Oh by the way, "quintillion" is a real thing. It's a number with 18 zeroes. I believe it's derived from the Latin for "a fuck ton."
As the game begins, you wake up on a planet next to your crashed ship. To get off of this planet and continue your journey towards the center of the galaxy–ostensibly the goal of the game–you've got to fix your ship and its hyperdrive. And that's pretty much it. There are no "quests" per se beyond fixing your ship and traveling to another solar system. You are on your own to do whatever you want, and the game never really "ends", for once you reach the center of your galaxy you can simply zap to another one. Good luck, traveler.
my starting planet
Everyone's journey will be completely different, but the pieces of each journey are much the same. There will be survival involved, whether it's simply patching up the wear and tear on your exosuit or replacing the depleted shields that protect you from a planet's harsh environment. You'll be crafting–there's a lot of crafting, and you know how crafting can be in games. You want to craft item A, which is made by combining items B and C. So you have to craft those first, but you find that Item B is made by combining items D and E...and so on. It can be a pain to juggle all the materials necessary–including minerals mined and found–with your limited starting inventory space.
I lucked out with my starting planet. It was temperate and teeming with flora and fauna and resources. I spent my entire first session on that one planet! Given how much exploring you'll do, you be making discoveries, from endemic species to outposts and ruins. You can rename animals (and planets and star systems) if you want and upload them to the galactic database. A friend named one weird-looking thing "Tippy Toes Rude AF TBH", so if you should ever find the planet he was on, look out for that because it was mean. You may come across crashed ships that you're welcome to repair and take for your own. You may find monoliths or ruins that impart a bit of history of an alien species, which will aid you in learning different galactic languages.
This is Stripy Pal
Likewise with the animals I've encountered. There's Stripy Pal up there. I had a massive, floating space crab follow me for a while after I fed it some iron. I was attacked by a herd of pissed off, bouncing space pineapples.
You can't tell size here, but this thing was the size of like five Buicks
On the flipside of all of that, some people have started the game on Planet Clusterfuck, with limited resources and toxic environments, where they can't enjoy much because they're simply trying to survive. I can see how this might start your journey on a total downer and.
It's possible to make a beeline for the center of the galaxy with only brief stops for refueling, or you can explore every planet and moon you encounter along the way. It is total freedom, and for now I'm having a blast. I've never been able to resist a question mark that pops up on the radar, and I'm always curious about what may be lurking over the horizon. No Man's Sky is the ultimate "the journey is the destination" game; it ain't gonna be for everybody. It might be for some people for one or two sessions. For me, for now, it's pure space delight. Onward! Only 17,999,999,999,999,999,992 planets to go.