No Man's Sky
Author: Sam Tree
| Posted: 19 August 2016, 09:06
No Man’s Sky is one of the most hotly anticipated games of the last few years. A space exploration game without bounds that encourages players to explore, discover and uncover the secrets of the game’s universe. But does it live up to the massive hype that’s driven the interest over the years?
No Man’s Sky begins with you, the player, crash-landed on an unknown planet, you’re tasked with repairing your spacecraft in order to venture forth out into the vast nothingness of space. From the get go No Man’s Sky has a very Minecraft kind of feel to it. A vast and open world is sprawled in front of you filled with valuable resources which you’re required to collect in order to progress. You even have a futuristic pickaxe – Okay, ‘Mining Beam’ if you want to be picky.
Your ship is in a state of un-use due to the crash so you’re instructed to collect a number of items in order to restore it to its former glory. Using your Mining Beam you can break objects down into their atomic components. Rocky formations produce iron, while fauna and flora give out Carbon. Crystal-like formations can be found which give out important commodities such as Plutonium; this is probably the most sought after material as many of your technology requires it for power, luckily it can be found in abundance on every planet. Some more than others, but it’s the one constant I found through the universe.
Mining is a huge part of No Man’s Sky, but it quickly becomes repetitive. You’ll soon know which items are needed for crafting and which are needed for upgrades. You’ll stockpile the most important items while ignoring some of the more common ones. Refuelling your ship is as simple as selecting the engines and then the fuel, likewise for your life support and any other technology reliant on an external power source. Any challenge is lost. At this point, it becomes more of an annoyance than an enjoyable game mechanic when your onboard computer alerts you that your thrusters are out of power for what feels like the one thousandth time.
The opening scene is pretty much where the mission instructions end. Following the game’s minimal story line will often yield more items and upgrades, but players are given the opportunity to follow their own path and make their way to the center of the universe. It’s possible to not leave the beginning planet and find a number of important upgrades before beginning your journey. But many, if like me, will say farewell to their spawning planet and jettison off into the vastness of space. To where? I’m really not sure. And therein lies the problem; No Man’s Sky lacks a clear sense of direction. Even now I have no idea if I’m heading towards the centre of the universe or not. Although you could argue that you make your own fun through exploration, trial and error.
Players are offered two options. To follow the path of Atlas and ultimately learn about creation and the wonders that lie within or to follow a pre-determined line to the center of the universe. There is a third option to explore freely, but realistically I don’t think this serves much of a purpose. Regardless of which option you choose, however, the experience is relatively the same bar maybe a few key instances.
While No Man’s Sky scores high on the mystery, intrigue, and exploration fronts, it seriously lacks in other areas. The only real threat to your immediate survival are the planetary sentinels which inhabit every world you visit. These flying annoyances periodically scan the terrain around them, including you. Depending on their setting – which differs for each world – they may attack. Poorly. They’re easy to take out and quite honestly they’re not really worth the effort. Think of them as community policemen. You tend to skirt past them, but in reality, they don’t really have much power.
The space battles don’t fare much better. When it comes to interplanetary piracy, No Man’s Sky feels like it is very much a diluted version of Elite Dangerous. Outer-space dogfights feel as if they’re the bare bones of what they could be. Taking on a group of space pirates has no real danger attributed to it. Being defeated warps you back to the nearest space station with a damage penalty applied to your ship. The lost items can be easily recovered by returning to the scene of your demise.
In line with this, ship upgrades are numerous but at the same time still feel limited with each upgrade taking up a valuable inventory slot. You can of course acquire new, larger ships but more often than not I found myself purchasing more and more exosuite slots to compensate for my lack of inventory. Not only are these easier to find, but it seemed the logical choice given that your old ship cannot be part exchanged for a new one. And why certain items can stack and others can’t is beyond me. Items that are – and I use the term very lightly – important for the storyline take up a precious inventory slot; almost goading you to sell them for that all important storage.
There’s no denying that No Man’s Sky is a beautiful game. It’s a fine piece of artwork in comparison to a majority of hyper-realistic games today. It’s vibrant colour scheme sets it apart and makes the vast, emptiness of space come alive. The entire game is procedurally generated, meaning as you explore, the game loads in terrain, fauna, and flora as you discover it. It’s a fantastic way to ensure that all 18 quintillion planets or so are unique and varied. The worlds I have encountered thus far have been rocky and jagged in nature. I’ve yet to find a world with a large, sprawling desert that stretches as far as the eye can see. But give it time.
The major flaw with this, however, is that the draw distance suffers. Skimming low and close to the ground in your star ship – which you’ll often do – you’ll find that distant objects fade in with a dotted-particle effect. This can make it difficult to find resources from above and given that No Man’s Sky has no built-in waypoint system I found that it was easy to lose my way on a number of occasions missing out on a number of vital resources.
With this in mind, though, it’s worth noting that you can freely launch from planet to planet with no loading times. This in itself is a huge feat which I really must praise Hello Games for. In hindsight, fading in some terrain seems like a nice trade-off for seamless gameplay and planet hoping.
When in orbit around a new planet, your ship’s scanner is one of the most useful tools at your disposal. With this, you’re able to scan the planet below for any points of interest such as abandoned buildings, resource deposits, radio stations, trading posts and more. Once on the planet, you’re able to find various methods of scanning the nearby area for Alien Monoliths, transmitters, and outposts. You can, of course, forgo any of this and wander aimlessly, but No Man’s Sky rewards curiosity. A number of helpful upgrades can be found by simply exploring everything the game has to offer.
Although the chances of meeting a human player are incredibly slim, No Man’s Sky is abundant with aliens. From the randomly generated creatures that inhabit the planets to more uninformed NPCs that you meet in space stations and waypoints. Their language, as you would expect is also alien, but taking the time to find the meaning in their words often yields exciting results. This can be done by discovering monoliths and encyclopaedias. I honestly found this to be a high point. The more I found my character could understand, the more doors of opportunity were opened for me to progress.
A huge selling point, one which goes hand-in-hand with discovering new and exciting animals and planets is the ability to name them. Planets, animals, plants, and way-points can all be named. Credits are awarded to players who take the time to upload these to the games server. I found that after a while, this novelty wore off. It get’s to a point where you can’t think of any more witty names and end up just taking the credits and leaving the randomly generated names.
I can’t say that No Man’s Sky is not a delight to play, but at the same time, I’m finding it hard to pinpoint what exactly makes it enjoyable. The exploration aspect is second to none; I found myself spending hours on one planet searching every nook and cranny for the secrets I knew it was keeping from me but on the other side of the coin I yearned to be among the stars hijacking cargo ships, taking down starships and just generally being the scourge of the galaxy. But you can’t; not really.
I feel that I’ve waited so long for Hello Games to finish and release No Man’s Sky that I’ve conditioned myself into loving it. The hype train rolled through my station and I jumped on board getting swept up in the teaser videos and images. Yes, I can spend hours searching and exploring and I find this thoroughly enjoyable, but to what end? The storyline is flimsy at best; I’d go as far as saying it’s nearly non-existent. But why do I keep coming back to it? I couldn’t tell you. My entire experience with No Man’s Sky has been ambivalent at best. I just hope, with a few updates and tweaks, Hello Games can bring us the game we so crave.
This review is based on playing the
PlayStation 4 version of No Man's Sky .
Exploration is second to none but the game falls short with no story or clear goals once you've discovered everything there is to find