The much hyped release of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky (NMS) is now behind us, and gamers have finally had a chance to slow down their hyperdrives and take a real look at the game.
In fact, maybe it time to slow down the hype-drive too. The build up to NMS’s release was full of great promise, but has the game actually delivered? Well, it’s a mixed bag.
At its core, NMS is a fantastic exploration game. Discovering brand new planets that no other player has ever set foot on is amazing. All the flora and fauna have never before been seen – supposedly. However, in my galactic travels, every planet I came across had some very similar plants. At first I thought this was normal – they were in the same solar system; perhaps the plants were capable of interstellar travel, just as my unseen protagonist can. However, even when I pulse-jumped out the system, these fan-like plants followed me. For a procedurally-generated and supposedly random galaxy, there seemed to be an awful lot of similarity.
Of course, there can never be endless possibilities, and each of these similar plant species were slightly different. However, there were far more variants of fauna – from jumping, squishy toadstool creatures to predatory sail-cats. Plus, the combination of the flora and fauna on each planet is unique, so perhaps I’m just being a bit picky.
Yet the planets are all more or less the same in terms of their actual composition. The real galaxy is made of gaseous planets, rocky planets, icey planets – there’s even a diamond planet out there somewhere. Yet in NMS, every planet is rocky. Apart from the original planet I awoke on, I did not see another with dense forests or lush grasses. No planets are completely liquid – although there are some with oceans – and there are definitely no gas giants. Despite the complicated algorithms that go into generating planets in NMS, it still can’t compete with the real thing.
Apart from the exploration and cataloging of endless possibilities of animals and plants, NMS is a game of economics. Players can farm rare minerals and sell them on the galactic market for varying prices depending on the terminal and planet that they’re sold at, all to save up for a bigger ship, a better mining tool, or simply to become the richest organism in the galaxy.
While the benefits of upgrading your hardware are very good, for some the main goal of NMS is to reach the galactic core. In fact, if players accept the mysterious Atlas after they wake up from their crash at the beginning of the game, this is the direction in which it will point them.
Of course, as with anything in NMS, the storyline is varying depending on where the players wake up, which alien species they interact with first, and how they end up travelling between solar systems. Yet even in this sense, the game still slightly disappoints. Whilst watching a video about others’ experiences in the game, I managed to do the exact same thing as they did, and get married to a random alien! While I may never meet my bride, what saddens me more is the sheer promise of a completely different experience for every player that NMS had, and how much didn’t make it to the game’s release.
One feature that definitely didn’t make it to release day is multiplayer. While Hello Games never explicitly announced multiplayer interaction, there was strong hinting that players would be able to visit other player’s planets – and many thought that this would be they could see each other and trade. However, after two streamers managed to find each other’s planets within a week of release, they landed in the same spot… and still couldn’t see each other.
Multiplayer would have changed NMS from a good exploration game to a great adventure game with buddies. Whether or not multiplayer will be added in at a later date is yet to be seen, although a recent data mine of the game’s files did not indicate that it would be added in. It did reveal, however, that the game could be ported to the Xbox One in the future, although Hello Games have not commented on the possibility.
In the nearer future though, there are some new features coming. In the day one patch notes, Hello Games indicated that many of the minerals will be used for future base building – and their in-game descriptions have been updated to match that. Hopefully the game will be continually updated with more play options – a bit like a space Minecraft, but with a larger variety of shapes.
So, while No Man’s Sky is still an incredible space exploration game, it has definitely been mis-sold. In fact, Reddit has a list of missing features from NMS, and it keeps growing. These include planetary physics and factions, which would have made the game a whole lot more interesting if there was a faction war to be fighting in. Despite that, the game looks beautiful, and really captures the sense of a tiny speck in an unbelievable huge galaxy. While it may not be a contender for game of the year, No Man’s Sky is definitely worth a dabble for the adventurers among us.