No Man's Sky is a game whose ambitious promises may have hurt it in the long run, but it's hard to deny the impressive framework and gameplay loop Hello Games created.
First announced as one of the most ambitious space exploration titles ever conceived, No Man’s Sky has finally arrived to make good on all of its promises. But as most know, what No Man’s Sky was initially thought to be and what it actually is differs quite a bit. However the sheer ambition of No Man’s Sky – the way in which every individual piece of a massive, nearly infinite galaxy is unique – is hard to discredit. Recommending the game, on the other hand, comes with a lot of caveats.
The basics of No Man’s Sky are fairly simple. Players travel from system to system within a procedurally generated galaxy, visiting planets, moons, space stations, and a few other installations. The bulk of the game is spent scouring numerous procedurally generated planets, looking for everything from resources to mining outposts to ship/exosuit upgrades. Truthfully, it’s possible to spend hours on a single planet and come away with tons of resources, money, and ship upgrades, but doing so requires a certain type of dedication.
At the end of the day, No Man’s Sky is about the grind, so if players are not interested in farming resources and trying to build up their arsenal, or simply exploring a vast galaxy, they will not find the game in the least bit enjoyable. While space travel may be a key component of the experience, the real meat of the game is centered on accumulating better and stronger ships (with more storage space) and blueprints for upgrades. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that doing this will require a lot of exploration and a ton of farming.
Luckily, No Man’s Sky developer Hello Games has constructed a game that is all about individual goals. Obviously, players will want to reach the center of the galaxy and find out what happens with the Atlas Stones, but there are so many little things to focus on that are so compelling. Landing on a planet that’s rich in resources, for example, can keep a player occupied on accumulating as much money as possible. Or they might want to discover all of the various wildlife that inhabits a planet, all of which is procedurally generated and can be named. But money is key for a lot of the bigger aims, and with a ton of money in the bank, players can then shift their focus to buying a better ship, which usually comes with more storage space and better upgrades.
It’s easy to see how a player could spend 25 hours on their starter planet, because it never feels like a planet is truly “finished.” There is always something more to do on every planet, even after the player has a good sense of the terrain and have seen all of the wild life. Admittedly, though, those smaller goals won’t be as appealing to everyone as they are to some. There are going to be players who ask, “what’s the objective” or “what’s the story” and may put down No Man’s Sky quicker than they picked it up.
That’s why recommending No Man’s Sky is such a difficult task. The galaxy that No Man’s Sky’s developers have created with complex algorithms is extremely impressive and the fact that there aren’t many holes in the seams speaks volumes about the creativity of the team involved. Every planet has its own personality and its own makeup, with some feeling more accommodating while others require a constant sense of caution. These systems and planets feel like real planets and not just flat planes with repeating textures.
But appreciating the design of a game and investing time in its gameplay are two different things. It requires a very specific type of gamer, one who loves finding their fun in an experience with a ton of freedom, to keep progressing through No Man’s Sky. The game is part Minecraft, part Subnautica, and part its own creation, but if any of those component parts interests you then this may be worth checking out.
The best way, though, to see if No Man’s Sky will appeal to you is to watch an hour of gameplay, either on a livestream or on YouTube. If what you see looks appealing then chances are you will get more than your money’s worth out of the game. However, if any piece of the game seems in the least bit boring then it’s best to pass on the game, at least for now.
No Man’s Sky is a game whose ambitious design can either deliver 100s of hours to the player or leave them wondering what the real “point” of the game is. It can be overwhelming to jump into No Man’s Sky, but finding individual goals can reveal just how deep and compelling the game can be. Yes, there are plenty of moments where the flaws show through, especially when the game crashes, but a very specific type of gamer will treasure the experience and find themselves engrossed in the game for months.
However, if the idea of spending hours mining a planet for gold to buy a ship with 24 slots compared to your current ship’s 18 sounds in the least bit boring, then No Man’s Sky is not for you. And that’s okay. This is a game that its own developer called divisive and it’s very true. Recommending No Man’s Sky is nearly impossible, because each gamer is going to get (or not get) something different out of the experience.
No Man’s Sky is available now for PC and PS4. Game Rant reviewed the PS4 version of this game.