I woke up in a daze. Staring up at the beautiful bright sky, a group of animals that look like a mix of a hippopotamus and a bird float past me. The robotic voice in my head informs me that my life support is online and I finally gain control of my little space traveler. Within seconds, a loud warning pops up on my screen as my health bar rapidly depletes. It turns out this new world of Rubha Tau is a frozen wasteland that is certainly not fit for human life. I sigh, open up the main menu, and restart the game. That was attempt 23 in my journey to find a starting planet in No Man’s Sky that isn’t trying to kill me.
For those who haven’t played No Man’s Sky since launch (me), you may not be aware of just how much this space exploration game has changed. Since its release in 2016, developer Hello Games has been steadily introducing large content drops. The game now features base building, rideable wildlife, and, in the newest update, the ability to be a goddamn space pirate. It’s this unruly profession that brought me back, as I’ve always been a fan of games that let me embrace infamy so I started up a new playthrough and…
…started on a planet that was literally raining radiation. Okay, that’s unfortunate, but I am sure if I just reset I will find a place that’s more hospitable. Once again I go through the whole opening cutscene only to discover that the next planet has extremely high toxicity levels, which isn’t ideal. Huh, well my luck is bound to change eventually. Another reset and I wake up on a planet that looks normal until I’m informed that this world is also an irradiated hellscape. Now, this is getting silly. Surely, in this universe of hundreds upon thousands of unique planets, I have to eventually spawn on one that doesn’t have some kind of hostile mechanic?
It turns out, not really. As I spent the better part of two hours attempting to start on a planet without some crippling status effect, I learned that No Man’s Sky really, really enjoys throwing new players into both the figurative and literal fire. No seriously, one of the planets I started on had volcanoes erupting around me like I was suddenly exploring The Legend of Zelda’s Death Mountain! After attempting a little over 50 times I was unable to find a single planet that didn’t have some sort of twisted gimmick that sent me running for shelter the second I was able to move.
This led to a bit of frustration, as you need a cave or building to recover your status meter before it depletes and begins siphoning off chunks of your health. Given that No Man’s Sky’s planets are procedurally generated, there were a few attempts where I would just spawn in a barren desert or a literal crater with no place to take shelter. Now, I am not against trying to test my mettle right away — I am about to be the game’s greatest space pirate after all. However, it is a little silly that the game hopes you’re smart enough to seek out a cave to hide in right away since your status meter is already almost depleted the moment you gain control.
Eventually, I gave up on my great mission to find a lovely, relaxing place to spawn on. So I decided to start on the planet of Ehrax Omega which was, surprise, utterly irradiated. Quickly seeking shelter in a nearby cafe, I began to harvest materials like sodium to refill my elemental protection meter. Only venturing out a few dozen meters around this cave, I zapped crystals, rocks, and fauna into the useful materials I needed for crafting. Slowly but surely I began to venture out just a bit more. Always seeking out sodium deposits to keep my radiation protection active so I don’t end up dead on the planet’s surface.
There’s a mad brilliance to this gameplay design. By dumping new players onto a hostile planet they need to quickly learn the fundamentals of crafting and harvesting. Sure, I would have loved to just soak in the scenery, but this opening presents a sense of urgency. So I quickly began mastering the mechanics of No Man’s Sky. From using the Mining Tool to constructing bases to refining base elements into something better, this tutorial was a crash course in how not to die if something goes wrong on another planet. I hate how clever it is, if only because I spent so much time trying to avoid this outcome.
Yet, I appreciate how Hello Games forces users to learn everything before they can really vault the first major hurdle. As much as I would have liked to begin my adventure on a beautiful paradise, the sheer sense of relief I got when I finally launched into space the first time was akin to beating a difficult boss in Elden Ring or clutching a tense match of Apex Legends. I’m sure my relaxing planet is out in that vast universe somewhere… and now I have the knowledge to find it.