The gigantic, so big you’ll never see another person playing No Man’s Sky is finally out and the one question on everyone’s lips is, “So, uh...what do you actually *do*?” Well, the question is really more like “How many planets named after marijuana can fit in one universe?” but we won’t know the answer to that until people have been playing for a while. If you’re curious about the game, definitely check out Matt Elliott’s diary, which will let you share his adventures as he swoops around, naming ferns and getting shot by space pirates. To illustrate how differently things can go, however, here are five things I did during my first two hours with the game.
Ok, look, in my defense, I didn’t know the little sentry bots flying around were, you know, lethal. You know that part of Hitchhiker’s Guide with the whale trying to make friends with the ground? That’s kind of how it went with me and them. I thought they were cute and maybe they’d be friends with me, and honestly everything was just *fine* until I mined just a bit too much carbon from the giant mushrooms that were towering over my head. And then they shot at me. I tried to run away and something that was just a bit too much like a mudcrab for my liking, thank you very much, took a swipe at me and clearly I wasn’t about to let that go, so I shot at it with my mining laser and the sentry bots *really* took umbrage at that and...well. Let’s just call it all a lesson learned and move on, shall we? Oh, don’t forget to find your grave when you resurrect so you can get back all your stuff.
The planet I started on (Buffytopia, after my cat) is very icy and staying out in the open too long eats up the hazard protection on my exosuit, so I ducked into some structures that I assumed were abandoned in the hopes of warming up. There I met some Gek, charming little lizard people who will happily pop a tablet to make their emissions smell amazing for my sniffing pleasure. Most of the time, we have to kind of guess what we’re trying to say, but one of them taught me a few words of their language. I learned a few more words by interacting with knowledge stones I found dotting the landscape. I can’t make a full sentence yet, and I’m not sure how knowing the Gek word for “despair” is going to lead anywhere helpful, but I really enjoy the idea of being a lone explorer doing her best to really understand the world on which she’s found herself.
An added benefit of finding the Gek is that one of their buildings has a node that lets me buy and sell stuff online. Hooray for no more full inventories! I’ve found a bunch of knickknacks as I’ve wandered the frozen countryside - thoughtfully marked as “trade goods,” so I know they’re safe to unload - and made a tidy sum selling them on the open market. I even offloaded a bunch of plutonium; Buffytopia is lousy with it and it was selling at +4.7 over the typical average, a great chance to earn some extra bank. The money doesn’t do me much good now, but when I finally leave Buffytopia, I’ll have the means to buy a new ship.
No Man’s Sky is pretty much your playground to do whatever you want, but everyone starts the same way: fixing their busted space ship. It’s a simple introduction to the game’s crafting systems, as you learn to use your scanner, mining laser, and that your pockets are *way* too small for all the cool stuff you’re going to find. Once I’d fixed my ship (after idly wondering what happened to crash me on this planet in the first place), I could’ve blasted off into space and found another planet. Maybe one that isn’t -67C and full of angry not-quite-mudcrabs. But instead I decided to fly around Buffytopia a little and see what there was to see without having to worry about freezing to death. A short hop led me to Dogess Glacier, which I didn’t rename because it sounds like a princess doge, and I’m pretty down with that. There were a few cargo crates left behind (more plutonium), and a box I can’t open unless I find something called an Atlas pass. Maybe there’s one over the next hill.
Now, whether this is a pro or a con depends very much what kind of space explorer you want to be. Lots of folks will, understandably, lament the fact that they can’t explore the universe of No Man’s Sky with their pals, forming colonies or trading with each other. For me, though, the sense of isolation is perfect. I can’t count on anyone but myself. I must be resourceful, and smart, and cautious, but also take advantage of the freedom to do as I please. I shall learn more Gek words and practice them with Abe, Ben and Charlie (as I’ve named the three Gek in the station nearby). I shall explore more of Buffytopia. Its freezing temperatures are no longer the threat they once were, because now I know that the enormous caves have thermal pockets that will warm me up, and the yellow plants are the ones that provide the zinc to recharge my hazard protection. Space is vast, and I am but one explorer. My discoveries may never be known by a single other living person, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth finding.