A Sky full of Stars: No Man’s Sky
As of know you most certainly have heard of No Man’s Sky, the game that promised a whole universe for you to explore. So i bought the game, i sit down with it and after 40 hours playing it I’m ready to write about it.
The opening hour of any game is the most critical and important, it’s the time that will give you an idea of the mechanics in the game and more importantly if you will enjoy it or not. On a game this vast, many will try to complain about how much you should play before having an educated opinion. Some will say that in order to judge this game, you should play at least to the point were you make your first interstellar jump. Others will say that exploring the system were you spawn should be enough. But all of them agree on one thing, it takes a long time to judge this game. That’s were the irony and main problem of NMS is; everything in this universe seems to take longer than necessary. From actions, notifications and even exploration are paced by dreadful slow pace.
“Repair your ship. How? Figure it out”
You begin your journey on a randomly generated planet, where your ship crashed and your are just awakening. Everything in this planet, from the flora and fauna, to the minerals available, are random in quantity in your planet. Mine as a gorgeous planet, covered in purple grass covered fields and mountains, tall trees, peaceful fauna and perfect weather. I consider myself lucky in this area; i have seen streams of other gamer where their starting planet is barren, just hills of rock and the occasional giant mushroom.
And so your adventure starts; a damage ship, a weapon/mining tool and scarce directions. The sandbox is open to you from the very beginning in the same fashion as Minecraft. However not in the fashion of Minecraft were your task is to survive, slowly working your way into more advance tools and building shelter, for then be able to build that castle that you always dream as a kid, in NMS there are little to no directions. Your first task is to repair your ship. In order to repair the ship you need to gather minerals to then craft other material used to repair the ship. This is were experiences will differ and how quickly you get frustrated. In my case my planet was rich in minerals and i just had to grind my way with only one element, and the problem of storage management. If your planet has little Iron, or almost no Zinc in close proximity, it will take you a good amount of time to repair your ship and leave the planet.
First time you exit the planet feels wonderful. The open emptiness of space, a space station appears on my display, and the sight of 3 other planets to explore. I aim for the nearest planet, punch the engine to max and head straight to a new world to explore. The lights flashing around me, asteroids a blur and the sight of the planet growing as the distance shortens. Awesome i think, and then i notice a piece of information on my display “time of arrival 2 minutes”. This is sadly too common, there is not an actual reason for travel between planets to take so much aside from trying to be “realistic” in distances. But most of those instances i spend it looking at my phone, looking at Twitter and Facebook before the ship reaches the planet. I even manage to go to the kitchen and grab a drink, put some popcorn in the microwave.
You are an explorer, and your “job” if that can be said is to catalog; each system, planet, flora and fauna you encounter. You upload your discoveries for credits, that you can use to buy elements or other machinery you need for your journey. This however is all that NMS has to offer. Yes the universe is there, yest there are so many planets that you will never see all of them. But at the same time there is no need to visit all of them. The game has a problem offering you a reason to explore the planets and actually stay in them to catalog what you find. The time you spend in this game will be in gathering materials; to craft recipe materials, to charge your ship to be able to jump into hyperspace into a new star system. And repeat this cycle until you reach the center of the galaxy. The need to stay in a planet and actually explore is non existent, some might make an objective of finding all the interest spots in a planet and uploading the 100% of each planet. But not many will find joy in this endeavor, mainly because despite all the randomness in NMS all planets feel the same.
“A random universe, where everything looks similar”
The ambition of this game has taken the best of it and left the rest to be a grinding effort of repetitive chores. All planets that i have visited are rocky, no gas giants to be found, and there is not a spot of indication that this wont be the same for all the planets in this “random” universe. Fauna and flora share a limited pool of assets, therefore you will likely find the same plant over and over, but with a different name, since you know, “different planet”. But the problems with NMS are not only on sharing a small pool of resources for the code to generate everything from. I can understand that a small team, can only produce so many assets for generating random worlds, but is not right for them to not do the same with other parts of the game. All building you encounter in each and every planet are the same. This amplifies more the feeling of everything being the same. More than one time you will ask yourself “didn't i explore this already?”
One of the most interesting parts of NMS is the language, you will find yourself not understanding the tongue of the aliens that you meet. And through exploration you will discover words of each alien language, expanding your understanding of conversations and helping you make better decisions. This along the occasional space battle are the most interesting parts of a game that relies to much in monotony. Those moments give a shred of light into the possibility this game holds.
So far No Man’s Sky has promise, its a beautiful game with a lot of potential, but sadly gets hold back by a case of “grabbing too much and holding too little” Its a game that requires you to be patient, and have a lot of free time, if you don't mind the monotony and just want the sense of wonder to discover “new” worlds well this game is for you. I cant say i agree with a tag price of $60 for this kind of game. Let’s hope that coming updates bring more variety and actual mission and things to do.