After quite a few hours on Survival I think there is certainly a fair amount of grind, but it gets better.
In the beginning it is fun to go hunt the resources you need, as venturing away from shelter is quite a risk. After a while, though, you figure out what the bare minimum to keep going is and it starts getting repetitive. For me, everywhere I landed I tried to gather as much iron and plutonium as I could (to keep my shields up during the very frequent space battles and to make sure I could always take off again), and I was starting to feel a little worn out. Even if it feels great when you find a new ship or multi-tool you can afford, that gets old quick and it’s not enough of an incentive to keep playing.
The updates are a complete game changer, however. I finally found a planet that does not want to kill me all the time, so I set up camp. Now I have a place where I can comfortably gather resources and then go on exploring. The ability to teleport to any station you’ve visited is essential to that, of course. When I heard they’d added base-building I though it clashed with the spirit of the game, but now I see it makes complete sense. It doesn’t stop you from exploring. Now, every step forward towards your destination is a small journey, and your home planet is a place for you to adequately get ready for it.
The exocraft makes the resource gathering much, much easier. And not only that. To me, it changes the way you experience the terrain. You get to see how varied the land can be in one planet, resulting in a much more satisfactory exploration experience. Exploring these worlds on foot, with a permanent strain on your livelihood, is just impossible. You don’t pay attention to the scenery. You’re just on the lookout for plutonium, thamium9 and whatever else keeps you alive on that planet. And then there’s the sentinels. And then a spider wants to eat you. And then a storm comes and you die because you are more than 50 meters away from any shelter. That stops being fun quickly.
Now I understand why so many people were so disappointed when the game came out, and put it down after a while even if they were into the overall premise. Had it not been for the base, exocraft and the possibilities they bring, I think I might have done the same by now. But now I must say I’m thrilled to go on. I’ve played more hours than I can admit without shame, and I think I’ll happily double that number during the coming weeks.