As I continue to attempt to justify to myself abandoning all notions of spare time in order to play more No Man's Sky [official site], here's the second entry in a diary trying to get to grips with how it has its claws in me. This time, played while watching all of season 13 of Top Chef, a tale of the perfect planet.
One of the more compelling elements of spending an enormous amount of time with No Man’s Sky is stumbling upon a planet that offers abundance. For the most part, a new planet means dashing about scanning a few new beasties (and if they’re plentiful, seeing if you can score the 200,000 units or so for scanning enough of them), enjoying the scenery, and perhaps scouting out some crashed ships and ruined temples. You don’t hang around for long, grab-and-go, sell what you’ve found at the local space station. But then every now and then there’s a place worth staying.
However, a world of plenty comes with problems. The game is designed such that if resources abound, it attempts to make the environment more difficult to survive. I’ve found planets where Vortex Cubes line the floor of every cave, meaning a big enough inventory space lets you hoover up a ton of cash nice and quickly. Except for those night temperatures at -120 degrees, dropping to -180 when a storm rolls in. Caves provide protection, but at those temperatures being outside is incredibly dangerous. You can install cold shields, but they guzzle resources, and you’ll end up blasting through so many elements just keeping yourself from freezing to death that it becomes a balancing act.
The same is true for very hot planets, or those throbbing with radiation, and while the pay-offs can be great, the panic of staying alive can take the edge off. Or, more likely, the frequency of storms become very annoying. But, those Vortex Cubes! You can make a few hundred thousand units in a run! And this is very compelling, making it awfully hard to finally say, “Okay, I’m done, time to move on.” Which gold miner walks away from a stream while it’s still bursting with ore? But unfortunately this is a might-as-well-be-infinite supply, and eventually you’re repeating a mundane task for no goal, and that’s what real life is for.
However, the supply never feels quite enough. Vortex Cubes can be in their dozens in one cave, more than you can carry, but then the next place will have only one or two. And far more strangely, a really mad bug causes them to reappear where you took them from, but be incorporeal, disappearing as soon as you get close. This is enormously irritating when revisiting an area to collect those you couldn’t carry before, the ghost cubes pinging out of existence the moment you try to pick them up. And on top of all this, planets possessing lots of goodies tend to have the most frenzied Sentinels.
Sentinels have different aggression levels on different planets, on some only stepping in to zap at you if you go on a crazed fauna killing spree or attack them yourself. On other planets they attack on sight, and that’s often the case when the cupboards are bursting. They are an enormous irritant, buzzing around you, and if you get in a proper pickle can frustratingly kill you miles from your ship. I’m not sure anyone who’s played No Man’s Sky has said, “Gosh, the Sentinels are good!” But they’re ubiquitous and extremely annoying. (Although we’ll come to my cunning technique for dealing with them in a moment.)
Which is all to say, these gold mines are dangerous, and eventually the ratio of frustration to riches will tip over. Or perhaps just the daunting thought that there’s an entire planet of exactly the same place you’re in right now, with just as much stuff, and if you don’t walk away your family might find your skeletal corpse buried beneath cobwebs, your game wallet full of units you’ll never spend.
For the most part, that’s been the game for me - fluctuating between fleeting visits and tumultuous longer stays on more dangerous lands. Until the Goldilocks Planet.
Unfortunately that’s not the name I gave it. The planet is in fact called “Eurgh I Feel Dreadful”, named as it was while in the midst of a heavy cold. It’s in the solar system “DEATH TO HUMANS” if you happen to stroll nearby, along with other planets called “Just A Planet” and “More Bums”. (I was a lot more imaginative about 292,394 planets ago.) It seemed unremarkable. In fact, it seemed pointless on arrival:
No animals, no plants, stony ground, featureless views. Little of note. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t just take off straight away. I think I may have noticed a big shiny yellow-green Emeril rock and thought I may as well grab that - easy cash and a rare find. And then I would have noticed the next Emeril rock. Well, not a rock. A massive tower of it reaching above me and burying deep into the ground. Cor! I filled my boots.
In was sometime after that when I got hurt. I wasn’t sure how. Then looking around I saw a Sac Venom. I’d never seen one in the wild before - a pink-purple bobbly ball on the ground, which, it seems, jabs out dozens of barbs if stepped too close to. Cross plant. So much for absent flora, game. Anyway, cool! These things are worth more than Vortex Cubes!
And then I found another Sac. And another. Then hit C to scan, and surrounding me was a cloud of green exclamation marks. On the horizon, more towers of Emeril. Huh.
I filled every inventory slot with Sacs, and then rushed to a store point. Half a million units! This was crazy. And no adverse temperature, radiation, nor storms. But there was, of course, a catch.
The game is loathe to give anything away for free, and as with a few of the expensive items, plucking them from the ground will trigger Sentinels no matter how tame they are. And this is REALLY tiresome. You pick up an object lying on the ground, and two flying bastards and the weird doggish laserbeam-firing ground Sentinel teleport in.
At first I was charging around, dodging their attention, gathering as fast as I could while they tried to catch up. But it wasn’t working so well. The doggibots are pretty dangerous, and too many hits will leave your shield down, making you vulnerable. I soon realised I could take out the dog and one of the flying arseholes and then just dodge the attention of the other while harvesting, since no more spawned if any of the original gang were left. That worked, right up until the timer on that remaining Sentinel elapsed bringing in reinforcements. Really HUGE reinforcements.
The top tier sentinel is a big stompy AT-ST-like robot whose weapon fire is so powerful that it knocks you flying, and renders you immobile and dizzy for a few seconds after. It’s a pain in the bum. It makes shooting at pink spiky balls a little tricky.
Except, and here’s where this switches from rambling anecdote to super-top walkthrough guide brilliance, it turns out triggering Stompy was the best thing to do! I killed him, and his gang of flying shithead friends, and the alert rating stayed flashing on five, but I didn’t receive a message saying “Sentinel Force Deactivated”. I had reached a limbo, a post-Sentinel space. It turns out that here, I could gather as much as I liked and no more would be triggered. Hooray!
This was only thwarted by the flakiness of the game, and that I’m only playing it in short bursts between other things, half an hour here and there, now for almost a week on this same planet, which means leaving the game running in the background. And there’s some sort of memory leak bug that means after a few hours it will suddenly lose its grip and start staggering. It’s usually when I get into my ship, and everything goes slideshow, and never comes out. That means restarting the game, and that, it turns out, resets the Sentinels. But the thing is, so long as you’re near your ship in case all goes wrong, it’s not that hard to trigger a Stompy and take him out, and once again have free run of the place.
And the results have been ridiculous. Through methodical Emeril mining (the rocks are easier than the towers, which have a weird core of unminable green), and gathering Sac Venom with wild abandon, I have been making outrageous hauls. A million units a time. And then I realised I could have even more.
Why am I doing this? Because I want the biggest ship possible. So what don’t I need? My current ship to be of any use beyond hopping around this bank vault of a planet. So I’ve stripped my ship down to its barest parts, all bonus components removed, no longer capable of space travel. It’s all for storage, with its inventory slots capable of holding twice as much as my exosuit ones. I’m bringing in loads of Emeril worth over three million units a time, my balance now at almost 90m. I figure I’ll stop this insanity at 110m or so, buy a 48-slot ship, and then finally be free of this all. And it’s all thanks to the Goldilocks Planet, where everything is jussssssst right.