Before rendering our verdict on No Man’s Sky, we wanted to get as far away as possible from the controversy and chaos surrounding the game’s launch. This allowed us to experience all that the game offers, and gave us more time to contemplate the developer’s vision. I haven’t completed No Man’s Sky, and honestly, I haven’t even come close. When Hello Games announced that this game would be epic in size and scope, they certainly weren’t kidding
This review will hone in on all the traditional beats (story, controls, graphics, audio, etc), but No Man’s Sky is all about exploration and discovery, and it’s unlikely that anyone will duplicate my own personal experiences with the game. If you’ve played No Man’s Sky, your stories will certainly differ, but in the end, my goal is to give you a good idea of the vast, immeasurable universe that Hello Games created.
Platforms:PC, PS4 (Version Played)
Publisher: Sony Interative Entertainment, Hello Games
Developer: Hello Games
Genre: Space… The Not-So-Final Frontier
Release Date: August 9, 2016
ESRB Rating: Teen
No Man’s Sky places you on a random planet in a random galaxy. Your ship is disabled, and you need to scrounge the planet, looking for the necessary materials to fix the vessel. Think of it as Minecraft meets Mass Effect and you’re on the right track. Depending on what planet you start off on, this will either be a simple task or a near-impossible one. I began my journey on a frozen tundra, with very little resources. I could only travel so far from my ship, as the frigid weather slowly chipped away at my exosuit’s life support. It took me a few hours, but I was finally able to obtain enough materials to complete the repairs. Once I did that, I was able to take off into the stratosphere.
But of course, I didn’t do that. I wanted to see what this planet had to offer. I mean after all, it was my planet, Omicron Persei 8. Yes, you can name every galaxy, planet, animal and plant you come across. Once you set the name, you can upload it to the game’s servers. Then, if any other player finds your discovery, they can see the name you gave it. So, after fixing my ship and touring my world, I decided it was time to see what waited for me in the great beyond.
It truly is quite amazing when you leave your first planet. I rocketed through the stratosphere, watching the colors change from blue to green and then red. Eventually the clouds gave way and I stood in awe, looking at the chasm that is the universe. It’s really a memorable experience. Even more impressive is when you turn around and see the size and scope the planet you just left. You can honestly spend months inspecting one planet and not even scratch the surface.
The goal of No Man’s Sky is to reach the center of the universe. In order to accomplish this, you need to find blueprints scattered across the planets. These blueprints will help you build your exosuit, craft weapons, and add features to your ship. Once you gather enough materials to create a warp drive, you can zip over to the closest galaxy faster than you can say “ludicrous speed.” Then you explore more planets, gather more resources, and move on to the next galaxy.
Normally, one would figure that this rather repetitive procedure would get boring after a while. Luckily, No Man’s Sky is about more than just branding and crafting. As you search each planet, you come across various structures, be they abandoned buildings, trade stations, beacons, and the like. These present you with opportunities to collect more resources, go on quests, and learn alien languages. Currently, I’m trying to learn as much about the Gek language as possible, as knowing their tongue allows you to know exactly what they want when they request a certain material.
Since the game is all about exploration, it’s real easy to get sidetracked. I’ve found myself flying towards a beacon, when out of the corner of my eye, I spy an observation station. Curiosity got the better of me, and naturally I landed to check it out. This sent me on another quest to add another item slot to my exosuit, and before I realized it, I was three-to-four quests down the rabbit hole. But at no time did I feel I was wasting my time… except once.
During one of my many trips around a new planet, I discovered a distress beacon from a crashed ship. I thought that it was an alien life form that needed help. Upon landing at the beacon, I discovered that this alien was MIA, but its ship was there for the taking. After comparing the specs against my own ship, I learned that this was faster and more powerful than my current vessel, and I knew I wanted it. Unfortunately, being a crashed ship, it was in dire need of repairs.
I had to craft several different parts to fix the crashed ship. I had many items on hand, and other materials I needed were plentiful on this planet, except Zinc. For an hour, I searched and searched for a sign of Zinc to no avail. This planet was a barren wasteland, much like Mars from Total Recall. I, too, began to feel desolate and lost. I started to get angry, and wanted to give up. If I could compare my feelings to anything, it would be that moment in Mallrats when Willam’s failure to see the sailboat drove him to the brink of insanity. But just when I thought all hope was lost, a small green circle popped up on my HUD. A shelter was within walking distance – only 20 minutes away. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I arrived at the shelter. To my relief, it had a Galactic Trade Network! And Zinc was in stock! At that point, it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. Even better, when I left the store, I saw a hangar – I was able to fix the ship AND have it sent to the hanger immediately. No walking back!
One may wonder why I didn’t just fly my ship around and search for the Zinc on another planet. That’s a great question. Unfortunately, there are no waypoints in No Man’s Sky. If you find something important and want to leave and come back for it, good luck. There’s no mini-map, and from what I could gather, no way to set custom waypoints. I wanted to leave and come back, but I couldn’t put a marker on that spot to help navigate my way back. And I’m no Magellan, so since my ship is the only indicator that shows up on my HUD, I had to leave the ship there as my only waypoint. I hope this is changed in a future update, but for now that is one major annoyance in the game. Depending on your taste, this was either an awesome experience or an annoying one. It’s your call. I honestly felt somewhere in-between, with a mixture of extreme frustration and unbridled enthusiasm. But I must say, I do love my new ship.
There is some combat in the game, although it’s few and far between. The planets are host to Sentinels, flying robotic drones that survey the land to make sure no interlopers are messing with the planet’s natural “chi.” If a sentinel catches you killing the local wildlife, it will go into attack mode and summon fellow Sentinels for assistance. Depending on the planet, the sensitivity of Sentinel “attack mode” varies from freaking out when you step on a flower, to not caring if you lay waste to an entire mountain. The other bit of combat comes in space. As you are flying towards a planet, you may come into contact with hostile forces. The ship battles do get pretty intense, especially if your ship isn’t all that powerful. The cost of losing a battle is pretty big, too – you’ll lose all your items in your exosuit and have to visit your grave on a planet to reclaim it. But blowing up an enemy ship is oh-so-satisfying. Again, this isn’t Call of Duty, so don’t expect a whole lot of action.
The music is very relaxing in No Man’s Sky. It has that synthesizer feeling that’s akin to Mass Effect. I really enjoy that type of music, and it fits perfectly with the gameplay. The sound effects are decidedly sci-fi-esque, and I especially love the robotic warnings that let you know when your material and health levels are getting low.
Because it provides such a personalized experience, the real question is, is No Man’s Sky worth purchasing? Well, that all depends. I’m sure you’ve heard some of the stories about people getting bored with the game after a couple weeks. Different strokes for different folks, I say. You’ll know almost immediately if this is the game for you. If you want to enjoy a relaxing time exploring the galaxy, and are a bit of an introvert, this will be a great fit for you. If not, you may want to look elsewhere. Due to the scope of No Man’s Sky’s universe, it will naturally feel empty at times, and that may be a turn-off for some. But I suppose that’s what exploring the galaxy is like. The game is definitely not for everyone, but if you want to just unwind and sightsee without any real objectives or goals, then I recommend it.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of No Man’s Sky was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.