|No Man's Sky
|ALSO AVAILABLE ON
|PRICE REVIEWED AT
|£44.99 (Available much cheaper)
Basically, No Man’s Sky is a space exploration game set in a galaxy of 18 Quintillion procedurally generated planets. Upon waking, an entity called ‘The Atlas’ offers assistance and you are prompted to gather certain materials to fix your crashed ship. Once airborne you can pretty much choose your own path. Heading toward the centre of the galaxy seems a popular option, but is certainly not the only way of playing.
I’m not going to say a lot more on anything plot related in an attempt to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.
If ever there was a divisive game, this is it.
Pre-launch the media span crazy speculation — as it does — with unrealistic expectations reaching a whole new level of stupid. At the time Sean Murray (creator of NMS and director of Hello Games) appeared to welcome this growing attention and did little to curb peoples expectations. Whether it were his intention or not, this further added pressure to release a feature packed, highly polished blockbuster.
What had started as a personal project for Murray had quickly grown into one of the most anticipated games of the year, if not decade. Thus, catapulting Hello Games — a small team based in Guildford, England — firmly into major leagues.
I was one of the fortunate. I’d hidden myself away from the media frenzy, yet bought into the general ethos of the game. Over the previous months I’d purposefully been avoiding footage and spoilers; in part to experience it all first-hand myself, but also due to its escalating craziness.
So what could possibly go wrong?
For starters, a two-month delay announced a month before the original launch date. This too further heightened media attention after Murray received death threats on social media. For me it was more a minor disappointment; though I exercised the patience of a monk as the days ticked away towards the now official August release.
And then there was the launch…
ABOVE: Leaving our home planet.
BELOW: Could have sworn I just saw Notch!
ABOVE: Avoiding floating islands as the sun goes out.
BELOW: Departing a space-station amid a dozen ship battle-royale.
I’d pre-ordered a physical copy that needed collecting, the post around here never comes until lunchtime and I knew I’d only spend the morning camped out by the letterbox waiting. By 10am I was back and quickly cramming the disk into the PS4. My first thought was, ‘Wow, isn’t it small,’ clocking in at under 5GB, which included a chunky day one patch. (At the time of writing this the file size on my PS4 is just under 12GB)
Then it loaded the procedurally generated galaxy, and I started my journey on a red planet next to my broken spacecraft. In foresight my starter planet was pretty horrible compared to what I’ve found since, but I guess that’s just luck of the draw.
Graphically some of the textures felt a little bit PS2, like a flat almost featureless wallpaper beneath my feet, these have since been made a lot prettier. Don’t get me wrong, the game is beautiful and the photo mode is amazing for capturing the game’s serenity.
As for the sound, the background music played out in a beautifully ambient rhythm, procedurally generated from samples supplied courtesy of 65daysofstatic, perfectly setting the mood.
After a decent amount of exploring I finally left my home planet and successfully entered a space station. It was here my game froze, though fortunately I hadn’t lost much progress when I reloaded. That first day I had a couple more crashes, but the experience was certainly worth this frustration at the time. To say the game released broken would be a stretch, but it was at very least buggy.
Since then the game has been patched and updated a number of times, and I’m pleased to say in the last few sessions haven’t experienced any issues.
One gameplay issue I found was whenever you landed it would pop you out of the spacecraft, on flat landing pads in safe environments, not a problem. But in early versions of the game where it was incredibly easy to mis-judge a landing, often leaving your ship overhanging a cliff for example, to pop out and almost fall to your death did prove troublesome. I’m pleased to report, it no longer auto-exits you when landing off a designated landing area, giving you greater control over your surroundings. Also, hitting landing pads has been made far easier.
As for multiplayer, well, I never expected it would be. Much was made about this, and it was obvious, people would find a way of meeting up despite what Hello Games believed pre-launch. This only took a few days, and it soon became clear there was no multiplayer. Needless to say, this coupled with other issues did little to bridge the gaps between expectation and reality. At the time through all the criticism, Hello Game’s response was radio silence.
Even with all its teething problems, I loved No Man's Sky from day one.
At release it’s fair to say the game got dragged over the coals. I remember seeing photoshopped pictures of Sean Murray holding suitcases of money on a plane. (Among others!) And bit my tongue to ignore the persistent drivelling of a friend who refused to refer to it as anything other than, ‘One man’s Lie.’ (Despite never actually playing it.)
But credit where it's due; when many would have cut and run, Sean and his team stood proud. Over the past twelve months they've ironed out the bugs, added tons of extra content and evolved the world of No Man’s Sky into what it is today.
ABOVE: Is that a planet or a moon? Guess we'll have to go and find out.
BELOW: Even space-wolves howl at the moon.
ABOVE: 18 quintillion planets? I count five.
BELOW: And this is why you need to pay attention.
No Man’s Sky today, in comparison to the release title is a massively evolved beast.
We now have bases where you can employ aides to further advance tech, grow valuable plants and create exploration vehicles. Not forgetting, store your ill gotten gains. Just building these is great fun, even if a touch fiddly before you get the hang of it.
Permadeath, which for me is a big deal. Having learnt the basics of the original version of the game, this was the next step. In permadeath, your saves are wiped at death. I’ve probably been wiped half a dozen times now, and sometimes it’s proven hard to even get off the starter planet. In permadeath mode everything just seems a little more serious and the survival element of the game really hits home. Losing hours and hours of progression soon teaches you to play smarter, though at the time can be somewhat rage inducing.
Glyphs and portals. To be honest, I’m yet to get very far with them. From what I can tell the easiest way to find glyphs is to locate ‘Travellers’ in space stations and bribe them for directions. The glyphs themselves seem to appear in craters on the surface of planets but are relatively small, making spotting them from the air quite hard. As far as I’m aware you collect sixteen glyphs to open a portal, which creates a wormhole. (More on this in the future)
Freighters: huge intergalactic ships with the ability to haul cargo and extra ships, just incase you feel like a change. Each captained by beings that seem more interested in their tablets than steering these megalithic space monsters. Leading to… crashed freighters, makes sense, tying in nicely with my previous comment. These hold loot caches, though many appears to be underground so be sure to have the necessary terraforming gear.
Low level battle’s that can really test your piloting skills, in permadeath mode these truly can be terrifying. Many other features too including, ship classes, exosuit enhancements, some vague multiplayer elements (I’m yet to fully experience) and so on.
A year on from its release, through many other amazing exclusives and blockbusters, this is the game I continually fire up the PS4 to play; and to me, that says it all.
As for something I’d like to see in the game going forward: additional saves. At the time of writing this we are restricted to one save file per game-mode. As each of my Normal, Survival and Permadeath saves have many hours of dedication, it’s akin to pulling teeth to delete a save in order to re-start a game-mode. It's just one of those games that feels great to start over every once in a while; especially after a large update, though that is personal choice, thankfully not enforced.
For me it’s a love letter to a generation, a growing tribute to every sci-fi novel I ever read as a kid. It’s a vast universe of exploration I’m destined to only ever see a minute part of. I really can’t recommend it enough, but out of all my gaming friends, half love it, half despise it. No Man's Sky really is the PS4’s Marmite title.
If you weren't sold on it at release, do yourself a favour and have a second look now. A year on from its launch you can pick it up at a massively reduced price. This seems a bargain when compared to what you got for your money a year ago.
There are certain grind factors in gathering resource to get a better ship, build a base or upgrade equipment etc. But these feel in keeping with the game, and are for the most part not a chore. It’s one of those games that you’ll get out of it what you put in, and with that little bit of extra time and dedication it's massively worth it. I struggle to recall a rival game that quite captivates me the way No Man’s Sky does.
If you want a fast, no-holds-barred action-fest, then maybe this isn’t the right game. But if you’re looking for something to explore with a more chilled vibe, (most of the time) this game is second-to-none.
So I dare you: be part of something great, be part of No Man’s Sky.
ABOVE: It certainly feels like I shouldn't be here...
BELOW: ...And by day the hills bleed.
|The game is simply beyond beautiful
|Battles can be tough and are especially exciting at low level
|It's huge and exploration is rewarding
|Different game modes and recent updates add new challenges
|Hello Games' commitment to continued development
|Would like to see more save options