Venture off to the great unknown in No Man’s Sky.

6 things I’ve discovered playing No Man’s Sky

The vast sandbox game is hot as a newborn star right now – and unlike anything else out there. The experience is so novel you might have to recalibrate your expectations of gaming, so here are six things to bear in mind

To say No Man’s Sky is ambitious is a galactic understatement. The massive video game (for PlayStation 4 and PC) places you in the role of space explorer, seeking out uncharted galaxies and unknown forms of wildlife.

The reason for the hype revolves around procedural generation, a process where the game employs algorithms to create the solar systems, planets and inhabitants at random. Developers at Hello Games have suggested no two players will share the same adventure.

Having uncovered several galaxies and explored multiple planets, here’s what I’ve learned playing No Man’s Sky so far:

1. This game is purely about discovery

It starts with the player near their ship, depleted of resources. As you wander, you discover the tools at your disposal, such as an exosuit, a jet pack and a mining laser you can later outfit with technology to turn it into a weapon. Not that you’ll use it often, but it’s at your disposal. The big draw of No Man’s Sky is exploring. You learn more about the planet you visit, the resources at your disposal and the life (or lack thereof) populating a planet. Players have a scanner to determine what lies on the planet, from alien life to abandoned shelters. There’s also an analysis tool to identify plants and animals. Players can upload their discoveries to the game’s online servers to earn credits, which can be used to buy items at trade stations or pick up new mining tools or ships.

2. You can rename everything

Seriously. Planets, solar systems, animals, plants – pretty much anything you discover can be renamed. I encountered a solar system with red skies and chose the clever name of Reddy McRed. That’s why I’m paid to write stuff, folks.

3. That galactic map is intimidating

Remember when we thought worlds portrayed in video games like The Witcher and Fallout were massive? They seem microscopic in comparison, and there’s no better reminder of this feeling than visiting the galactic map. When players fire it up, they view countless starlike dots representing solar systems. Each solar system has multiple planets and space stations of varying sizes. And there are hundreds and hundreds of these dots on the map. If you’re a video game completionist, this game will vex you.

4. You will never have enough space for gear

The player’s exosuit and spaceship have slots for storing technology and materials. There are precious things such as Gek Charms and Fascination Beads players exchange for credits, as well as resources such as iron, plutonium and titanium to bolster your exosuit and fuel your ship. Those materials can also combine to forge new technology, such as warp cells to fuel your hyperdrive, which lets you travel between solar systems. Resource management is as important a part of No Man’s Sky as exploration. You will constantly fight to find room for stuff.

A scene from No Man's Sky.

5. At times, it doesn’t feel dangerous enough

There was a visit to a water-dominant planet where No Man’s Sky seemed to show the most potential. I found an abandoned building deep down in the planet’s ocean, which means swimming to the bottom to investigate. When I hit the bottom and realised there was no space to replenish my oxygen supply, panic set in. I raced to the surface with no oxygen and barely any health, pushing through with my jet pack for life-saving air. This game needs more moments like this, where the course of exploration can turn treacherous.

6. The appeal of the unknown

There are times when this game can feel boring. There’s only so much plutonium mining one person can handle. Yet it’s the mystery that keeps tugging at me. What’s out there I don’t know about? Is there a cool animal species I have yet to discover, or an alien race to help me learn more about this universe? Frankly, everything I’m writing now could change with even more time exploring, because there’s just so much to discover. That’s really what No Man’s Sky is about: venturing off into the great unknown.