No Man’s Sky became synonymous with disappointment when it first launched, but steady updates since then have turned the game into something closer to what was once promised by Sean Murray. Hello Games went on to work the title to the point where it has become a true survival and exploration game that has set itself apart by creating an infinite universe for you to explore however you please. No Man’s Sky’s Next patch introduced multiplayer that makes the phrase “You are not alone” make so much more sense, and the game is so much better for it.
To infinity, and beyond
You wake up on a distant and foreign planet with no memory of how you got there or why you’re stranded on this rock with a broken ship. You scour the lands for resources to repair your ship and during this time, you discover your surroundings and how the universe is put together. Once you’ve completed the task of putting your ship together piece by piece, you set off into space leaving the planet behind that you just got to familiarise yourself with on a voyage to find answers, whether it’s to uncover the truth about your existence, or to mine the universe for valuable resources in order to build your arsenal of unique and rare space-faring vehicles, mining and terraforming machines, and freighters filled with all the resources with which to build utopia on any given planet.
Your endless quest starts here. You travel from planet to planet uncovering new species fauna and flora, unlock secrets of the universe by discovering monoliths and ancient artefacts scattered throughout the stars.
Your endless quest starts here. You travel from planet to planet uncovering new species fauna and flora, unlock secrets of the universe by discovering monoliths and ancient artefacts scattered throughout the stars. Every planet presents something different in terms of hazardous conditions, minerals and metals to farm, technologies to uncover, and vast visually unique experiences. Although some elements would appear to look similar to what you found on a previous planet, the sheer amount makes it easier to accept that it’s not easy to try and imagine a new plant or life form for each and every encounter, but the variation is pleasing enough to make you feel like that five light year journey was well worth it.
Blasting off into the vastness of space leaves you with hope, fear and curiosity that can only be sated by wanting to know more and taking the risk in order to get to the answer. You can stick to the main objectives and uncover as much as you can to try and put the pieces together, or you can traverse the universe in search of upgraded tools, utilities and crafts to build your home on any planet you wish. The abundance of resources on most planets make home base creation easy. As with any mission of self discovery, certain pieces of dialogue can go right over your head if your objective is far removed from the main mission. This made the journey intriguing without feeling like you are rushed or forced to follow the main objective. It’s easy to spend three to four hours gathering every resource and obtaining upgrades and new technologies.
What No Man’s Sky Next brings to the title is a new way of going about your experience through added four player co-op multiplayer, where you can set each crew member on a specific task to farm resources, obtain blueprints for new upgrades of your exosuit and space craft, scan the planet for hidden messages from ancient beings, and develop powerful weaponry to take on space pirates and fend off sentinels that are trying to ruin your fun. Multiplayer is especially helpful when trying to break in to a heavily guarded facility. Ultimately though, each one of you will have to mine something or the other because every action depletes a resource.
Mine! Mine! Mine!
Even in the preview and pre-release trailers we saw examples of discovery and mining. This is what you’ll be doing quite a lot of. When you visit space stations and outposts you’ll be given tasks to find and capture information on various plant and animal life in return for units, the in game currency, or technology blueprints. The main story, Atlas Path, has you meeting as many alien lifeforms as possible to extract data as part of an objective. Although this might sound tedious, discovering a new planet and its inhabitants make it worthwhile. The thing is, the interaction with all these various beings are so uninspiring and feels half baked. The dialogue is repetitive at most, depending on the objective, but the Atlas Path opens a view of the universe that’s philosophical and intriguing. The little bit of dialogue that’ll make you feel like you’re part of something bigger than what’s let on does keep you in the race, but everything else around it lacks real meaning unless your goal is to just collect all the things.
Despite the lack of real connection with any of the characters within the game, discoveries you get from monoliths and artefacts gives you a sense of reward for your grind.
Despite the lack of real connection with any of the characters within the game, which was probably done purposefully to keep you in suspense as to the what and why, the mystical and thought provoking discoveries you get from monoliths and artefacts gives you a sense of reward for your grind. Other than that, when purchasing materials, upgrades or blueprints gets annoying when the same dreary interaction has to be done again just to get to the part where you’re looking through their wears.
Now, speaking of the grind, the mine, and the new planet shine, the way you manage your inventory and gather resources takes careful and precise organisation of your limited storage. Sure, the minerals you need to survive certain harsh elements on the various planets are readily available, but as soon as you add newer minerals and items to your list you’ll start feeling the inventory space pinch. That one slot you needed to hold the copper from the section of a planet you just terraformed the hell out of to get has been filled with Sodium which you need to replenish your hazard protection unit. It’s easy to say that you could just build a base on every planet you land on, but it’s easier said than done, because, you’ll need the resources for it.
Thankfully you can circumvent this by building a portable terrain scanner and uncover drop ships which contain inventory upgrades, but, guess what? That require materials to do so. Want to build a new mutli-tool or upgrade your exosuit? You’ll have to mine for that. and this will never end. In some cases you’ll find yourself travelling back to a previous solar system to mine minerals required to build a new technology or upgraded resource in another. The travel isn’t the terrible part though. It’s realising that you discarded that specific mineral a while back because you had no use for it and it was just taking up inventory space at the time. But, when it’s built, it’s built. Done. On to the next thing that requires resource X in order to build Y.
Two hand fulls of exploring, a truck load of resources and a sprinkle of action
Being thrown into a game so vast, so broad and so relentless in its quest to urge you into trying to understand the language of each race to unlock clues about the universe your in can either make it a compelling and interesting journey for you, or have you putting down the controller because you just can’t and won’t put up with the back and forth. It’s a game built on the premise of discovery and there’s no two ways about it. You’re brought into this universe alone with no recollection of how and why and you are required to find that out for yourself in whichever way you choose. At least you’re not limited to just one.
The combat with other beings may be limited to space battles where you go at it solo or with a crew to put a stop to some space pirates and get all their loot, or blasting over-powered sentinels on each planet that vary in hostility. The animals I have come across won’t do anything to you and only attack other animals, but if they made it possible for some of these towering beasts to charge at you and try to fuse you into the floor with the ferrite dust, that could liven things up a bit. I say space combat, but I actually mean plasma cannon spamming. The flying mechanics are inverted from what you’d usually find in a console flight sim and you’ll end up disorientating yourself as soon as you get into the space craft, but it gets easier and more enjoyable once you’ve mastered the reins. Your ship is responsive and has various forms of propulsion to get you from A to B, and warp all the way to Z. You’ll find yourself running out of storage space rather quickly and you’ll be in the market for a new ship. You can barter with other space travellers at outposts and space stations for upgrades and even buy their ships if you have the dough. There are other ways of acquiring ships through investigating distress signal missions given to you by aliens you meet at these communal gathering spots. But, you’re gonna have to farm those resources to repair that ship my friend.
From the onset, your character’s movement feels a bit clunky and restricted. Thankfully with the use of exosuit upgrades, you can easily have your space voyager move around smoothly and trot about at higher speeds. You don’t have to run everywhere though as you can craft land vehicles to get you to your destination quicker and allowing you to explore more in a short period of time. But, no matter how high a level your exosuit upgrades are, it can’t fix the stutter and FPS slow down when playing in four player co-op mode. This will perhaps get fixed over time, but in its current state, it is best that a crew have separate landing positions and perhaps travel in groups of two. The frame drop is especially apparent when facing an enemy with four people using their blasters at once.
Graphics and texture mapping has a more roller coaster dynamic going for it. Sometimes you land and everything is there in view and sometimes you get out of your ship to have plant and rock formations appearing out of nowhere. On one occasion I landed and the only fully rendered things were some wildlife and the sentinels waiting to pew pew the living crap out of me for merely being. I choose to run away from encounters with sentinels as they are annoyingly persistent. I’d rather take on a toxic environment than deal with those pesky things. The reason for conflict aversion is also based on the combat mechanics when not in your space ship. It feels like you are just mining, but you now have a blaster in your hand. It feels easier to avoid any sort of combat rather than inefficiently throwing ammunition at a target.
Fly me to the moon and let me play amongst the stars…
The thought of a game with a universe that is infinite has always been compelling and enticing for anyone who loves exploring. Finding new planets, meeting new races and discovering various flora and fauna. No Man’s Sky has it all. It also has a storyline that is both intriguing and thoughtful, accompanied by visuals that will have you staring at the horizon for hours while taking your mining tool to everything. The characters you meet might be uninteresting and feel like the character generator only had two settings: reposition facial features and randomise the colour palette, but when you set a goal early on as to how you’re going to approach this somewhat overwhelming and in some cases, painstaking experience with the infinite mining and resource gathering, No Man’s Sky is awe inspiring in its scope and delivers an intergalactic experience that any exploration management nut could hope for. And now that you can do it with friends makes it that bit more worthwhile.
Your impact on the universe may feel insignificant and have no real affect on any level whatsoever. But, it’s not about that. You’re not here to change the course of the universe and its inhabitants. Your mission is to create your own unique journey, forge your own little universe within this endless space and be kept perpetually wonderstruck.