No Man's Sky Review - An Unevolving Sci-Fi Adventure


In the entertainment world, everything is defined by expectations. We constantly find ourselves in a vicious cycle of eyeing a product, creating incredibly high expectations for it, and ultimately being brutally disappointed. For the past couple of months, I knew No Man's Sky would suffer from this issue. Made by 15 people in a shed in southern England, the game has finally been released. For the most part, people seem to either love it or hate it. Personally, I stand right in the middle. It's obviously not the best experience in human history, but it's not a piece of trash. At its core, this is a decent title. Nothing less, nothing more.


From the moment the game loads, players are dropped into a procedurally generated world, next to a damaged ship. With no context or map, you're left to understand the basic mechanics and crafting systems. While I can see how this would leave a portion of the audience overwhelmed and confused, I actually enjoyed the isolation I was placed in. Without any kind of direct social interaction between players, you're truly left on your own. Dozens of hours later, even when I wasn't having so much fun, the atmosphere was alive and well. You can really go wild with your imagination. If a person is alone, they eventually begin to fantasize and hallucinate. NMS accomplishes a somewhat similar state of mind. You're sort of putting your own story together. Are you an explorer? Where do you come from? Is this all taking place in the Star Wars universe? It's unlike anything I've played before.


Ultimately, your main objective is to reach the center of the universe (It is, of course, possible to ignore everything, with no greater goal than sight-seeing.). If the quest sounds colossal, it's because it is. The primary feature of No Man's Sky is that it can build a virtual universe, thanks to what I can only imagine is a very-complex algorithm and random number generator. No users will have the same experience. They'll each find a unique set of stars, planets, lifeforms, and ecosystems. On that front, NMS fully delivers. Even if the differences between celestial bodies are mostly cosmetic (varied colors, slightly altered species, weather conditions), it's still breathtaking. The fact that you're able to board your spacecraft, lift off from an enormous planet, and fly through an asteroid field in search of a space station, without any load screens, is utterly shocking. The sense of scale, exploration, and distance are fascinating.


When it comes to presentation, I have mixed feelings. On the positive side, I love the artstyle. I believe the developers were aiming for a Asimov-inspired, science-fiction video game. From the art, to the color palettes, it oddly reminded me of some 90's PC titles. Also, the impressive technology used to create these countless worlds can produce some strikingly beautiful landscapes. On multiple occasions, I had to stop myself in order to admire the scenery. Sadly, performance is far from ideal. More than ever, it's excusable if you consider the magnitude levels. Having said that, it's important to mention that there is a ton of pop-up, rare blurry textures, and sporadic stuttering.


Moving one, let's discuss gameplay. No Man’s Sky is built on four elemental actions: explore, fight, trade, survive. Nevertheless, you'll likely find yourself following the same routine: you land on a planet, scan a couple of species, gather the resources you're looking for, and move on to the next. You're attacked every so often by hostile ships, which leads to pretty amusing space battles. However, these aren't frequent enough for me to consider them as a key part of the moment-to-moment gameplay. Therefore, the core of the game is based around exploration and crafting. Sadly, my two biggest criticisms are those exact aspects.


I was extremely let down by the exploration mechanics. At first, it's a blast. Wandering around, discovering bases, new species and elements is enthralling. Nonetheless, you eventually run into a pattern that heavily decreases the entertainment levels. Regardless of the location or how far you're into NMS, things remain repetitive. Whilst the world is a mile wide, it's an inch deep. You can melt rocks to obtain resources, find small outposts in which you can trade with aliens, locate crates with various assets, and play with animals. That's most of it. As cool as it originally is, it starts to wear off. There's an unquestionable lack of depth. As the hours kept going by, I patiently awaited for the mechanics to evolve into something better. I was left waiting.

The same can be said for the crafting system. As the game tediously micro-managed my inventory, I kept searching for the basic, obligatory assets: Thanium9, Plutonium, and Iron for the ship's fuel & the multitool's ammo. Carbon and Zinc to keep my suit going. To be fair, there's a strong variety in recipes to craft, including upgrades to your tools/weapons. But I never felt invested to the point in which I was willing to waste 30 minutes gathering the necessary ingredients. At what point does it stop being cool to collect the same resources to upgrade weapons in the same ways? Unfortunately, this happened early on. No Man's Sky presents a soulless, repetitive gameplay loop that failed to keep me hooked after the initial sessions.

Verdict: An unforgettable universe and atmosphere is often overshadowed by a fun, yet unevolving gameplay loop. If sci-fi resource gathering is your type of party, you'll fall in love with No Man's Sky. Otherwise, it might be wise to wait for a sale, or for the game to be expanded upon.

The Good
- Impressive Scale
- Great Sense of Loneliness
- Fun Space Battles

The Bad
- Soulless Crafting System
- Repetitive Mechanics
- Exploration Lacks Depth


Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Format: PS4 (reviewed), PC
A review copy was provided by Sony

10 comments:

  1. I don't think unrealistic expectations were the issue here. Yes hype never translates to the same kind of excitement once it is in your hands. The issue here were the promises and features the developer made as far as what could be done within the game. Such as becoming a trader, joining and fighting factions, etc. The game was nowhere near as in depth as it was made out to be. There were realistic expectations players anticipated being in the game because the game's creator said they would be there.

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