NO MAN’S SKY
Space travel has never looked this pretty
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.
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.
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.