10 Thoughts on No Man’s Sky
The much-hyped No Man’s Sky was released this month on both the PC and Playstation 4. The developers promised us, among other things, a procedurally generated universe with 18 quintillion planets to explore. In case you have a hard time putting that number into perspective, you could explore 1 planet every second and our own sun would burn out before you finished.
But is bigger always better? While No Man’s Sky was an ambitious project, if the gameplay doesn’t hold up, than it was all for nothing. I’ve put in countless hours into No Man’s Sky. I’ve been to many planets, explored the great beyond and here are my thoughts. I’ll preface this with say that I REALLY wanted to love No Man’s Sky. This was my anticipated game for this year. If most of these thoughts seem a bit on the negative side, it’s because I felt like the game could have been so much better.
10 Thoughts on No Man’s Sky
1. The game is a massive grind fest
I wish I knew up front how grindy this game was. Because I hate grinding. I don’t like feeling like I’m doing pointless busy work or wasting my time. But in No Man’s Sky you are constantly farming minerals with your space laser. This is because everything you use requires constant recharging. Your ship requires minerals to take off, move faster that normal, or warp to a new system. Your suit requires minerals to keep you alive or protect you from hazards. Even your mining laser and gun require recharging. It wouldn’t be so bad if everything weren’t constantly running low. I’m talking every 5 minutes or so you are recharging something. It to the point where I’ll stop exploring a planet because I don’t want to have to refill my launch thrusters again.
2. I hope you like inventory management, slow inventory management
To go along with that, if 50% of No Man’s Sky is exploration, then the other 50% is inventory management. The game has a pile of different resources and trade goods. So your ship and suit slots are constantly full as you try and figure out which minerals to keep and which ones to sell. And the game is shit at telling you what they are used for. It does get better as the game progresses and you buy bigger ships and suit upgrades. But overall it’s a pain in the butt that feels wholly unnecessary. There are arbitrary stacking limits, with some items not even being stackable. Even the crafting system is slow, having to navigate menus and slow wheels to make any item. And the system won’t even let you craft more than one at a time. I tried to make a bulk of bypass chips, but nope. I have to make them one at a time, and keep them all in different slots.
3. Everything starts to feel the same pretty quickly
Once you’ve jumped to your third or fourth system, you’ve basically seen all of No Man’s Sky. It’s weak plot will have you constantly traveling to the center of the galaxy. But every system has a few random planets that all feel pretty much the same, albeit with a palette swap. Occasionally you will find a planet that feels unique, but mostly not. On every planet you’ll find pretty much every mineral you need. There will be the same outposts, beacon towers, shelters, monoliths, and other locations. Even the beacons that you hack into all have the same 4 options of what to discover. There are tons of shelters all having one lonely alien staring at a wall. There is nothing to break up the monotony.
Even every space station you enter has the exact same layout. All planets also have an astroid belt surrounding it (which seem to popup out of nowhere every time). For having a quintillion amount of planets, it certainly feels like they took 11 of them and just hit the “change stuff around” button. Even the ships all feel exactly the same. There is no combat focused ship. It’s basically just spend more money to get a ship with a slightly bigger inventory.
4. It doesn’t feel like a universe
To go along with that, nothing really makes me feel like I’m in an actual universe. Planets don’t orbit a sun. Moons don’t even move around a planet. Every planet has the same exact physics. Plus, the climate is the same for the entire planet. Once you’ve landed, you’ve seen the whole planet (minus some hills and valleys). You’d think there’d be snow here, or maybe a desert there. Nope, one climate for the whole planet. Occasionally you’ll get a storm, but all that does is require you to recharge the environmental protection on your suit more often. Heck, you can’t even fly from system to system. Eventually you’ll just hit the edge of your system. If you want to travel to another one, you have to warp.
5. NPCs – neat idea, horrible in execution
No Man’s Sky is a very lonely game. No I’m not talking about the missing multiplayer aspect. I’m talking about dealing with anyone other than yourself. The NPCs all feel very generic. It’s simply a portrait of an alien waiting for someone to interact with them. When you do interact with them, you can’t even decipher what they say. Part of the game play in No Man’s Sky was that you are to slowly learn their languages. This involves finding hundreds of monoliths that teach you one word at a time. A neat idea, but even after tons of hours of game play, most NPCs only have 3-4 words that I can understand when I interact with them. That means I’m always randomly choosing a dialogue option, which rarely feels satisfying. This gets dull VERY quick. IT would have been nice to also be able to pick up pieces of the languages after interacting with the aliens.
6. The game does look beautiful at times
One thing No Man’s Sky is really great at is creating beautiful vistas and panoramas. Sometimes you land on a planet or moon and the camera angle is just right for an amazing visual. I do wish there was a photo mode to get rid of the HUD display so I could take a picture with my PS4. Of course, the down side of discovering a great vista is that there is no way to ever come back to it. Once you leave the system, it may as well be gone forever.
7. Traveling has its up and downs
Traveling and exploration is the main draw of No Man’s Sky. Some things were great. You can fly from a planet’s surface to outer space with no load times. The game does it all in a nice, seamless transition. But that’s about where the good ends. Ship controls are mediocre at beast. You press one button to land and take off. You can’t even crash into things. You’ll just bounce off.
Traveling on foot is horrible. It usually feels like you are walking through quicksand. This game really needed a dune buggy or jeep to travel around in. Or a way to summon your ship. I rarely, if ever, leave within a minute’s walk of my ship. Travel is just so slow there is no way I want to explore on foot for 10 minutes, only to have to walk back again. Some locations will have a beacon to call your ship in, but I never want to leave it up to chance that I’ll find one.
8. I like the upgrades…kind of
One thing I liked was that you can somewhat customize your ship, exosuit, and gun. If you want your ship to have more shields, or your suit to be able to survive underwater longer, those are all options.
Yet the big issue with that is that every upgrade takes up an inventory slot. So if you want a fancy combat ship with upgraded guns and shields, chances are you aren’t going to be able to hold much. So you dismantle most of the stuff you don’t absolutely need so you can hold more cargo. Because the inventory management aspect of the game is brutal. There was such a missed opportunity here. The ships all already felt the same and this only compounds the aspect.
9. This game needs direction.
Eventually, you are going to get bored in No Man’s Sky. As you enter your 10th identical space station, or your 20th planet that feels just a bit too similar to #19, you’ll have had enough. Unless you love the grind, it will happen. Which is a shame, because everyone love exploration. But in No Man’s Sky, there is no payoff. When I explore caves in The Witcher 3, I usually find a magic item, a book with some lore, or even a cool monster to fight. I can explore 10 caves in No Man’s Sky and none will feel any different from the first.
But the big problem is that there really isn’t much of a story in the game. You can follow the Atlas Path, but that’s really just a few extra “anomalies” you can enter as you make your way towards the center with everyone else. An surprise, they are all the same looking. Really, there are no missions or side quests. Explore, manage your inventory, jump until you hit the center. That’s it.
10. The potential was there
No Man’s Sky had a lot of potential. Like I said in the intro, I REALLY wanted to like this game. I love space exploration. But it just didn’t happen for me. As much as I like seeing what’s around the next corner, I want that new location to really feel unique. And when I’m done randomly walking around to see what’s there, I want the story to push me forward. And then I want side quests to distract when I need a break from the main story. No Man’s Sky is missing all of these crucial elements that could have really elevated its game play. Who knows. Maybe a future update will add some of this in. But for now, I think I’m done with the galaxy, for all the reasons listed above.