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No Man’s Sky travel diary: trapped on a boring planet

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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, I’m going to be writing regular dispatches from No Man’s Sky, giving a firsthand account of what the experience is like, and what you can expect if you choose to dive in. You can follow along right here. Spoilers below.

Things have been bad since the moment I arrived.

Almost as soon as my ship drops into this new star system, I’m attacked by a gang of five pirates. They use some kind of technology that disrupts my pulse engine, so running away isn’t possible. I also don’t stand a chance against them in a fight: I’ve built my ship for speed and transport, not battle. It doesn’t take long before they destroy me.

When I come to, I’m in a nearby space station. My ship is mostly intact — a few broken parts that I can fix eventually — and after about 15 minutes I’m able to recover my cargo and start exploring.

Strangely, this system is home to just two planets. The first is fairly boring. There are some interesting animals — including what looks like a giant tiger with inactive wings — but not much in the way of scenery or archaeological finds. The second is even worse. It’s a barren landscape with no plant or animal life whatsoever. With only a few minutes of exploration spent between the two worlds, I head to the sky and punch my hyperdrive in hopes of finding somewhere more interesting.

But it doesn’t work.

No Man's Sky

It turns out that one of the systems those pirates destroyed was my warp reactor, which boosts the hyperdrive’s power, allowing me to travel to distant star systems. The next system on my path is just too far away with my current setup, so I have no choice but to fix it before moving on. Luckily, I have at least one of the parts I need — a dynamic resonator — already, so maybe it won’t be so bad. The other components I need are copper and iridium.

First I set out in search of copper. I touch down on the barren planet. It’s eerily pretty; a hazy green sky meets a dark red ocean. Egg-shaped boulders float just above the surface, shiny and metallic. Happily, they also happen to be made of copper. I hesitate for a moment, thinking about the damage I’ll be doing to the landscape, but then I forge ahead and blast one of the boulders to pieces, gathering up more than enough copper to repair the broken part.

Iridium proves to be much more tricky. I scour both planets and come away empty. There’s nothing in the vast cave systems, or under the ocean, or among the mountains. These planets don’t even have many traders who might have some. I spend hours in search of the resource, but come away empty-handed.

No Man's Sky

The only other place I can try my luck is a nearby space station. I land my craft, and chat to the robotic Korvax bartender for a minute. Then I log in to the galactic trading post only to discover that iridium is not only the list of resources for sale.

Despite the fact that this star system is dire, with just two mostly barren planets, the station is surprisingly bustling. New ships dock and take off every few minutes. With nowhere else to turn, I talk to each and every traveler in hopes of trading them a big stack of units for some iridium. But again, nobody has what I need. I stand around watching the ships take off, not knowing what to do.

For a while I just putter around in my inventory. Then it hits me: some of the technology I have equipped is made of iridium. All I have to do is dismantle it and I should be on my way. After a few minutes of analyzing my gear, I find a few non-essential systems on my multi-tool that will yield iridium once I take them apart. One helps my mining beam cool down faster, the other gives me a bit more range for my planetary scanner. Both are very useful, but I can always build them again once I’m in a more civilized part of the galaxy.

I break down the gadgets and strip them of all the iridium I can. In order to repair my ship, I need 100 units of the resource. After hours of scouring two worlds, pestering dozens of strangers, and dismantling two very handy pieces of tech, I’m left with… 90 units.

Maybe I’ll never get out of here.