I'm on a quest in No Man's Sky again. Not a quest to find the center of its immense universe, nor a quest to shoot at things with a laser for minerals and whatever else. I'm on a quest to find my long lost twin. Because in No Man's Sky's procedurally generated world and newly implemented character creator, it's bound to happen somewhere.
I'm playing No Man's Sky again for the same reason why everyone is seemingly playing No Man's Sky again: I'm diving into its latest big update, Next. Following the cardinal law of video games, a patch is a big deal if it A) is a nice clean number like 3.0 or B) has its own fancy subhed, sequel-style. No Man's Sky Next has the latter, inching to only version 1.5 in reality.
And luckily, its character creator is far more robust than I anticipated. While I'm disappointed at the lack of feminine body options (No Man's Sky indeed), there's enough gender ambiguity across its five races of aliens and cosmonauts that I can sorta forgive it. You can choose your race, your face, and customize colors from a set palette. Armor and more is about the same between everyone, unfortunately, with just a few options and the same color choices. Still, I was able to replicate Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo from Daft Punk, who I stuck with for my renewed first few hours.
Even after creating that pitch perfect digital cosplay, I continued to tinker with the character creator. I made a purple alien with whiskers, a humanoid lighbulb, among other things. But then I traveled to a new space station after crafting a warp cell (thankfully, character creation is unlimited) and made someone new: a Gek—a bird-frog-alien-thing.
I tried to make my Gek cute. They have stripes on their head (I've switched from teal to fuschia to orange and still can't make up my mind) and neon orange goggles flipped open over their eyes, which I wish I could change the color of. I love my Gek. The Gek aren't particularly attractive or anything, but of all the alien and robot species, they're my favorite. Maybe it's their short stature (I can relate at 5'1"); maybe it's because they have beaks; maybe it's how they squawk at you when you pass by their NPCs. I honestly don't know what draws me to them.
When No Man's Sky was revealed, teased for infinity, and finally released back in 2016, it was built on the promise of a massive universe with unique solar systems, planets, and more for players to explore. After discovering a planet, a player could rename it; staking their claim. This was really the most authored it was at the time, since the universe is procedurally generated. In late 2016, base building and home planets were introduced, allowing players to easily travel to the planet they loved the most. In 2018, base building is now unlimited, crafting has changed (returning to the game years later, most of my inventory is now "obsolete technology").
Included in that promise of procedural generation are its aliens, spread across a few races. The Vy'keen are big and their mouths fly open like Predator's. The Gek are short and stout. Usually on space stations, you'll find that one of the species has made it its home. In the second solar system I traveled to, I traded items and currency for tidbits of language, so as to better understand them.
They had no idea of my secret intentions, obviously. I was on the lookout for a Gek that looked like me. Same stripe pattern, same snake-like eyes, maybe even goggles. With only so many interchangeable features, as proven by the character creator, I feel like I'm bound to find my almost-twin somewhere—a twin that isn't another player, as is possible now with the new addition of multiplayer.
Hence, I have made it my new mission to find my Gek twin in a galaxy far, far away. Who knows if I'll come out successful, but I've already come across a desolate planet that reminded me of another desolate planet. It had the same gray rubble, the same elements to harvest. It even had eggs I could shoot at, scaring the monsters that lived beneath the earth to emerge and attack me. I suppose that's still the downside of procedural generation: Once you've seen a little bit of it, it feels like you've seen all of it. I'm just looking forward to what fucked up deer-bird-creature I'll see on Planet One Billion and Two.
And yet, No Man's Sky Next has pulled me back in thanks to this ludicrous curiosity of mine. I know there's a twin of my Gek out there somewhere, just like how that defunct planet has probably thousands of twins, and I'll keep hunting for my destined twin. Tedious crafting and space battles be damned.