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Elite: Dangerous’ PS4 launch kicks off with a brand new mystery

Players have a map, but no idea where it will lead them

A new alien structure, photographed in-game from over the surface of a planet orbiting the second star in the HIP 19026 system.
Commander Aïna Ravinala/Twitter
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Today the spacefaring game Elite: Dangerous launched on PlayStation 4 along with a massive new mystery for players to unravel.

In the last 24 hours, commanders on PC and Xbox One have uncovered no less than five new alien structures. Secreted inside they’ve found what appears to be a map. Now the community will try to tease out its mysteries in a shared universe of more than 400 billion star systems spread across PS4, PC and Xbox One.

The story began yesterday afternoon when a player who goes by the handle of Lightningwing discovered a huge, spiral structure on the surface of a planet relatively close to human occupied space.

Hundreds of meters across, it was quickly attributed to the Thargoids, an alien race that first appeared in the Elite series more than 20 years ago. Four more were found scattered across the galaxy in quick succession. Their purpose is unknown, but the images that players have been sending back so far have been absolutely stunning.

Commander Talia Wilde/Twitter

An aerial view of one of the Thargoid structures.

I visited one of the structures last night at HIP 19026 and found at least a dozen players had landed inside of it. Many were exploring in rovers, following around small alien drones called scavengers and wondering what to do next. As the night progressed, players found that by bringing certain alien artifacts to the site they could cause its organic doors to open and drive right in. Several groups, including an in-game faction called the Children of Raxxla (CoR) that was involved in a recent in-game battle, made an incredible discovery.

Deep inside the structure is a device. When the right alien artifacts are brought in it activates sending a shower of green sparks into the chamber and playing a pre-recorded sound. Unscrambling the audio, CoR found a spectrogram that appears to be a kind of map.

Ian Phillips/Frontier forums

While crossplay doesn’t allow players on PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One to play together in the same instance, they do share a unified galaxy. That means players across all three platforms will be able to work together to solve this mystery.

Better still, these Thargoid structures aren’t all that far away. The location I visited last night was less than 20 jumps, or about 30 minutes of in-game travel, from human populated space. Players in low-end ships will necessarily need to spend more time traveling and take shorter hops between stars, but it’s not an impossible distance.

You can watch the new PS4 launch trailer below.