Swarms of alien fighters come to Elite Dangerous

Oh hi

The big alien ships of Elite Dangerous [official site] have been eluding, confusing and amusing the space sim’s pilots for a while. But now they will also blow you up, thanks to the most recent patch. The Return (less ominously known as update 2.4) gives weapons to the extraterrestrials in the form of a beautiful swarm of tiny fighters that launch from the rear of the alien vessels and cut any aggressor to ribbons. I’m calling this gang of lethal little fellows “the Thwarm”.

While you can get a sense of this in an earlier cinematic trailer from Frontier, you can directly experience it yourself today if you go and poke the aliens with a big laser. Short version: they are scary. Those cine-trailers usually make me think: “Sure, but it won’t look like that in the game”. Yet after watching some commanders take a punt at these giant green lotus flowers, the balletic movements of the Thwarm as previously depicted is frighteningly accurate. Here’s an excerpt from player ObsidianAnt, after he fired a few shots at one of the alien craft.


The aliens hang out at “Non human signal sources” which show up in various systems, and they still don’t seem to attack unless provoked (or possibly if you have something they want in your cargo hold). They also don’t appear to be vulnerable to any human weapons so far, although one of the community goals set by the developers is to collect resources for the building of a weapon that can hurt them.

You can see all the patch notes for update 2.4 on the game’s forum but Frontier like to be coy with the specifics of alien technology and let the players discover things as they go. “Added mysterious and exciting things” is a recurring line in many patch notes for the space shooter.

However, some commanders are collecting info about the aliens and arranging that together in an FAQ. Reportedly, the Thargoids like to scoop up cargo containers filled with slaves, or even escape pods.

Oh my god… They want our people.


  1. Artist says:

    Yay, annother fancy grind (community) goal to unlock something that gets implemented anyway…
    Honestly, whoever is in charge of Elites meta gameplay mechanics baffles me for years. Such grindy nonsense.

    • Asurmen says:

      We’ll see what the next patch will bring. It sounds like a root and stem review and overhall of the basic mechanics rather than anything ‘new’.

      I’d like exploration to be a bit more rewarding, involve some actual player skill and, well, actually exploring.

      • Zenicetus says:

        The devs had a terrific plan for exploration in the published design docs before the game launched. The idea was that hyperlinks wouldn’t be exposed. You’d have to scan the stars from the cockpit and discover each lane with a special device, then see where it led. Players would gradually move outward from home space. You could keep the lane knowledge private, or just within your group of friends, or sell it on the open market.

        For whatever reason, they trashed that idea and just exposed all the travel lanes in the Beta period, which killed exploration. Someone made it to the center of the Galaxy before the Beta period ended. I’ll never understand why they didn’t keep that original idea, it would have made the game a lot more fun.

        • poliovaccine says:

          Wow, yeah, why would they not do that? I mean, that sounds the same as it is in almost anything else, like, say, Fallout, or Skyrim, where it works just fine. I’m surprised they actually had it that way and then elected to change it. It’d be one thing if it was just a design oversight that was held over, but the idea they actually changed it to instill significantly less sense of exploration is just baffling to me.

          I always look at articles about Elite cus I’m tempted by everything about it, but I havent bought it yet because lukewarm stuff in the comments sections always ultimately deters me. This time is proving no exception. At some point, when the general chatter says that the game has been patched into a shape pretty much everyone can agree with, that’s when I’ll buy it. But as of right now, for every cool thing I hear about Elite, it seems like there’s one baffling, totally avoidable flaw to match.

          • djvecchitto says:

            Elite isn’t a great game but it is a fantastic simulator. You can literally fly through Saturn’s rings. You can painstakingly position your ship so that the Earth eclipses the Sun. You can warp to and explore all of the nebulas that are visible in the real night sky. I paid $60 and feel it was well worth it.

        • Dogshevik says:

          Exploration as it is today:
          You google for a list of valuable planets as close as possible.
          You copy-paste from that list into your map.
          You scan the very same planets dozens of others have scanned.
          You earn money. Your explorer rank goes up.
          You call it exploration.

          • AshkEl says:

            Or, you don’t use google to try to grind rank and credits.

            Exploration is not about making credits, the time/reward ratio is terrible compared to hanging around inhabited space doing stuff.

            Instead, head out into the deep black and find some truly unexplored systems, because exploration is about going where no-one has gone before.

        • BadCatWillum says:

          Here’s why they didn’t implement the DDF exploration design.

          TL;DR: Elite’s innovative peer-to-peer multiplayer design saved Frontier a lot of money on renting game servers for the moment-to-moment gameplay and allows the game to scale to more users cheaply, but the backend databases required for a huge galaxy * large playerbase are centralized and huge and form a bottleneck for adding many planned persistent features.

          The largest amount of data on the current backend of Elite Dangerous is the player exploration database (source: dev interviews/livestreams). That’s ‘just’ first discovered Cmdr names (per discovered system) and scan state per body of each system visited by each player.

          Adding in a ‘knows about link’ flag for possible hyperlinks between systems will add a lot more data. How much more? Take for example for a longish range ship with a 50 LY jump range in a dense part of the galaxy, you could potentially jump to any of 100 systems. Treating that as a completely connected graph of jump links you get (n(n-1))/2 vertices = 4950 hyper links whose state you have to store per player.

          Now take into account that this variable data would have to be queryable to perform multi-jump routing calculations and to figure out what you have to sell, and who might be interested in buying it, and you see a gigantic heap of potential database server time and storage requirements that caused Team Backend to nope out of that design proposal faster than a Hauler driver can combat log when jumped by four FdLs.

        • Asurmen says:

          I can see one reason why: because they didn’t want a gradual exploration. They wanted the entire galaxy to able to be visited all at once.

  2. Alberto says:

    I’ve got the base game, ¿Do I need to purchase any expansion ordlc else for this?

    • Asurmen says:

      No. You obviously can’t encounter any ground based stuff with Thargoids, but anything in space is still available to you.

      • Titler says:

        And the weapons/scanners which allow you to defeat Thargoids are, so far, on ground stations. So a more accurate statement is he can go and look at them… but without Horizons so far, you can’t realistically fight them.

  3. TotallyUseless says:

    Meanwhile I’m still trying to get back to inhabited space from my journey to Beagle point. Hope I even make it back. XD

  4. King in Winter says:

    I recall the lore of older Elite games calls those small ships thargons, describing them as robot ships. I suppose this has not changed in E:D.

  5. SaintAn says:

    Swirls of alien fighters come to Elite Dangerous!

  6. geldonyetich says:

    If this were some kind of cool fight against invading Thargoids, I would be pretty interested in pitching in with humanity and trying to push them back.

    But, from what I gather so far, it’s just more needles and haystacks. Perhaps their thinking is that the lead appeal of Elite: Dangerous to many players is being the first player to find something, and so have scattered buried treasure around the universe for them to find. However, it seems to me as though the developers would like us to please log in and hunt down hard-to-find McGuffins for a good long time so as to justify maximum player uptime for minimum developer content.

    It may have looked great on the macro level, but on the micro level of the perspective of an individual player, I still don’t have anything to do but grind. Is this all there is to life in the Elite: Dangerous universe? No true causes, no stories that are anything other than window dressings. Just make your numbers go up, “Commander.”

    • Dogshevik says:

      Step1: Grind so one day you can afford ships to do interesting stuff with.
      Step2: Look for interesting stuff or any reason to interact with other players.
      Step3: Watch the interesting stuff happen on youtube.

  7. CartonofMilk says:

    wake me up when they’ve announced what season 3 will be. The one we’ve been waiting two years for. Actually i guess all signs point to october 5 for that. It’ll be make or break for me. What will be announced there will determine whether i give up on this game forever or not. I think it’s already too late though. I doubt this game can ever become what i want it to be. Mostly because making it a mmo, one that is completely half assed at that, was the worst mistake they made.

  8. TheSplund says:

    The Thwarm? Nice, but I’m calling it too little, too late.

  9. Shiloh says:

    I really enjoy Elite Dangerous. Sure, it has its flaws, but I still get a kick out of jumping into an unexplored system way out in the black, scanning the planets and dropping down onto the surface of one of the landables (I know – BEIGE! but still…) for a bit of a poke around.

    On topic – I’ve never encountered a Thargoid, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be particularly fussed if I never did.