REVIEW: No Man's Sky

PLATFORM PlayStation 4 (played) PC PUBLISHER Hello Games DEVELOPER Hello Games RELEASED 09/09/2016

PLATFORM
PlayStation 4 (played)
PC

PUBLISHER
Hello Games

DEVELOPER
Hello Games

RELEASED
09/09/2016

We have finally arrived. The latest title from developer Hello Games is finally able to be played and experienced. But is that necessarily a good thing for the developers, and the gamers? The last several days after the release of No Man’s Sky have shown a divided community when it comes to this highly-anticipated title.  I have sifted through positive and negative comments and reviews throughout the internet, and each have their own merits. But which side is right? With players literally chomping at the bit at this game and its' promises of a vast universe to explore, and incredible scope to dive into, is it really the end-all be-all that the press, the media, and its' fans have made it up to be?

PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF

Starting the game has you immediately marooned on a random planet within a vast universe of (reportedly) 18 QUINTILLION planets, as you must search for a way to repair your broken gear and ship in order to get off your floating rock. Now, you may ask yourself: How does oneself fix your gear in the game? Well, of course, you must use the multi-tool provided to you to mine the plants and minerals around you for their core elements, such as carbon or iron. Once the elements are in your possession, you can get your ship and equipment patched up in no time, allowing you to truly begin your journey through the stars. From this point forward, where you go is up to you: you can follow the path of the Atlas, the mysterious red orb you meet at the starting line prepared to guide you or just explore at your leisure, the choice is ultimately up to you. I pursued the path of the Atlas to see where it would guide me throughout this expansive universe, and I wasn't too disappointed.  By the time I played enough to get to this review,  I had completed thirty hyperspace jumps, met twenty-five different aliens, and spent a few million units (in-game currency) sourcing elements for upgrades to my ship and equipment. There are numerous space stations in each solar system that I have visited, and each one contains an in-game auction house inside, which can be very useful to find those hard-to-get materials for your ship. Each planet and solar system can be very different, ranging from barren to covered in water, and that really kept each area surprising to me, as I didn't know what I would run into after each jump. The one thing that truly kept me on my toes, though, were the animals. There are simple four legged creatures walking around, and then there are some freakish looking creatures that look like they have a Tyrannosaurus Rex head on a dog’s body, but instead of the usual feet or size we have four tree branch looking toes, and stand as tall as a spaceship. Crazy sounding, isn’t it?

EVERYBODY GETS A PLANET

But enough about my whimsical adventures in space; what about the game? Well, what I really appreciated the most from this game was the feeling of awe as you explore the galaxy. Flying through the empty void of space, or even exploring all of the different planets adds a sense of unknown and curiosity to the game that I haven't seen recently. While it is far from being the only thing in the game worth experiencing, it will make your jaw drop the first time you perform a hyperspace jump, find new secrets on a planet, or even get tangled in a dogfight among the stars, as the starship battles can be exhilarating, although they can get excessively annoying if you ever find yourself outnumbered. I have to give a nod to the team at Hello Games that worked on the art assets also. When the game gets it right for me is when you first arrive in a new star system, and you can be bombarded with a purplish hue, all the way to a harsh yellow, with the light reflecting amazingly off of the edges of the planets. Even exploring caves in this game can be interesting, with radioactive isotopes all over the place, or just iron rocks waiting to be harvested. I have never had such a good time just exploring planets and space, and the game truly captures that sense of wonderment and the "final frontier" very well.  

ROUGH TERRAIN

Now, there are also some things to bring up when discussing this game also. If you are coming to this game expecting a vast, overarching storyline, then this is not the title for you. It was fun to explore throughout the universe, but it felt a bit jarring not truly having a story beat to follow, as the best you have to go on is the advice from the Atlas. While this isn't necessarily bad, many players' may be coming to play this game expecting a great tale to be told while flying through the stars, and if so, then prepare to get your feelings hurt. Also, during my playthrough, I personally experienced a few game crashes, which are never appreciated considering the span you can go sometimes without saving the game, increasing your risk for progression loss. Luckily, the incidents were all right after saving, so it wasn’t too catastrophic, but that could be an easy ledge to fall off of, and judging by some comments online, other players' weren't so lucky. If I had been farming for resources for an hour though, I would be extremely upset, so I don't blame some peoples' frustrations on this front. 

The space combat, while a bit fun, is frustrating when you have to go into your inventory to refill shields and other systems mid-fight. The inventory system really makes it feel as though you have to work to make and create anything to use, but at crucial moments in the game, such as dodging lasers in space, there really should be a way to easily make and use what you need to survive. Earlier in the review, I applauded the guys that were working on the art assets, and I intend to hold that position, but when the algorithm uses some of the blander color palettes, particularly on deserted planets, it can tend to feel a bit underwhelming, which can put the overall tone down a bit during a playthrough. Not all of the eighteen quintillion planets are worth hanging out on if you're one for eye candy. Also, it took me some time to get used to the interface, especially since there is no real tutorial mode other than the initial start of being stranded, and that could turn some first-time players off right from start. I was in the water on a planet in mid daylight, when the game decided it would be useful for me to know that the flashlight can be turned on by pressing the up arrow on the directional pad. A great tip, but it would have been better had I known about it a bit ahead of time. 

Mileage may vary

For No Man's Sky, It is important to know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for several players, this is a game that they will probably explore through for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of hours, enjoying every minute along the way. Others may play it for a few hours, and once the sheen from the newness of the game wears off, and the hype dies down for them, may be disappointed in playing this space adventure. The internet has been ablaze with so many various, and polarizing opinions, and for the most part, each side has valid points. Personally, I feel like this will be the perfect game for me after a long day at work, and I just want to unwind and explore new planets in this game's open universe, but I also understand that may not be enough for some players to keep coming back for more. It can be stressful if you’re always going into combat, but if you’re just hopping systems and exploring planets with some jazz or chill out music in the background, this game could be some of best times you’ll have playing games that week. But, at the end of the day, whether you feel like the game turned out as you expected, or you feel like the hype machine took you for a ride, your mileage will vary with No Man's Sky. At the end of the day, if you are curious, give it a try at least. Just like when you jump to the next star system, you may never really know what to expect until you get out there and explore.


THE GOOD

  • 18 QUINTILLION planets
  • Awe inspiring when exploring
  • Good art assets overall
  • Great music

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Space fighting mechanics
  • Some crashes and bugs
  • Weird shifts in some art
  • Interface may feel cumbersome

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WILLIAM TER KEURST IV - @CTGAMER

Co-founder at Rocket Punch. After he is done exploring all those planets, Will intends to head straight to Azeroth to prepare for the Burning Legion's return. Maybe the multi-tool will be of some good use?