As some players of Elite: Dangerous have already learned, we have recently had our first encounter with the alien race, likely the race known as the Thargoids. DP Sayre, a player on the Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous discovered what were classed as “Unknown Ships” while making a hyperspace jump to Aries Dark Region XU-O b6-3. His Federal Corvette appears to have been shut down externally after being dragged out of hyperspace, and perhaps scanned by the new ship, though we cannot say for certain. This altogether fascinating event was recorded on January 5th, 2017 at 8:38 PM in DP Sayre’s timezone. The motives of the new life forms have yet to be ascertained.
Wait! Before we delve too far into hypothesizing, what are Thargoids?
According to the Elite: Dangerous Wikia, Thargoids are the second sentient race to be encountered in the entire Elite video game series, the first being standard humans. Their ships have a distinctive octagonal shape, unlike any other ship the player has seen in the game. Thargoids have been encountered in the first three games in the series, especially in the third installment titled Frontier: First Encounters. In all three of these games, the Thargoids are a considerable threat to pilots. Thargoids are often capable of pulling players out of a hyperspace jump and into witch space, which is the area you enter during said hyperspace jumps. They then drag you through witch space into normal space and often shoot at you on sight.
In these previous games, it was considered extremely rare to survive contact with the Thargoids, unless you were following a certain line of missions in Frontier: First Encounters. Now, in Elite: Dangerous, it seems very little has changed about the experience of being interdicted by one, other than being shot out of the sky. Instead, after being violently dragged out of a hyperspace jump within 100 light years of the Maia system, the player experiences a total shutdown of their ship’s systems. After being left spinning out in the black, the player is then greeted by the Unknown Ship, with an octagonally-symmetric character to their ships similar to the original Thargoid ships. After a few seconds, the Unknown ship turns to face the player, opens up, and appears to scan the player’s vessel. After the scan, the Unknown Ship flies past the player, sending them into another spin cycle before the player’s ship controls are back online. If the player were to scan this alien craft, they would learn that it is entirely unknown, and gives the player an Unknown Ship signature, which is likely to become useful later. The Unknown Ship then warps out of normal space, unable to be followed, even with the assistance of a wake scanner.
Players have attempted to shoot at this Unknown Ship, but to no avail; this ship is equipped with shields stronger than any shield that could be obtained by a player. Luckily, the only potentially offensive function of this ship is to totally disable systems, which is similar to the EMP generated by the Unknown Probe after scanning it with the Discovery Scanner equipped on most ships. If these Unknown ships were to directly attack players, it is very likely it will be able to immediately disable ship controls and keep them shut down, just long enough to whittle their hull integrity to zero. If we consider how impervious these ships appear to be, it seems it would take an entire wing of pilots to take a single Unknown Ship down, but getting too close would spell imminent demise. Perhaps we will not be using conventional weapons at all, but instead using something to disrupt their own systems?
Another theory says that perhaps these aliens are not hostile at all, and instead merely curious. They may not have encountered humans very often, and they seem to be curious. All they appear to do is pluck pilots out of hyperspace and scan them, perhaps not even aware that their mere presence shuts down ship systems. The EMP that shuts our ships down may even be an accident, a by-product of the Unknown Probe and Unknown Ship scanners.
Speculation is all we can do for now, as we only have information from previous encounters with alien technology in the game, namely the Unknown Probes, Unknown Artefacts, Barnacles, alien ship crash sites, and ancient ruins found on distant planets. If you wish, you can look at previous studies by the Canonn Research Group, a player-made and player-run group dedicated to studying potential alien life in the Elite: Dangerous game, on the Frontier forums, or on their private message boards. Both can be found on their website, but to access their private boards you must become a member of the Canonn Research group via their website.
Whether or not these ships actually belong to the Thargoids has yet to be confirmed, but their behavior is eerily similar to Thargoid behavior in past games. In the first two games, Thargoids were actually at war with the humans, and it’s very likely this may be the case in Elite: Dangerous, as well.
Fly safe, Commanders.