Reviews

The No Man's Sky Experience

No Man’s Sky has had its share of troubles since it was first announced. First came the delay of a couple of months, a lawsuit with Sky over using the word Sky in their title and even after going gold, there were rumblings of another lawsuit over the game engine which creates the vast universe the title is built around. It’s not been easy but Hello Games successfully launched the game and now it’s here for all to see.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t reached the Centre of the Universe yet. I probably won’t for some time, if ever at this rate. It is huge and if like me, you want to take your time exploring then it’ll take you a while to start getting your butt in gear and working towards the goal. As a result, this is more of an overview of what the game has to offer.

 

No Man's Sky monolith 2

 

When  you first load up No Man’s Sky you will hopefully enjoy the movement through the stars as it loads you into your starting planet (which is different for everyone). It turns out that every one of those stars is a system waiting to be discovered and you will gradually see the names of these systems appear showing you that other people have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. I think this is a nice touch and shows you that other people are playing the game and constantly discovering new things. Then you arrive, on your first planet next to your trashed Star Ship with no idea of what is going on or where you are in relation to the Centre. Your first task will be to fix your ship and launch into space but don’t be too hasty to escape your first planet (unless it is incredibly hostile of course) because there may be a lot to see and do.

I started mining straight away, searching for the items and materials I needed to repair my ship. Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly cautious about doing this and within 5 minutes had a Sentinel force attacking me when I still had no idea what all the controls were! This did catch me by surprise but I took the pesky floating mechanical buggers out and managed to live through it (and as I write this I have not died yet). I learned my lesson from this and was a little more aware of where the Sentinels were if I decided to mine in a particular area as they can be a little tetchy about you taking certain materials which they are obviously preserving.

I realised after a short while that I should probably fix my suit and scanners before doing much else because I thought they would be quite important too. It turns out I was correct. Fixing your scanner is definitely a must as you will then be able to locate materials and also scan plants or creatures to log them in your Discoveries tab. Discovering new species and foliage will earn you credits and the opportunity to name your additions to the history books. At first, I enjoyed this idea and immediately named two new animals but was disappointed when ‘Porculion’ was considered as profanity so I haven’t really bothered since as my fun has already been spoiled a little as an innocent mashing up of two animals is considered dodgy. But if you are wonderfully clever at coming up with names for things then you’ll enjoy this feature. Meanwhile, try to scan everything if you want a little boost on your credits which will come in handy if you need to buy items/upgrades.

No Man's Sky Ship

One thing you will realise about this game early on is that inventory space is everything. Especially at the start when you want to get everything in sight because it’s new and exciting, but you will soon learn that it comes at a price. Your suit only has limited space. Luckily you can transfer items to your ship inventory and vice versa when needed, but that will fill up quickly too, especially if you craft upgrades that take up a precious slot. Be on the look out for pods that are next to beacons (which double as save points) as they will contain a Exosuit upgrade but be warned it does come at a price and that price goes up every time you purchase a new slot. The ‘pricing’ on this is a little harsh I feel as you only get one new slot at a time and yet you’ll pay an extra 10,000 units for the pleasure. It would be nice if this varied or offered a whole new suit instead in rare pods just to make it worthwhile.

Once you have fixed your ship, the Universe is yours to explore. You will still need to collect materials to fuel your ship, Pulse drive (for travelling between planets quickly), Hyperdrive (for travelling to new systems) and also to ensure your life support and shields are topped up so you don’t die. You’ll also need to upgrade your Multitool to assist with mining and also fighting off Sentinels and aggressive species that decide you look tasty. You are constantly trying to keep topped up on certain materials, in the hope you don’t run out when you need it most but the majority of the planets I have been to so far have an abundance of the main offenders of Carbon and Plutonium making it a little easier to prevent death or getting stranded.

No Man's Sky beast

Materials are also used for trade and you’ll come across a few alien races who you’ll probably get involved with at some stage. The races I have met so far are Vy’keen, Gek and Korvax. I have visited Monoliths and Plaques which have helped me learn their language and increase my standing with them so they will talk to me and maybe help me out with upgrades and the like. You have to do a little bit of guess work to get on their right side as upon meeting a new alien, you are given some choices which will either evoke a positive or negative reaction from them. Either way, it can be a little confusing but I would suggest reading the text carefully before making your choice and if you have managed to learn enough of the language to piece together what you should do, I would pay attention to that too as it can work in your favour.

The aliens reside in various locations which you will discover on the planets you visit. Usually there is about two minutes between most points of interest which vary from abandoned buildings (usually covered in an odd red substance which I assume is related to the main story), Observatories with a puzzle for you solve to get co-ordinates to particular locations, Drop Pods, crashed ships you can repair or Trade points. You can spend hours going between these and thinking you’ll go to ‘just one more’ before you realise you’ve spent another 3 hours exploring the planet. The only thing I would suggest is not going too far away from your ship as you might find that you would like to travel to another planet to head off somewhere and it’s a 20 minute walk back to where you initially landed which will be quite frustrating for you especially it it’s a radioactive atmosphere or a planet with a freezing temperature prone to storms that will chip away at your life support. You can run a little and use your jetpack to move a little quicker but these do have a cool down and it can take a while to get places if you don’t have your ship close by.

This is a game you will either really enjoy or really dislike. If you don’t like exploring occasional hostile environments while grinding for better upgrades to follow the main story to the Centre of a never-ending Universe which may result in some space battles and meeting aliens then you won’t like this game. Apparently the main story kicks in when you reach the middle but I’ve avoided any online talk of this because I don’t want to know what happens next and I assume I have a fairly long wait before I find my way there. You can choose to follow the Atlas path which will take you a pre-determined route from your starting planet to the Centre or you can choose the free roam path which lets you do what you want with the slight danger that you’ll never make it to the middle.

No Man's Sky monolith

Graphically, the game is very pretty with my only problem being that the landscape is not always as it seems as it is constantly generating and building itself due to the game engine. This is particularly noticeable from the air and when you get closer to the ground it suddenly changes which can be a little confusing. It’s bright and colourful on some planets or dusty and barren on others but each one has a theme and looks the part. The NPCs are all variations on a theme with each race having a standard form but maybe with some embellishments depending on who you meet and the star ships follow a similar pattern too. Space is stunning and really makes you feel like you are up there trying to find your way through its vastness and it reminds me a little of Elite Dangerous but in its own art style. The soundtrack is great with 65daysofstatic providing the music for the game. If you’re a fan of the band and the music style, then you’ll love it but if not then you may opt to have Spotify on in the background. It works with the sound effect which while not particularly extensive, provide some ambiance while you wander around looking for that last species on your list or collect that all important Gold to boost your units.

At the moment, I’m still exploring but I am noticing a few problems I have with the game. Some planets are essentially the same. While not a huge problem, I have already noticed that a couple of planets have had the same species of animal or plant life but maybe in a slightly different size or colour. The design of creatures is also a little lazy as it is essentially splicing two or three animals together. I can forgive this to a point but really hope I find some new and interesting ones soon that aren’t completely laughable because apparently there are Dinosaurs that I haven’t seen yet and I want to feed them and be their friend. The HUD randomly comes and goes. At times, I have no idea what level my life support is at and although it warns me at particular intervals, the HUD will vanish altogether which can be a little unhelpful. The inventory system is frustrating. You can upgrade your ship and suit at a pretty high cost unless you get lucky and find a crashed ship and happen to have everything to repair it but it can be a lot of effort to go to for 1 or 2 extra slots which will get filled up by alien artifacts which are worth a few units. It would be nice if you could earn slots from the alien races as rewards for choosing correctly on the Monoliths rather than getting an upgrade you might already have and a new word.

No Man's Sky flypast

Overall, No Man’s Sky still has a little way to go and Hello Games are releasing patches to deal with connectivity issues with the servers and hopefully fixing problems with the game crashing almost every time you play (which is highly irritating if you haven’t saved for a little while and lose all your progress). While impressive in some ways, I can understand why people don’t see the point in the game and that’s down to not knowing the end game. In a way, it has the same effect as Destiny for me. I could spend a day on it, doing the same thing over and over again getting a little closer to the end but never really getting there, yet I’ll still play it. At times, it’s nice to just fly around space to find a new planet and explore what it has to offer for a while before moving onto the next system and getting those all important upgrades to help you reach the ultimate goal. It isn’t perfect but it isn’t as bad as a lot of people worried it would be. There are some issues I have which might not bother other players because they are just enjoying it for what it is and with the game now available on PC, it will be interesting to see how it is received. It is one I would possibly suggest waiting for. I bought the special edition from GAME and in a way feel like it wasn’t worth all of the pennies paid however that is often the feeling with new release games after a few weeks when the inevitable price drop happens and I have the feeling this game will start seeing those reductions early on. Hopefully I will reach the Centre of the Universe eventually and I’ll be able to let you all know what that is like but for now, I’ll be somewhere in space!

Have you played No Man’s Sky? How are you finding it so far? Please let us know in the comments!

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