No Man’s Sky: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Grind

I’ve been wanting a reason to get back into No Man’s Sky for a long time now, and I see no greater reason than space pirates. I love pirates. Space pirates, Golden Age pirates, pirating movi- just anything pirate-adjacent really. My step dad used to tell me he was Long John Silver before he met my mother. His name was John and he wore longjohns to bed, so the dots all connected. Turns out he’d bent the truth and was actually in the merchant navy, but still, my love of pirates remained.

Because of my desire to go to space, join a pirate guild, and start robbing people, I was annoyed at anything in No Man’s Sky that wasn’t that. Fixing my ship? Boring. Scanning rocks? For nerds. Just get me into the great unknown and let me terrorise all those merchant freighters, I wanna catch me a whale.

Like many sandbox games, No Man’s Sky has a few tutorial levels that teach you the basics of how to craft, gather resources, manage your tools and health, and also, build bases. Why, in a game set in a near infinite galaxy would I ever want to put down roots? I want to be a marauder hurtling from one solar system to the next, stopping in space stations to sell my loot and then getting back among the stars. I don’t want to be a scientist. I don’t want to be afarmer. I want to be a pirate.

I hated every second of learning how to construct walls and building a teleporter. It didn’t help that I spawned on a planet with frequent fire storms that forced me to spend ages looking for sodium to recharge my hazard protection with. It just felt like the antithesis of what the game was supposed to be about. I’m interested in exploration, not colonisation.

When I finally managed to get into space for the first time it was amazing. Ripping through the atmosphere and bursting out into the expanse of the cosmos was thrilling – everything I’d wanted it to be. I did the next couple of mandatory missions and was quickly forced back to my base to build more shit I didn’t care about. Oh, and this time, when I landed I ran out of launch fuel for my thrusters and couldn’t find any uranium.

I was frustrated. I felt like the game was getting in the way of my fun. I was literally being grounded. I looked up the recipe for launch fuel and fortunately, it’s a simple one. As I gathered the resources I needed to make some I realised I may as well make a bunch of the stuff now so I didn’t run into this issue in the future. As I was exploring, breaking down rocks and searching for dihydrogen, something clicked.

The sun crested over the horizon and shone through the neighboring planet’s rings and I just watched it for a minute or so. I wouldn’t have seen that if I hadn’t wandered so far afield due to my grinding. Even on the fire storm ridden hell hole I was trapped on, there was wonder and beauty to be found. I soon realised that a lot of the grinding was fairly mindless and actually offered a nice reprieve after a day’s work. I’d just pop a podcast on and get on with progressing the story, charting flora and fauna as I went, hoping for more moments like the sunrise I saw previously.

Since accepting the gameplay loop I’ve found alien monoliths, sentinel guarded research posts, downed freighters – every pirate has to start somewhere – and small settlements. I may not be a pirate yet, but I’ve learned to love the grind and enjoy the galaxy as I save up enough credits to turn my little ship into the fiercest fighter the stars have ever known.

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