When I first heard about the ‘revolutionary’ concept of No Man’s Sky by indie game developer Hello Games, I was so intrigued by the whole concept of the title that I decided not to do something rather radical. After reading a brief press release about the game and it’s unique concept of an “infinite procedurally generated galaxy” to explore, I vowed not to watch a single video, or read even one more press release article about the game before I played it.
This is not usual behavior for me. I generally read everything I can about a game, and watch any video I can get my hands on before deciding if I am going to request a copy of a title to review, or just buy it myself. However, in this case I could see the hype was about to explode about this brave new indie game (which it did, insanely), and I didn’t want to be influenced by it when I actually got to play it for the first time.
Now that I have dived into No Man’s Sky for the first time, and spent a few days wandering around it’s vast and incomprehensible universe, I’m very glad I went into it as a ‘virgin’ to the game. I’ve gone back now and read through some of the crazy hype about the game, and laughed out loud over ridiculously over-the-top expectations put on Hello Games by gamers and even professional gaming journalists. If I’d gotten amped by even half of the hype about No Man’s Sky before playing it, or believed — like many — that the leaked video footage from the stolen pre-release copy represented the whole experience of the game, I probably would have hated it within five minutes of playing it.
Thankfully, I went into the game blind, and I am ever so grateful I did. Not to say that I am totally in love with it, but I didn’t have grand expectations, and the result is that No Man’s Sky as it actually IS, rather than what I might have expect it to BE, is something I’m very much enjoying and can see playing for a very long time. Perhaps not every day, or as often as I still play Skyrim or other cherished favorites, but I can imagine logging in regularly for possibly years to come just to explore a new planet, or find a new system to name after my favorite fictional sci-fi character.
My first impression of No Man’s Sky is that this is not a game for everyone. It is NOT a multiplayer game, despite vague hints there is some incredibly unlikely opportunity you might possibly some day meet up with another gamer in it’s huge expanse of galaxies. In addition, this is not, in any way, a story driven game or an RPG of any kind. There are some small storylines of a sort you can follow, or not, as you wander around working toward the center of the universe. But if you are into games for a plotline other than one you may create for yourself, you’re probably not going to last long with No Man’s Sky.
What this game does, and does brilliantly, is give you a huge playground to explore endlessly. Literally. You can find new planets, and creatures, and strange oddities galore basically forever. Even though, from what I’ve seen out there, eventually everything blends into a bit of ‘sameness’ because there are only so many random combinations of geography and creatures and color palettes to be generated, each planet is, in some way, genuinely unique.
So there is always something ‘new’ to find, and another randomly weird combination of environmental factors to overcome, even if it might be kind of almost like what you found ten planets back in another system. Honestly though, isn’t it likely that the real universe out there is probably very much the same if you had the ability to explore it in your own little spacecraft?
A lot of players have complained about the harsh limits of managing inventory space, especially in the beginning, but I don’t mind it. It gives a ‘survival’ aspect of the game to keep it from being too easy, even if the constant collecting and crafting does get rather boring. That’s pretty standard in most games though, and until there is a total revolution in that area of gaming, it’s something I’ve just grown to expect, good or bad.
My only true complaints so far is that the graphics are not quite up to par with what I would want from any game in this day and age. While interesting and engaging to look at, I’ve found a lot of textures in No Man’s Sky to be pretty low res, even on ultra settings on my much beloved Nvidia 980Ti. Plus, some fool (probably in the interest of trying to make the game play better), set the default FPS in the game to 30. If you don’t know any better and start playing with it at that FPS limit without changing it to at least 60 FPS (or higher), then you may think the game is a nasty suck of stutters and lag. (Well, you may get that anyway if you have some of the PC glitches people have been dealing with and Hello Games is working to patch, but I don’t have those issues after bumping up to 90 FPS.)
Other than that, my biggest annoyance with the game so far is really rather minor. I LOVE game maps. Seriously, if a game doesn’t have a mapping system, I’ve been known to make elaborate maps of my own. No Man’s Sky does not have planet mapping. Seriously, I was shocked. Trying to figure out how to get to new places, even when you fix your first ship, or return to places you’ve been (like that sweet Heridium pillar forest!) is insanely difficult. These planets are not like tiny little things, they are HUGE. And your ship is not the easiest thing to control when trying to navigate around a vast planetary space. Plus, with a near total lack in the way of navigational markers for anything (like the cool alien stuff you find), it’s pretty much impossible even to make your own maps either.
So if I was going to beg Hello Games for anything to make me really like No Man’s Sky more, it would be to up those graphics a bit, and to please, please give us Planetary maps. Oh, and it would be really sweet if you could rename your discoveries because I totally screwed up my first discovery names and am embarrassed by them. Well, I have already begged for both of those things on Twitter actually.
With all that said, I am very much ‘in like’ with No Man’s Sky, if not actual love. I still have high hopes for future upgrades to the game, which Hello Games has promised are going to happen and very possibly even be free. I’m hoping those will include more story, and possibly some true way to really interact with other players in the universe. Even if not, however, I think No Man’s Sky will stay in my active game list for a long time to come.