Even better than finding an interesting planet in No Man's Sky is finding an interesting system, where the planets form something of a theme. In my early days of playing, I found an Earth-like planet with a moon that looked a lot like our own (at least from space). While exploring the Next expansion, I discover another cool system. It has two planets, one of which my ship's scanner considers a 'Paradise Planet,' while the other it calls a 'Forsaken Planet.' Good and bad. Goofus and Gallant.
It seems like a nice duo to compare against one another, but then I notice a third planet further off in the distance. My scanner labels it a 'Terraforming Catastrophe'. That's a designation that's been in the game before Next arrived, but I still want to check it out. So I land and discover the saddest, shabbiest planet I've ever visited.
When I enter the atmosphere and approach the surface, it's like the color drains out of the entire game. That image above, that's not a filter. That's just how it is here. It's like Dorothy leaving Oz and going back to Kansas. Here's a short video to show you what I mean:
There are plenty of lifeless, airless, somewhat dismal planets in No Man's Sky, but this one feels much different. My first impulse is to leave, but I'm sort of intrigued by the world. Not only is it colorless, it also makes me colorless, draining the vibrancy out of my ship, my rockets, even out of my own character. It's almost monochrome, except for the water which looks brown like... well, sewage certainly come to mind. Also interesting is that unlike a lot of the darker, more morbid planets I've visited in No Man's Sky is that there's actually life here, both plant an animal.
What there isn't, however, is any joy to be found, even in normally enjoyable tasks like scanning creatures and plant life. The plants are tall and bulbous and expel clouds of fumes into the sky, which is the color of a fart (if farts had a color). Storms roll in every few minutes, not dramatic ones, just a bit of wind and rain and fog that dampen what little color there is here to begin with. I get into the habit of looking through my scanner simply because it adds some green and blue tint to the world, but the moment I stop everything is dull and gray again.
I decide to feed one of the little crab critters scuttling around just to give something on this planet a little happiness. The critter eats and the smiley face icon appears. Less than a second later he's mauled to death by another creature, which then starts to eat him. As the predator feeds on the dead crabbie, I burn it with my laser. It doesn't run away as my mining laser burns it. It doesn't even look up or care that I'm killing it. It just eats while it's dying, and then it dies. Anything to escape this planet, I guess. I feed another crab and it too is summarily killed by another predator. What the hell, man? Is happiness against the law here?
I fly around a bit more, thinking maybe I'll stay a while and scan every species, maybe even find something that appears not quite so miserable. I take a swim into toilet-water sea, finding a few drab sharks and some squids whose heads inflate to propel them around. I eventually find eight of the nine species, and head out to try to locate the ninth.
I fly around landing here and there, seeing only the same crabbies and turtle-panthers and boars and sharks, the same fart blossom plants, and not much else. I kill a few fart blossoms and no sentinels even fly over to scrutinize me. Even the extremely touchy metal guardians of galactic flora don't care about Sadworld, which is what I name the planet. Blow up whatever you like.
Half the world is brown ocean, so I check out more of the coastline and some islands. Islands are always nice, right? Even those floating in a sea of toilet water? Most of the islands on Sadworld are completely bland circles, the least imaginative kind of island you could picture. On one I find a single tree, a single crab, and a single boar. The boar promptly kills the crab. I didn't even get a chance to feed it.
One island looks just like a Google Maps indicator. It's just pointing to more brown water, though, as if to say "Want to visit? Well, this is all we've got. Toilet water, a bunch of it. It's right here. You probably don't want to visit, though. Whatever."
I finally locate and scan the final creature of Sadworld. It's half-boar, half-fish, and it's swimming in an awkward circle in the poop ocean, completely alone, which feels appropriate. I can't think of anything else to do here but leave. I climb out of the sea and pause before getting in my ship, admiring the view of the ringed paradise planet above.
Clouds immediately roll in and block it from view. Of course they do! There's no happiness allowed here on Sadworld. Not even for a moment.