No Man’s Sky is a first-person adventure game made by Hello Games set in the vast territory of space. Each system, world, creatures, and climate is procedurally generated, leading to an enormous game with sixteen quintillion different options, making each player’s experience supposedly completely unique and different from any other player. The game places you on a world never discovered before and sends you off to collect materials, repair your ship, and take off into the great unknown.
Not hearing about this game would be a glorified miracle, since the hype-er space drives (yes, I have space jokes) were in full throttle leading up to its release, with everything from death threats sent to the Hello’s own Sean Murray, to copies of the game being sold a week ahead of time for almost $2000. So the question becomes, did No Man’s Sky deliver the quality experience expected of it? I would argue it didn’t.
The game does a few things well, and I would be amiss if I didn’t mention those. The game’s art style is extremely unique and pretty. Each world’s color palette is unique to the atmosphere and climate it contains. Your world with acidic rain will have a greenish tint to them, even in the global view from space. In addition to this, the sheer size of the game is magnanimous, and the ability to boldly go where no man has gone before, literally speaking, is a feat in itself. The game is also simple enough to pick up, gain a feel for what you’re doing, and go off to start your adventures.
Unfortunately, each of these positives comes with its own downfall. While the game is very pretty, the seamless loads into each world require that the structures have to render since they don’t totally exist until you fly into that world. The problem is that the rendering is done through a visually abrasive display of the pixilated textures clearing up the closer you get. This process starts to break the immersion of experience and take away from the pretty colors and scope of each world.
The size of the game would be amazing if it wasn’t for consisting crashing of the entire game when warping from one galaxy to the next. Numerous times when I was trying to warp to a new galaxy, which activates the only real hidden loading within the game, I was taken back to the Playstation Home Screen, only to reload, restart the process, and have it happen again. The size of a game also doesn’t matter when the objective for each area is to do essentially nothing but gather resources and looking at vaguely familiar creatures on each world you visit, only to warp and continue the cycle. Each place you visit, from planets to space stations, seems like a copy paste mechanic of things you’ve seen before, and it only gets worse the longer you play. After roughly 30 hours of playtime and a platinum trophy, I genuinely feel like I’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
The simplicity of the game is probably its greatest strength and it greatest weakness. While the simplicity is beautiful for people of varying experience with video games to be able to enter in and explore Hello Games’ world, it limits what the game has to offer over time. Unlike Minecraft, which knew the scope of its game and what could all be done in it, No Man’s Sky believes itself to be a $60 game while delivering a simplistic and vapid experience, one with no real learning curve, to its players that gets stale after the first few hours.
And all of this leads me to believe that the biggest problem I have with No Man’s Sky is that it seems to be suffering from an identity crisis where it doesn’t actually beat out any of the competition in any genre it’s trying to emulate. The adventurous aspect of exploring and surviving in a huge open world and do whatever it is you want to do has already been done better by games like Ark. The combat system and space battles feel as though they weren’t supposed to be there, as they’re lacking in any substance or quality, and they’ve been done properly for decades now. The crafting and grinding system seems to come from things like Destiny and Minecraft, who both do it with greater rewards and prowess. Which means that the only thing that sets it apart is seamless (or close to seamless) transition between worlds and galaxies, but that loses its appeal rather quickly when there is no real story present to keep you invested in the universe.
While I believe wholeheartedly that Hello Games will use the next year to year and a half to update their game and transform it into something that will probably look very different than it currently does, the existing No Man’s Sky feels more like an experience than a game, and it misses some of the key elements that make games compelling to continue to play. It missed an opportunity to come out at a cheaper price point than $60 and perhaps dodge some of the easy criticism against it, and left me feeling disappointed and bitter. I would advocate saving your money on this one, and if you really want it, wait for a sale.
Total Playtime: 26-30 hrs.
Final Score: 5/10