The black hole was alarmingly close. It was an arresting if slightly terrifying sight, with an attractive blue aura surrounding a harshly defined circle of darkness. Though No Man's Sky's black holes offer some of the most striking (and perilously inviting) views in the game, my curiosity got the better of me just before I flew in, and I instead ducked underneath it, heading for the lone planet beyond.
Unfortunately, my curiosity wasn't really rewarded, as although it was probably the greenest planet in the whole game – literally – there wasn't much else to write home about. I found a drop pod with a suit upgrade in it, which was nice, I guess.
As I made my way back into space, pirates descended on me, aggressively chasing me down for my ample supplies. I'd already made it fairly close to the black hole, but they were cutting away at my shields, giving me no choice but to fight back if I wanted to stay alive. Somehow, with my meagre weaponry and some swift shield recharging, I made it. Victory in space battles was all too rare; I desperately needed to upgrade my weapons, or better yet, my ship. Onward and upward. It was time to see where the black hole would take me.
One trippy warp speed flight later, and I was a long way from that ultra green planet. The black hole had taken me 1696.5 light years closer to the centre, a distance roughly ten times as far as each jump I'd made before. These black holes were some impressive short cuts, then, but it still hadn't made much of a dent in the ludicrous distance to the centre of the galaxy.
Oh, and my photon cannon was busted from the trip, too. This wouldn't have been too much of a problem, but the system the black hole spat me into was playing host to a hectic space battle around some freighters. With my tail between my legs, I pegged it to the space station to sell some stuff, upgrade my suit, and fix my ship's main weapon. While I was there, I decided to see what ships would turn up, and whether they were very expensive. As it happened, they were either super cheap rubbish, or extortionate uber-ships. I'd have to save up some more pennies, and so it was on to the planets to see what I could scavenge.
The first planet I came to was a radioactive dud. Aside from some dreamily colourful skies and some interesting flora, I couldn't find much of a reason to stick around. The second planet wasn't much better, although it did feature some river-like bodies of water, which I'd not seen before. I should also probably say at this point that, on both of these planets, I did find some outposts with aliens inside, but I'd gotten to a place in the game where every blueprint offered was a duplicate.
I wasn't having much luck with the planets in this system, but I spotted one way further out than the rest and wondered if it'd be worth the trip. I'm nothing if not an optimist.
It seemed that the third time really was the charm; I'd finally found a planet worth staying on for more than five minutes. The sentinels were described as "frenzied", which could only mean one thing: there was something on this planet worth having. A quick scan revealed one or two gravitino balls in my vicinity, and so off I went. There weren't a lot of them to collect, but I was glad to at last be working towards a new ship. I'd gotten pretty far on a 22-slot ship, but it was definitely time to think about upgrading. My suit was far more advanced, and it just didn't feel right that I was able to hold more cargo on my person than in my vehicle.
With my suit full of gravitino balls once again, I jetted out to the space station to cash in and see if I could afford anything decent. It was quite tranquil, watching ships filter in and out of the space station, going about their business. Every now and again, one I liked the look of would land inside and I'd see how much they wanted for it, and each time, they were just outside my budget. I had some more saving to do.
I decided to pick out one last planet to investigate before I moved on, just in case I was missing a doozy. It was another radioactive world, this time teeming with life, but otherwise pretty empty. The black hole had sent me to one of the least interesting systems I'd come across. Some of the wildlife was worth seeing, though, such as one of my favourite creatures I'd discovered: a large, cumbersome thing held impossibly aloft by miniscule wings. It was laughably ridiculous, and I couldn't not get a picture. I named the species Heimlich after the inexplicably German caterpillar/butterfly from A Bug's Life.
I popped back out into space and entered the galactic map. When you play No Man's Sky for a length of time, it can be hard to remember just how unfathomably large the game is. For all of its flaws, it's pretty difficult to argue against the technical achievement of creating a digital universe of this scale, especially from such a small amount of people. I wandered about the map for a while, thinking about all of the places I'd seen, and more interestingly, all of the places I hadn't. Which way to go? The Atlas path I'd begun last time was tempting, as I was curious to see what it all meant. I could've followed the path laid out for me to the centre of the galaxy, but it seemed so rigid and limiting when there were so many other places to go.
I really wanted that new ship, though. This game was always going to be a slow burn, and if I really was going to see the centre, I wanted to do it in style. I picked a system at random, waved goodbye to Heimlich, and set off into the cosmos once again.