Disclaimer: I spent more than 5 hours with No Man’s Sky. I’ve probably spent closer to 20 hours with the game but looking as 5 hours with is the name of the series now and not just my actual playtime I’d want to clarify.
Every few years a game is released that absolutely captivates its audience with the promise of grandeur, adventure, and endless replay ability. It’s games that promise so much but deliver so little that are the banes of the gaming industry. No Man’s Sky had the possibility of becoming this, it was the perfect storm for absolute failure, on a scale unlike any we have ever seen. It promised an infinite universe that would prove to be ever-expanding and limitless, and the hype machine perfectly fed into the game. The response to No Man’s Sky prior to release was one of ungodly levels of hype. The narrative that had been created by the fans of the game had made it seem like Video Games would cease to exist and the notion of all other games would merely fade into irrelevance. No Man’s Sky was meant to be the Video Game killer!
Unsurprisingly, it did not succeed.
But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just because it hasn’t ended the Video Game industry with its ridiculous scope doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game, or that it doesn’t live up to the promise set by Hello Games. Now, I’m writing this as a PS4 player. I have not touched the PC version although I am well aware of the backlash and criticism that it has received, and fairly might I add. No matter the scope, the game should work on a fundamental level but as it currently stands the PC version does not work. I only had one major issue during my playtime which resulted in a hard crash of my PS4, other than these very blatant flaws what Hello Games has delivered is a stunning set world that captivates you from its early moments.
The title sequence for No Man’s Sky is particularly worthy of praise, as your omniscient camera is flung at lighting speed across the galaxies the scope of what Hello Games has created becomes fully realized. It’s awe inspiring to see countless procedurally generated worlds that, one day, you could conquer for your own breezing past you at the speed of light. It harkens back to the roots of gaming in a really beautiful way, drawing you in with its breathtaking world, and imploring you to use your imagination. As your character spawns into your randomly generated world, you realize what your truly in for. One complaint I will level against the worlds are how hopelessly empty they are. You are dropped into a giant world with really only six or so activities to discover. But, it’s the sheer massiveness of it that kept me hooked. No matter how empty the planet was, I still trekked onwards towards new planets. The visual aesthetic of each planet is so unique and beautiful in their own wholly diverse way that I can’t help but feel giddy when I touch down on some new land.
The combat mechanics on display in No Man’s Sky are some of the weakest, most severely underdeveloped mechanics I have ever seen in a first person game to date. Gun fights are dull and empty, mostly feeling like a chore more than anything else. There is no weight to any movement or actions during combat, which gives everything a very floaty feel. The animation quality and lack of enemy variety are also some of, if not, my biggest gripes against the game as a whole. The majority of the time you will be fighting these tiny droids that scan the planet your on, if it detects you it may or may not attack you immediately. I’m still not sure what triggers the encounter but I’ve been going through for the fast pew hours to figure why exactly they attack and why they are the only thing that purposefully attacks you. The lack of fluid hit detection and combat animations provide the greatest hurdle for anyone interested in this game as more than just a walking simulator. When a beam from your gun hits one of the enemies they usually just stay still and go back and forth with you in an incredibly firefight that takes at least thirty to forty five seconds of your time. Combat really is not the central focus of the game though, in the case of No Man’s Sky, exploration is the key.
What I’ve noticed, more than anything, is the calming nature of No Man’s Sky. There is no real stress attached to the game other then the few flashes of combat. More then any other game, No Man’s Sky seems to be a meditation of patience and relaxation. I appreciate when a game is not trying to be something it isn’t, No Man’s Sky knows exactly what it is. And what it is, is not difficult and I’m perfectly good with that. No Man’s Sky provides me an outlet to experience the serene and the breathtaking in a truly incredible new way. Every world is gorgeously rendered and the art style perfectly suites the game, and while there may be a few draw distance issues, it never detracts from the experience.
Overall, No Man’s Sky is a beautiful game that is sorely lacking in any long running features to hold the player base. Content is too few and far between, and the idea of racing to the center of the universe, although enticing and interesting at first slowly fades into a nonobjective after one realizes the extensive length of time it would take to reach such a destination. There’s an excellent sense of freedom in understanding that the “main goal” may or may not be completed, and while it is novel at first it soon falls into the same trappings of monotonous, boring gameplay that I was afraid that it would fall into. While it did not achieve the goal of ceasing the production of video games like the fans had intended, it is still a relaxing and enjoyable experience that encourages exploration and attempts diligently to quench the unquenchable thirst for adventure with it’s unlimited options.