She was dubbed the Tender Claw C27, and I found her upside-down and half-buried in the ground beside the final beacon of the tutorial quest. She was hardly the first ruined ship that I’d seen in the game, of course; wrecks of gigantic size were not only findable but common. But she was the first one that actually had a prompt to let me potentially climb inside.
The game gave me a choice, of course. I could claim her for my own, if I wanted, but I could also have her salvaged and simply be gifted huge amounts of currency. I forget how much it was, though; when I looked at the Tender Claw, I saw a ship that was listed as class A when I was still flying the class C starter ship. It would take work to fix her, yes, maybe even more work than I could manage, but I knew right away that there was really only one option here.
I claimed my new ship and crawled inside.
What I found inside, to my non-surprise, was a mess. Shields and weapons were non-functional, but that didn’t matter because her launch engines weren’t working either. Her entire body was replete with hull fractures, demolished bulkheads, and burnt-out circuitry. No spaces in the technology bay were usable for the mass of flaws and errors covering her. About the only part of her that was working was the pulse engine, which was (naturally) completely out of fuel.
Anyone desperate to get off of the planet would have looked at my starting skiff and compared it to the Tender Claw and immediately opted for the skiff. This was going to be a project.
Still, I considered myself fortunate. The planet I was on was technically a desert planet, but the days were not hot enough to require life support. There was ample space here for me to work. I was pretty sure I had seen a copper deposit nearby. One base computer later, I had myself a brand-new wooden shack that counted as a base for me to start working from as I refined materials and starting the arduous process of repair.
Repairing items in No Man’s Sky is a pretty simple procedure. Certain materials are needed and listed; you start off having to repair your starter ship from its own broken state. You gather the materials, refine what you need using other materials as fuel or reagents, and repeat the process until all of the necessary repair slots are filled.
Ships like the Tender Claw are randomly generated, as is everything else in the game. There’s a chance for them to spawn in places, unclaimed. Players can subsequently claim them, and then you have a new ship. It’s also randomized how damaged the ship may be; in this case, the Tender Claw spawned with extensive damage taking up most of its inventory space.
Damaged slots don’t directly connect to systems, usually. Instead, something like Rusted Circuits simply takes up an otherwise usable space. You have to repair it to make that space usable once more. While the ship already had some upgrades installed and would no doubt serve to take more when repaired, as it stood it barely had more space for storage than my functional ship.
I set to work.
Harvesting dihydrogen from crystals, copper to refine into more useful metal, and ferrite to further refine gave me the basics to start piecing the systems back together. Shields were first on the list, followed by the pulse laser; getting her up wouldn’t do me much good if she exploded the first time someone took a shot at her. It was a steady process of walking into my shack, dropping assorted materials in my portable refiners, then heading back out to pick up more resources for another round.
When the launch engines were patched back into working order, I gave a whoop. There was fuel stashed on my old starter ship, and I pulled that out to bring it into the new ship. One tank was enough to fill up her engines again. I pressed down on launch and prayed.
It wasn’t necessary, of course; this is how the mechanics of the game work. There was no real tension there. I had assembled the required things, now the game would reward me by letting the ship take off, fly, and shoot at things. If I never fixed any of the other damage in the ship, the game wouldn’t care. It had made it very clear what each functional bit of the ship would do and what penalty I had from non-functional parts (that this space could not be used). Simple and easy.
But it still had that feel of a ship that was damage as heck, barely working, but working just the same as it lurched off the planet and hummed into the sky. Which was good, because I needed materials from asteroids, and this planet happened to have rings around it I could fly into for that.
I also needed materials that weren’t near my base, but flying was much faster than walking. Salt deposits could be refined into chlorine to deal with some of the remaining damage. I found crystals and a small trading post where I could purchase some of the microprocessors I needed to repair the hyperdrive. Slowly, the array of damaged portions of the ship were shrinking.
Finally breaking atmosphere was a bit more dangerous, of course, since that meant pirates could come after me and attack. One of them finally did as I was harvesting the valuable minerals I needed, and their scan showed that my cargo hold was full of gold, platinum, and silver. Which… well, it was, I need that to fix hull breaches and busted hydraulics.
My ship had teeth again, yes, but I quickly decided that I didn’t like my odds. A roll to one side and I could see the nearest space station not far away. Thanking myself for repairing the pulse engine, I pushed it on before the pirates got within range, darting for the station and docking well before they had even opened fire. However valuable my hold might have been, it wasn’t worth attacking a space station.
As long as I was there anyway, I found that I had enough cash to pick up a wiring loom to get the launch thrusters working more efficiently. A bit more waiting, and I darted back to my base, refining a fresh group of materials and installing more repairs.
So what’s the point of all this? I talked a while back about how inconvenience isn’t the same as immersion, but I hadn’t actually talked about what immersion is. And this story provides a perfect example of what it is from actual play. You could argue that there was a certain amount of inconvenience in it, but… gathering, refining, and repairing is literally the game in No Man’s Sky. It’s what you signed up for when you installed the title.
There was no need to actually make a base by this crashed ship; I could have claimed her, flown back to my existing base, and then just summoned the ship there. But the feeling and atmosphere created something that felt like being stuck on an alien world with a largely broken ship, toiling to repair it. Even though there was never any risk of the repaired engines not launching her skyward, it felt like there was.
If I keep playing with enough dedication, of course, at some point I’l have a freighter with a hangar full of ships flying per my command, and I’ll likely have long since moved on from the Tender Claw. But for the moment? She’s a self-made treasure, still ailing from a crash and neglect, but my project to get her flying again.
She’s got it where it counts.