No Mans Sky has been the talk of the town.
A game that has been in development for so long that I forgot was happening until the internet dutifully got me excited for this game. So when I booted up No Mans Sky onto my PS4, I was understandably stoked. Then it crashed. An ominous omen if I have ever seen one. Nonetheless, I dutifully restarted the console and sat down to play. Hours later I emerged from the basement with a scowl on my face and my brain running.
The scowl wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of enjoyment.
Because I genuinely enjoyed the game, it was more because the game was not at all what I expected and I was trying to readjust what to I wanted to do in a game. If you go into No Mans Sky expecting any narrative or any push on what to do you will be severely disappointed. The survival mechanics are there so that you have a reason to land your ship and get closer to resources. They are not there to make you struggle to survive. The creators wanted to create a game that is the equivalent of a walk in the park. You will not have to fight for your life. Instead, you relax and enjoy the scenery.
There wasn’t a single moment that was intense, but several that got me excited.
I went to many different worlds and while some of them were barren others made up for it in beauty. The game is a sight-seeing simulator and I am excited to continue playing it.
After spawning on my starter world, I quickly gathered the resources required to leave.
My motivation was driven by the fact that my world reminded me of Mars, it was red and barren. The only exciting part was one of the creatures that inhabited this world. A Cropduster. Or so I named it due to my immense maturity. It was a large, gangly rhinoceros but with legs that were twice the length of the torso. But the next planet I travelled to warranted a longer stay. It was a basically a bunch of mountains that were covered in waterfalls and the higher peaks had lots of ice and snow. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains so this felt like home to me. It had plentiful resources so I stocked up and upgraded my ship some and my inventory size. The only addition I would make to that planet would be the inclusion of snowboard.
Then I went in search of Atlases.
Being so used to a narrative forced me to find some sense of purpose for my character’s existence. I thought Atlas could tell me. Flying from station to station was beautiful but devoid of interesting or exciting interactions with, well, anything. The few aliens I encountered were shallow and had nothing to offer beyond attempting to learn their language. When I did complete the “storyline,” I was utterly disappointed. But then I decided to restart the game. This time I decided to go for neither the core nor the Atlas. I decided to do whatever I wanted and take my time with it.
This way is more enjoyable.
You go to a planet that you enjoy and you explore on foot. Admire the little details of every planet. They are all so vast. I fully expect to pour hundreds of hours into this game. Its perfect to just kick back after a stressful day, drink a few beers and explore. Casually. Enjoying the scenery and taking my time about it.
Slowly I will gather up materials and make my way to the center.
But I will do it slowly. Taking my time to explore and genuinely admire the beauty of the universe. I think the creators wanted us to play it this way. To just meander about and not have a mission to accomplish. They wanted a game that you turned on and just chilled. It was supposed to be a real representation of our universe. Vast, largely empty and largely boring. But beautiful.
But at the end of the day, it is still a game, and a game should have something to do.
Some gameplay. And this is where No Mans Sky falls short. There aren’t things to do. And I don’t mean missions or narrative, of which there is none, but just actual gameplay. The gameplay revolves largely around shooting rocks and occasionally running away from sentinels. In space the gameplay does not differ too much. Once in a while you run into bandits that you must fight. The dogfights feel uninspired, all you do is fly around and use 2 weapons. There actually feels like there is little skill. If you are short on supplies and outnumbered then there is no escape unless you are close to a planet or space station. On top of that to reload your weapons, you have to enter a menu that does not stop the combat but does immobilize you. So when you need to switch which resource you are using you just stand there and get shot like a tank.
This is a symptom of a larger issue.
The UI is awful. Complete garbage. The UI requires you to open a menu for everything and use the joysticks to maneuver a cursor around and select things on the menu. The use of a cursor is a horrible design decision for consoles as occasionally it will land right in between 2 menus, and this poor design carries over the planetary navigation screen where you have to use the cursor to select your planet. Its almost as if they were trying to make it difficult. I can’t imagine a more difficult way.
Reset your expectations. This is not the high-flying space game we were expecting. It is more of a casual scenic simulation.