No Man's Sky: Review

From Joe Danger to the triple A zone. Hello Games are arguably the most ambitious indie studio of the past several years. However, with their newest release No Man’s SkyHello Games are asking for a triple A price of $60.00USD, it’s only fair to keep that in mind whilst you continue reading. 

If it’s one area that was lacking throughout the past 5 years for Hello Games, it would be their transparency. For a game that was supposedly going to redefine the genre, they always kept a tight lip. Although the delays were painful to those dedicated to the cause, I wouldn’t want to imagine what the performance would’ve been like a few months ago. Only days since launch and the compatibility issues are certainly there, be that through crashes, inconsistent frame rates or just general bugs, the initial deployment of such a highly touted title has been a little rocky. Another letdown so far is multiplayer, something that was consistently promised is nearly completely missing, and if it wasn’t for the fact that you can see other user’s discoveries it would be. What is making this all the harder for players to accept is the ducking and weaving Sean Murray is doing, never giving his player base a straight answer but saying it’s "unlikely" you’ll ever see someone else. Although all of this is disappointing to those who have been waiting years for No Man's Sky, it’s something that many studios hundreds of times bigger struggle with. So the Hello Games team of 15 deserve some credit.

Now let’s talk about actually playing the game!

If it’s one thing that I absolutely can’t stop talking about it would be the sense of scale. I can’t get over just how huge this game is. Yes, it has upwards of 18 quintillion planets, but the size of each planet is jaw dropping. You start on a random alien planet, marooned with a crashed ship, your immediate goal is to gather resources to repair your ship and get off this foreign rock. Although this seems like a simple premise, everyone has a different starting experience; some players may start on a luscious and bountiful planet, full of life, while others, like me start on an absolute dust bowl. Nevertheless, this just makes you want to get stuck in and out into the universe. The hardest thing that I’ve faced so far are the flight controls. At the time of writing this I have 12 hours of play time on PC and I’m still having trouble flying around. Although the controls can be challenging to master, it’s easily being made up by the countless spectacular views that you see throughout the game, speaking from a PC standpoint the graphics are spectacular, even at low settings.

The overall game mechanics of collecting, upgrading, surviving and exploration all work well with one another. This can be seen reflected in the look and feel to the graphical interface, it is quite minimalistic and easy to use with little to no learning curve, although it needs to be said that the interface for crafting and storage can feel very small at the beginning, constantly juggling materials and elements between your suit and ship was frustrating, over time this becomes less of a problem as you will gain more inventory slots.

At times the game does feel repetitive but not once have I felt like I needed to do something, everything I do is my decision, No Man's Sky is your own adventure, played out how you, the player, sees fit. Which leads me to the story line or lack thereof. Since the day 1 patch there are 3 main paths a user can take. I started off following the Atlas, but with little to no story decided I wanted to make it to the centre. Aided by the procedurally generated sound track by 65daysofstatic the game keeps you on your toes, the feeling that is evoked when you find yourself in combat is increased substantially by the sound track, the feeling once you reach a milestone or achievement boosts that sense of reward but all at the same time it avoids letting you become complacent.

It needs to be emphasized that my experience and yours are unlikely ever to be comparable, every new player to step into the world of No Man's Sky will receive a different experience to the next. That being said hopefully I can give you at least a slight sense of ‘is this a game for me?’. I have visited countless amounts of planets across the solar system and so far they are all different enough that it feels like something new every time I launch into uncharted atmosphere. The creatures on the other hand seem a bit too similar, constant discoveries of dinosaur spliced birds, while cool at first, became very repetitive. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going to planets, exploring and trying to advance in the game that bit further.

The biggest question I think people want answered is, ‘who is this game for?’, in my honest opinion it’s hard to name one targeted audience, so let me sum it up by who the game isn’t for. It’s not for those wanting to explore with friends, battle friends or anything multiplayer related. It’s also not for those who don’t have patience to constantly mine and gather resources to progress, although I’m sure these kinds of players already know that but it needs to be said. This leads to another question, ‘Is it worth the price tag?’ Short answer, No. The people who really want this game already have it, so unless this is you I’d hold off until it’s on sale or you have some spare cash lying around. Not only will you have the benefit of the game being more mature and hopefully with less issues when you pick it up, but most likely there will just be an overall better experience to be had several months down the track.

So here we are days after launch, some 3 years since the first announcement, finally reviewing a game crippled by delays, performance issues and hype. But we are still talking about it, something so ambitious that regardless of launch headaches, deserves credit.

A game that’s being enjoyed by many, made by few.

Due to the unique experience of No Man's Sky for each individual player we aren't giving it a final score, every journey is different, so go start yours today.