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No Man’s Sky travel diary: a new perspective

The journey continues in No Man’s Sky Next

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No Man’s Sky

Two years ago, when No Man’s Sky first launched, I wrote a journal that chronicled my adventures in the game’s sprawling, procedurally generated universe. Since then, the game has changed considerably, most recently with this week’s No Man’s Sky Next expansion, which is the biggest update yet. It adds new styles of planets, proper multiplayer, and a third-person perspective, among other things. So it seemed like a great chance to dive back in and start the diary again. You can catch up on my previous adventures — and follow along with my new ones — right here.

I can see myself. It feels like the first time.

It’s been a long time since my last adventure. Years ago, I spent countless hours traveling the universe. At first, it was aimless. I couldn’t get enough of the thrill of being the very first person to set foot on a strange alien world and catalog its inhabitants. It was dangerous and exciting, and when that thrill wore off, I chose a different route. Guided by a mysterious, cryptic voice, I followed something called the “Path of Atlas,” a galaxy-hopping quest that promised — but never delivered — true answers about the nature of the universe. Disillusioned with Atlas, I ended my journey.

But the universe kept calling, so here I am, in a brightly lit space station marveling at my own exosuit, which is a calming orange trimmed with a clean baby blue. I never really looked at it closely before. It’s remarkably unharmed considering the dozens of toxic rainstorms and laser battles it’s been through.

My spaceship, a sprightly craft that seats one and has a lot of punch, is just where I left it, though the pyramid-shaped space station is much more bustling than it used to be. It’s filled with Korvax — a race of robotic aliens that have expressionless screens for faces — and they all seem to have a job for me to do: snap some pictures of new alien creatures or destroy some pesky pirate ships. I absentmindedly take on a few simple jobs, figuring I’ll probably be able to complete them on my journey. Then I head down the winding stairs and hop in my ship.

The cockpit is just as I remember it. The cage that surrounds me, the layout of chunky buttons, the screens that let me know everything I need to. It’s like I never left. When I turn on the engines, I hear the familiar thrum as the ship effortlessly speeds out into space. This star system is a startling pink, and the first thing I see is an inky black, ringed planet, which is brilliant against the bright backdrop.

I just want to sit and enjoy the view for a bit — but the universe has other plans.

No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky

Not far from the station, a battle is raging. A trio of massive ships is the battleground, while smaller fighters dance around them, firing volleys at each other. I can’t even tell who is fighting who, but a few moments after I leave the station, lasers start firing in my direction. Maybe they think I’m a pirate looking to raid the freighters for precious resources. Whatever the reason for the attack, I want no part of it; I’ve never been much for battle, and being drawn into a fight that has nothing to do with me doesn’t seem very appealing. I have to fire a few warning shots to clear space as I make my way to what appears to be a lush planet that’s just a quick jump from the station.

After I emerge from the battle, largely unscathed, I find myself among a cluster of gold-and-silver asteroids floating around the planet. Then my communicator chimes, a surprise since it mostly lies quietly dormant. A Korvax trader seems to have gotten caught up in the fight and is looking for help. But I haven’t flown my ship in years, and I don’t feel prepared for a rescue mission. It’s with more than a little guilt that I turn the communicator off without responding.

As I descend on the planet, it’s just what I had hoped. I see vibrant forests and flying dinosaur-like birds. There are dark caves and fields of glowing rocks. I need to get myself restocked with supplies, given the long layoff, and this seems like the perfect place. Except when I approach the surface looking for a nice spot to land, I realize a quartet of pirates has followed me, and they immediately open fire.

Getting into a dogfight is a lot like riding a bike. It’s all muscle memory. With no other choice, I turn my ship to face the intruders and let off a volley of fire, alternating between explosive missiles and laser blasts. I manage to take down three of them while barely taking any damage, and the last ship hurriedly leaves the planet to escape. It turns out I was prepared for a rescue mission, and now I feel even more guilty for leaving the trader stranded.

I push that to the back of my mind because now that I’m finally alone — for now, at least — I can get to work on my true purpose on this planet. One thing that gnawed at me on my original journey was that I was always moving, never settling in one place for long, never having a space that was actually mine. I’m determined to change that. I’ve decided to build a base on this planet, a kind of home I can return to when I need a sense of comfort in this vast and often unwelcoming universe. I figured a nice, quiet planet with a warm atmosphere would be a great spot to put down roots. And so, after doing a bit of surveying, I find a nice place near a cliff to starting building.

I had done a little construction in the past, but things feel different this time. The recipes for crafting new objects have changed and require a range of new techniques. I have to build a portable refinery to make resources suitable for building. It’s a lengthy process, one made even longer by the Sentinels, those flying robot caretakers who live on nearly every planet in the known universe. Typically, Sentinels will leave me alone unless I’m truly wreaking havoc, but here, they’re much more temperamental. They start to attack me simply for mining rocks. They’re also a lot smarter than the Sentinels I’ve encountered in the past. Previously, I could fool them by hiding in my ship. This time, they float around my craft waiting for me to come out. I’m forced to leave the planet entirely for a bit.

No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky

I use this as an excuse to visit that striking ringed planet. According to my scanner, the world is mostly devoid of life, which should make it a good place to quickly gather the minerals and other resources needed to build my first home. I land and immediately get to work, using my bright red mining beam to cut the rocks into usable chunks that I can take back to base and refine. The planet is dead; aside from a few shrubs, there are no signs of life, and the desolate landscape is pleasingly devoid of Sentinels. It takes some time, but I fill my ship with as much rock as it can carry and then head back to work on my base.

After an hour or so, I have a simple shelter: a round room with a basic construction computer inside. It’s not much, but it’s a start. And I finished it just in time. It turns out this beautiful world has more problems than just irritable Sentinels. My computer warns me of an incoming rainstorm. Normally, this isn’t something to worry about, of course, and this planet isn’t a toxic one, so I don’t have to be concerned with acid rains or other nasty chemicals. But for whatever reason, when it rains here, it gets so hot that it’s not safe. And so I head into the refuge of my newly built shelter.

As I wait out the storm, I have plenty of time to think. My previous journey had been one marked by solitude, traveling alone and unattached. But from the moment I started up again, it seems like I can’t have a moment to myself. The Korvax with jobs to give, the pirates looking for a battle, the Sentinels protecting nature. But as I sit here in this largely empty building, listening to the rain fall on its metallic roof, I can’t help but... miss being a part of a society. You can only be alone for so long before you start to crave interaction, whether it’s human or alien. I’m determined to make this adventure better than the last, and this might be the answer.

Maybe what this journey really needs is someone to share it with.