What is No Man’s Sky? Tips for New Galactic Explorers
It’s finally here. After years of anticipation, hype, and fervent discussion, it’s time to take the wrapper off Hello Games’ procedural space simulation for PS4 and PC. Promising a different experience for every player who sets foot in the shared universe, No Man’s Sky‘s vastness has had players talking for years.
Since its release we’ve seen responses ranging from awe-struck amazement to lukewarm placidity, with many still waiting in anticipation for the PC release. Whether you’re not yet sold, have picked up the PS4 version, or are counting down the seconds for the Steam unlock — here’s what’s in store, as well as a few tips for first starting out.
We don’t intend to spoil the game for you. There’s nothing revealed here that you won’t discover for yourself in the first few hours of gameplay, and these tips are only meant to aid you on your journey through the universe.
Survive, Mine, Trade & Discover
Survival forms a key part of the game’s mechanic, as you must learn to adapt on alien planets with varying conditions. Fortunately, survival in NMS is nowhere near as obnoxious as we’ve seen in other, more pronounced examples of the genre .
You don’t need to eat food, drink water, or sleep, but you do need to gather resources to craft and power equipment, somewhat like Minecraft. One example is your life support, which will begin to drain as soon as you leave your ship. In extreme temperatures and hostile environments, you’ll have to contend with resistance meters which slowly drain. Caves offer some respite from the cold, while consumable flora and exosuit upgrades can help take care of other environmental hazards.
Powering your suit and ship, and crafting new items requires a lot of mining with your multitool. Simply point at an element and shoot to mine it, resources will be automatically collected as you mine them. To begin with you’ll need to repair a few important bits of equipment, but soon after you’ll be left to your own devices. As a limited inventory is a concern in the early game, you’ll want to hang on to rarer or more useful elements (like plutonium) while ditching common materials (like iron). Don’t forget to visit your inventory to teleport items to your ship, which you can do from anywhere on the planet.
The rarer the resource, the more you’ll get paid for it too. This is another reason it’s worth loading up on some of the less-common materials, especially at the start of the game where you’re going to want to upgrade your basic equipment as soon as possible. When you eventually get the opportunity to trade, you’ll notice a percentage to indicate the difference between the current rate and the galactic average. Buy low, sell high, and mine what’s in demand to really boost your bank balance. Don’t forget you can also mine in space — asteroids are a great source of Thamium9, which is used to power your ships’s Pulse Engine.
Discovery is another way of earning currency. Once you’ve got your scanner and analysis visor up and running at the start of the game, you can scan the nearby area for points of interest and materials using L3 (even from within a ship) and analyze flora, fauna, and materials by hitting L2 and pointing at an item of interest. New discoveries will be visible in the pause menu, where you can name and upload them to the Atlas for a few extra units. There’s no “upload all” button, so make sure you upload often and in small amounts to maximize your income.
It’s Not a Multiplayer Game
Lead developer Sean Murray has set the record straight that is not a multiplayer game. While there are online elements — a shared universe, where your discoveries can be seen by other players for starters — you shouldn’t go looking for other players and instead treat it like a single player game.
To be super clear – No Man's Sky is not a multiplayer game. Please don't go in looking for that experience.
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 8, 2016
It’s still unclear as to whether it will ever be possible to see other players around you, how Hello Games would implement such a feature, and whether the server overload at launch has hindered any such feature from working properly at this stage. I’ve personally spent more time in the past 24 hours with a “you have lost connection to online services” message displaying than I have online.
Pick Your Own Adventure
There’s no clearly defined “story” in NMS, little in the way of narrative, and the vast majority of players still have no idea exactly what lies at the center of the universe. You have one decision to make within a few minutes of starting your journey, before the game becomes somewhat of a build-your-own-adventure simulation which gives you the choice of what to do, how to play, and at what pace you want to do so.
Taking your time is important too. There’s no race to the middle, there are more than enough planets and systems for everyone, and your own experience is guaranteed to be different from everyone else’s on account of the procedurally-generated nature of the universe . Running before you can walk isn’t advised.
Everything is Upgradeable
The suit, ship, and multitool you start out with are disappointing to say the least, but that’s okay because everything is upgradeable. So before you get too frustrated at having to ditch your titanium in favor of some much-needed plutonium, keep in mind that you’ll be able to upgrade your suit and replace your ship and multitool through exploration, trading, and random encounters with other beings.
You’ll likely want to upgrade your suit as soon as possible, as things feel pretty cramped right off the bat. The best way to do this is by exploring planets (look for green questions marks) for drop sites and crashed ships, talking to aliens, and buying upgrades from the galactic trade network. If you spot suit upgrades for sale, these are arguably one of the best uses for your currency during the early part of the game. You’ll spend less time micro-managing your inventory, though the price increases every time you buy a slot.
In addition to being able to upgrade your suit and exchange your ship and multitool for better models (with more free slots) you can also craft upgrades on the inventory screen. These include multitool upgrades that allow you to mine faster and better offensive capabilities, suit upgrades for running faster and better resistance to extreme environments, and improved shields for your ship, engine mods, and improved weaponry.
You’ll need blueprints to build these upgrades, which you’ll discover as you explore the universe. To craft an upgrade, open the inventory, select a free slot, hold the square button and choose one. You’ll see the materials you need to craft each by hovering.
Explore & Learn As Much As Possible
One of the best ways to find points of interest and resources is using your scanner by clicking L3. Repairing this piece of equipment is one of the first things you will do, and you’ll then be able to identify resources based on an array of icons. All materials in the game are split up by type, though crafting and powering items usually requires specific elements within these categories. Learning to identify icons won’t take long, and it will make it much easier to find what you’re looking for.
You should also use your analysis visor as much as possible, accessible via L2. Simply point it at plants, creatures, rocks, and anything of interest to analyze it. Once you’ve made a new discovery you’ll be able to name it. You’ll also get feedback about the number of related species per planet, as well as any handy material properties that are hiding within.
Language stones, which look like large rocks with a round orb in the middle, will allow you to learn words so that you can better understand other species. You can also learn words during random encounters, and sometimes you’ll get to choose between a word or some sort of other gift.
Run, Jump & Fly
Get around quickly using a combination of run (R3) and your jetpack (X), both of which require a cooldown period. One tip that’s currently doing the rounds is the ability to initiate a run, then hit the jetpack and melee attack (R1) button simultaneously to launch yourself forwards. I’ve found that it doesn’t work every time, but it’s pretty handy when it does.
Fall damage really hurts in NMS, even from seemingly safe distances. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough jetpack fuel left in the tank if you’re traversing any steep cliffs or trying to get on top of a high building.
Pick Your Battles
Even with a freshly-upgraded multitool, you’re still at risk of becoming someone’s dinner. Those pink fluffy dinosaurs might look a bit useless, but by the time you’ve been cornered by three of them it might be game over. For this reason, knowing when to run away is critical to your survival.
Sentinels — essentially space cops who aren’t too keen on you plundering the universe for personal gain — are annoying, and things can quickly get out of hand if you don’t make a swift exit. The more valuable or substantial your mining activities, the more likely you are to attract sentinels. Move quickly from resource to resource, or engage them quickly then run away if you intend to fight at all.
Staying close to your ship is one good way of making an exit, but you’re not safe even when you get into space. There’s a chance you’ll encounter hostiles, which may be easy to defeat in your starter system but get far more deadly as you progress. Run away, dock at a space station, or land on a planet and live to fight another day. You’ll also want to avoid attacking any large freighters for a while, as they’ll make short work of you.
Don’t Warp Too Soon
Warping is the act of jumping from system to system via the galactic map, and though it might seem tempting to leap a little further away from “home,” it’s wiser to hold of from jumping too early. While your starter system is likely a kind place with little in the way of serious danger, things start to get more hostile the further you travel into the great unknown.
Spend some time exploring your starter planets, rather than warping the second you get a hyperdrive. You could spend some time mining and trading materials so you can afford to buy a new ship, exploring planets for green question marks to increase knowledge and meet more aliens, discovering new species and naming them, and visiting any space stations that appear in your system.
Look Out for Strange Things
Mystery and intrigue are a key part of the NMS experience, so embrace your curiosity and investigate anything that seems interesting, odd, or plain weird. Usually you’ll be glad you did. If a monolith pops up on your HUD, go to it. Strange geographical features, like glowing caves full of plutonium and large towers of Heridium can provide materials that will allow you to power and craft more items.
Venture underwater to find more points of interest, water-borne species, aquatic plant life and more. Crash sites will usually provide a small cache of supplies, sometimes upgrades, and usually a save point. Look out for “strange devices” on desks and tables, as these can heal you, recharge your shield, and provide other perks. Did you die? Make the trip back to your grave to recover any items you were carrying at the time.
You can even fly through black holes you find in space (recommended).
My first crash — a hard lock-up of the PS4 — came 45 minutes into the game on my starter planet. It wasn’t a huge inconvenience, but it hammered home the point that it’s a good idea to save your game often. You can’t just save at any point either — you have to enter your ship, use beacons to save at outposts, or dock your ship at space stations.
There’s More to Come
At this stage NMS is arguably unfinished, and I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s unplayably buggy or unbalanced. I’m talking about the fact that the developers want to put a lot more into it, and thankfully a series of free updates will add more polish and new features.
In a refreshing twist for a game of this stature, there’s no paid DLC currently planned but instead a series of free updates. In a blog post discussing the day one patch, Murray explained that the game would be getting visual updates in the form of new cloud rendering an antialiasing, as well as the ability to own space freighters and build bases:
Next up we’re adding the ability to build bases and own giant space freighters. Temporal AA and my new cloud rendering tech should be coming soon too. It will really change the game again, and enhance it visually.
What do you want to see from No Man’s Sky? And what do you think of the game so far? Leave your opinion the comments below!