No Man’s Sky debuted nearly two years ago to controversy and mixed reviews (you can read our take on the original version here). Since its release, amidst all the backlash, developer Hello Games has built a strong niche following with consistent free updates that have added content and new things to do, including storylines to chase down and base-building elements. The latest update, simply titled Next, brings multiplayer and third-person views have come to No Man’s Sky as well as several building mechanic tweaks. Given the new update, we felt it was no better time than to dive into this beautiful galaxy and see if the years and updates have been kind to Hello Games’ ambitious opus.

What follows is a journal kept by yours truly that will be updated every day until its completion where we roam the galaxy, in search of new sights, dangers, and missions to undertake.

Well, friends, there’s a whole galaxy out there. So let’s get to it.

Day 1

I initially decided to do a new game, as it had been so long since I played No Man’s Sky that going through the tutorial might be helpful. Turns out this was not the case at all. The game still opens the same way, with you waking up marooned on a planet, having to scavenge items to repair your ship. However, about halfway through the process, one of the tutorial messages informed me that the resource I needed to repair my ship’s engine…was located off-planet. It didn’t help matter that fellow editor and rapscallion at large Kyle Hilliard popped into my game to shoot me dead before flying off to another planet without even offering to help me out of my dire circumstances once I respawned. You can watch the video below of him destroying me if you’re a sick monster or something.

Frustrated, I downloaded my old save from the game and popped into a 15-hour save I had from when the game first launched. Things improved a smidge there, but I still felt frustrated as I was constantly surrounded by mechanics requiring me to replenish a bar. I’d jump halfway across a system to another planet only to find out I couldn’t leave it because my thruster engines were depleted, which meant I had to spend five minutes searching a randomized, deserted planet for resources to turn into fuel.

Eventually I (re)made my peace with this scavenging setup, in spite of the frequent doldrums, and began to zip around space. For me, the best bits of No Man’s Sky aren’t the dogfights or spelunking in alien colonies. Instead, it’s the moments of zen when you’re flying across the stars and through asteroid fields, sometimes carrying cargo, sometimes just looking for a new direction. Even if what you find at the end of those small journeys is disappointing, the wanderlust rarely fades. I kept venturing on and on to see what the game’s procedural universe had to offer me, often finding ways to relax as my ship carried me to and fro places unknown.

At one point I turned the audio way down and threw on some Nina Simone to listen to over the hum of my ship’s engine.

From here, I found my groove with No Man’s Sky again. I dropped into planets, researched new critters for small bounties, and flew to space stations, which have been expanded since the original and include more stores and NPCs, to learn new languages from both locals and pilgrims on the starways. I fooled around with the character creator to make my character more strongly resemble the wandering doof I imagine him to be. 

Wearing my new face, I crafted new upgrades, including an advanced mining laser to help me cut through harder rocks and strange organic material to gather elements so I could (eventually) build my base.

I was about to set up shop on a small planet of mostly grey rock when that nefarious bandit Kyle showed up again. I tried to make peace with him, awkwardly gesturing to show him I meant no harm, when he fired on me with his mining laser. Well, he didn’t really give me a choice then, did he? I responded by blowing him away with the plasma grenade attachment on my multi-tool after an awkward, violent dance (you can watch it here) and then his body slumped and disappeared.

Eat it, Hilliard.

From there, I took to the stars again and flew into an asteroid field, chopping rocks into bits to turn into precious fuel before finally growing frustrated with the lack of progress and hanging up my space boots for the day.

So far, No Man’s Sky Next, and all of its previous upgrades, still feels like the base game I played back in 2016. The core loop of scavenging, collecting bits of language, and upgrading equipment is still virtually the same. However, we haven’t gotten to the base-building elements nor the freeform sandbox mode, which we will definitely try out before the end of this week. I’m looking forward to the sandbox mode in particular, hoping it removes all the gauges and annoying upkeep chores from what could be a fantastic and beautiful exploration game.

We’ll get to building tomorrow. Until then, cadets, happy spacetrails. Here’s a clip of Kyle burying himself alive for some reason to see you off.

Day 2

After suffering through the doldrums of tedious resource management (and Kyle’s vicious bullying), I decided to start a new game in No Man’s Sky, this time in Creative Mode, which gives the player infinite health and resources for building and maintaining equipment. Immediately after starting on a dry husk of a planet, I shot off world, upgraded all my ship equipment with a few button presses, and blasted into another galaxy in search of a place I could call home.

After chatting with some aliens on a space station and leaving the dock, I spied a world behind a ringed planet of dead rock. It was cold and bleak, just like my heart. I shot over to it, broke through clouds of ice and snow, in search for a flatlands to build my base on. After exploring for a few miles and seeing only slopes and jagged rocks, I found a mountaintop and landed, setting to work. I would call this world Planet Minnesota.

I quickly build a computer and claimed the local areas as my outpost before building the first structure, a large, circular office building containing terminals, a health station, and a save point. From there, I lost myself for an entire hour in No Man’s Sky’s simple to use and very entertaining building system. I created lengthy hallways, planted flags and portable refineries. I even put up a viewport room at the edge of the mountaintop so I could peak out to see the sun rise and set.

Shortly after all of my work operations were done, I decided I needed a place I could kick back and sleep. Heading to the outskirts of the camp, I slowly built, panel by panel, a wooden cabin and filled it with weapon racks, tables, sofas, a bed, and uh interesting art.

I had so much fun building my outpost that at one point I looked up and realized that an hour had gone by without my noticing it. The construction stuff is so much fun to use and encourages such creativity, that I can’t help but wonder just how much of the experience is marred in the base game by poorly designed resource managment loops. How often would I have to break away from my creative process just to go scrounge up some more materials?

Indeed, though I’ve only spent a handful of hours with it, so far the Creative Mode is shaping up to be No Man Sky’s redemption. By eschewing the survival mechanics, players are able to focus on what truly makes the game special: the exploration elements, and gaining a sense that you’re truly carving out a place to call home in this massive galaxy. Sure, the mode removes the ‘challenge’ the base game has but what use is that challenge in the first place if all it does is create barriers between you and the little moments that No Man’s Sky does so well?

Tomorrow we’ll be heading off-base for a while to check out missions and to see just how much fun it it is to ride around in space buggy on bumpy planet surfaces. After that, who knows? It’s a big galaxy. I’m sure we’ll find plenty to do.

Until then this is Cadet Gwaltney at Outpost Shiba Snout, signing off.

For more on wandering in No Man’s Sky, be sure to check out Reiner’s Sci-fi Weekly discovery log on the original version of the game.

Guy In The Sky: A Week With The Upgraded No Man’s Sky (Day 2)