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 blasted off world, upgraded all my ship equipment with a few button presses, and zipped into another system 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 how I like all things in life. I shot over to it, broke through clouds of ice and snow, in search of flatlands to build my base on. After exploring for a few miles and seeing only slopes and jagged rocks, I found a flat mountaintop and landed, setting to work. I would call this world Planet Minnesota.

I quickly built 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. I lost myself for an entire hour in No Man’s Sky’s simple to use and 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 peek 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. 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 management 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 closest thing to 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 make No Man’s Sky worth playing in the first place?

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 a 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.

Day 3

I woke up excited and ready for a new day of base-building and exploration in No Man’s Sky. It was the first time I was actually legitimately excited about loading up Hello Games’ universe and playing around in it since the original release. I was mostly keen to work on my base and expand it into a small town on the surface of a frozen planet.

There was just one problem:

Yep. My base had disappeared. My nice office building? Gone. My quaint little cabin to spend my time in after a hard day’s work? Poof. While it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Kyle Hilliard logged into my account and deleted everything while I was sleeping, I suspect the disappearance of my work lies with No Man’s Sky’s habit of being a glitchy mess at the most inopportune times.

Regardless of the cause, I didn’t have much patience or enthusiasm for rebuilding my outpost from nothing (especially if the game was just inexplicably going to delete it again), so I took off to the stars in search of missions. Well, ‘missions’ might be a generous term. After talking with the mission dispensary guy, I was assigned two tasks: take pictures of flora and take pictures of a desert planet. Not exactly the most thrilling endeavors.

En route to a desert-looking planet, I discovered a freighter and attacked it in a fit of boredom, robbing the ship of its fine goods. As gold and cobalt floated to my ship, I received a notice that my relationship with the Gek faction, an alien race in the game, had taken a hit because I had stolen their goods. Sorry fellas.

From there I zoomed toward the planet and landed. I snapped shots with the camera feature and kept waiting for a mission completion indicator. Nothing. I scanned the planet and it turned out that, despite looking as much like a desert as Nevada does, this planet was actually a “toxic” planet and not a “desert” planet, which seems like nonsense but whatever.

It’s a freaking desert

Frustrated with the chores disguised as missions, I spawned a couple of the game’s Exocrafts to take for a spin. The Roamer is a fun little truck to outfit with mining lasers and boosts. The Colossus is bigger and looks like a tank but it’s mostly just to haul resources. The wheels on both vehicles tore into everything they came across (plant, animal, rock) and the mining laser ripped through resource-bearing trees like nobody’s business.  Still, without any enemies to take on or races to participate in, the entertainment factor boosts of these vehicles isn’t that much.

To be fair: there are tools here for you to build your own stunt ramps, and you could create impromptu races in multiplayer with other players. They’re probably very useful tools in the main game for fetching resources. However, they’re still surprisingly dull as vehicles for exploring alien worlds and I wish there was more content geared toward using them.

After riding around these barren hills, I took to the skies once more and received a mysterious transmission from someone who sounded like they were in need of help. I quickly jetted off in the direction of a new planet with a mission marker on it and, after climbing a tower, found a hologram of a funky looking fella waiting to chat:

He told me I was an explorer like it was some grand revelation that would blow my space boots off despite me having zipped around the galaxy for hours upon hours at this point. Then asked me to help him build some signal boosters for some reason i don’t really know I stopped paying attention four textboxes in. 

I took a hard pass on his request and left the tower to find something exciting below. A raptorduck. Okay, that’s not the actually name of whatever this is, but I’m gonna call it a raptor duck because I discovered it. Not you, not Kyle Hilliard, me. Just look at him. Look how glorious he is. Look at how fantastic we are, playing together in this desert toxic wasteland.

Now watch the game delete him just to spite me.

Tomorrow we’ll be having all sorts of fun with No Man’s Sky’s photo mode. Until then, you can 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 3)