Guy In The Sky: A Week With The Upgraded No Man's Sky (Complete)

by Javy Gwaltney on Jul 30, 2018 at 12:50 PM

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

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

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

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 of endeavors.

En route to a desert-looking planet, I discovered a freighter and attacked it in a fit of boredom, robbing the cargo 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 world 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 is 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 didn't amount to 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 he 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.

Day 4

Day 4

Good news: the game did not in fact delete my new pal and best friend for life Raptorduck. Bad news: I got bored and promptly abandoned him for a photo bonanza across a number of worlds, as well as the chance to rebuild Fort Shiba Snout. Sorry little buddy. Here's hoping you don't get eaten by a tyrannogoose.

First thing I did was jet out of that system to greener pastures and set my eyes on a beautiful planet that looked like Earth but with a ring around it. Unfortunately, the fantasy of setting down on a varied continent filled with forests, canyons, and myriad other types of lands jumbled together was thwarted as I discovered a world filled with mostly water and a handful of puke-colored things you could technically call islands if you were in a generous mood.

I left the deceptive radioactive rock and, turning my sights to the left, saw another blue planet. Scans indicated it was a frozen world. "Ah,
I thought. "A new home."

Zooming toward my soon-to-be-haven, I named it Planet St. Paul and settled down on the surface, getting to work. Outpost Shiba Tail would be superior to its fallen predecessor, I decided, if it didn't end up lost to the ravages of No Man's Sky's glitch-ridden maw, that is.

No Man's Sky does a lot of things poorly but man, breaking atmo never gets old.

I found a nice spot in a clearing of snow, nestled between two massive rock formations, and built the first office structure. From there, I built a series of hallways and satellite buildings to create a network of steel rooms, each with its own purpose.

[James Spader voice] Upon this rock, I shall build my church.
Maybe if I build my cabin out of metal and not wood this time, it won't vanish! Please ignore the pit o' death behind my house.
Everybody needs a green room even if you're living on a frozen dead husk of a planet.
The hamster of sin lives, this time as a fixture in my art gallery.
Here's outpost Shiba Tail. Please do not disappear. You are the only worthwhile thing I've done in my spacefaring life.

An hour passed and I finished building a new home from the dead soil. I rushed to my base computer and saved the game in the desperate hope that No Man's Sky would generously decide to let me keep my sheet metal sanctuary. After the dread passed, I found some nearby creatures and decided to frolic with them for a bit. They were nice lads. Boring, but nice.

You're no raptorduck but I will cherish this moment forever, moleturtle.

I decided to stretch my legs and take a trip and get to know the neighbors. Off-world, I found a space station filled with all sorts of aliens talking around invisible watercoolers. Here's me inserting myself into their conversation with the grace and charisma of Mr. Bean.

"Y'all watch Breaking Bad?"

They didn't really want to talk, so I took off from the station and fired off in the direction of the only remaining planet in the system. Setting my ship down, I discovered another des....toxic surface that looks suspiciously like a desert but actually isn't a desert. Disgusted, I was just about to leave when I saw this fascinating fellow in the distance. I ran after him, begging him to take a selfie with me. He wasn't keen, so I had to settle for shooting from afar.

He looks like a Groch. I shall call him Groch.

That's it for this time, fellow adventurers. Tune back in tomorrow for Day 5 of my wanderings and we'll find out together if my raggedly little outpost is still standing in defiance of the cruel indifference of No Man Sky's universe.

Day 5

Day 5

Good news part deux: Outpost Shiba Tail remains in one piece two days later so I think it's safe to say it's not going anywhere. Better news: I think I'm really starting to like Spaceview Valley No Man's Sky. After yesterday's photo outing, I returned to my base and set to work expanding the place. I decided this time I would not settle for a cabin. No, I wanted a mansion.

And lo and behold, I made it so:

My homestead is still there! Let's make it bigger though. And cozier.
Gotta start somewhere.
A penthouse. That's what I need.
I really want the lighting to make these hallways scream "nightclub 20 years past its prime."
The table is for Saturday nights, when I invite my Wookie pals over for games and let them win.
Okay, I really just want the sort of place that would make Caligua go "Well that's just ostentatious."
A room with a view, indeed.

All in all, building my goofy looking mansion (a mixture of metal and wooden panels containing sofas, desks, and decks galore) takes an hour. The whole process is fun, especially when it comes to interior decoration and maintaining the careful balance between aesthetic and utility. Soon the deep aggravations of No Man's Sky's eternal glitchness and resource management nonsense have fled from me as I lose myself in a sea of decor and construction.  Here's some shots of the finished product.

Want a walkthrough of the place? Come on in, buds. Help yourselves to a ginger beer. Don't pet the turtlemole. It bites.

If I had my way, I'd just stay here. No more space exploration nonsense. Why the devil would I want to go out when I can just the spend the rest of my days building an entire civilization on this frozen globe? Why stop with a mansion and a couple of offices? I could build an entire city, no, a civilization spread out across Planet St. Paul.

But noooooo, I have to do things for you, reader. Because you're here. Fine. Tomorrow, I'll leave behind my little haven to go play around in the vast darkness of space and stare at more expanses and do little chores for aliens and maybe, just maybe, pick up the trail of my betrayer and archnemesis Kyle Hilliard, who still lives and breathes somewhere among the planets and the stations of this vast universe, much to my chagrin.

Away we go, I suppose. Farewell my slice of heaven.
 Day 6

Day 6

Reader, as I loaded up No Man's Sky today for another round of spacey swashbuckling I noticed that there was a permadeath option. As a connoisseur of all things death and decay, I decided today would be dedicated to proving my survival supremacy. No more would these meanies talking about how bad I am at survival systems get the best of me. No sir, I would prove them wrong and demonstrate my keen sense when it comes to the great interstellar outdoors.

They'd see, oh yes, I'd show them once and for all.

I loaded into the game, my grip on my controller tight. I had a plan: rush around quickly to repair my ship and then get off-world and settle on a planet of my choosing and survive forever. As long as I didn't get into starship battles or on the wrong site of some pirates, the odds were ever in my favor.  I was going to Robinson Crusoe the hell out of this game.

The intro played.

I poked the square button with a steely thumb and....oh my god, I was on fire. I had spawned on the cracked surface of volcanic planet. My suit was howling at me to seek cover. Ok, ok no problem just gonna find my ship, figure out what to do to repair it and....uh.  I turned left, right; I looked up and down. There was no trace of my ship.

This is fine, I told myself. I just needed to find a place to take stock of things and come up with a different approach. I eyed my rapidly decreasing health bar and  looked around. A palpable sense of relief flooded my system when I saw a nearby cave where I could cool off. I made a run for it.

As soon as I stepped into the cave, the temperature warning tapered off. I was safe, well, that is until another warning notification screamed at me: the cave I was in was radioactive. Burrowing deeper into the cave only increased the strength of the radiation and soon I began taking damage. Caught between the fiery surface of Literal Planet Hell and my radioactive would-be sanctuary, I died a pitiful one minute and thirty-two seconds after logging into the game.

This game is rigged, I say. Rigged!

The End

Day 7

After a detour this weekend into instant deathland, I returned back to my Creative Mode save file for one last jaunt around the galaxy before bringing my starfairing days to a close. Lifting off my frozen ranch with my trusty ship, I shot off in search of new adventures. It wasn't long before I found one. On a nearby space station, an alien man thing gave me the location of  'something special' in exchange for a few nanites. Turned out the "something" was a  lost grave. 

I couldn't resist. I quickly zoomed toward the coordinates and landed on a planet that looked it rained radioactive urine 24/7.

There I found a holoprojection speaking to me about his quest to discover the origins of the pesky sentinels that inhabit every world. Turns out he died before he could finish his quest. Bummer. 

Turning to my left, I saw a trading post in the distance. As I zoomed there and set down my ship to take a look around, something wondrously hideous caught my sight. A ship sat on a nearby platform. It was wobbly with all the weight put on one side: a giant metal sphere with what appeared to be a solar panel and a loud, booming engine strapped to it. The thing like an abandoned art student's sculpture. 

I had to have it.

After a brief conversation with the owner, I traded his ship for mine and was soon coasting along the galaxy. In no time at all, I had outfitted my disasterpiece with all the latest weaponry and traversal options. I wasn't even out of the orbit of Planet Gross when I spied a cargo convoy in the distance. What better way to test out all these new gadgets of mine? Lasers zipped across space to rip open metal while my rockets unleashed explosions that devoured the cargo ships' defensive turrets. My little ship was ugly, yeah, but it was deadly little ball of menace too.

After I had filled my coffers with gold, cobalt, and other various resources I turned away from the fleet just in time to see a freighter exit hyperspace. I approached with the idea of attacking it but then noticed a hangar bay in its belly. Setting my ship inside the massive mechanical beast, I found an aimless crew with a captain desperate to sell the hunk of metal. Why not? I decided. I bought it off him and renamed my vessel appropriately.

I build a command center and ordered the navigator on a mission to get us more valuable resources. It wasn't the sort of Star Trek experience I had expected, with aliens assaulting us and me ordering my crew to use phasers and torpedoes to ward them off. Instead, the whole affair was very day-to-day small business. Projecting rewards versus investment costs, calculating time until goods delivered. Truth be told: it was actually kind of relaxing.

After I had assigned everyone their roles and walked the sparse decks of my freighter, I decided it was time to head home. The feeling had settled on me, at long last, that my journey across the galaxy was done.

Yes, my friends, after wandering for more hours than I care to admit with No Man's Sky, our adventure together has come to a close. And yeah, sure, I didn't get to hunt down the rapscallion and coward Kyle Hilliard but, y'know, there's more to life than a little revenge. In fact, I'd say that revenge is against the very freeform and peaceful, wanderlusty thematic center of No Man's Sk....what the hell is that noise?

Transmission incoming.....
Accepting Playback.

Thanks for reading everyone! Cheers.

For more wanderings In No Man's Sky, you can check out Reiner's Sci-fi Weekly discovery log on the original version of the game.