I played No Man’s Sky with subdued expectations; the Internet has been split right down the middle on whether the hype it produced was justified. After going through more than 30 hours in game, I think I’m still on the fence about the entire experience; I like it, and I think No Man’s Sky is not anything less than good, but on the other hand I’m not sure it is great either.
You start the game stranded on a planet. Your small space ship has crashed, and you need to fix it by gathering resources from your surroundings with your mining gun – exploration on unfamiliar territory. No Man’s Sky doesn’t hold your hand; there’s no tutorial telling to do this, and how to work that – practically jarring in today’s landscape of games. You have to figure out what to gather, how to sustain the space suit keeping you alive, find out which animals are hostile, why are these floating robots attacking you, and how to manage your inventory. All of this might sound overwhelming, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
While exploring and trading you will slowly upgrade your suit and gun, log every plant and name every animal, mineral, location, and planet you’ve seen or been to. You’ll either upgrade your ship, or salvage one and make it your own. There is a litany of things that can be done, and you’ll slowly get better along the way. Everything looks good. The upgrades for your gun, suit and ship feel natural and No Man’s Sky makes you earn them. All those are good, and while I’m seriously impressed with the 16 people that are in Hello Games that have made this, I do have some criticisms on the meat of the game.
No Man’s Sky bills itself as a game built on four pillars – exploration, survival, combat and trading. What I feel is that it doesn’t really fulfill any of them.
Exploration would probably be the best thing in the game. While exploring, you’ll notice how beautiful the entire planet is. Every planet you head toward will have a different look for you to see and different environmental hazards to overcome, some even based on the time of day.
There are a ton of things to do and a plethora of objects to collect, but if you’re looking for a checklist like those found in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, you are going to have a problem… because there isn’t one. The exploration is however repetitive – you do practically the same thing for every planet.
While in space the vastness makes it feel emptier than it actually is. While I don’t have an issue with that, I can see how it could be almost boring for some players. Regarding trading in space, it is not my forte so I can’t really comment on it, but with the amount of farming based on your exploration, you’re not really going to have a problem with credits.
Survival in the same sense is almost easy, if not a tad frustrating, for a survival game. It’s more about managing your resources for your suit and weapons than any real external menace. The same goes for combat on foot or in space as well, but it falls somewhat short because I found it pointless most of the time – you don’t really get chased by either the Sentinels or hostile ships during dogfights.
The main problem, however, for both of the above categories is that there is no real consequence to your death; you load back at your last save, and you just have to go the point of your last death to reclaim the resources that you lost. That’s a tiny inconvenience in the grand scheme of the things. However, I feel these are small problems, owing more to a lack of polish than any real game breaking deficiency.
The Main Problem I personally have with the game is how lonely it feels. I’m a guy that plays single player almost exclusively and I feel lonely in this game. The scope and size of the game is amazing, but don’t mistake that for character. There isn’t anything to get invested in. I’ve seen one or two planets named by other players but that’s about it. That is how vast this game is. What’s the point of naming everything when there is no one around to see it? This is an extreme single player game.
Lastly, notice the lack of me commenting on the story. There isn’t much to say except there really isn’t one. Sure, you have a main quest to follow, but No Man’s Sky isn’t that type of game. It’s almost like Destiny and Minecraft. If you’re looking for a almost infinite universe to be in, and explore, you’ll be happy here. But not if you’re looking for a story driven universe like Skyrim.
No Man’s Sky is a good game, but the lack of polish hurts it. However, in this day and age, patches can help make a good game better. So if you still pensive about No Man’s Sky, just wait a couple months before getting it. However, until those patches happen, No Man’s Sky will continue to divide opinions.