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 are starting to look up.
After being trapped in a barren, toxic solar system, I manage to cobble together the resources necessary to make a hyperdrive jump to a new system. I’m hoping it’s somewhere I can make a fresh start, and rekindle the excitement of exploration. Things start out promising. When my ship drops out of warp, I spot a quintet of big, blue planets. I perk up immediately at the possibilities.
I land on the closest one to me and set my ship down on a small island. From the moment I step out of my craft, it feels like I’m surrounded by life. Big, scaly dogs roam around in packs, while jellyfish / crab hybrids scuttle around in search of food. I look up and see huge birds with dragon-like wings soaring through the pale-pink sky. When I take a dip in the ocean, I swim through schools of spotted fish, that seem blissfully unaware — or uncaring — of my presence.
Then I head back to land and spot a sentinel drone flying toward me. Up until now, the drones have been a minor nuisance. For the most part they leave me alone, but if I mine too many resources, or take something I shouldn’t, they’ll attack me. They’re sort of like a planetary defense force, and I respect that. They also seem to have some kind of connection to Atlas — a mysterious force guiding me along a path through the galaxy — and so I try to avoid conflict as much as possible. On this tropical paradise of a planet, I’ve yet to do anything that might upset the natural balance of things. At least nothing that I can think of.
The sentinel attacks me anyway.
As I try to think of what I might’ve done to offend this flying robot security guard, I start sprinting back to my ship for safety. If I can avoid a fight, I will, but on my way to the ship two more sentinels veer into my path and start firing away. I have no choice but to defend myself. My health is depleting rapidly. I pull out my multi-tool, which is still set to the mining beam, and use it to scorch all three sentinels. They quickly explode under its heat. I head back to my ship to catch my breath.
I’ve explored dozens of planets, but this is the first time I’ve encountered something like this. The sentinels aren’t just protecting this world — they seem outright angry at my presence. The same thing happens elsewhere on the planet. Every time I get out of my ship, it takes only a minute or so before a sentinel is alerted to my presence. I try to be stealthy, and use the copious plant life to hide, but it never lasts long. The sentinels have the advantage of the air. They’re always able to spot me.
This turn of events is incredibly disappointing. After so much time spent trudging through a barren star system, here is a world that has everything I want: bountiful animal life, picturesque views, all of the resources I could ask for. But the planet also wants to kill me every time I step on it. Maybe this constant vigilance from the sentinels is the reason the world remains so pristine. It doesn’t take long before the constant gun battles become tiring; before I landed on this planet, I had killed maybe a dozen sentinel drones, mostly in self defense. By the time I jump in my ship and take off to leave this world, my computer tells me I’ve killed over 60.
I touch down on each of the other planets in the system, but none can match the first. Sure, they have the advantage of not being protected by swarms of killer robots, but they also are far less interesting places to explore. As I wander around, I can’t stop thinking about how much I would enjoy the first planet if it weren’t for those blasted drones. Eventually I give up and decide to try out a different star system — again.
Maybe I’ll have better luck this time.