No Man’s Sky, you heard about it, you read about it and more than likely you have been waiting anxiously for a long time to get your gaming mitts on it and to see what all the hype is about. And why not? The game features a vast universe where a person can go anywhere they want and explore any planet they choose, I mean what isn’t there to like about that right? Right?
No Man’s Sky is one of those games that sounds better on paper and in a pitch meeting than it actually does playing. Now before you hit this site with a DDoS attack let me say that NMS isn’t a bad game, it’s just not a good game. The game throughout the years was shrouded in mystery with little information pouring out over time and then Hello Games started to sprinkle tid bits of information here and there, showing more gameplay closer to release. After playing it I finally understand why this is the case. It’s because there really isn’t anything to do in the game.
Lone Man’s Cry
My first startup of the game I was placed on a planet with a very high temperature and high radiation it seemed my ship crashed in a crater. The game then tells me to gather some materials. There was a cavern to explore which looked to have an abundance of materials to mine. I go in and explore since I was told repeatedly from Hello Games that this is what this game is about. I explore going deeper and deeper into the cavern collecting all sorts of things the game is telling me I need, even materials it didn’t tell me that I think I might need later. Here is where the first problem of NMS comes in; inventory full. You are going to be hearing the game tell you that A LOT. I tried to transfer materials to my ship but it tells me that not only is my ship at maximum but I am also too far from it. Cool, let me get back to the ship then. Nope. It seems I explored a little too deep in the caverns and I got lost. There is a ship locator icon at the top of your HUD so I followed that icon and it kept leading me to dead ends in the cavern. Was this the survival part of the game Hello Games warned me about? I felt like one of the women trapped in those underground caves from the movie Descent and I started to panic. I’m lost on a planet, deep underground. My first moments in this game involved just trying to get the hell out of that cave. God I hate that cave. I came this close to starting over again until finally I burst out of the underground caverns near my ship with my unseen arms raised proclaiming silent victory. I was finally able to fix my ship and do what I wanted to do from the very beginning, leave this god forsaken planet. I take off vowing to never explore another cavern again. Then the game tells me I need to collect materials to build a hyper/warp drive so guess what, I’m back to the planet to mine again. I am Jack’s seeping bile duct.
The warning bells at this stage are starting to go off. Over the next few hours my gameplay consisted of collect materials, build something, collect materials, build something, collect materials, inventory full, inventory full, INVENTORY FULL! and I started to realize very quickly that this is pretty much what the game is going to offer me. I have to also mention that every time I met a new species I had to make sure I had space in my inventory, why? Well for some reason you can’t talk to an alien unless you have free space in your inventory. I can only guess it’s because they have the potential to always give you something. But to always constantly be trying to throw something away whenever you meet a new alien got very annoying and fast. This also presented a huge personal issue for me; you see I was born and raised on JRPG’s throughout the 16-32 bit era and if there is one thing they beat into my head: Never ever throw anything away!
So you can see the problem I had to willingly get rid of materials, I literally struggled with myself on what I thought I needed and didn’t need. It was truly a sad sight to behold. The struggle was real.
NMS claims to be a survival game but there wasn’t really much surviving to do. There was an occasional battle with some sentinels whenever they caught me shooting a Butt D*ck animal I aptly named but I took care of them with ease until stronger back-up came around but I found out that if you just jump in your ship they leave you alone. There was also never any danger of running out of materials, everything I needed was always conveniently close by in huge surpluses too.
The game celebrates in its freedom to do anything and go anywhere but maybe that is also the problem. There is little to no direction or guidance and quickly makes you wonder what am I doing and what’s the point and why should I care or continue? I get that in real life enough, I don’t want that also in my games. There are clues to something larger going on, that something out there called Atlus wants you to find him or it and I did come across a side story of a couple of names (Milo and Paul?) that wanted me to find them too but again it was all vague and forgettable.
Visual and Audio
There is a clear discrepency in the visuals shown in trailers and what is actually in-game. Whilst the trailers really showed off lush jungles teeming with life and generally great visual fidelity, in reality NMS suffers from poor textures, a lot of pop-in and sometimes sports a rather bland look. It does however have its moments but because this is an indie title and considering the scope and size of the game, I guess this can be forgiven to a certain extent?
The music really shines in NMS but I think it’s because I’m a fan of 69daysofstatic. The audio style fits perfectly with what you are actually doing in game. Soft ambient type music envelopes you as you constantly shoot rocks or soar through the endless vastness of space. The music picks up when you start to fight sentinels or when some bastard hostile ships decides they want to take your stash. How I wish though that the theme of ‘Debutante’ would kick in whenever something interesting does happen in the game.
One Man’s Try
No Man’s Sky is definitely the step in the right direction of what I want to see in new IP games this gen. I give them credit for giving console gamers something new to try instead of the usual military FPS game. I just think that more could have been added to this game to make it more exciting. A universe or galactic threat that is always looming over you like a shadow, something very dangerous you occasionally run into that keeps you running from planet to planet, from one solar system to the next, like a Galactus or Unicron. I know, the excuse I’ll hear is, “it’s not what the developers wanted the game to be”, well maybe it should have been.
Also, there’s the controversy of gamers actually not being able to meet up or see each other. At first I was upset about this too, I was hoping to maybe someday run into another player and party up to explore no matter how slim the chance was. But after playing the game for a few days, I now really don’t see the point. The game is a slow burn enough without having to add another player wonder aimlessly gathering materials too.
I applaud the effort of this very small indie outfit. Hello Games went through hell making this game and I am glad it’s finally out for people to enjoy it. If you enjoy micro managing inventory and procedurally generated space exploration then this game is for you. I am sure there could be a huge pay off towards the end for folks who keep grinding. As for me personally, I found it to be more of a chore than actual fun. The appeal and novelty of exploring a whole universe quickly got old on the very first day of play, which is something I thought I would never say.