For the last week, I’ve I’ve buried myself in No Man’s Sky. After discovering a number of: star systems, planets, animals, and assortment of other things, I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’ve read my previous articles on No Man’s Sky, then you’re aware that the game is big, I won’t reiterate this anymore. This is, however, what makes No Man’s Sky just so special and is possibly paving the way for games of the future, in a technical sense at least. As much as I’m enjoying my time with the game, it definitely could use a tune up with maybe a little something extra thrown in.
No Man’s Sky when summed up, is a simple survival exploration game in space. Yet, because it is so large it changes exactly how you proceed through the game, giving something most games offer, but can’t quite deliver on: A unique experience for each gamer. While everyone playing the game will be doing the same things: gathering resources, improving their ship, visiting planets, it’s the path you take on your journey “to the center of the universe” that allows for a truly unique experience.
However, I can also see why if you belong to a certain audience, this might not be the game for you. While No Man’s Sky delivers a sense of wonder on a moment to moment basis, mechanically the engine doesn’t sound too good under the hood. In my time with it, I’ve encountered a number of problems, and these having become glaringly obvious in my play time, and in the communities.
I’ve had to keep asking myself the same question all week “why do I want to keep playing this game?”, even with all of the problems I’ve encountered. Simply put, this game is amazingly chill, while scratching all the right parts of my Sci-fi nerd brain. I’ve had the game crash on me a number of times, yet, I keep booting it up immediately after. I’m not even phased. This is the exact opposite of what usually happens with multiple game crashes. Usually I would say, “no thank you, I’m done playing this game.” Here I am, returning after every crash. Seriously, I don’t know if it’s just my game, but I think I’ve had more crashes than I’ve heard anyone else encountering thus far. I’m a patient person but even this is pushing it. Yet, the secret lies in statement above, Sci-fi.
It’s the same elation I got when I first played Mass Effect, (maybe a bit to overjoyed) I had never seen anything like it. It provided something I’ve only dreamed of, to experience the feeling of being a deep space explorer. They could have even had the galaxy not be at stake and I would have been fine with it. No Man’s Sky is hitting these same notes, while providing a few different tones. The sense of scale is truly a wonder. Flying low into a planet’s atmosphere only to immediately start pulling back up, and continuing said pattern is exhilarating. Think of a rollercoaster that you control, letting you ride the stratosphere of a planet. And, because the planet is planet size you can go for as long as you like. I usually pull this maneuver if I need to get across a planet, but my destination lies on the other side.
Besides the wonder of flying through space, the game as aforementioned is quite simple. I’m not one who’s big on resource gathering in games, but I think because of the Sci-fi niche in me I’m ok with it. Gathering resources is a big cog in this game. This is something you will be doing as soon as you boot it up; it’s the basic tutorial, teaching you how to fix your ship while learning the crafting system. To craft though you need resources, a quite familiar mechanic for anyone who’s played survival games. Armed with your multi tool not only is this how you gather resources when the boots are on the ground, but it can also be modified for combat. The combination of the two variants when it comes to mining is by far the best part. Most planets you encounter will have cave systems, and these cave systems are where the resources are plentiful. If I see a cave near me at this point, instead of running to its entrance, I use my best judgement and start blasting the environment around me. Essentially, I am digging my way through the surface, either finding a cave or not. If not, no loss, it’s still fun. Switching between the two feels a little slow, but I’m sure I’ll be finding upgrades later that will fix this (I’m already rolling in blueprints at this point).
Upgrading is an essential part of everything the player does in No Man’s Sky. Making sure you have the inventory slots to not only upgrade appropriately, but also hold resources needed becomes essential. The two inventory spaces a player will be managing the most are their exo suit/ship inventory. Totaling to three different inventory’s with your suit and ship sharing similarities. All the upgrades you encounter will automatically go to that inventory space for future builds, they will not show up though until you make something. It’s also essential to put “like things” together, thus linking them in a red box showing the multiple components working in sync. If you have a jet pack upgrade build it next to your jet pack, it will give you the added boost (I couldn’t help myself.)
The inventory in all areas will start out small, It’s just a simple grind of buying extra slots for the suit, trading in whatever ship/multi tool for a better one and soon one’s inventory will have a plethora of slots available. Again, not only needing slot for upgrades, but also so carrying more resources becomes viable. Being familiar with Destinys menu system has helped me tremendously. I can see how those who aren’t familiar with it are having trouble navigating it, and don’t like that you have to hold down a button just to build something or move an item. It’s actually better than Destiny’s menu. While being the exact same, in No Man’s Sky the menus are see through allowing you to know what’s happening around you. Drones overly hostile? At least I can see them coming.
The combat is alright, but nothing to write home about. I could have even done without the combat, but sticking to its survival game roots No Man’s Sky has some creatures that can be quite aggressive (no matter how cute they look), not to mention the mysterious drones that patrol every planet.
Unfortunately, No Man’s Sky is even starting to disappoint in the wacky biology I’ve encountered from planet to planet. At first it was exciting seeing a camel’s body with weird fins and fly’s head. After having seen others screenshots, I’ve seen the exact same creatures with the most minute of variations in other people’s games. Also every creature you encounter can walk/run and that’s about it. They can’t even match the zoological variety our own planet has, and more creatures have been discovered in No Man’s Sky! It’s also weird that for entire ocean planets I’ve yet to encounter a single underwater entity…Bummer.
The drones work off the tried and true GTA formula of the five-star system, they are found patrolling every planet thoroughly. Start mining a little too much, drones are going to notice. Attacking the locals, drones will notice. Drones are apparently the present threat in this game, but I’ve yet fully discover why the exist. They have something to do with the Atlas, a path the player can follow for a certain narrative. I’ve seen only two variety of drones so far, again having yet to amp it up to full red alert, but I can barely survive three alarm drones at the moment. So I’m not going to be sticking my neck out anytime soon.
While appreciating the sense of scale flying up to a planet brings, landing and seeing other celestial bodies hanging in the sky, even planets could use a tune up. The variety is good for the moment, I’ve seen; barren waste, fields of rolling purple grass, entire ocean planets, snowcapped peaks, but even I’m starting to see a repetitiveness. Not only are the planets a bit to “the same”, what’s on the ground is too. It’s the same space stations sporting the same layout, maybe a few kooky monoliths, but other than that its bland to the taste. It would be amazing to see ringed planets, gas planets, planets that actually rotate around a star with their own axis. Sadly, these are nowhere to be found. The vistas are great when you’re looking, but planets could definitely use some variety.
Narratively, No Man’s Sky presents another slow burn. When starting the game, you are presented a choice. Follow the path of the Atlas, or, explore freely. I’ve been enjoying this narrative choice in combination. I chose the Atlas, but in-between following a set blue line in my galaxy map, I’m enjoying hoping star systems randomly. There is also the path to the apparent center of the universe which is a bright light off in the distance, which can be seen at all times in the galaxy map.
I’m finding No Man’s Sky actually plays more like a book than, a game. I’m ok with games that present a substantial amount of written narrative, and No Man’s Sky is no exception. If you’re someone who doesn’t like reading in games, then this might be a big turn off for you. This is what drives the narrative of the Atlas path, as well as, all of the aliens you encounter. Again harkening back to the old school, instead of seeing whatever is being described playout, the scene is left up to player imagination. Engaging an alien only to read that its sprouted thin needles from its arms that have pierced me and are hoisting me into the air, is wonderful. I’m a big DnD fan so working with my imagination is familiar. For those who enjoy cutscenes, you’re out of luck. Luckily the written narrative sticks to its Sci-fi guns like a champ. I actually solved a problem by thinking about something in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
To Sum Up
No Man’s Sky has definitely proved to be a whacky journey, and I’m excited to keep coming back to it. Yet, now having played it my initial excitement has dissipated. It’s definitely a classic Sci-fi throwing a nod back to the old school. Making for a fantastic adventure for someone familiar with the Sci-fi of yesteryear, but for newcomers to the genre or for those who appreciate modern Sci-fi this could be a letdown. Despite all its mechanical problems and content that seems a bit lack luster in areas, I’m going to keep cruising the cosmos. This is the slowest of drips for any game, and knowing that it’s big enough that I don’t need to finish it out right, seems to be the key. Mechanically it needs a serious overhaul, and with the months to come I’m sure a lot will be addressed. New content is definitely being readily asked for, this too I’m sure No Man’s Sky will be seeing plenty of. Hello Games shot a little beyond the stars for their debut, and after the journey that was No Man’s Sky’s making it’s easy to see why they missed certain marks, and hit others.
Review Score 7 out of 10
No Man’s Sky is available now on PS4 | PC To order No Man’s Sky from Amazon, click here.