No Man’s Sky.
It’s been years since I last attempted to review a videogame but No Man’s Sky is a special case, a game I got on launch (not something I do much these days as I can’t afford to) which within three days I was trading it in to get the game I should have got in the first place, DOOM (highly recommended by the way, even if the platforming is balls).
Now you might think that three days worth of gameplay (really only a few hours as I used it to unwind after a working day, before having my tea and going to bed) is surely not enough to generate any kind of opinion on this product. But sadly, it is. What do I mean by that? Well from what I can understand rather than No Man’s Sky being a sandbox limited only by your imagination, it’s actually just the same few pieces jumbled together in a random order by RNG (since I apparently have some sort of curse when it comes to RNG based games, I saw maybe three truly original planets in the five or six or so hyperdrive jumps I made). So once you’ve seen one, you’ve sadly seen them all.
Not that it matters either way, as the objectives never change from planet to planet. “Objectives” isn’t even really the right word, you basically just craft the same couple of things over and over so you can progress to a new system and do it all over again. If you play for maybe half an hour sittings every few days, it might be tolerable but played any longer than an hour at a time, the repetition and utter lack of clear progress becomes utterly overwhelming before mellowing out at the sheer boredom of it all, not deserving any strong emotions good or bad.
It isn’t just the lack of stuff to do though, it’s the lack of anything. What is the point of scale if it’s empty? I’d much rather take a tiny, linear, experience crammed with interesting things to see and do than infinite numbers of barren worlds which may literally take you all day to walk the circumference of, but why would you even bother if there is nothing to do or see? Where is the motivation?
It isn’t even fun to navigate these worlds, you walk so fucking slowly and have to upgrade your sprint massively before it’s even worth using. You get a jetpack but it’s total shit. I maybe had a wander around two or so planets before I almost ended up in a coma and so I just switched to using my ship to go to the two or three or so key locations on each world, tick them off and swiftly move on. Is there much more damning about a game, than when you can honestly say that speed running provides the more enjoyable experience?
Outside of banal inventory slot micro management and tedious mineral farming there is also a combat dynamic too. Sadly, it actually harms more than it enhances, as we see clunky FPS combat on the ground which feels like a half baked afterthought and disorientating, sluggish, “dogfights” in space. The “dogfights” are the worst, punishing you for not being able to turn fast enough around as enemy ships whizz about you with a level of precision the game controls will not allow you to match.
Undeniably, No Man’s Sky has an audience, a vocal one. So what am I missing? Is that audience made up of hardcore RPG fans who are legitimately excited by the concept of a game where you will be spending more time on the inventory screen than anywhere else? Is it keen thinkers who are enticed by the existential promise of a game which simulates the crushing loneliness of the vastness of space? Because neither of these things, as far as I’m concerned anyway, are fun and the least you can do if you’re going to demand £40+ off of me is be fun.
Bottom Line? No Man’s Sky plays a bit like of you took the base game of Destiny and smashed it into one of the original Mass Effect’s side missions (sans Mako) and removed all of the gameplay. Yeah.