This August marks five years since exploratory sci-fi sim No Man's Sky's release, and developer Hello Games says it has "a lot planned" for its fifth anniversary year - with celebrations starting today, 17th February, in the form of the new Companions update.
Companions is all about pets, and finally gives No Man's Sky's menagerie of weird and wonderful procedural wildlife some much-expanded functionality - with fearless explorers now able to tame, breed, train, and even speak to the creatures they meet.
Once a player adopts a creature it will accompany them on their adventures, travelling by their side. These companions can be petted, fed, and played with, and will react to other Travellers in different ways, based on their unique personalities - defined by their species and ecosystem. Creatures can even transmit their thoughts to players, which are translated and sent directly to their internal communication channels via a "neural harness".
Beyond companionship, creatures can be trained to perform a range of useful tasks, including scanning for resources, identifying hazards, unearthing buried treasure, providing light, hunting dangerous fauna, even mining for minerals.
Additionally, properly nurtured companions will lay eggs to hatch and raise into full-grown adults, and the Space Anomaly's new Egg Sequencer can genetically modify eggs into even more exotic species. It's possible to trade the most interesting results with other players too.
No Man's Sky's Companions update also brings customisable accessories and decals that can be used to give pets a distinct look, and, as detailed in the accompanying patch notes, there are significant improvements to load and warp times for PS4 players too.
"This proves to be a very exciting year for No Man's Sky," concludes Hello Games, "and we're excited to show you what else we have planned on the roadmap."