Playing No Man's Sky without using a spaceship

After spending a week rocketing around the galaxy of No Man's Sky in creative mode to see what I could find, I thought it might be fun to play in a completely opposite fashion. I begin a new game in Normal Mode and decide that once I find a planet I like, I'll just land there, hop out, and never fly my ship again.

I find the planet of my dreams almost immediately, but the 'never fly my ship again' part doesn't quite work out. After spawning on a typically miserable starter planet I repair my starter ship, take off, and immediately spot a beautiful, temperate, peaceful moon in the same system. Once I land, I only use my ship as a cargo container for a while, stuffing it full of the resources I don't have the room for in my inventory. I build my first base, add a teleporter, then build a second base and teleporter next to a galactic terminal I find about a fifteen minutes away (on foot). Even with both base teleporters built, though, they don't activate. Apparently if you don't visit a space station first, you can't use teleporters at all. My flying days aren't over yet.

In those early hours of resource gathering and building I don't really miss using my ship, and I definitely don't miss constantly crafting launch thruster fuel and endlessly shooting asteroids to fill my pulse drive. At the same time, running everywhere, as you probably know, is a bit of a pain. With a weak-ass sprint meter and jetpack, neither of which last more than a few seconds, it's an awkward way to cross long distances. Using the melee attack + rocket boost exploit (which is apparently now an official feature since it's never been fixed) alternating with sprinting does get you around quickly, but it's still a cumbersome way to travel.

A few times I'm severely tempted to break my rule and summon my ship. Discovering the location of an area to visit and seeing the UI tell me it's a 10 minute trip on foot, or a 20 minute trip, or a full damn hour of running, while knowing my ship is sitting right there and would make my travel time a matter of seconds, is an exercise in discipline.

But crossing a planet on foot is ultimately more rewarding than skimming over it. I find so much more by stopping to peer through my visor than I would rocketing along and using my ship's scanner. My biggest problem is forgetting to carry a crafted save point and portable refiner with me. I have now crafted four of each simply because I keep putting them down and then running for 15 minutes before realizing I never picked them back up again. Then again, sometimes I do remember and wind up with several of each in my backpack, taking up extra slots in my inventory where I need to store resources. I'm a forgetful spaceman.

Spending so much time on one world also highlights the weakness of planets that only contain a single biome. No matter how far you run, you're basically going to be seeing the same plants, creatures, and landscapes over and over again, like a cartoon character running down a hallway and passing the same pictures hanging on the same walls, over and over again.

It would be cool if maybe one in a thousand planets in No Man's Sky was a superplanet of some kind, a world with multiple biomes. For truly settling down, a bit more variety on a single planet would be nice. At least I found a portal, though so far the single glyph I located will only take me to a gross, barren world. Hopefully I'll be able to open the doorway to nicer places in the future to give me a change of scenery when I really need it.

After visiting a space station to get my base teleporters working (I now have four of them), I return to my moon, though once again I discover I can't just ditch my ship forever. I need to build specialist terminals, which require specialists to operate, one from each faction. Those faction members need to be found in three different systems, so I'm off again, crafting warp fuel and visiting other stars like I promised myself (again) I never would (again). At least once I visit them I can use the teleporter to reach them from then on, but I'm still spending far more time in my ship than I want.

No Man's Sky is determined to keep me airborne. After parking back on my moon, a damn space anomaly appears in my system. I'd be happy to ignore it, but it begins sounding a klaxon. GLONK. GLONK. GLONK. GLONK. It's like when you're trying to enjoy a tranquil summer evening and someone's car alarm goes off. GLONK. GLONK. GLONK. GLONK. Irritated, I get back in the ship I'm trying not to fly, and fly it to the anomaly, where the little Gek inside demands I meet 30 aliens and report back to him. Time for more warping and chatting in space stations. 

(To be fair, NMS was originally supposed to be about inter-planetary exploration exclusively, with no base building at all, so it makes sense that it pushes me back to my ship. It really didn't have to GLONK about it so much, though.)

The game also keeps trying to drag me into a space battle. There's been a protracted fight just outside the space station in my system, inviting me to get involved every time I get near it. It's so desperate to have me shoot space pirates that when I'm standing back on my moon again (after meeting 30 aliens, the anomaly vanished) I look up and see that the battle has basically shoved its way into the atmosphere. There are even fighters skimming over my moon shooting at one another from time to time. I get it, videogame: you want me to have spaceship adventures. I'm just not interested.

Well, truth be told, I'm a little interested. As I'm dragging myself around the planet on foot, I do sometimes want to hop in my ship and go somewhere else. These 10 minute, 20 minute, and hour-long expeditions are starting to take their toll, doubly so when I forget to bring my damn refiner and save point with me, and I don't have exocraft-constructing capabilities yet so I can't do any driving. Every now and then a few ships will skim over my moon and it definitely makes me want to join them. For now, though, I'll just suck it up and keep on running.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

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.