Exploring one of No Man's Sky's new synthetic planets

I've been tooling around No Man's Sky a bit since the last update, mostly aimless exploration, jumping from solar system to solar system and landing to harvest enough plants and rocks to jump to more. I've been low on Thamium9, the gunk used with antimatter to craft warp cells, which I can never seem to find a sizable supply of. Thamium9 appears in scattered plants in small amounts that need to be hand-picked, and also in certain asteroids, but I always seem to be fresh out. The wiki informs me a good place to look is on barren planets, so I've been keeping an eye out for one.

While scanning a gray, distant planet called Elfannovi Umvel, which is described as an airless planet, I realize I can faintly make out what looks like a series of hexagons covering its surface. If it weren't for the sunlight glinting off the hexes, I may not have even noticed.

I jump toward it and the closer I get the better I can see this this isn't just a typical planet (well, each planet is procedurally generated, so technically they're each unique and thus not typical, but you get what I'm saying.) I've found one of No Man's Sky's new biomes. The big hexes give way to smaller and smaller ones as I approach and enter its atmosphere. It kind of looks like the planet is covered in solar panels.

Landing and wandering around, I don't see any signs of activity beyond the usual sentinels slowly hovering around performing their lonely duty of stopping players from quickly gathering rocks so they can get back to having fun. The synthetic plants, when scanned, are categorized as flora, and there are occasionally some hovering, slowly spinning hexes made of iron that can be harvested as well (there are also a few standard alien plants here and there). 

One thing of note is that scanning the synthetic plants and hexes doesn't pay you credits the way scanning organic plants and creatures does. I'm not sure if that's an interesting detail or just a bug. I'm feeling positive today so I'm going to go with interesting.

Flying over the planet's surface, my scanner picks up absolutely nothing for long minutes, and I don't see the usual dusting of outposts, crashed ships, language stones, monoliths, or anything else that requires investigation. Eventually, though, after landing to take a walk, I spot something in the distance. It's a structure, a large and metallic slowly spinning circle.

It turns out to be a terminal, which when activated, gives me a drizzling of text. After taking off again, I begin finding these terminals all over the planet. Most don't show up in scans, but having found the first one they become easy to spot.

They appear, for the most part, to be an AI that has been busy pondering various scenarios, and much of the text sounds like wargame simulations (one describes a hypothetical conflict between the Gek and Vy'keen). Sometimes the text has something to do with me (or you), the traveler, and some are musings about Atlas, life, and death. The planet, or whatever this is, appears to have had a lot of time to think.

One mystery, perhaps the most important one, I solved myself: yes, you can fly your ship through the rings. They don't transport you anywhere, but flying a spaceship through a big metal alien ring is still cool and if I had my own spaceship I would definitely do it as often as I could.

Another thing I discovered: at one point I landed near a terminal and found it was located next to a small cave. The cave's interior didn't appear synthetic at all: it was rocky with 'tites and 'mites and the usual procedurally generated clumps of alien plant life. So, it appears this planet isn't entirely artificial at all, but just covered by a layer of synthetic hexes.

I spent a couple hours just zooming around the planet, looking for more clues about what any of this means, and found probably a dozen or so terminals, always accompanied by vague text briefings, save beacons, and loot crates, but that's about it. I'm a little disappointed there weren't artificial creatures on the planet as well: some of those alien tigers with deer legs and cow heads and bird wings, only constructed from cables and solar panels, might have been cool to find. If you've found anything interesting on a hex planet, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.