No Man’s Sky by Hello Games was one of the most hyped up game releases of 2016. With the promise of eighteen quintillion planets and endless exploration the folks at Hello Games were setting the expectation bar for the stars. Before I felt I had a strong understanding of this game and was able to review it, I logged close to fifty hours on my Ps4 copy.
The game’s incredibly high expectations created by both Hello and the No Man’s Sky community could never have been met. While the game exceeds in many areas it also is extremely shallow in others. So lets start at the beginning. You are thrown onto a random planet where you are given the task to repair your broken down spaceship. Mining for resources and crafting a few items will help repair your spaceship. It was in this moment I encountered the terrible inventory system in this game. On the Ps4 you are given a PC cursor to choose items. This makes managing your inventory quite a slog. While trying to differentiate between what resources are used for what and juggling the limited space you have, navigating the inventory system is just an added headache. Not to mention to reload your weapon and fuel you must open the inventory screen and reload from there. This does not pause the main game and takes you directly out of the action. In the early parts of the game juggling inventory is a mechanic. Later in the game as you develop more inventory slots on your suit, ship, and multi-tool it becomes more bearable, but still a chore.
I explored the beginning planet for a few minutes to try and find some wildlife. After about 20 minutes I discovered my first creature. A small rodent looking thing with wings. It was not to most glamorous of creatures, but alas I named him Harambe. Naming and uploading your discoveries nets you a sum of units, which is the in-game currency. I found after only a few hours my interest in naming things and being excited about new discoveries dwindled dramatically. After a few planets my initial thoughts on the game before launch were realized. This game is procedural generated, so the creatures are just slightly different. You begin to see the same looking creatures just with different hind legs, wings, or size. Some of the plants are even exactly the same, but they are on a different planet with a different procedurally generated name. Below is a comic from Penny Arcade that describes the feeling perfectly.
A major problem currently with the game comes from when you use the pre order starship. It essentially blocks players not being able to progress through the game. The pre order starship gives you early access to a hyperdrive, which allows you to warp to different galaxies. However, if you do not pick up the hyperdrive blue print before warping to a different galaxy, the game will not register you as having it. So if a player goes and buys a new ship it will not have a hyperdrive on it. If you bought a new ship there is no way to go back and retrieve your old one. While this did not happen to me, it is definitely making a lot of players extremely upset.
After mining resources, fixing my ship, and naming the starting planet Valhalla, I immediately left this planet. This is where I discovered the most exciting part of No Man’s Sky. Getting in your ship and blasting off directly out of the atmosphere is one of the most thrilling things I have encountered in a video game. The seamlessness between the planet and space was incredible. Once I was in space I saw two other planets I could go to, and a space station.
I set my targets on the space station and using my plasma drive, warped over to it. The way No Man’s Sky handles distance is incredible. Instead of using feet, or meters, it uses real time. It really struck a chord when I was using warp speed and something was still forty seconds away from me. Hello Games really made the player understand the size of this game.
After reaching the space station I encountered my first alien race. It belonged to the Korvax race and was some sort of robot humanoid mix. When I realized that I did not understand the language it was speaking I thought I was in for some trouble, but unfortunately the decisions you make with these aliens don’t seem to really have any impact or harm on your character.
When you explore planets you can uncover the language of these races, by finding ancient monoliths, ruins or knowledge stones. Interacting with these grants you a word in one of the four alien races this game has to offer. I found myself trying to hunt down every word I could wanting to know more about the races I had encountered. Here is another point in which the game fell flat. No interaction you have with any of the races amounts to anything more than a simple decision where you either make them happy and get rewarded, or you make them mad and lose reputation with that race.
The most interesting race you encounter is the Atlas. At the beginning of the game you are asked if you want to follow the path of this glowing red orb called the Atlas. If you choose to, you are guided to different galaxies with Atlas Stations on them. This is where the story of the game takes place. On your journey to the center of the universe you stop to collect Atlas Stones at these stations. You meet some actual characters a long the way, and some new challenging ideas for you to think about.
I was not expecting anything from the combat system, and I am glad I did not. No fight in this game ever feels like I am in any real danger. Your multi tool can be upgraded to have two functions. Mining mode shoots a laser which helps you gather resources, while blaster mode is for when you are engaged with wildlife or sentinels. Most fights I don’t even need to switch to firing mode. I stated earlier that reloading your multi tool is done from the inventory screen and I can not stress enough how frustrating that is. Even though I have to back out to the inventory screen to reload while something is shooting at me, there is still no real sense of threat as no enemy really does any significant damage to you.
At it’s core No Man’s Sky is a game about exploring new worlds and more importantly, surviving in them. While the player must keep track of their life support meter, fuel, environmental protection, and ammo I found it to be more of a bother than a real concern. Once you get onto a few planets the resources you need to recharge everything are abundant. So instead of it forcing me to play strategically while exploring it really just made me open my inventory screen every so often to recharge everything.
No Man’s Sky would not be complete without a synth heavy, ambient soundtrack. The Original Soundtrack for No Man’s Sky done by 65daysofstatic perfectly sets the mood for all environments. Whether you are blasting ships in space, exploring a beautiful cave, or seeking out ancient ruins, the soundtrack will always accompany you. When 65daysofstatic was announced to do the soundtrack at The Game Awards in 2014 I was ecstatic. The soundtrack can be found at participating retailers, as well as music streaming services. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Hello Games did state they will be releasing an update in the future to add building your own base and owning your own space freighter. While this may give the game a little more to it I don’t know if it will have me coming back for more. No Man’s Sky is a game that shoots for the stars and falls slightly short of them. While it can be at times very meditative, the slog of an inventory system and lack of real depth of alien races leaves players desiring more.
** Disclaimer. Here at Gamerations we have decided to shift our review system to a 5 point scale instead of 10. We feel it helps accurately reflect how we view these games better than a 10 point scale. All our previous reviews will stay the same, but No Man’s Sky and every game going further will be out of 5.
No Man’s Sky: 3/5