Freely Explore the Universe
Go wherever you want and (optionally) find your way to the center of the Galaxy. Since there are several quintillion stars and planets, this could take you a while to complete… After looking around for a while and building my base, I took a look at going to the Center. However, some math got in the way – if you look at the galactic map, you start off over 700,000 light years from the Center, and with a good Explorer class ship being able to make a bit over 1,000 light years in a single jump, you would have to take many hundreds of jumps to get there. However, there is another way, and this requires completing another story line.
The Atlas Path
This has you locate and interface with the Atlas, and for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t say much more about it, but at the end of the path you will be given the ability to ‘see’ black holes. When you enter one of these, two things happen; part of your ship’s equipment will be broken, and you will be transported many hundreds or thousands of light years – but not necessarily to the Center. I found that using the Black Holes brought me about 5-10,000 light years closer each time, and even with the ship repairs, it was faster than just continuously warping if you want to fly to the Galactic Center.
Alone Amidst the Stars
This is a story line where you try to find a ‘lost’ and frightened traveler. Again, no spoilers here, but completing the quest takes a LOT of running around, meeting and greeting aliens and so on. At the end of the quest, you can go to the Center of the Galaxy, meet with the Atlas and can choose to continue as you are or to ‘rebuild’ the universe, somewhat more to your liking if you so choose.
MAJOR HINT: If you rebuild the universe, all your bases will be inaccessible, so it is a good idea to go and delete all of them before you do so. In the ‘new’ universe, you keep all of the stuff you haul with you, including all knowledge. If you then build a Base Reclaimer, much of your prior base material will be there (recycled into its components), which can save you a lot of time if you want to rebuild. Also, whatever you placed in the Storage Containers will appear intact when they are rebuilt. When you 'rebuild', all of your equipment in your Exo-Tool and in the main section of your ship will be present but broken, so make sure you have filled up your cargo slots with everything you needed to rebuild, including a dozen (or more) Technology Modules, because these will all be damaged.
The Anomaly in Space
This is the parallel story line mentioned before in 'Awakenings'. There are also ‘community’ quests sponsored by the Gek Polo if you want some multiplayer action, but these are not mandatory.