When last we talked about No Man’s Sky, we touched briefly on the first four things we did in the initial hours of the game. If you haven’t read that yet, click here to check that out, as that article is going to lead us in to our official No Man’s Sky review.
Title: No Man’s Sky
Publisher: Hello Games / Sony
Developer: Hello Games
Available On: PlayStation 4, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Before we dive further into the review, I want to point out that I had the game crash on me three different times whilst playing. Simply starting it back up from the PS4 menu worked fine, but there is an underlying issue with the game crashing from time to time.
No Man’s Sky is built on the foundation of exploring the universe, learning new things, interacting with alien lifeforms, and trying to accumulate as much as you physically can. But how do you get to that point? Resources. Carbon, Iron, Plutonium, Zinc, Nickel… all resources you’re going to become very familiar with after just a few minutes of play time. Constantly feeling the need to grind for these resources is one area of the game I do not find very enjoyable. You’ll spend more time doing this than anything else, and by quite a large margin. Inventory space is also rather limited until you start upgrading and expanding it later in the game, but that creates a problem way more often than I wish it did.
Unfortunately, the planets don’t feel very diverse once you’ve been to a significant amount. The first time you start traveling the galaxies and universe and landing on different planets, you’ll be amazed at some of the stuff you’re seeing. But after you do it over, and over, and over again… patterns start developing. There’s only so many things that the technology powering the planet building in No Man’s Sky can do. And since it touts that there are 18 quintillion planets to explore (more than the entire population of Earth could ever dream to explore if every single one of us was playing the game), that’s a lot of repetition. Repetition that can be felt after just several hours of playing, which is disappointing.
Not only do the planets start to all feel the same after a while, it isn’t helped by the fact that you’re basically doing the same thing on each one. It would have been nice to have different quests or objectives to do on planets. There just isn’t enough to do to make me want to care about exploring the planets and progressing forward. You can find the various beacons littered across the worlds, the salvaged parts to find upgrades, and learn new alien words by visiting monoliths. Then you can jump to another planet and do the exact same thing. I kept my expectations in check and wasn’t expecting No Man’s Sky to be the “be all, end all” of video games, but it’s hard not to feel even a bit letdown.
As soon as you have the ability to leave the star system you start in, you’ll find that you can openly explore and jump to any cluster that is connected to the one you currently are in. There’s also a direct path to the galactic core, which you can follow if your goal is to get to the center of the universe without doing much in the way of side exploration. I do recommend doing a bit of exploring though, as that is really where No Man’s Sky shines. Don’t be in a rush to get to the center though and “finish the game.” All I will say here is that the “ending” of the game is not even close to what I was expecting, but is that a good thing or not? You’ll have to be the judge of that question yourself.
Traveling through the universe is actually one aspect of the game that I enjoyed and would just find myself randomly doing. Once you leave the planet you start on and break out of its atmosphere, you’ll see a handful of planets in the galaxy you’re in that you can travel to. Upon pointing your ship at one of those planets, you’ll be presented with a time frame of how long it will take you to reach said planet. Slowing way down, it can take you two weeks in real time to reach the planet if you really want it to. But once you speed up, you’re looking at just a few hours. Sounds crazy, right? Luckily, you can basically go into warp speed, and reach any planet in just a matter of minutes as opposed to taking weeks, days, or even hours.
Once you decide on a star system to visit, and pick a planet to go to, the resource grind and repetitive side stuff begins all over again. However, one portion of the game not mentioned here yet is the combat, which is relatively straight forward. Before you begin doing any type of upgrades, you’re simply using your multitool against enemies and sentinels just as you do when mining. The second you get the boltcaster, you’ll want to craft it and start using it, because it’s that upgrade that will make the combat more enjoyable. Sentinels were going down at a much faster pace, I was able to take on more than just one at a time, and the crabs that would randomly attack me were no longer a match. I tried not to have to engage in combat very often since I was playing a relatively peaceful space explorer, but every now and then, duty called. And it didn’t feel clunky or tacked on. It worked as combat should work.
Maintaining your life support and the various effects climates can have on your suit is an interesting concept at first glance. The type of planet determines what is happening to your suit at any given moment. There are toxic planets, extremely hot planets, brutally cold planets… all factors you’ll need to consider and keep an eye on. You won’t ever forget to take care of it though, because there’s an annoying reminder every time your health or suit reaches a certain percentage. Luckily you can build it up as you progress in the game so that it isn’t as big of a deal, but you’ll get sick of hearing it after the first few hours.
The art direction is gorgeous at times, and other times completely dull. Flying through the universe at warp speed and jumping from star system to star system is a very cool moment to see, and the visuals it’s presenting to you at that time are well done. Seeing the different landscapes on the planets for the first time and exploring the caves interwoven into them is fresh and exciting at first. One thing that is a huge letdown though is when you compare the pre-release footage of the game to what was physically shipped. The creatures and lifeforms that were shown walking around the planets rarely resemble anything that is procedurally generated while playing through No Man’s Sky. This is one of the things that shocked me most, because everything really does all start to look the same, spread out across a vast universe with never ending planets.
Cruising around the universe and the various planets is made somewhat better by the synth soundtrack accompanying your journey. The music that kicks in when you visit the various space stations is a nice touch as well. Who doesn’t like getting lost in the universe feeling like you’ve been sent back to the 80’s? Probably a lot of you, but still. It’s an enjoyable soundtrack that fits the mood of the game and the exploration perfectly.
If you enjoy the survival aspect of games, like keeping track of your inventory and making the best decisions possible to maximize space, and crafting countless things in order to progress, No Man’s Sky should appeal to you. Sadly, those things are not something I look for when sitting down to enjoy a gaming session. But, the survival genre has been exploding as of late, so there are gamers out there that are going to find this portion of the game satisfying. Since this takes on a key part of the game, it’s something that I could do for thirty minutes to an hour from time to time, while continuing to explore the universe. I want to keep exploring to see if something is out there that is going to just amaze me, and to see exactly what the procedural generation can come up with. Hopefully I’ll encounter something that is truly unique and special.
There’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to patches and potential expansions in the near future. It will be interesting to see if Hello Games takes this approach. More things could easily be added for players to do, and having a bit more diversity in that regard could change this game from something average to something great.