No Man’s Sky – Initial Thoughts
No Man’s Sky is a game you can ask people about, and likely hear some kind of negative spin on how it “wasn’t everything that was promised at launch” or how it just isn’t good.
I guess, if you followed the hype leading up to the game (Sony did seem to be really pushing it quite hard with Hello Games), and then bought it at launch, you were setting yourself up to be disappointed. I mean, when was the last time any game came out where it kept every single promise from video clips, press releases etc? Seriously, think about it. We’re constantly being up-sold and then let down, it’s apparently the latest industry standard.
I think what hurt most here, though, was the promise of this incomprehensibly massive universe, and freedom where everything is unique and you’ll never really see anyone else’s discoveries. Whilst this was mostly true, people found each other really quickly, and that unique randomly-generate terrain/flora/fauna didn’t always look quite so good. Sadly, to most No Man’s Sky was a write-off really quickly, and Hello Games took a beating.
Luckily for me, I had only observed from afar, as a non-PS4 owner, it was just interesting to see what ti was about, and when it didn’t go too well, it didn’t really affect me in any way. I just carried on about my business.
In getting the PS4, it was one of the games that immediately sprang to mind as almost a “must see”. Is No Man’s Sky that terrible? How have Hello Games shaped it since it’s release? It’s a really intriguing position to be in, especially after seeing some praise surrounding the big releases.
So, I did as I always do. I get stuck in on the big subreddits, I read and and read and read. I see what people are doing in the game, and see if it’s worth a go. After reading all of the incredible community stuff going on (people are starting galactic federations and mapping specific areas of the universe to be theirs), it occurred to me, that this is a game with a big, loyal following, and that can’t be for no reason.
One of the benefits of a game not being so publicly popular, is that you can find it quite cheap! I got it for less than a tenner, and then I found that I don’t even need to sign up to Playstation Plus to play it, so I was even more pleased.
So, I waited a couple of days for delivery, and then got it installed ready to play.
Diving in headfirst
I just jumped straight in, I picked the normal mode (there’s survival, permadeath & creative modes to choose from also), dubbed as a “chill exploration experience”, this seemed appealing.
So, I got loaded in, found myself next to a ship, and then tried to work out what the hell was going on. Feeling so disoriented was kind of cool, you really feel lost and stranded on a strange planet, but then I was trying to just understand what I was supposed to do. Luckily, No Man’s Sky does a reasonable job of walking you through the basics, and I was repairing my ships’ engines in no time.
Granted I had no idea what I was doing, barring following the guides in-menu and on-screen. I was struggling to get my head around my life support, my jet pack, the thermal regulator bar, sprinting etc. It’s all kind of intertwined, but I had no idea!
It turns out, sprinting and using your jet pack, use your life-support system much quicker. Your thermal shielding is limited and you can only be out in the heat/cold for so long before it needs to be recharged (I sussed out that caves are suitable to restore this, whilst out exploring).
So yeah, I was progressing, and learning how to mine, and craft bits and pieces, and whilst it guides you through, and the notes are comprehensive, it never feels like it’s holding your hand. You feel alone.
The name game
I was lucky (and statistically likely) enough to start in an undiscovered system, on and undiscovered planet. So I got to name them! How cool is that? There are now planets, and systems in that game, that were discovered and named by me. Someone could actually stumble upon them, and see that they were my discovery. It’s so cool.
Not only are you discovering planets and systems, your discovering life forms on your planets. All of the flora and fauna is randomly generated, and therefore unique, and ripe for discovery.
You really feel like you’re an explorer, someone contributing to this wider universe, and I think that’s where much of the appeal is, for me.
Of course, there’s now a Ninja Refinery System, and after that, I ended up in a new undiscovered system, with 6 planets. What’s a boy to do? Easy! I named the system after the VasDown clan, and gave each member a planet. It took ages……and the resources needed took a while (so much plutonium and iron!), but I was committed.
No Man’s Sky is kind enough to give you a ship, when you start. A tiny starship that needs it’s various engines repairing. It turns out to be a pretty good tutorial, and you grow attached to your ship (which I names after my dog Beau). I’m still in it, and reluctant to let it go……
I did find a bigger, free replacement, crash-landed on a planet, but it needed the engines doing, and I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of my trusty Beau. I need more storage space, though, and now I’m wondering if I can find it again (unlikely), and make the transition.
I’ve been bartering with folk, offering to buy their frigates, and their trade ships. Alas, everything is really expensive, and I’m living in the game hand-to-mouth at the moment. I don’t have the hundreds of millions of units required, but I’ll get there!
Signs of life
Apart from the randomly generated life forms on planets, I’ve met two different alien races, the Gek, and another who’s name I’ve forgotten.
I’ve slowly started to pick up Gek words, and I’m starting to understand a bit of what they say. Thankfully, the game allows a lot of room for you to interpret their actions, and you can choose how to respond.
It’s cool to find them in space stations, or on-planet. Although I’ll admit that I was a little gutted that others were living on my newly named and discovered planets.
Planets are planet-sized
It turns out No Man’s Sky isn’t kidding when it tells you you’re on a planet. You can scour for hours. If you wanted to, you could spend all of your time on one and find new things, and stuff to do.
It’s kind of sad that I’m just touching down, scanning a few bits, finding maybe an outpost, and then leaving. There’s so much potential on each one. You could play the whole game on one planet.
After all, it’s just about surviving. If you find that perfect planet, you don’t need to leave, if you don’t want!
What’s the point?
This is the bit that I’m wrestling with at the moment.
Thankfully, there’s a set of “missions” to do, and I’m following a trail, left behind by a mysterious person/creature. I’ll keep doing this, so I feel like I’m working towards something, but there’s no need to if you don’t want.
No Man’s Sky seems to me, to me an interstellar, shiny Minecraft. That isn’t a bad thing, but I struggle to get stuck in and have no end-goal. You could play this game exclusively, for the rest of your gaming life, and always have stuff to do.
You can explore almost endless planets and systems, you can build bases, and farm resources. Honestly, it’s pretty damn impressive.
I just don’t really enjoy the open-ended, super-creative type of game play, so I wonder if I’ll end up missing out on the main joys of it?
For now, I’m happy bumbling about, following the quests, and seeking a new ship. Will I do much after finishing the main story? Probably not. It’s not because it isn’t a fun game, I just don’t particularly care for the mine-build-mine-replenish type of gameplay.
So far, I’m having a great time, but I think that I’ll grow bored sooner rather than later.
This is a game with so much room to explore and create. It works, it looks good, it sounds good and it handles nicely (more on that next time), but it might not hold my attention as long as those that have built communities and federations.
So far, it seems like a well-polished, obviously improved-upon game, that doesn’t deserve the negative attitude people have towards it, after the initial launch. The old adage “once bitten, twice shy” is obviously very apt here, but I’d suggest that anyone who hasn’t at least tried it, gives it ago.
You can get it cheap, and you can see what it’s all about, form your own opinion, I bet No Man’s Sky is more fun than you gave it credit for, based off what everyone else used to say.