Game: No Mans Sky
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4(reviewed), Windows
Where is the nearest Apple store?
Well, it’s finally out, the game that was bound to disappoint everyone who was remotely interested in it. You guessed it you guys; you’re reading my review of No Man’s Sky. For those of you that are by some means( maybe you live in a cave?) unfamiliar with this game, It’s a Space exploration game from indie developer Hello Games. No Man’s Sky is played in a procedurally generated universe featuring 18 quintillion planets. A game of that scope is most literally impossible for any one person to explore, which is probably one of the most exciting prospects. Games like this can be great based on individual player experience, but what did I think? Let’s get into it.
Watching massive ships on screen is a delight
No Man’s Sky starts by dropping the player, stranded on a random planet in it’s sprawling procedurally generated universe. The goal is to gather resources to repair all of your ships damaged systems. Here you get your first taste of scanning the environment. You can use your optical scanner to identify and subsequently name, plant life, animals, planets, and even entire solar systems; this will be your primary source of income. Every time you discover something new you’ll be compensated, apparently exploring keeps the lights on. Due to the fact that I am a man-child, I began my journey on Harambe Prime. Once you’ve finished repairing all of your ships vital systems you can head into orbit, once you’re off world the game opens up a bit, but you still have one task left. You need to acquire a warp drive. The warp drive in question is what establishes the games loop. Gather resources in order to craft fuel for your warp drive and get to the next system. The end game or the closest thing to one is to reach the center of the universe. Once you leave a solar system1 for the first time, you’ll be asked if you want to follow a direct path to the center know as the Atlas. This guidance system was added in the day one patch and is as close as the game gets to a real narrative.
No Man’s Sky’s biggest detriment is its failure to keep the player engaged. The game starts strong and introduces more than a few intricate systems within its first three hours of play. From upgrading your suit and ship to learning alien languages and discovering all of the flora and fauna in the galaxy, you have a long list of tasks to accomplish. Not a single task feels terribly rewarding, however. I felt a surge of excitement every time I learned a new alien world, however, in order to stay engaged in activities like that regularly you need more of a break. No Man’s Sky’s lack of action is my biggest grievance in that department. Encounters with enemy ships or the Guardian Sentinels, a sort of robot found on most planets, are few and far between. I can’t help but feel that the gameplay of No Man’s Sky feels somewhat incomplete. Sean Murray’s promise of patching and free updates gives me the strong feeling that No man’s Sky will be unrecognizable in a years time. That being said I can’t wait to see how the gameplay evolves and changes. With active player feedback this could become the game many hoped it would be.
Visually No Man’s Sky is stunning. How different planets can look is a testament to the tech behind the procedurally generated universe. Even after ten hours the occasional world would still blow me away just watching a sunset. I wish it were just a screensaver generator. The soundtrack does have some great subtle highs and lows that add to the experience of discovering a massive dinosaur-like creature or getting into a dogfight with space pirates.
No Man’s Sky is a great step in the right direction for games. It’s paved the way for how massive we can make procedurally generated landscapes. My biggest grievance with No Man’s Sky is it feels less like a game and more like a tech demo. After two hours or so the game lost its pull, it settles into a loop early on and not a very satisfying one. After four hours or so I found myself asking “so is this it?”. Maybe a simple first person scavenge and survive game would be enough if the big wow moments came more often. The most significant detriment to a game this size is how empty it feels. Interaction with the occasional Alien at a spaceport just isn’t enough. Sean Murray has promised free updates already so who knows, with a bit more action No Man’s Sky could end up being something beyond a technical marvel. For now, however, it’s a rather dull experience. If you can deal with hammering away at repetitive tasks than maybe it is for you, If you’re looking for off the wall action, though, you won’t find it here.
Score: 6 out of 10
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