No Man’s Sky boasts massive star systems with a theoretically countless amount of exploration and tasks that lie before the player. However, the game is bogged down by the moment-to-moment gameplay. Couple that with the series of promises about the game that were not kept, and you have a rather disappointing package.
Hello Games set out to create some unique and relatively grand plans for the universe in No Man’s Sky. For what it is worth, there is never a shortage of things to do in No Man’s Sky. However, the game’s arduous systems make the already aggressively repetitive gameplay even more of a bland grind. Planet and wildlife composition doesn’t vary enough to justify exploring every nook and cranny of any given planet. In my time with the game, most of the wildlife that I came across was just a variation of a reptile or goat like creature. The intent of the procedurally generated wildlife was to create this universe and hierarchy of wildlife. Unfortunately.
The final product is just a mash of ill-fitting body parts that form creatures that look like an amalgamation of various toy parts. The planets also typically fit a one of a handful of archetypes. After seeing around 10 planets, I began to see a trend in the planets making me feel less likely to explore additional planets.
No Man’s Sky is further hurt by the vast controversy it has experienced during its development and launch. For starters, the game features a very sizable day one patch that alters the game at a fundamental level. While these kind of updates seem to be the norm nowadays, one this massive has problematic implications for those few without an internet connection, and with this game poised as an offline game, that further increases the number of players without a stable connection who will experience a less polished version of the game due to the day one patch. Patch drama aside, there was also the giant question of multiplayer. Throughout the game’s development cycle, Sean Murray, studio head at Hello Games, has repeatedly given cryptic and, in some cases, straight up false information as to the existence of multiplayer. As of the time of this review, there have been zero cases of people seeing one another in the game’s world. In fact, there were cases of individuals being on the same planet yet not being able to see one another. Again, this wouldn’t have been such a blow to the game had the messaging been more clear. The final chunk of drama is the state that the game was released versus its portrayals in past trailers. Specifically, the E3 2014 trailer looks like a different game in terms of graphical fidelity and details within the environment. We can have a long discussion about how games ship versus how they are revealed. However, in the case of No Man’s Sky, because information was delivered so scarcely the public could only reference these dated and inaccurate trailers when evaluating the content of the game.
The one aspect No Man’s Sky does succeed in is the novelty of the whole thing. While the gameplay loop is stale and egregiously repetitive, the first time you do just about anything in that game, it feels great. Seeing wildlife for the first time and realizing that no one has likely never seen this creature before is a great feeling. Leaving my first planet’s atmosphere gave me chills. The feelings associated with these feelings make me think that No Man’s Sky would have been a drastically better game had the game been smaller and spent more time on those initial experiences to truly encapsulate the feeling of exploration and wonder.