Only Announced at E3 in 2013, it seems we had been waiting an eon for No Man’s Sky to arrive. Each passing year heaping more expectation on to the shoulders of developers Hello Games to deliver something truly special.
Within the first dozen hours or so with the game it become clear that that is most certainly the case. The scope is really quite staggering. You start on a planet next to your damaged ship and are basically told ‘fix it’, no hand holding, very few pointers, it lets you discover how to play the game. It all become very intuitive very quickly. Scan for resources, Mine those resources, craft those resource into parts for your ship, exosuit and multi-tool. It took me a good few hours to even get that done because there is just so much to explore, and this is just the one planet I started out on out of an entire universe. That part didn’t really dawn on me until I finished repairs on my ship and headed off into the black, or in this case yellow. When you break the planets atmosphere and are confronted with the vastness of what you have to explore, it really does become quite mind blowing.
It’s not a particularly unique premise for a game and is more than a little reminiscent of the Elite series on PC but with a suped up engine behind it, not that that is a bad thing, not at all as is appears. No Man’s Sky does indeed play like the old Elite games of yore but with a simplified, more arcade like control system. This allows you to seamlessly beat an hasty retreat on foot to your ship whilst being pursued by whatever form of nasty has taken offence to you and leap into the cockpit of your ship and be jetting out into the stratosphere within seconds, providing your jump thrusts don’t need refilling which happens to me A LOT. It makes for some very quick paced and dynamic encounters. It would have been a mistake I think to implement a big beardy control system like that of Elite into a console game like No Man’s Sky and risk alienating a portion of its proposed audience by bamboozling them with a full cockpit to control in every tiny detail. They have kept the premise and execution of the game and its mechanics nice and simple, anyone can pick up a controller and dive into No Man’s Sky and not feel overwhelmed by things being over complicated, you’ll feel overwhelmed enough by the enormity of what’s in front of you let alone a complex control system.
The other thing that I love about no man’s sky is there is no right or wrong way to play it. Want to fly to different planets obliterating everything in sight? Good luck to you, you can certainly try. Fancy the pirates life? You can carve your way through the universe robbing all you come in contact with, just don’t expect it to be an easy journey. Want to take the route I did of operating as a trader? Mining minerals to sell and upgrade my ship to make my journey to the galactic centre a little simpler, of course you can’t account for other NPC’s deciding you and your cargo are fair game and are then presented with the fight or fly choice. All of these avenues are open to you, There are so many ways to approach how you play, but in the end everyone has the same goal, reach the centre of the Galaxy.
This is a truly beautiful game, diverse planets, plant and animal life all wonderfully realised. The style of this game is very much influenced by the covers of science fiction novels of the 1970’s and 80’s, all abstract alien vistas and vibrant colours. I suppose it’s kind of difficult to appraise the layout of the game universe that is procedurally generated. What I can comment on is what I have encountered on my own journey. The planets I have discovered seem to have different forms of life and topography, I can’t really say hand on heart I’ve visited two I’ve found the same. The same can be said for the different star systems I have visited, huge planets, dead moons, space stations & cruisers, I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and sky’s of different, vibrant hues (I may have made one of those up). No Man’s Sky is doing what it says on the tin.
It isn’t faultless, since launch there have been issues technically, crashes and the like, but with a game as involved as this, I think that is to be expected really. PS4 issues pale in significance to our master race overlords who seem to have a lot of issues with with the PC version of the game, I’m not concerned with that though, this is first impressions on the PS4 version and on the whole, it plays just dandy.
You can mine each planets resources as you see fit for trade or to craft for supplies, the mineral deposits of planets can be refined into fuel for your ships warp engines to get you further toward your goal, of course that’s once you actually get a warp engine. The game is very well paced to keep setting you goals to chip away at to reach a target to progress further with enough to see and do to keep you interested.
It does remain to be seen whether No Man’s Sky will keep me hooked for the long haul or not. It is definitely a game that is going to receive a steady stream of abuse from some corners of the gaming community, it’s prospect is kind of marmite, you are going to love it or hate it, no half measures. At the time of writing this I am utterly immersed in the shear size and variety this universe has to offer and I can’t see me wanting to leave it anytime soon, the mystery of what is at its centre is far too tempting right now for me to want to give up anytime soon.