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No Man’s Sky travel diary, day four: living off the land

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Make it so

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky is an almost impossibly huge game, an entire virtual universe filled with 18 quintillion planets, each one different from the next thanks to the powers of procedural generation. Instead of a typical review, for the next week I’m going to be writing daily dispatches from No Man’s Sky, giving a firsthand account at what the experience is like, and what you can expect if you choose to dive in. You can get up to date with days one, two, and three.

Finally, I’ve found a solution for my storage woes.

Ever since I began playing No Man’s Sky, space has, ironically, been a limited resource, a constant worry alongside freezing to death or running out of air. Between myself and my ship, I can only hold on to a scarce few items and materials at once. I’ve been able to expand my suit by acquiring new technological upgrades, but even still, the amount I can carry is much less than the number of things I collect.

My solution? I’m living off the land. I only take what I need, or what I expect I’ll need in the very near future.

Playing like this is freeing in a number of ways. Not only do I tend to have empty storage slots so that I don’t have to keep fussing around in menus, but it has also removed my internal desire to collect everything just in case I might need it somewhere down the line. If it’s not a life-sustaining substance, or an item required to build something I need immediately, I have no problems leaving it behind. And if I find later on that I do need a substance I skipped over a few planets ago, well, I can always buy it from a fellow traveller or an intergalactic trading port. What’s the point in earning money cataloging alien life if you don’t splurge once in awhile?

No Man's Sky

It’s sort of like my own take on the Prime Directive — observe and explore, but interfere as little as possible. The same is true for when I find new alien species. I don’t come to these planets to kill, I come to discover, so I’ve yet to pull out my weapon except in self-defense. The first time I killed an animal it was what looked like a juvenile T. rex, and it just would not stop chasing me, no matter how far I ran or how high I climbed. It was the tiny T. rex or me. I still feel guilty about it.

Placing these rules on myself does make the game more challenging, though, especially when I come across a planet with particularly harsh terrain.

Not long after my first outer space dogfight (I came out unscathed, if you’re wondering) I set my coordinates for a nearby, hopefully more pleasant, star system. I land on the first planet I see, which turns out to be a Wild West-style desert, complete with giant, bulbous cacti.

No Man's Sky

Things are great: the temperature is nice, a moderate 18 degrees Celsius. But then my onboard computer warns me of an incoming storm, just as I start exploring an abandoned trade port. It’s not a storm of rain or wind, though — it’s heat. In a flash, the temperature rises to just over 100 degrees, which means that I’m standing in air hot enough to boil water. My suit’s protection drops rapidly, and I’m forced to rush into one of the two nearby buildings to stave off the elements. My shield regenerates but that’s just a temporary fix. The only real way to safely explore the surface is from the comfort of my ship, but to do that I’ll need plutonium for fuel. Lots and lots of plutonium.

Up until this point, I haven’t really interacted with the sentinels, the silent flying drones that seem to exist on every planet. I’ve watched them scan these worlds just like I do, but they’ve seemed like harmless observers. That changes as I attempt to raid the desert planet for all the plutonium I can find. At first, there isn’t much of a reaction. After I shatter a few red crystals and scoop up the minerals, a sentinel starts scanning both myself and the empty space I just created. Then another joins it. As I continue gathering fuel, the lights on the flying robots shift from calming blue to angry red. They open fire, and my computer tells me they’ve alerted more sentinels, who are on their way. I panic and shoot them both down, before running into a cave and waiting until my computer says the situation has died down.

There doesn’t seem to be any lasting effects. I pass another sentinel as I walk back to my ship, and it ignores me, just as before. But I worry that I’ve upset a wise, ancient police force, that I’ve stepped over some kind of line and that I can’t go back.

So instead, I choose to go forward.