The inevitable has finally happened. After the two-year-long Azimuth Saga storyline in Elite Dangerous ended this past August with the misfire of an alien-killing superweapon (don't you hate it when that happens?), the Thargoids have finally had it with the human race. They're striking back. To put it plainly, Elite Dangerous Update 14 has arrived, and it's full-on war.
"There's no more playing or poking by the Thargoids," says lead game designer Luke Betterton. "They're not trying to see how well-defended we are anymore. They are launching a massive invasion of the human bubble on multiple fronts."
That massive invasion has already begun: Elite Dangerous Update 14 is live right now. Good luck, humans!
If you haven't kept up on the latest news, after the human-made superweapon failed, strange anomalies began to appear throughout the galaxy of Elite Dangerous. These anomalies, which players dubbed Stargoids (they looked like stars and were suspected to be the work of the Thargoids) have now officially arrived, and they've brought with them a whole lot of trouble. At the site of each of the eight known Stargoids, the Thargoids have deployed a "huge caustic cloud" called a Maelstrom.
The Maelstroms will appear as massive, cloudy areas of space when you enter a system that contains one. Players will find a heavy Thargoid presence around the Malestoms and even greater dangers should they take on the daunting and dangerous task of flying directly inside one.
Frontier Developments showed me a short video of a ship encountering a Maelstrom. They are, quite frankly, huge, roughly 180 km across. The interiors are clouded with reddish-brown space fog, illuminated by what looks like bright crimson flashes of lightning that give them a real spooky vibe. Entering a Maelstrom is like flying through a thunderstorm in hell.
Maelstroms aren't just scary looking but environmentally dangerous: Your ship will begin taking caustic damage from the clouds the moment you fly inside. Inside a Maelstrom you'll come across small Thargoid constructs (they look a bit like an alien version of a nav beacon) which can be seen emitting the caustic clouds. In the small area of the Maelstrom I saw, there appeared to be at least a dozen of these constructs, so I can't imagine how many are spread throughout the cloud. I also don't imagine blowing them up one at a time will be all that effective.
What else is lurking inside the Maelstroms is for the bravest Elite pilots to discover. I imagine it's probably nothing friendly.
This invasion also marks the first time a combat zone will appear directly around a starport, which is exceedingly bad news. Frontier showed me a video of human ships dogfighting with Thargoids around a spaceport, which was on fire and partially coated with weird, green alien tendrils like vines or moss.
In addition to combat missions, there will be plenty of rescue missions to get starport citizens out of danger or performing supply runs, so even if you're not interested in fighting you'll be able to pitch in with the war effort. Smaller stations and planet-based ports are also susceptible to attack, so try to imagine the tricky business of landing on a planet while being under attack by aliens.
To track the invasion, a new war map has been added to Elite Dangerous that will give players an idea of what condition different systems are in: They might be on high alert, an invasion may have already begun, a Malestom might be present… or they may have already lost and the Thargoid have complete control over a system. In the last video I was shown, a starport was completely abandoned, like a huge ghost ship floating in space, damaged and darkened, blast doors closed, inaccessible for landing.
It's quite the sight, but it highlights the severity of the invasion. The Thargoids aren't messing around, and there may be some very real losses on the horizon in Elite Dangerous.