Despite coming from a group called 'Hello Games', No Man's Sky isn't as inviting as probably should be. While the idea of discovering and traversing trillions (yes, trillions) of planets may sound like a beautiful way to spend your free time, the first few hours, at least through my experience, weren't so relaxing.
But the main problem for many, much like myself, comes through late adoption of the game. No Man's Sky was highly anticipated after being announced far too early and failing to deliver on most of what it first promised. Even being caught up in a controversy involving the U.K's trading standards authority, video game stores quickly began to amass stacks of pre-owned copies of Hello Games' first AAA title. Now, with the developers buckling down to improve the situation, No Man's Sky has received a bunch of updates over the last year that has seen the game turn from a massive disappointment into something more akin to what it should have been from the start – a wide and varied adventure through the stars.
With so many new features added over the months, No Man's Sky is back in the minds of many. Those who skipped out originally have jumped on thanks to lucrative sale prices, and those who happened to keep their copies are dipping back in. But for those newcomers especially, the endless universe is filled with near-endless confusion. When you're dropped onto an unknown planet without much of a tutorial, it can be pretty bewildering. So we're hoping to fix that – somewhat.
Choose Your Difficulty
If you're playing the PC version of No Man's Sky, good luck to you. While most don't seem to have many problems these days, my first experience with No Man's Sky was of a constant 'out of range' error at launch. Essentially attempting to render at a resolution my screen couldn't manage (a 4K screen, no less) it took me far longer than it should to get this thing running.
Once you're in, you're presented with a list of difficulty options right off the bat; Normal, Survival, Permadeath, and Creative. While the 'Creative' mode would technically be the best for newcomers to learn the controls, I suggest jumping into Normal mode. It's the game's campaign, and it feels unnecessary to run through the first few hours more than once when you're getting the hang of things. This way, you'll learn what you're doing while having the Campaign quests lead you on your first discovery mission. It's a magnet, of sorts.
No Man's Sky is your own experience. While the first few hours could be considered somewhat linear, you're always free to do as you please and go at your own pace. If you'd rather explore your starting planet for 4 days, go right ahead. But if you're looking to explore the stars, you'll have to fix up your ship. And that takes some work.
No matter which difficulty mode you pick, you'll be thurst onto a random, undiscovered planet. And by that, I mean one that has never had another player on it. In a system that's generated trillions of these rocks, it's very likely you'll go your whole life without finding another player's discovery. Space is lonely.
Waking up on the mysterious rock with your ship all banged up just how things go in No Man's Sky. With the crash landing doing a number on your skull, you're not even sure the ship in question is yours – never mind why or how it crashed in the first place. But the answers are not to be found here – they're out there.
Welcome to your UI. Just as you'd expect of a space-explorer, you're bound by your suit's resources and whatever you can harvest out in the wild. Whether it's hot or cold, these planets can take things to the extreme in a heartbeat, meaning you should always be keeping an eye on your suit's Thermal ability ticking down. Recharged by simply escaping harsh climes and taking shelter, your internal life support systems need a little TLC – albeit not quite as frequently. Various Isotopes found in the field can recharge both, as can more potent, crafted items, too. But most of what you'll use to craft such items can be used to conjure up many others.
While your Exosuit is more or less unphased by your rocky arrival, your ship is certainly not. Pull your typical shooting button/key and you'll whip out your 'Multi-Tool'. While the impact has rendered it into more of just a 'tool', its main feature – the Cutting Laser – still works just fine. And that's all you'll really need to get things back up and running. Isn't that convenient?
More or less everything you look at in No Man's Sky can be mined and/or reduced into a worthwhile resource. If you've been studying your periodic table, you'll know what we're talking about. Run out there, hover your gaze over something like a rock, tree or freaky plant-type shape and you'll be presented with a small pop-in window telling you of what's in there, and how it can be obtained. Most will be received by holding down your fire button to mine it until it explodes, while others may require specialist equipment – like an upgraded Mining Laser, protective gauntlets or a Haz-Mat Suit. Some others, like Thurium, can simply be picked with your standard Action button (usually E on a keyboard, X for an Xbox controller or Square for a PlayStation pad.)
To begin fixing up your goods, you're going to need a few things. Look at the ground and you'll come across Iron deposits frequently and easily. Extract around 25 Iron from whichever rocks you can find, and harvest 50 Carbon from foliage. With that in hand, you can repair both your Scanner and Analysis Visor from the Multi-Tool page of your Inventory page. This means you can use binoculars to examine, identify and name plants, rocks, and animals for cash (Credits) and scan to have nearby materials flag up on your HUD – minor materials like Carbon and Iron won't show up on this, though, it's reserved for less common elements.
Note: Your mining laser can run out of charge if used too much. For this reason, it's smart to keep certainly Isotopes (like Carbon) on hand for a quick re-charge. You can always punch plants/rocks for materials in an emergency.
Fixing Your Ship
Across every planet, you'll have come across crates both big and small. Tapping into these are sometimes as easy as pushing a single button, others need a few materials to bust open and some simply ask that you take some rusty scrap off their mechanisms. Either way, you'll find anything from minor materials and isotopes to artifacts favored by certain otherworldly tribes. Pick up everything you find. You'll likely need the money.
If you're in a hurry to leave, you'll need to whip your ship back into shape. With the impact shutting off both its Launch Thruster and Pulse Engines, you're pretty much grounded. Thankfully, materials found on every planet will be more than capable of patching things up.
The First Problem
Finder rarer materials like Herdium and Zinc in larger amounts require a little extra help by way of the Signal Booster. Open up the Build menu whenever possible and construct this marvel to have it pinpoint the location of these useful materials.
Both can be located just fine with your normal scan tool, but the large deposits highlighted by your standard scan aren't too precise. Just make sure you craft one or two Power Gels to keep your life support systems topped up on the journey, and save any Shield cells for when there's no cover to refuel your suit's thermal shielding out there. It's a harsh world.
Reach for the stars
With your systems all up and running, you're more or less done with the basics of mining and surviving. No Man's Sky scatters materials all over the show, and while they're easy to find, managing their many uses is the key to your success. If you've just used the brunt of your iron or plutonium on fueling your ship, you might not have time to top up your life support in a pinch. Once that drains out, it's a real face for survival. Always put your suit first.
That being said, once you're done on your first planet with your ship's core systems humming away, top up your Thruster with plutonium, ram some Iron into the booster and take off.
As you're reaching the edges of the planet's atmosphere, you'll naturally begin to speed up. Likewise, you'll notice your ship slows down as you approach the ground. Hold your boost button to travel across the surface of planets, and cruise once you're closing in on your destination. When out in space, however, things are so far away you'll need to put that booster into overdrive – hence the Iron. Hold A & D together on a keyboard while in orbit (or your two top triggers on a game pad) and you'll begin to travel at some ridiculous speed once the countdown ticks through. You're on your way to track down a mysterious signal, and scanning while up in space should pinpoint its location.
Once you're locked onto your target, it's time to fly for a while. If you notice your booster burning out of fuel, use your ship's guns to shoot down the asteroids usually filling your peripheral vision as you fly. These act as a nearly endless supply of Iron, ensuring you're never left stranded out there.
Approach your desired planet, skirt the atmosphere for the location of the signal waypoint and initiate the landing sequence to touchdown. If you've struggled to land a ship in similar games, it's as simple as tapping a button in No Man's Sky.
The Worlds Are Your Oysters
Tracking down this infernal signal is something you'll be doing for a while yet. It'll take you on a bit of a wild goose chase. Being part of the game's main story, you're really not obliged to entertain it until you really want to. And for that, we'll begin to wrap things up.
Soon after wrapping things up on your second planet or third planet, you'll come across an alien in need of a little pick-me-up. Throw some Carbon into his exosuit and he'll reward you with a 'blueprint' telling you how to craft a Hyperdrive for your ship - necessary for traveling even further distances; like neighboring solar systems.
To get one, however, you're going to need some cash. And the best way of managing that is to sell what you've been picking up. Selling these to any old vendor or Galactic Trade Terminal should net you the cash needed for the Dynamic Resonator. If you don't have 200 Heridium sitting around your ship, feel free to pick up what you need from the Galactic Trade Terminal while you're there. Then, craft your Hyperdrive and slap it onto your ship.
From there, it's a simple matter of fueling that blasted thing, too. Needing the rare anti-matter for each use, your first Hyperdrive exercise should lead you to another signal source. Clearly baiting you into something, the aliens on the next planet will conveniantly gift you with the blueprint to forging your own anti-matter.
Whether you choose to travel the far reaches of space with this tech or not is completely up to you. But for now, you're well equipped to go wherever you want to go. Watch out for sentinels, keep an eye on your life support systems and keep mining those Exotic goods. If you need any more help, there's a pretty well pieced together in-game help menu that should help you on your way.
Oh, but just to prove that it is now possible to find a friend in No Man's Sky, it's still a rare spectacle. Let IGN take you there.