of space are finding themselves being yanked out of hyperspace and scanned by an enormous, enigmatic alien ship. This is the first time that any operational non-human spacecraft have been in the game.
The first person to post video evidence of the alien interdiction was Xbox One player DP Sayre. Because the videos were posted on the Xbox One DVR site, they are unlikely to be fakes—it’s considerably more difficult to post a faked video via the Xbox DVR service than it is to post a faked video to YouTube. Here’s a version of DP Sayre’s encounter, stitched together into a single video:
I’m not saying it’s aliens, but…no, it’s definitely aliens.
The alien vessel is large and radially symmetrical, and it appears to be the same design as the crashed alien spaceship discovered in-game last August. (It’s also worth noting that while the ships don’t at first blush resemble the traditional octagonal Thargoid ships of old, they do have eight “petals” or “sides.”) After the player has been pulled out of hyperspace, they float with their ship disabled while the aliens swing into view and do… something. They accost the player with some kind of yellow light (scanner? weapon?), and then fly off. If the player is quick enough, there’s time to scan the departing ship and its wake to collect some data signatures.
Attempts to engage with the ships in any way have so far been unsuccessful—the encounter appears to be scripted. Shooting the crap out of the alien vessel does not have any effect, even when the player doing the shooting is equipped with high-end Engineer-modified weapons.
While there are so far no clues about the exact nature or intent of the aliens, it is likely almost to the point of certainty that they are the Thargoids, the Elite universe’s featured non-human species… and Big Bad Guy. In the original 1984 Elite, the Thargoids could be encountered mainly through botched hyperspace jumps—and seeing them was pretty much a sure sign of death. Though the Thargoids moderated their behavior a bit in subsequent games, they were always mysterious, always powerful, and always dangerous. (A previously offline canonical page detailing humanity’s history with the enigmatic insectoid race has been put back online with no fanfare or announcement.)
What does this mean for the course of Elite: Dangerous? Are these encounters a sign that the tone of the game is about to shift? Are we looking at a galaxy-wide invasion? Should players begin to fly combat-kitted ships when exploring the area around the Pleiades? The Elite: Dangerous subreddit is abuzz with possibilities and discussion, but what should players be doing to prepare? Is there anything specific to prepare for?
We don’t yet know. And Frontier Developments continues to hold back from confirming anything—which, of course, is all part of the fun. When reached for a statement Monday morning about the encounters in deep space, a company spokesperson responded by saying, “We are currently investigating reports of unusual sightings around the Elite: Dangerous galaxy, but we are otherwise unable to comment on galactic rumor and speculation.”