Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
No Man’s Sky is perhaps the most hyped game of the current console generation. First revealed in 2013, the game promised to deliver on the hype of an open universe where players can explore billions of procedurally generated planets and moons. I went in to No Man’s Sky blind and somewhat skeptical that it could live up to the Godzillian levels of hype that it generated within the gaming community. The hype surrounding the game is in no small part due to the openness of creator and Hello Games founder Sean Murray, who with a team of only fifteen people, created a game where almost everything you see is rendered uniquely.
There is little violence in No Man’s Sky and what is there is very tame. Ships ignite into balls of fire, sentinels and other police robots explode, and flesh and blood creatures simply fall over dead once killed. There is no blood or gore to speak of however. There is also no spiritual content to be found in No Man’s Sky as you explore a near limitless universe of over 18 gazillion planets. What little dialogue there is has to be deciphered from one of four alien languages within the game and there is no foul language that I have encountered after about ten hours of playtime.
Going into No Man’s Sky blind is perhaps the best way to play. While I read up on all the hype leading up to the launch of the game I remained somewhat apprehensive and skeptical that it could live up to its promises by the time it launched earlier this month. Starting the game with little expectation that it would blow me away helped to temper my expectations a bit and I actually ended up enjoying the game a lot more as I didn’t set myself up to expect the game to be something it is not.
That being said let me start by addressing the elephant in the room. No Man’s Sky is not a bad game, but, it is also not the game that fans expected based upon all of the pre-release hype. While yes, there are millions and millions of procedurally generated planets for players to explore, most of these planets feel identical to one another. Though each planet has a distinct look and some even feature hazardous storms, harsh heat, or crippling cold, all necessary resources can often be found on every single planet a player encounters. This lessens the impact of the survival aspect of the game as resources are literally everywhere. If players can’t find what they need on a planet’s surface they can simply jet off to the nearest moon or space station to explore or trade for what is needed.
To further dull the overall experience, within about an hour of gameplay, players will already feel the deadly squeeze of No Man’s Sky‘s super strict inventory management systems. In No Man’s Sky, the player’s inventory is divided up among three major areas: their exosuit, their ship, and their multi-tool. While the inventory can be expanded players will have to explore on foot or by flying over a planet’s surface in search of crashed ships to repair and pilot as your own or drop pods containing much needed inventory slots for your suit. While it is nice to have something else to do on the often barren and empty feeling planets, the cost in credits goes up each time you find a new drop pod and you only increase your storage by one slot each time a new pod is found. This creates a constant grind which is tedious and cumbersome and prevented me from fully enjoying simply exploring the planets and discovering new things since I constantly had to watch my inventory levels. While the game does allow you to stack certain itemsk this is only for the elements that you collect for crafting purposes. Each crafted item takes up its own inventory slot instead of being stackable with duplicate items of the same type.
There is a story to No Man’s Sky though it is only available to those willing to diligently seek out the numerous Atlas Monolith’s and Anomalies scattered across the stars and the vast alien worlds players will discover during their journey. Often these moments only offer a tiny bit of exposition on a player’s overall goal and purpose in the galaxy and I found myself just simply exploring as much as I could in the hopes of finding something significant to progress the story. Combat is simplistic but functional and oftentimes the only enemies players will encounter are floating drone robots called Sentinels. In space, pirates will attack players if they are carrying many valuable and rare resources and ships that are not outfitted with more advanced weapons and armor will be easily destroyed. Thankfully, death is not permanent in No Man’s Sky, though players will have to repair their ship’s components if it goes down and will have to return to their point of death, a la Dark Souls, in order to regain the resources lost in death. While combat is functional, it is disappointing that the range of options in combat and play styles touted in all the pre-release promos for the game apparently did not make the cut in time for launch. There is virtually little reason to side with one alien faction over another and there are not massive fleets of ships engaging in battle that you can join or destroy so there is no real drive to play as a trader, explorer, or pirate either.
Alien factions are located in space stations and on planets throughout the star systems that players will encounter on their journey. Interacting with these aliens and their respective monoliths and artifacts will expose new words in their language that players can learn to better grasp what it is each alien needs when you encounter them. For example, some may wish for a precious resource that is nigh impossible to find on their current planet but if you provide them with the requested amount they will provide you with new crafting blueprints. The only drawback to these encounters is that players never have any reason to engage in conflict or diplomacy with any of these aliens and no more than one is ever seen in the same room at a given time.
Despite its shortcomings and lack of activities to keep players engaged, the best part of No Man’s Sky is in the exploration and discovery. Newly discovered wildlife can be fed and in turn will grow to like players that do not cause them harm. Players who choose a peaceful approach when interacting with a planet’s wildlife will be rewarded with resources and other necessary crafting components. It is also exhilarating to just walk on a planet for several minutes and discover alien monoliths, drop pods, crashed ships, and alien structures. However, here lies the drawback to the game’s exploration; once players have made these discoveries, there is nothing new to be seen the third, fourth, or even fifth time they are found. Every crashed ship allows the player to extract resources or blueprints from the crash site and to keep the ship for personal use if they so choose. All buildings look exactly the same inside and out, whether small outposts or large trading posts, and often feature only one alien or computer console along with a blueprint and a trade terminal. For me, this created a sense of having been there and done that after about ten different bases all looked the same and yielded the same result upon discovering them.
Still, each time I picked up the controller to play this game, I didn’t want to put it down as there is just something about being able to seamlessly fly from a planet’s surface, to space, then to a nearby space station and back with no loading screens whatsoever that completely sucked me in. Overall, fans of space exploration and survival games will find something to enjoy in No Man’s Sky. For those looking for the next big things in games, I recommend looking elsewhere as No Man’s Sky is far from the game that was promoted before launch though it is good as it is in its current state.
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The Bottom Line
No Man's Sky innovates but not enough for it live up to the monstrous hype it received upon in its initial reveal. It does no good to discover all these exotic planets and amazing things when there is nothing else to do at all once you have found them. For players who like to explore in games, No Man's Sky is highly recommended, but those wanting more out of its gameplay may want to look elsewhere.