Let’s start off by telling you what the PS4 exclusive, No Man’s Sky isn’t. It isn’t Mass Effect in which you travel all over space and interact with different aliens in a desperate race to save the galaxy. It’s not Star Wars Battlefront and it’s not even like Star Trek where you have control of a starship and crew and exploring strange new worlds. In fact, let’s just go with the last part which is indeed the core of the game; exploring strange new worlds.
No Man’s Sky is probably the closest thing to a space explorer simulation that we have gotten in a very long time. The premise of how it starts quite frankly is a little dicey. Once gamers hit the START button the game loads up and in less than 2 minutes, you find yourself on a strange planet in a life support suit. You find yourself near a space ship, some supplies and your first and most important task is gathering all of the resources needed to get this ship that somehow has fallen to you, space worthy. While in the process of doing that, you must also repair and upgrade the broken items on your spacesuit. As you do, it makes, exploring your world a whole lot easier. There is no explanation of how you got here, what happened to the ship’s previous owner or why you are on the planet. Just head off into a direction and explore.
It almost sounds straightforward except once you leave the area around the ship, you become literally distracted by everything. Depending on your level of patience, the fun is in exploring the planet around you, in which you can find minerals and isotopes to fix your ship as well as use these materials for resource management for your space suit. That is the other little hook in that your suit’s (as well as your ship’s) resources are finite. How you manage your inventory is up to you.
One of the game’s biggest selling points is that no two planets are exactly the same and no two players will ever ‘meet’ in the same place. Thusly, no two starting points will ever be the same. So far, my experiences on my origin planet have been mostly peaceful and quiet. The planet is mostly desert with an earth like blue sky, lots of large red looking cactus like plants and docile animal life. I spent maybe 3 hours just exploring the general vicinity finding many resources to ready my ship and even long after my ship was ready to depart, I was still wandering. The reason being is that not only was I finding resources, I was also finding monolithic ruins for a long lost warlike civilization called the Gek. For each time I found ruins, I learned more about their culture and a little bit of their language. I was also finding a lot of abandoned alien outposts here and there which allowed me to salvage for upgrades.
Gamers should understand that, this isn’t a game in which once you find something, you can immediately fast travel back and forth. At least in my explorations, there are certain objects that you need even to activate a fast travel points to just cover short distances and unless you know exactly where you are going it may not put you where you want to go.
Eventually, I did leave the planet I was on and learned at that point even this early in the game, not only could I name my planet, I could name the system I was in and more. As a matter of fact, I traveled for a few minutes, landed back on the planet and laid claim to some of indigenous life that was there.
Once I left, my next objective was to build a hyper drive which would get me to a space station faster than the 6 hrs. it would take for me to get there under normal speed. Yes, I said SIX hours. Everything that you do in this game is in real time and in fact, the next place I went was a moon orbiting my starting position to find a beacon and that literally took 25 minutes to get there.
To be brief, the moon was a bit of the opposite of my planet. It was a toxic wasteland with constant acidic rain with more animal and plant life. Oddly enough as well, I met 3 sentient beings at a trading post and realized that since I didn’t know the language except the fragments I picked up, trading was going to be a bit tricky but I did manage to get the hyper drive plans and by then, eight hours had gone by.
No Man’s Sky literally takes the phrase ‘your miles may vary’ to heart. The game requires Zen-like patience to play and encourages exploration. It really does not hold your hand as there is no tutorial to play through and the fun is in the fact that everything that you find, you can claim in Columbus like fashion. Meaning that, a lot of what you find was already ‘found’ but you are ‘discovering’ it for the first time and you can rename your finds. You can even upload your finds to the No Man’s Sky database and earn monetary units for your finds.
Graphically speaking, to be honest, it’s a mixed bag. As the game is promising us 18 quadrillion (yes, look it up!) different planets, the CPU is working overtime to continuously load the landscape into the game and you can see it. As you walk across alien landscapes you can see like a weird ripple effect as the engine is steadily pushing the landscape in place for you to get to the next point. It’s not a game breaking issue, but it’s something that can kind of break the immersion. Otherwise, depending on where you are, it’s a gorgeous game. Even with being on two different orbiting bodies, I can see the differences in terrain types and more.
The bottom line that most gamers will want to know is, is it worth the hype? Even with the time that I put it, I can say it’s still way too early to tell. No Man’s Sky is something that we have hardly ever seen. It’s not a story driven game in which you are pushed to get from set piece to set piece to reach an ending. This sandbox is about as open ended as you can get being as you have an entire universe to play in. In fact, what may or may not drive you to get this game is knowing that this is your journey, alone. There are no companions, no crew to recruit, not even an android side kick. In fact, my time with the game may vastly differ from someone else playing and that is great. I can’t even tell you if this game will hold gamers’ attention span within the next few weeks. If they aren’t used to the solitude, they may not stay with it or, if they want a game which won’t let them go because they need to get to the next point on the horizon to claim it, this may be the game for them.
Usually even within the first few hours of a game, I can tell if I am going to really like it and recommend it or just flat out hate it. No Man’s Sky is the first game I think I have ever played in my life in which I honestly can’t tell you which way to go. In the hours that I spent, I felt like I had done so much but I hadn’t gone far. I have seen a lot of things but I know there is so much more that I have yet to see. I feel like I am still learning the basics even after I have gotten the hang of some of the basics. It’s not a bad game at all but I would seriously recommend either watching extended game play vids or better yet, renting it and creating your own story (heck devote a weekend to it and I still bet your judgment will be inconclusive) to see if this is your cup of tea.
After all, you will find that it is true in that ‘your miles may vary’.