I’m an off-again, on-again No Man’s Sky player. The game is kinda built for that. Massive new updates hit the cosmic journey sim what seems like every other week. This often leads me to boot it up again, starting a new save each and every time, to check what’s new while reminding myself how its exploration and base-building actually work. No Man’s Sky “Expeditions” make me think I’m not alone in that.
Introduced last year, these limited-time missions aren’t just good excuses to start new save files: they actually require it. Each event starts you off on a new planet, with unique objectives separate from the main game. These often overlap with stuff you’re always doing in No Man’s Sky (scanning aliens, mining for minerals, building factories, etc.). But every Expedition starts on a particular planet. That means Hello Games can tailor the quests to unique obstacles which change the usual loop of play.
The one I tried over our holiday break — my first-ever Expedition — began on a planet with very little visible Ferrite, which usually one of the most common and ubiquitous building materials in the game. This forced me to start exploring caves and to build a Galactic Trade Terminal (so I could buy Rusted Metal to refine into Ferrite) early on. I normally never need to worry about money or spelunking in No Man’s Sky. Much less this early in a run. This time, however, these were my only routes off the toxic rock where the Expedition took place.
The sense of being completely lost again, not just in menus but in the structure of the game’s galaxies altogether, was astounding. It was the most fun I’ve had in the game in years. Now I find myself craving more and bigger Expeditions — almost completely disinterested in the more predictable cycle of mining, building, and flying I’ve unlocked for my efforts. Every Expedition converts into a normal save when you finish, you see. So at least now I’ve also got a head start past the usual early game.
Perhaps the most notable Expedition was the (sadly no longer available) one that awarded the Normandy SR-2 from Mass Effect as a frigate for your in-game fleet. I’m a bit miffed I missed it not once, but twice. Hello Games has been rotating previous Expeditions back into the game for two weeks apiece since late last year. Today marks the start of the last “revisited” quest chain: the “Emergence” Expedition. It’s also your last, best chance to play the most interesting stuff in the game. At least until the studio puts out more, new Expeditions. The reward this time isn’t a fancy crossover ship, but every Expedition includes exclusive prizes that unlock across all present and future save files.
This time? You get a fuck-off huge sandworm you can summon as a companion and ride. Plus a few more goodies.
Those prizes and access to the time-limited missions, where it looks like you purge cosmic tentacles summoned by a worm cult, are the best reason to play No Man’s Sky right now. Even among the never-ending parade of quality-of-life improvements and other, newer content. There’s still quite a lot I’d like to see fleshed out in the game. But these kind of bespoke survival experiences make me care enough to stick around long enough to actually see those future updates take shape.
The only bummer is that these fleeting events are… fleeting. I’m not a huge fan of FOMO as incentive to play live games; it’s one of the reasons I’ve fallen off Destiny 2 of late. Despite the fact that it’s mostly a cosmetic, I’m still kicking myself for missing the Normandy twice. My work schedule just never allowed for it. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance through very little fault of my own. Though that one is a special case, thanks to its crossover status with a massive publisher’s IP. I suspect Hello Games will find a happy medium for cycling through past Expeditions once the team builds up a deeper bench. Only time will tell, however, since the indie studio usually releases its major updates as surprises.
In the meantime, I have a big worm to finish saddling. And it’s some of the most fun I’ve had with No Man’s Sky since its almost total overhaul nearly four years ago.