Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Developer: Hello Games
I've been following No Man's Sky closely since its world premiere in 2013 at VGX. The game wasn't created without the developers being hit with their own hardships; Hello Games' studio was flooded shortly after the reveal, and as a result, the game experienced a number of delays. All that aside, No Man's Sky finally released for the PlayStation 4 on August 9th, with the PC release following on August 12th.
While the hype for the game built up the closer we got to release, leaked videos ahead of the game's release dampened my excitement. The game didn't appear to be the game that had been promoted, No Man's Sky was treated like an AAA game and that made a lot of people forget that it was an indie game. It looked like a game filled with freedom, life, hectic space battles, and the possibility of interacting with other players (if I found any).
Hello Games made a hell of a game, but the release has left me feeling like I've been playing an Early Access game. I'm more excited about the possibilities of the No Man's Sky than I am with the current state of the game.
Don't get me wrong – I still enjoyed my time in the game. No Man's Sky is beautiful, but it feels unfinished.
There's a formula to gameplay…
At its core, No Man's Sky is a game focused on exploration. The journey is vague, but the obvious push is to explore worlds. Of course, we all knew that the moment we saw the game. The controls for the game are intuitive and the music is great, although, sometimes the ambient sounds mimic fauna sounds which will make you think there's something nearby… when there isn't.
There are multiple ways to play No Man's Sky: you can go the trader's route by purchasing items at a low in one planet system and sell at a high in another system, you can explore worlds and mine resources to your heart's content, or you can fight space pirates and take their cargo.
Regardless of which path you choose, you'll have to do the following steps:
- Land on a planet
- Mine for goods
- Leave the planet
- Sell goods for money
- Rinse and repeat
Why do you need to do this? Well, you'll need money to jump start your trading business, you'll need to upgrade your ship for more inventory in order to explore, or you'll need to upgrade your ship's weaponry – all of which requires resources and money.
I like tedious games; I love Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon. No Man's Sky is one of those games. Its repetitive gameplay and grinding for no real end makes it that game. Once you max out everything, you will still be following with the same steps and reaching the center of the universe, the so-called "end game" will only keep that cycle in motion.
The space fights, while exciting at first, left me upgrading my hyperdrive just so I could complete the task at hand.
Ah, the bottlenecking…
Progressing in No Man's Sky can be somewhat frustrating with your inventory space. Or rather, lackthere of. Upgrading your exosuit's inventory can become an expensive endeavor and ships in the game can cost upwards of $10 million in-game dollars.
However you choose to play No Man's Sky, you will face off against the inventory boss. Your progress will be bottlenecked by it. Your ability to move forward in the game will be slowed down. There's no real way to mitigate this frustration other than by completing the steps above and grinding for money. Once you have enough money, you can then purchase a better ship with more inventory or upgrade your gear.
As though your inventory problems weren't enough, every upgrade for your ship and gear takes away one inventory slot for possible resources. So if you're a hoarder, you'll have to upgrade strategically.
What's the point?
Perhaps it's the game's general vagueness when it comes to the story or the limited interaction with aliens or repetitive gameplay or simply how 'alone' you are in space; but, at some point you'll wonder whether it's best to skip planet systems all-together. It will get you to the next point in the story you'll argue or it'll get you to new aliens and planet types. Maybe there's a chance you'll find some of the fauna from the trailers!
Whatever excuse you give yourself, you'll end up skipping planet systems. Whenever I felt this urge I became somewhat upset. All of this grinding for gear and I don't even want to step foot on planets, I just want to keep moving, I just want to find something interesting. Planets are much less diverse than you'd expect and there isn't much that distinguishes planets – save for some aesthetic features (resources are pretty much the same everywhere).
A game based on exploration shouldn't make you feel like you want to skip things.
No Man's Sky is a solid game. The mechanics, the worlds, the style, the music – it's a beautiful and carefully-crafted game. It is a great proof of concept; however, it doesn't feel complete. Unfortunately, I'm more excited for what will be added to the game in the future. For $60, I'd suggest waiting for the game to go on sale before diving in – especially if you're on PC, the PC launch of No Man's Sky has been pretty rough.
I reviewed a PS4 version of the game and was met with little to no issues.