Space travel has never looked this pretty

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Daniella Lu­cas

Why are any of us here? That’s the big philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion this space ex­plo­ration game tries to pose as you hop be­tween plan­ets and star sys­tems in search of an­swers. It’s not re­ally some­thing any­one can an­swer, but be­tween the in­ter­stel­lar views of dis­tant plan­ets ris­ing in the hori­zon and the plan­ets filled with bizarre an­i­mals to befriend, we’re just happy to be along for the ride.

There is a story to give your ex­pe­di­tion some di­rec­tion—you’re a lost trav­eler who doesn’t know why they’re in the spot they are, but you start re­ceiv­ing strange trans­mis­sions that push you fur­ther into the depths of the galaxy. You’ll fix your ship and learn to warp be­tween star sys­tems, as well as meet sev­eral alien races and anom­alies as you ex­plore. There are mis­sions to com­plete, ru­ins to find, and space bat­tles to take part in as you jump from planet to planet. There are also sev­eral modes in­clud­ing your ba­sic sur­vival mode, which sees you farm­ing for re­sources to charge your gear and gather fuel for your jour­ney with a few dif­fi­culty lev­els, and a cre­ative mode which does away with need­ing ma­te­ri­als to charge things or craft, so you’re free to hop around at your leisure. How­ever, only the sur­vival mode in­cludes the main story, and it’s what you’ll want to pick for the in­tended ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing lost in space.

Your trav­els will mostly in­volve float­ing in space be­tween plan­ets and even­tu­ally jump­ing be­tween so­lar sys­tems. There are all sorts of fun dis­trac­tions along the way thanks to

No Man’s Sky’s ran­dom gen­er­a­tion. Every planet and sys­tem is dif­fer­ent. From dead moons to fun­gal forests and lush blue grass­lands, there’s a huge va­ri­ety of ar­eas to dis­cover, of­ten rich with met­als, plants, and oddly pro­por­tioned crea­tures. We’ve stum­bled across di­nosaurs that look like they’re on steroids, limply float­ing around on tiny but­ter­fly wings, gi­ant wolves, and, uh, a planet where every sin­gle crea­ture looked wor­ry­ingly phal­lic. There’s a con­stant sense of won­der and an­tic­i­pa­tion every time you touch down on a planet’s sur­face, un­sure of what you’ll find, and it’s this that keeps us com­ing back.

Star treks

How­ever, No Man’s Sky doesn’t ex­actly like to hold your hand. A lot of the game’s guides are tucked away in menus, and of­ten you’ll only learn through ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and fail­ure, such as what each alien race wants to hear, and why you shouldn’t mess with whis­per­ing eggs. The first planet is pur­pose­fully harsh to teach you how to sur­vive, but our start was par­tic­u­larly bad. The planet we were on had toxic rain and all the ma­te­ri­als we needed to recharge our hazard pro­tec­tion were quite rare. Ad­mit­tedly

we died once be­fore de­vis­ing a strat­egy to reach a sodium clus­ter fast enough to pro­tect our­selves. When we later booted up another game to see how ran­dom it was, we had bet­ter luck find­ing re­sources and even found some valu­able vor­tex cubes to sell for an early in­flux of cash. It felt a lit­tle un­fair, but the game is ran­domly gen­er­ated, so every ad­ven­ture will play out dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on what you find.

It’s not all cute grem­lins and ten­ta­cle trees ei­ther, some­times the uni­verse just wants to see you suf­fer. An­i­mals can be ag­gres­sive and float­ing ro­bot sen­tinels roam most plan­ets wait­ing to see you do some­thing wrong so they have an ex­cuse to at­tack you. Some­times you’ll find alien out­posts or ru­ins with some new friends to trade with, but oc­ca­sion­ally you’ll find them aban­doned and over­run with sen­tient, pul­sat­ing flesh. Lovely. Space it­self is just as risky—maybe you’ll find a space sta­tion to do a spot of trad­ing, or per­haps you’ll be at­tacked by pi­rates af­ter the con­tents of your cargo hold. That el­e­ment of dan­ger is com­pul­sive, though.


Craft­ing is a huge part of No Man’s

Sky’s pro­gres­sion—over time you’ll want to build add-ons for your ships, multi-tool and ex­o­suit to tackle more dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ments. Some tools are used to re­fine el­e­ments to turn them into ma­te­ri­als for more use­ful gear. If you find a planet full of re­sources or just views you re­ally like you can even set up your own base by plop­ping down a com­puter and a shel­ter. You may start with sim­ple shacks, but you’ll even­tu­ally be able to build re­search sta­tions for farm­ing and min­ing to help you rake in more cash. Craft­ing is quite a slow and com­pli­cated process, as there are so many dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to con­sider, and com­po­nents to build first.

As well as space sta­tions, oc­ca­sion­ally you’ll find fleets of ran­dom ships and freighters mak­ing their own jour­neys. For a fee you can buy one to turn it into your own mo­bile base. We ac­quired ours by an­swer­ing a dis­tress sig­nal of a freighter un­der at­tack—af­ter dis­patch­ing a hand­ful of en­emy ships and dock­ing in­side, the cap­tain was all too will­ing to hand over his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties without the price tag. It pays to be a good sa­mar­i­tan, al­though run­ning your own fleet comes with a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity. It’ll re­quire a lot of build­ing up, which means go­ing out and hunt­ing for even more ma­te­ri­als as well as fuel, and you’ll also need to de­fend it from fur­ther at­tacks. It’s worth it though, as you can slowly add more ships to

your fleet and get them to do tasks for you, as well as have ac­cess to an ex­panded in­ven­tory.

You’ve prob­a­bly heard about the drama sur­round­ing No Man’s Sky’s lack of mul­ti­player on other con­soles over the last two years, but since we get the ul­ti­mate ver­sion on Xbox One there are no such wor­ries, it’s ab­surdly easy to hop into a game with friends. You can party up with three oth­ers and work to­gether on your goals, and you can ac­tu­ally have up to 16 peo­ple in a sin­gle in­stance, though those not in your party will ap­pear as orbs when you en­counter them.

Mi­nor­ity re­port

Since ev­ery­thing is so ran­dom­ized, luck can play a big part in your en­joy­ment of the game. If you get a run of dead or toxic plan­ets with an­gry sen­tinels, you’re not go­ing to get the same ini­tial joys as some­one who’s found paradise on their first try. There’s not much fun in find­ing planet af­ter planet with vari­a­tions of noth­ing but an­gry crab-things, but when you find a di­nosaur with a com­i­cally tiny head and get to re­name it ‘Mr Small­chops’, ev­ery­thing is for­given.

There’s some­thing in­tox­i­cat­ing about the con­stant new dis­cov­er­ies when you travel be­tween sys­tems and plan­ets. That el­e­ment of the un­known is quite ad­dic­tive—there might just be

“The game can oc­ca­sion­ally feel un­fair, but that’s also part of its charm”

some­thing even more amaz­ing at your next stop and so there’s an im­pulse to just keep go­ing as you chase the po­ten­tial of your next awe­some find and the stupid name you’ll be giv­ing it. Time will mys­te­ri­ously van­ish as you play: You’ll prom­ise your­self ‘I’ll just fin­ish this one next bit and end there’, but sud­denly it’s five hours later and you’re on another ‘next lit­tle bit’.

There’s a bal­ance you’ll need to strike—do you push your­self for­ward spend­ing ev­ery­thing you have to reach the next goal prompt, or do you loi­ter some­where to build up enough of a stash be­fore con­tin­u­ing? That feel­ing of the grass po­ten­tially be­ing greener at your next stop adds a sense of pres­sure to force your­self for­ward, but it’s bet­ter if you try to ig­nore it. When you con­stantly hop around you miss out on all of the hid­den se­crets each planet holds and you end up feel­ing per­pet­u­ally un­der­pre­pared for your next jump. The real joy to No

Man’s Sky is in loi­ter­ing to ad­mire the spacescapes of the bizarre places you find—some­thing you’ll miss out if you’re con­stantly rac­ing ahead.

Un­for­tu­nately hav­ing to stock­pile re­sources or find­ing a planet without the ones you need can slow down the game. It can be quite frus­trat­ing when all you want to do is ex­plore but you’re stuck hunt­ing for fuel be­cause you don’t have enough to take off. It can also be dis­heart­en­ing when you see friends fly­ing in ex­pen­sive ships be­cause they’ve been lucky with their re­source spawns while you’re stuck in an old beater of a craft. No Man’s Sky can oc­ca­sion­ally feel un­fair, but that’s also part of its charm—the highs wouldn’t feel as amaz­ing without some lows. As in real life, travel rarely goes smoothly, so while there may be a few bumps along the metaphor­i­cal space road, it’s still worth it for the things you dis­cover along the way. ■

above Some plan­ets are a lot more lonely than oth­ers, fea­tur­ing no wildlife at all.left You can get your own freighter and fleet of ships to send out on mis­sions but it’s a lot of work.

Left Space is also full of sta­tions to ex­plore and aliens to meet. You’re not alone.

left All of the an­i­mals are ran­domly gen­er­ated, like this gi­ant dog-thing we found.far left Space is just as beau­ti­ful as the plan­ets them­selves.

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