No Man’s Sky is probably one of the most critically interesting games of the year. It isn’t easy to say something like that, but with all the hype around the game compared to what we actually got, there is a lot that needs to be said. No Man’s Sky started it’s long journey to the marketplace back at VGX in 2013 followed by a more in-depth presentation at E3 2014. There the game’s focus was on exploration and it’s almost infinite, procedurally generated, universe. The promise of such a uniquely developed game combined with lots of promotion by Sony only generated hype from a relatively small developer. By the time this game released, about three years after it was announced, there was so much hype surrounding this game that it was hard to approach this game without developing an opinion. Now that the game is finally released, it feels like the game has let us down in some ways. However, there are also some ways in which the game manages to capture your imagination. Which side of the fence you fall on depends on what you think this game will be, but there is no doubt there is definitely something there.
No Man’s Sky does not really have a plot to speak of. The game starts under a shroud of secrecy and ends in a relatively similar matter. No matter how much time you put in or how far you get, you never get a solid story. All you know you have to do is to get to the center of the universe. This really only serves to give you an arrow to follow, but as far as getting some story out of the game, you are left with virtually nothing. However, with that said, the game really isn’t about unfolding a story. It’s one of the few games that forces you to focus on the journey rather than the destination, and that in and of itself, is interesting. The game definitely takes a risk in this respect and it is easy to see where the game was going with this. However, I feel like the game took it a little too far in the wrong direction. Instead of building on the mystery and uniqueness of the game, it leaves the lights off and leaves you wondering what is going on. There is a solid foundation to build on, we just never see anything built on that foundation and that is a shame.
No Man’s Sky quickly boils down to one activity that you’ll find yourself disappointingly relying heavily on, and that is resource gathering. You will need lots of resources to upgrade and travel around the galaxy. However, that is all you can really do with all the resources you collect. The game is entirely: Mine, Craft, Consume, Travel, and Repeat. There isn’t anything else to focus on since nothing else is really that great to speak of. Combat is basic at best and mostly generic and bland, there is no story to speak of and there are even fewer customization options. The only thing you can do is get enough stuff to get to the next star and that gets quite boring.
Another major issue with the game is that it just overpromised and underdelivered when you compare what was said about the game and what we actually got. Things like multiplayer support, a faction system that allowed you to take sides, large scale space battles, the ability to name your ship, greater planetary physics, etc were all promised at different points during the game’s press period and yet none of those things were delivered. While this may not be an issue for someone that didn’t read about the game before it was launched, it was profoundly disappointing for those that did and it ultimately hurt the game. It seems that the game’s developer Sean Murray deliberately lied, or at the very least, greatly misled the consumer base into believing that the game was much more than it actually was. While this doesn’t necessarily make this a bad game, it certainly hurt the game in the eyes of those that were looking to play the game from day one.
As eluded before, there are a number of good things about this game that deserves to be recognized. Most importantly, the procedural generation used in this game is very good. Before this game, procedurally generated elements were rather simplistic and were used in elements of larger games. However, the entire game was procedurally generated, and when you consider how many elements were generated, the results were certainly impressive. Lifeforms, planets and missions are nicely mixed and provide a fun environment for short periods of time. It can be a lot of fun to explore, catalog and name your world as you move through it. However, after a few hours, the game’s library of generation starts to feel the same and before long becomes a slog to get through. It is a real shame because if there was something like a story of a purpose mixed in, it would add so much more life into a game that has a great foundation for it.
Another strong element of the game is the game’s use of color. The worlds you encounter range in color and are set against a background of an equally vibrant shade. The visual elements look great on the PlayStation 4 and usually make for a fun experience. It is true that there are only so many colors available, and many of those repeat rather quickly, but the initial impression is interesting and world a look for at least for a little while.
However, as good as some of the elements are, they don’t make up for the bad parts of the game to any great extent. For everything good that can be said, there is an equally poor thing that can be said about the game. Sure the game looks appealing when you start it up, but the game repeats itself quickly and starts to feel the same. Sure the game’s procedural generation system is impressive and is a great base for future games, but the game lacks a point to the endless exploration. When you combine the fact that the game never ends, even when you get to the core, and you just move to a new galaxy and you consider that the game shipped with several game-breaking bugs, you have a pretty poor game on your hands. That is why we fell somewhere in the middle. We feel there is a strong base to build upon and we hope that Hello Games takes this start and builds something even better over it. However, there are so many faults to the game that you can’t get over the mediocrity. The game will eventually devolve to a very repetitive, resource-gathering, slog that you’ll quickly play, enjoy and get over before you reach the end. For that, No Man’s Sky falls well short of what this game should have been.
This review is based on a review copy of the Playstation 4 version of No Man’s Sky developed by Hello Games published by SCEA
- Interesting Procedural Generation System
- Nice Use of Color
- Fails to Live up to Hype
- Left Out Features
- Feels Pointless and Easy to Get Lost