Also just generally lost. Though that’s a hazard of having over 18 QUINTILLION planets on which to muck about. That’s too many zeros to type out, let alone actual planets to look at. After almost 40 hours of gameplay, I can safely say that the more I learn about the universe in No Man’s Sky, the more I realize how much I don’t know. As an avid open-world explorer and lover of sandbox games, No Man’s Sky has definitely upped the ante in the genre and I’m in love with all of it. Well, most if it. It definitely has its issues both intrinsically and extrinsically. We’ll look at what I mean in this No Man’s Sky review.
You start the game on a random planet among 18 Quintilian other planets that do not resemble any kind of home for you. At least that we know of right now. What is your purpose? Probably not to pass butter. But beyond that we don’t know much other than you’re an explorer. Players come across a monolith that gives them a choice – accept Atlas or find your own path. There is no real information beyond that to go off of. It’s a gamble: It could be good, could be bad. I did choose Atlas and it has given me a purpose of sorts. Atlas has given me a waypoint to reach that is several (about 16) galaxies away that I must make a series of jumps to get to. I’m about 5 jumps in and I’m not sure what is waiting for me at the end of the Atlas path. It could be just the start of many more paths. The teasing messages seem to indicate it’s going to give me an answer to the universe. But if I already know the answer to the ultimate question, what more could it reveal?
Throughout the planet explorations you’ll come across many different alien species. I’m up to five right now. Each encounter offers more and more insight about their origins, the origins of the universe, why those pesky drones are freaking everywhere, and almost always leaves me with more questions that I started out with. However, you don’t understand any of their language at first. You must learn their words through knowledge stones, monoliths, relics, and through beings that speak the language (for 20 carbon a pop, every other time you interact with them). Each word learned unlocks more information on their backstory and culture, though it does get tedious after a while. One word per knowledge stone, one word per relic or monolith, and then there is a short blip of backstory. It’s a great way to slowly unravel a story, but at the same time it makes it very disjointed in between farming materials, managing upgrades, and exploring. The more you explore, the more likely you’ll be getting pieces of multiple stories and keeping track of it all can be difficult.
No Man’s Sky touted having no loading screens or instancing of any sort and they’ve essentially delivered on that promise. There is a “travel screen” of sorts when you’re jumping from one star system to the next, but it’s a proper loading screen as one would say. In my experience I’ve had little lag, and it was merely a hiccup of time and nothing more. I had one occasion where I was trying to get out of my ship and do other things quicker than the game would allow, while raining on an acidic planet, and things got painfully slow to the point I had to exit the game and restart it. However considering the enormity of the game, none of these issues have made the game unplayable or detracted from it enough to stop my play.
PC users get the option of keyboard and mouse vs controller, which is nice. I much prefer the keyboard and mouse for exploration and naming things. However, k&m is incredibly clunky in a starship and I find it’s a must to switch to the controller and fly like a proper space explorer, barrel rolls and all.
The game itself offers very little in the way of explanations. It gently guides you to certain things and helps with a few prompts, but lots of it is all in trial and error and figuring things out on your own. Which is kind of the premise of the overall game, so the meta is strong in this one.
Much to my delight, the creative team at Hello Games believes in worlds that aren’t just bleak and gray. Planets shine with vibrant greens and magentas and blues and they’re riddled with all kinds of interesting flora and fauna. The game is procedurally generated, so you’ll find yourself at a familiar base with the same layout on each planet you explore. Similar formations of materials and plants and animal species will all be reminiscent of one another. Despite the overlapping of visual effects, the scenery is gorgeous. There is the occasional glowing block structure around a pillar of Heridium, depending on your angle to it, that is enough to take you out of your NMS stupor and remind you it’s just a game. But by no means is it game-changing in any way, it just slightly interrupts your mindspace until you’ve mined all of the material or have moved on your way.
65daysofstatic is the band that did all of the music for No Man’s Sky and they could not have done a better job. Not only have they been able to appropriately capture the sentiments as you go exploring, they’ve been able to implement it perfectly. When you’re dogfighting in space the tempo is kicked up and you’re really IN the dogfight, shooting down space pirates that want your loots. When you’re coming up over a hill and cast your eyes down on a valley of beauty and wonder, the tone is mellow and exploratory. The soundtrack helps to fully immerse your mind that you are actually there, on that planet or ship, doing that thing, being a real space explorer. Top marks, all the hats off, excellent, excellent job.
Considering that there are 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets in No Man’s Sky, it would take one person a mere 584,942,417,355 (.07202148) YEARS to spend exactly 1 second on each planet. Not including travel time. Never mind farming materials to make however many jumps that requires. That’s nuts. NMS wasn’t exactly made to be a multiplayer game in the sense that creators felt that it would be very, very unlikely anyone would actually run into each other. As any person who underestimates the power of people on the internet, it didn’t take long for two people find each other in-game but they apparently couldn’t see one another despite being at the same place.
Personally, I’ve happened across two different planets discovered by other players of the two dozen or so I’ve landed on but have not attempted to find them just yet.
No Man’s Sky is absolutely going to relieve your endless space exploration, open world, survival game itch. It’s a beautiful game and you can literally sink the rest of your life into the game and never step foot on the same planet twice. Except that life will get frustrating when you’ve explored 90% of a planet and keep getting pointed to landmarks you’ve already been to. Tedium will set in when you have upgraded your exosuit to its fullest potential (48 slots) and you’re analyzing your billionth plant that looks naggingly familiar to the last 500 plants you’ve seen on the last dozen planets you’ve been on. Eventually you run out of creative names for every new plant, animal, save location, and planet.
These things are going to be addressed in future content patches, but for now, No Man’s Sky is crazy fun until the grind sets in. Then the excitement and awe of the endless universe becomes too big and too much of an unreachable goal. Completionists will agonize much more quickly than folks who play looser, but eventually the sky will envelop you and you’ll have to switch out to something more engaging, like shooting people in Overwatch.
*We reviewed a retail copy of No Man’s Sky purchased by the reviewer.
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