Yesterday morning, I downloaded the day-one patch for No Man's Sky, a video game in which players explore the universe and try to solve mysteries, such as why the UI looks so much like Destiny's. I had wiped my old save-file, so with the patch I was starting fresh.
This was an opportunity to begin anew, to explore the galaxy, to shoot down alien spaceships and steal minerals from every planet I could find. Here's a diary of my first two hours with the game:
0:01 - Loaded up No Man's Sky. Like before the patch, I entered the game on a totally random planet in a totally random corner of the galaxy. Unlike before the patch, there was now a bit of story at the top, asking me if I wanted to be guided along my way:
0:05 -I chose to accept the Atlas' guidance and began exploring the planet, harvesting for resources like carbon, iron, and plutonium. Immediately I noticed a huge improvement from the pre-patch version: inventory expansion. Managing the inventory still took some work, but now it was way easier to stack up on crucial resources without having to worry that I was missing out on something.
0:08 - One of the first things No Man's Sky asks the player to do is repair their ship, which they can do by collecting the right combo of resources. Most of them are easy to find. I pulled out my mining beam and got to work ripping things up. Eat it, anti-fracking lobby.
0:09 - Saw random space ships fly overhead. Tried to shoot them down with my mining laser. Failed.
0:10 - Some loud animal noises started creeping me out, so I got in my ship and took off into space. On the way, I gave the first planet a new name:
0:12 - Have noticed that farming for minerals in space is way more efficient than farming on planets, mostly because my ship's photon lasers never have to be recharged. Hovered in space for a little while, shooting up a bunch of asteroids to get some extra iron and Thamium9.
0:14 - While flying through space, got a strange message from an alien. "u up?" Decided to follow the signal, which led me to a nearby planet called Akhaangbo-Umlia Ninaran. This name would not do. It was a planet full of animals, so I renamed it Kotaku.
0:16 - Found a beacon, which gave me the coordinates of a nearby alien outpost. Saw a cave and started spelunking for cool minerals like gold. Always invest in gold, that's what they say.
0:18 - Spotted a question mark on my radar and decided to keep exploring the cave until I found it.
0:22 - Realized that the question mark was actually on TOP of the cave. Looped around and eventually got there. Found an alien ornament called a Gek Charm. Presumably it used to be attached to a Gek. That Gek was no more.
0:26 - Got back to my ship and flew to the outpost, where I met an alien named Enforcer Ruanq who gave me a blueprint for a 'hyperdrive.' He taught me the vy'keen word for 'interloper.' I taught him how to find true love.
0:33 - With Atlas's guidance, flew to a nearby space station and met another alien, Corporal Uxo. Couldn't understand a word he said but he seemed mad, so I gave him some carbon. That pleased him. Sold my hard-earned gold on the galactic space terminal so I could buy a dynamic resonator, which I'd need to assemble my snazzy new hyperdrive.
0:40 - After haggling with some aliens over materials and shuffling my inventory around, finally installed a hyperdrive. Now I needed to charge it. But how?
0:42 - Muted the TV so I wouldn't have to listen to the space techno music in the menu screen. Got called back to planet Kotaku to meet with another alien---a dude named Brigadier Namuxiong. He gave me something called antimatter, which I could use to build a warp cell, which I could use to charge my hyperdrive, which I could use to warp to a new region of the galaxy. This, I had learned, is one of the core gameplay loops of No Man's Sky. It's what the player has to do to make progress through the universe.
0:44 - Flew up into orbit and opened up my Galactic Map, which is a giant collection of stars that looks like this:
0:45 - Saw a line telling me to warp to Apugangdoij. I've never been one to disobey lines.
0:46 - Learned that the Abugangdoij region is super pink. While flying around, saw a giant container floating in space. It beckoned me. Tried to blow it up and steal what was inside. Got owned by laser security defenses. Died.
0:48 - Watched everything go black as a thought-provoking quote about the meaning of life appeared in the center of the screen. Then got told I had to go recover my corpse to regain all my stuff.
0:49 - Decided to fly to Powylinstarp, a big water planet that looked kinda like Earth, if Earth had big red holes in it. While exploring, found a strange monolith called the Ruins of Nituscus-Mamin. These procedurally generated names are really something.
0:52 - Learned the Korvax word for "rare," as in "complaints about the inventory system in this game are not going to be rare."
0:56 - Fed a bunch of cute animals.
0:57 - Did I say cute? Because I meant horrifying.
1:00 - Flew back to space and did another scan to see what was out there. Picked up the signal for a manufacturing facility on a nearby moon, Peyski Usonojon.
1:02 - Landed on the moon. Found the facility. In order to get inside, I had to install a Boltcaster weapon on my multi-tool (25 iron and 25 plutonium --- easy pickings) and then cut open one of the doors. The game warned me that trying to open the door would cause nearby Sentinel robots to attack. Ignored the warning.
1:03 - Nearby Sentinel robots attacked. Destroyed one, then looped around the building, trying to hide from the others. Eventually bought enough time to crack open the rest of the facility door. Getting into the facility disabled the Sentinels' alarms. Eat it, robots.
1:06 - Got inside. Found a recipe for Antimatter, which I can now craft. This'll let me make my own Warp Cells. "I can now travel anywhere I please," my character thinks, before wondering if he (she?) should go find Atlas or 'Nada and Polo'? (I have no idea who Nada and Polo are.)
1:10 - Spent a bunch of time mining. Found spare gold and plutonium. Spent the next several minutes scavenging for zinc, which is pretty important for making all those warp cells.
1:17 - Manufacturing has suddenly gotten complicated. Flew up to a nearby space station to buy some suspension fluid, which I could use to make electron vapers, which turned into antimatter, which I could transform into warp cells for my hyperdrive. Met a lovely Korvax named Laius who didn't have anything interesting to say. Told him that I knew the Korvax word for rare. He was not impressed.
1:19 - Left Laius behind and warped to another region of the galaxy.
1:23 - Performed a quick interstellar scan and found a marker for a rare monolith on a very toxic planet nearby. While there, my character saw a strange vision. "I feel sure conviction that great power awaits me if I travel to this distant place," he thought. Then the monolith gave me a warp cell.
1:24 - My hazard meter was plummeting in this toxic atmosphere. My suit was failing. Needed to get out of there ASAP. Ran to my ship, slammed on the launch thrusters, and watched my ship get stuck inside of a giant mushroom. Couldn't land. Couldn't take off. Couldn't get out. Was slowly dying. Reset the game.
1:30 - Revisited the monolith. Went back to my ship. Same fucking thing.
1:33 - Tried a third time, this time destroying the giant mushroom before launching my thrusters. Ship took off without a problem. Jason 1, Mushrooms 0.
1:35 - Recharged my hyperdrive and went back into space. Now I had two options: should I follow the monolith's path to an Atlas Station (and apparent "great power") or head towards the center of the galaxy, which is allegedly full of secrets and candy? Chose the Atlas Station.
1:40 - Entered a new region of the galaxy, where I again scanned for interesting stuff. Discovered an abandoned outpost on a nearby planet.
1:43 - Landed on the planet. Found a save point and a big building. Discovered an item called a Grahgrah---"Gas inhaled by Vy'keen warriors to temporarily increase lung capacity and allow high quality battle screams." Nice. I've always wanted higher-quality battle screams.
1:45 - Expected to have to break open the door of the abandoned building, but it was already open. Inside, I found blueprints for an upgrade to my suit. Had enough materials for another warp cell; just needed to get my hands on more suspension fluid.
1:49 - After a brief pitstop to suck resources from the planet like bone marrow, I flew back into space and used my pulse drive to fly to a nearby space station. Then I ran into a dilemma. Suspension fluid was way too expensive. At this space station, it was marked with a gold star---meaning it was a premium good. They had jacked up the price from 21k to 43k. Because I am Jewish, this was unacceptable.
1:51 - It was time for a workaround. I headed back to the space station's airlock and found the ship of a visiting space alien, who I could barter and trade with. He'd sell me suspension fluid for closer to 22k units, which was far more acceptable. Don't let space stations rob you blind, kids.
1:53 - Used my new goodies to build yet another warp cell, then went back to space and took to the galaxy map once again. Now I was just three warps away from the Atlas Station. I didn't know what I'd discover there, but I was excited to find out.
1:56 - Time for one more stop before this log ends. Landed on a barren planet and found a massive alien trading outpost. Talked to one of the aliens. He was terrified of me. I insisted that I had come in peace but he just got mad. My standing with the Korvax race had decreased, the game said. Jerks.
2:00 - That was it. In just two hours had explored several regions of the galaxy, met six aliens, and stripped away the precious resources of countless planets across the universe. There was just one thing left to do.
Since then, I've spent another 2-3 hours with No Man's Sky, and so far I'm having a blast. It's a lovely, serene space adventure that was clearly designed for people who love exploring. Don't expect this to be the space game of all space games---it's clear from the beginning that there are a very set number of things you can do---but if you're into chill exploration games, this will probably be up your alley.
Also worth noting: while playing today, my game crashed to the PS4 menu several times, usually while I was warping.
Our full review will be up soon---whenever Kirk feels like he's played it thoroughly enough. Stay tuned.