No Man’s Sky developers Hello Games are back from outer space with a metric tonne of new features thanks to their new ‘Foundation’ update. Of these updates are two new playing styles: There’s Creative mode, which acts much the same as the creative mode in Minecraft, except this time you have all of time and space to play with rather than two square miles of field and desert. And Survival mode, which ramps up the difficulty, makes resources crazy hard to find and pops a neon lunch sign on top of your head visible to every living creature within a fifty mile radius.
But is it THAT difficult? I strapped myself in - then unstrapped myself for forty minutes while the update installed - and decide to play Survival mode to see what all the fuss was about.
I awoke to find myself on an ice planet which boasted, according to the game, copious foliage and crisp weather. In fact crisp was putting it mildly since it was the middle of the day and 50 below freezing. First thought, “blimey this isn’t actually bad.” I’d heard tales of people spawning in pools of acid rain but weather aside my situation wasn’t all that terrible. There was even a little base where I could escape the cold which, upon closer inspection also contained the plans for a grenade launcher and a cashpoint which cheerfully dished about 1,500 units. I also discovered that my jetpack was still working. Not quite the perilous battle of man vs nature battle I was expecting.
My first job, so the objectives menu told me, was to collect enough iron and carbon to fix all my broken kit but luckily right outside my cabin door was enough iron to fix everything. Mining it took a little time though since ‘Baby’s first mining tool’ was about as useful as a teaspoon. Not that it mattered, whenever it got a bit cold I just ran back inside my hut and waited for my space trousers to thaw out and then went back to work. I found the carbon that I needed even easier to find since every organic lifeform is basically carbon anyway.
Suit and scanner fixed it was time to find my ship but I was in for my first shock.
Maybe it was the unquestioning ease of the initial experience that suckered me in because as I sprinted towards my ship, a mere ten minutes away on the radar, I realised that night had fallen causing the temperature to fall to a blistering minus 90. “Crisp indeed” I thought as I shivered my way back to my space cabin watching my breath frosting the inside of my helmet.
It was then I had my second shock. Thermal protection and life support power are two different things. The former regenerates when you cool down or, in my case, warm up. The latter runs out whenever you move so any attempt to make it back to the cabin was doomed to failure without adequate fuel reserves.
In a desperate move to stave off death I used the last of my mining laser’s juice to burrow a small cave in the side of a big blue rock. I crawled inside as, one by one, my suit’s various systems shut down and, for the first time, I felt something. Not quite fear, more desperation. There I was, huddled in a self built tomb on the face of an alien world as my life support systems shut down.
Then my visor froze over and I died.
I respawned back at the camp with a newfound respect for the cold and more determined than ever to get off the icy prison. After mining enough resources to fix my scanner (again) I decided that fuel for the life support was going to be priority. If I wanted to escape I was going to be playing the long game. For no other reason than the scanner wasn’t picking up anything useful between me and the ship I decided to trek in the opposite direction. Slowly and purposefully I picked my way through the alien shrubbery not wanting to sprint or jet pack since both of those would drain my precious life support system too quickly.
In doing so I found myself appreciating the scale of the world around me. Not being able to run or fly meant that I was able to appreciate the intricacies of the surrounding environment. I found I was only able to go in one direction for so long because, like an invisible leash, my thermal support kept yanking me back to base to warm up. I was about to set out again when night set in, bringing with it a harsh dip in temperature. Another long stretch staring out into space waiting for daylight.
During the night I saw my first creature, a small dog/stegosaurus hybrid that sniffed around the door off my base but scarpered when I moved forward to get a better look. As I watched it wander out of sight I was once again hit with a profound sense of loneliness. Staring up into the deep orange sky I saw one bright star.
Was there another player stuck there staring back?
I had my first real win on my third day when, while trekking gingerly across some mountains, I found some tiny plutonium crystals and a collection of red flowers, the spores of which could power my spacesuit. I jumped for joy. I was in business. A bit of Matt Damon-esque DIY later and I had recharged the life support machine and crafted a shielding shard to power the thermal protection. Hazar!
My joy was AGAIN short lived though as I realised just how quickly the thermal protection ate through power. I started to run towards a large blue rock, the same kind I’d burrowed into last time. I made myself a cave and stayed put while my trousers thawed out again. And so it went on, trekking from cave to cave worshiping every plutonium crystal or weird red flower like it were milk from God’s own teat.
Eventually after four straight hours of playing I was there. My ship...floating about ten foot off the ground due to a graphics glitch but it was my ship alright. It took me another hour or so find everything I needed to fix that as well but by the time I got the engine going I realised I’d had more fun in the past five or so hours of survival mode than I had done in the several weeks I’d been playing the original game.
Playing survival mode forces you to actually think like an astronaut, teaching you to enjoy but also respect each blade of alien grass. In terms of gameplay it was easily the most immersive experience I’ve had with No Man’s Sky since it came out. I highly recommend you give it a go.
Have you picked up No Man's Sky again? Let us know in the comments!