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The Latest Elite: Dangerous update is a big deal

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Ship-launched fighters, a new career path and ... aliens?

Frontier Developments

Elite: Dangerous has undergone an incredible evolution since its launch in 2014 with a consistent stream of updates. Perhaps none of them is more promising than today’s release, called The Guardians. The free update for Elite Dangerous: Horizons, also known as Expansion 2.2, brings tons of new content to the game, including ship-launched fighters and a completely new career path.

The Guardians will also likely contain many secrets for the community to unlock, and could begin a new phase of the community’s ongoing hunt for evidence of sentient alien life.

In Expansion 2.2, larger ships can be outfitted with a fighter launch bay, which will behave similarly to the planetary vehicle hangar added late last year. Once installed, players can nest a smaller ship inside. If they hire on a non-player character crewmate, they’ll be able to launch themselves into combat in the smaller fighter while their main ship provides support.

A white and red starship coming in for a landing inside a lush, green space station. Frontier Developments

"With a second ship in every fight," Frontier Developments said in a press release issued today, "commanders can take what comes and hit back with double."

Another key addition is the ability to take on passengers. That opens up an entire new career path, allowing players to level up their reputation and earn the chance to ferry ever more powerful, and dangerous, people across the 400 billion star systems in the Milky Way galaxy.

"Commanders can pilot the new Beluga passenger vessel or retrofit their existing craft to transport politicians, VIPs and prisoners across the galaxy for legal and illegal ends," Frontier said. "Spectacular destinations await galactic tourists and dangerous challenges await undercover operatives on smuggler’s runs."

Both orbiting space stations and planets themselves are getting a facelift in this update. There are new, thematic interiors for players to fly through on their way to a landing pad, and planetary surfaces will feature geysers, volcanic geology and other exotic features for the first time.

Ships around a supermassive white star in Elite: Dangerous. Image: Frontier Developments

If you read between the lines, though, what’s most interesting is what Frontier isn’t saying.

For the past year, players have been happening upon strange alien artifacts. That’s causing many to believe that the Thargoids, an alien race that wrecked havoc in the original 1984 classic, Elite, are on their way.

Polygon has reached out to Frontier for more information on the Thargoids, and it has so far refused to answer.

"Nobody at Frontier knows what Thargoids are," a representative told us just last month. "Any in-game sightings of unidentified craft are just that: unidentified craft."