No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky
 
 

Quite often when we talk about the size of a game, it’s in terms of limits and boundaries; how long it takes to walk across the map, how many quest markers there are, or how many bytes it takes up on a disc. Percentage trackers for space, story, and scope.

No Man’s Sky – Hello Games’ sci-fi exploration title – is big, but not by any metric you know. It tackles some heavy issues about self-awareness and faith, elegantly making them tangible through the sheer size of its galaxy. Gameplay systems and technical issues work against those grander metaphors however, making it impossible to see the forest for the trees.

 
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There’s a triptych of misunderstanding surrounding No Man’s Sky – the game the developers created, what Sony marketed it as, and what fans wanted it to be. Forget all that. No Man’s Sky is a procedurally generated survival game. To simply gather it under that one umbrella however, is doing it a disservice, and deflecting its other achievements.

You’ll begin on a random planet – one of 18 quintillion – and from there you’ll have to repair your crashed ship. To do so you’ll need to collect oxides, isotopes, and silicates from trees and rocks. You combine these ingredients into materials, and then into functional technology.

Your overarching goal? Reach the centre of the galaxy, jumping from system-to-system with your ship’s hyperdrive. Each solar system, planet, and moon in No Man’s Sky is massive in terms of physical size and space between them – so much so that it’s a physical impossibility for any one player to see it all. No Man’s Sky makes you feel small and insignificant, a feat that I can’t attribute to any other game in existence. It captures the isolation of being on the frontier of the unknown, but It also mirrors the anxieties we face when coming to grips with our own existence.

Stitching your planet-hopping adventures together is an enigmatic being called Atlas. Long abandoned space stations dedicated to it litter the cosmos, the interiors more akin to temples and places of worship, than rigorous academia. Your interactions with this entity take on a spiritual tone, as your character talks about navigating paths constructed by something far larger than themselves. It elegantly reflects the comfort that some find in religion, and also provides the game with some much-needed direction.

Roadblocks to your journey come in several different forms. Planets can either have hostile environments – extreme heat, freezing temperatures, or high radiation – or robot guardians that protect valuable resources. To tackle the former, you’ll need to manage your Exosuit’s life-support and shielding systems. For the latter, you’ll equip different weapon mods to your Multi-Tool, like grenade launchers or shotgun blasts.

But the largest opposing force to your journey – both physical, and in some cases spiritual – is the way you interact with these systems. Collecting materials requires you to manage a woefully small inventory. Maintaining your shields or other life-support modules transforms you into a space-age stoker, feeding resources into bottomless furnaces. If you allow yourself to become consumed by these elements, then No Man’s Sky becomes a checklist of tasks you can never quite fulfil.

Presentation and technical problems also shatter much of the illusion. My first jump to faster-than-light speeds wasn’t met with trepidation and excitement; instead it was anger, as the game crashed. Some environments are clearly more taxing on the PS4’s architecture than others, as the frame rate dips and stutters. Interactions with alien species are limited to a handful of conversations, which are repeated ad nauseam.

But that’s also the point of these systems and meters, these screaming children vying for your attention, these scripted interactions. They’re a known, comfortable quality – the most gamey thing about No Man’s Sky. They exist to ground you, a familiar routine, so you don’t become completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe before you. The quality of them however make such a large game feel incredibly small.

There’s something meditative and introspective about No Man’s Sky. It’s size and scope elicits feelings of wonder and irrelevance in equal measure, creating metaphors from calculus and code. Those feelings are savagely curtailed by oppressive systems that transform it into something smaller: a videogame.


No Man's Sky
"Massive. Haunting. Flawed."
- No Man's Sky
7.0
Good
 
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min


 

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Comments Comments (16)

 
Posted by captain X nz
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 11:48 AM
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I'm digging it and anybody finding the resource grinding too much obviously doesn't do Minecraft.

Keen to see how the future updates change the game with enhancements and fixes.
 
 
 
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 12:11 PM
1
Is it weird to say that I completely agree with this review on everything, but at the same time I'm absolutely loving it? There's just something about it that's got me hooked.
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 12:29 PM
3
17 August 2016, 11:48 AM Reply to captain X nz
I'm digging it and anybody finding the resource grinding too much obviously doesn't do Minecraft.

Keen to see how the future updates change the game with enhancements and fixes.
Digging it.......... haaaaaaaahhhh
 
 
 
Posted by Relmed
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 12:41 PM
2
Played an hour and a half and requested my refund. Boring, slow, monotonous, repetitive and empty. It is beautiful, I can give it that, not shadow of the colossus beautiful but beautiful. I'm all for the grind in games, even the resource grind, the scale of the things I've created in minecraft are testament to that. I just could not do it in this, it all felt overwhelmingly pointless. With most games there is some satisfaction "look at the giant structure I have created" "look how powerful I have become" But this was oh look I've made it to another seemingly samey planet to do the same thing again. When it's 1/4 of the price in a steam sale and they maybe have some form of multiplayer I'll reconsider become a mindless, inventory management robot whilst yarning with a mate about my slightly better farming methods but until then, no dice.
 
 
 
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 1:10 PM
1
Seems to be getting alot of 7's I see. Had a feeling before hand it would be about that. I just knew it was being overhyped for what it really was and people generally got the wrong impression , even though Sean tried hard to keep it simple, people I think made out and got too wound up in the potential and possibilities and thought that would be in the game.
I look forward to seeing how they continue to support it and hopefully add more too it, certainly has the potential to be a cult classic.
 
 
 
Posted by Goonertron
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 3:10 PM
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I still can't get over how different the game is from the E3 stage demos. Massive downgrade and some straight up lying to get sales.
 
 
 
Posted by CoffeeAddict
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 3:12 PM
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I will add this on my list of post exam games. By then the price will have dropped and a good few updates will have dropped. Couldn't give it the time it deserves at the moment.
 
 
 
Posted by Zolen
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 3:42 PM
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17 August 2016, 03:10 PM Reply to Goonertron
I still can't get over how different the game is from the E3 stage demos. Massive downgrade and some straight up lying to get sales.
Wow - really ?? Do you have examples ? (not trolling - > I didn't follow this game back then - genuinely interested)
 
 
 
Posted by Xaphriel
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 4:38 PM
1
17 August 2016, 03:42 PM Reply to Zolen
Wow - really ?? Do you have examples ? (not trolling - > I didn't follow this game back then - genuinely interested)
There's a huge Reddit thread listing all the differences between trailers and release, there's a very noticable disconnect.
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Wednesday 17 Aug 2016 6:03 PM
-1
17 August 2016, 11:48 AM Reply to captain X nz
I'm digging it and anybody finding the resource grinding too much obviously doesn't do Minecraft.

Keen to see how the future updates change the game with enhancements and fixes.
I played minecraft at least 1000 hours, and i find it much more fun.
 
 
 
Posted by MonkeyMan
On Thursday 18 Aug 2016 1:39 PM
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Id love to give this game a go, I love exploration in games
 
 
 
Posted by Goonertron
On Thursday 18 Aug 2016 2:37 PM
3
17 August 2016, 03:42 PM Reply to Zolen
Wow - really ?? Do you have examples ? (not trolling - > I didn't follow this game back then - genuinely interested)
This pretty much sums it up

https://youtu.be/RvAwB7ogkik
 
 
 
Posted by Zolen
On Friday 19 Aug 2016 10:55 AM
2
18 August 2016, 02:37 PM Reply to Goonertron
This pretty much sums it up

https://youtu.be/RvAwB7ogkik
BAHAHHAHAAHA I just watched it .. thats amazing !
 
 
 
Posted by czk51
On Monday 22 Aug 2016 10:25 AM
1
I get why this doesn't rate terribly high. I get the repetition and the issues, but still for me it's sitting at GOTY. I've spent maybe 30-40 hours in game, I'm not much closer to the centre from when I started and every now and then I still find a planet that blows my mind. At its core its still the same experience regardless of what lipstick you put on a pig of a planet, but the critters are getting bigger and more interesting the more I progress through the system.

I seriously believe on of the patches last week was adding bigger creatures - Sean mentioned they had full control of the universe so they could probably change a lot of things based on feedback.
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Tuesday 23 Aug 2016 5:22 PM
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22 August 2016, 10:25 AM Reply to czk51
I get why this doesn't rate terribly high. I get the repetition and the issues, but still for me it's sitting at GOTY. I've spent maybe 30-40 hours in game, I'm not much closer to the centre from when I started and every now and then I still find a planet that blows my mind. At its core its still the same experience regardless of what lipstick you put on a pig of a planet, but the critters are getting bigger and more interesting the more I progress through the system.

I seriously believe on of the patches last week was adding bigger creatures - Sean mentioned they had full control of the universe so they could probably change a lot of things based on feedback.
While i think it deserves a 6, don't name it goty yet, it's nowhere near last year's Witcher 3, and there are lot's of game's coming out, frankly i think even doom is better, and overwatch might get goty, i think NMS isn't even finalist.
 
 
 
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Thursday 25 Aug 2016 12:22 AM
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Comment has been removed.
....... uh okay?