|This article is about the Precursor Race as it appears in Subnautica. To see this subject as it appears in Below Zero, click here.|
The Precursor Race was a highly advanced and ancient space-faring alien race that arrived on Planet 4546B approximately one thousand years ago, searching for a cure for the Kharaa Bacterium. Most information surrounding them is currently unknown. The motives of the Precursors were to stop the Kharaa Bacterium from destroying their race, which was a bacterium that they discovered on an unknown planet. Their plans failed, and Kharaa was released onto 4546B.
No Precursor has ever been seen, so nothing is known of their physical appearance. It is likely that they were larger than humans based on the size of their bases and the objects within them, a prime example being the height of the surgical tables found in the Disease Research Facility which come up to just below Ryley Robinson's neck. For use as a surgical table, they would most likely be around the same height as the surgeon's waist, by this it can be estimated that the Precursor race would have averaged between seven and eight feet in height.
They are known to have had an extremely long lifespan, as evidenced in a data bank entry by the mention of a ninety-six year old Precursor being considered very young. The same individual was near 700 Earth-years old (born 1,708 Earth-years ago) when its body became infected after the Kharaa outbreak and the consciousness was stored in a data hub. It is unknown if this lifespan is naturally long, or augmented like Paul Torgal's, who had expected to live to the age of 160 before crashing on 4546B.
Contact With Other Species
The Precursors are known to have owned technology from other races, scavenged or traded. All but one of the relics held by them were taken from other races, some of these races even more ancient than themselves. One of the many relics is a sword from Earth, showing that the Precursors visited the planet and possibly even made contact with humans at some point. Inside the Sparse Reef Sanctuary, the PDA notes similarities between Precursor architecture and old Earth religious iconography. This may be coincidental, however it may indicate that the Precursors influenced the formation of ancient human religions and societies. If this is true then it is also likely that some ancient Earth languages were based on the language of the Precursors; the PDA is capable of translating it without ever having encountered the language before, if the language was from a language family entirely foreign to any on Earth then translation should be impossible. Their written language bears slight resemblances to Hebrew.
Their language can be heard from the deactivation terminal within the Quarantine Enforcement Platform after Ryley attempts to disable, and after he successfully disables. The PDA is able to translate the former.
Although the Precursors are not seen in-game, they were an extremely advanced race - able to create advanced technology (such as teleportation devices, weapons capable of bringing down large ships, wirelessly powered biomechanical life forms capable of teleporting at will, etc.) and capturing a Sea Emperor Leviathan, the largest known species on the planet. They are also capable of creating Data Hubs, which they can upload their mind to, the digital equivalent of a medically-induced coma. There is only evidence of a single Precursor doing this, who were uploaded to the Dunes Sanctuary, with their body disposed of shortly afterwards.
The Precursors were able to create and use Warpers as guards for their bases and use them to hunt down creatures infected with the Kharaa Bacterium, and create technologies far more advanced than humanity's current technological state, and at the same time, predating humans by thousands of years.
The Precursors are also able to create "keys", known as Alien Tablets, which unlock various Precursor machines, including forcefields and Alien Arches, which function as teleporters. The Artifacts also possibly served as a personal computer and security clearance of sorts to its user according to the entry for the Blue Tablet. Also, they can create alloys that are highly heat-resistant and can last over one thousand years with no sign of degradation. Ion Cubes are another creation, having been produced from an unknown element not found on the Periodic Table, and fabricated inside the Primary Containment Facility's Antechamber. Most, if not all Precursor technology is seemingly powered by Ion Cubes. Interestingly enough, Ion Cubes appear to be used ceremonially, as the three Sanctuary Caches have multiple Ion Cubes adorning them. The Precursors also created the Alien Robots that repair and, if need be, defend the Alien Bases from intruders.
Around 1,000 years ago, after exploring a planet for routine expansion, the Precursors came across the Kharaa Bacterium. The Kharaa infection quickly spread across the Precursors' core worlds, where it was responsible for countless billions of deaths. Several outposts were set up on remote planets across the galaxy to research the Kharaa and hopefully find a vaccine or a cure. One of these outposts was 4546B, and it was here where the Precursors installed the Disease Research Facility, Alien Thermal Plant, and the Quarantine Enforcement Platform to assist them in their research. The Disease Research Facility served as a laboratory where the Precursors could test the bacterium on native creatures. It also served as a facility for the construction of Warpers. During the construction of this facility, it is likely the Precursors discovered the Gargantuan Fossil and the Ancient Skeleton, with the Precursors setting up a laboratory near the remains of the latter to study it further.
The Alien Thermal Plant served to power all of the other Precursor Bases using geo-thermal energy. The Precursors had discovered 4546B's natural thermal energy and installed the plant within the Lava Castle as a means of utilizing it. The Quarantine Enforcement Platform was constructed to prevent any unauthorized ships from landing, or if already planetside, from leaving. Among the bases, the Precursors built three Sanctuary Caches in the Deep Sparse Reef, Northern Blood Kelp Zone, and inside a meteor crater within the Dunes. These Caches served as a failsafe should the bacterium be unleashed onto the planet. Inside the Caches, the Precursors installed Data Hubs as a means of keeping them alive when their physical bodies could no longer sustain them.
After performing tests on multiple creatures, the Precursors discovered that the Sea Emperor Leviathan species was naturally immune due to a unique enzyme the creature produces, dubbed Enzyme 42. The Precursors then constructed a fourth base, the Primary Containment Facility in the Lava Lakes near the Alien Thermal Plant for the sole purpose of containing a Sea Emperor Leviathan for study. They then managed to obtain a specimen, along with its seven unhatched eggs. However, it is later revealed that the subject is too old to produce a stable variant of the enzyme, it only being capable of temporarily delaying the progression of the disease. The Precursors turned to the subjects eggs, deducing that the unborn young would be capable of producing a stronger, more stable version of the cure. However, they could not figure out how to make the eggs hatch, as no method seemed to work. The Precursors then took one of the eggs and dissected it, although this resulted in the death of the fetus. The parent of the eggs tried to communicate with the Precursors, attempting to tell them that its children could not be forced from their eggs, and that they must hatch when ready. However, the Sea Emperor Leviathan later explains to Ryley that the Precursors could not hear it's pleas, and would later take another egg, storing it in the facility's lab.
After discovering the possible relation between the Sea Emperor Leviathan species and Sea Dragon Leviathans, the Precursors took an egg from the latter creature and made plans to study it, hoping to discover how the Sea Emperor Leviathan eggs hatched. However, the parent of the stolen egg later tracked it down to the Disease Research Facility, and rammed into the base, causing severe physical trauma to the Sea Dragon Leviathan's itself and causing major structural damage, killing the seven Precursors within and indirectly releasing the previously contained Kharaa Bacterium onto the ecosystem. This attack caused the Precursors to initiate an emergency quarantine, closing off the planet entirely. This act also forced the Precursors to lock down all Arches leading to the Primary Containment Facility.
Despite their best efforts to minimize the bacterium's spread, it was unsuccessful, and the Kharaa rapidly infected the organisms of 4546B. Facing extinction and unable to make the Sea Emperor Leviathan’s eggs hatch, the Precursors decided to preserve their consciousness' in Data Hubs, although there is only evidence of a single Precursor doing this. Soon afterwards, it can be assumed that the Precursors went extinct, with only their research and structures to be found in the future.
- Various Data Downloads suggest that the Precursors may be capable of some form of telepathy.
- The ancient Mongolian blade found in the antechamber of the Primary Containment Facility suggests that the Precursors visited Earth in the past. The Alien Carving also supports this theory, as the yin and yang symbol was a major part of ancient Chinese philosophy.
- According to a data download, the Precursors were grown from a “seed.” This may suggest plant-like biology, though it could also refer to a seed in a computer program or an egg. It also suggests that they are raised in broods. Their lifecycle also greatly exceeds a century.
- Precursor literally means "a person or thing that comes before another of the same kind; a forerunner." It is not the actual name for the species and is used in many games.