No Man’s Sky. It’s the only game this year that’s giving Pokemon Go a run for its money, the hype meter reaching peak overdrive as we finally got our hands on a real, complete copy of the game. No long did we have to read cryptic messages from Hello Games, now we could discover for ourselves what this space exploration mystery was really about.
We want to make something clear before we begin. We’re not reviewing No Man’s Sky straight away, that’s going to come later once we’ve spent some quality time with the title outside of our day jobs (yes, we have day jobs). What you’re reading here are some early hands on impressions, our first moments with Sean Murray’s love child with science fiction and how we’re feeling after all this time waiting. Let’s get to it…
I’m really enjoying No Man’s Sky so far, if only because it’s a surprisingly calm experience. I guess that’s the point of it all, sure there’s a slight chance you might get eaten by a weird creature or die from frost bite in a cold climate, but I’ve never really felt under pressure to do … anything, really.
So far I’ve used the ‘story’ to travel a few planets in towards the Atlas, but from there I’ve been flying around doing my own thing. The game doesn’t really throw objectives in your face or constantly reminds you of them either, the hand holding mechanics of other games are largely ignored to allow you a sense of freedom in this massive galaxy. I’ve taken that to heart, though I’ve found myself going into each session I play with my own personal objectives in mind, whether it’s finding an Atlas Pass, earning a certain amount of credits or discovering everything on one planet.
Just quickly, I’m perfectly okay with the menu system. I know a lot of people are complaining about it, but I’ve found it strangely appealing. It makes me work harder to ensure I balance my upgrades and the amount of stuff I find, plus I’ve been hunting down drop-pods like a mo fo every time I reach a new planet to add more slots in my inventory. Still haven’t got a new ship yet, but I’m working on it.
I can see myself playing this on and off for a long time, in the same way I’ve been returning to Destiny and Fallout 4 over the past few months. A lot of players burn through open world games and finish them in a couple of weeks, even days, but I’ve come to appreciate them in a different and more casual way, allowing me to play whenever I want, putting them down for a while before returning to remember how enjoyable the whole experience is over again.
I wasn’t drawn into the hype surrounding No Man’s Sky until late in its development. When the gameplay trailers began to roll out, that’s when I really started to take notice. I have an affection for survival games, and the lack of hand holding here is something that appeals to my gaming sensibilities.
The descent from the atmosphere to the beautiful landscapes below is very smooth and satisfying. However, the procedurally generated scenery seems to spawn in front of your eyes on the PS4 hardware, which can break immersion.
The game’s inventory screen is a bit clunky for console users, which doesn’t help with the amount of resource gathering and management required. Those who waited the extra three days for the game to release on PC would be happy with their decision, as it definitely feels like it was designed with this market in mind.
At about five hours into No Man’s Sky, it started to feel like I had experienced everything the game has to offer. However, with many more objectives still to accomplish, I’m still pumped to continue playing and hopefully, it will surprise me with more content.
My overall first impressions are positive. There are a few glaring issues here and there, which can possibly be patched in the future. It is an ambitious project from an Indie studio with only fifteen employees, but I think Hello Games has delivered an impressive game to the masses.
No Man’s Sky has provided me with one my most amazing and memorable gaming experiences. The first time my little spacecraft breached the clouds and atmosphere, and the galaxy opened up before my eyes I was awestruck. The asteroids, space stations and planets came into view, and it was breathtaking. I instantly recognised the vastness of the game ahead and was also puzzled as to why it took so long for a developer to create a universe or at least small galaxy for us to explore as we wish. This type of gameplay would have been highly effective in a series like Mass Effect or Destiny.
I would consider myself a completionist. I often find in open world games the story takes a back seat to my mission of reaching 100% completion. I don’t think No Man’s Sky has a checklist or is even possible to complete it outside of trophies, but I have become obsessed with becoming fluent in the Vy’keen language. Currently, I’m still on my second planet and scouting locations to master this language. I haven’t concerned myself with what comes after that.
The universe is very a lonely place. There’s been much talk about whether players can meet in the No Man’s Sky universe, and I believe the answer is still up in the air. I would love the opportunity to come into contact with another player. Even if it’s only to the extent of Journey, where I occasionally came across a mute stranger, we did a little dance then explored together or parted ways. Loneliness is not a great feeling. No Man’s Sky has made me feel this way more than once. While I am enjoying it so far, I feel not having interaction between players is a wasted opportunity.
So far I’ve managed to squeeze in 3-4 hours of No Man’s Sky I’m interested in what lies ahead.
So far I’ve found No Man’s Sky to be a thoroughly pleasurable experience. Going into it, I thought that I would become bored or lost with the lack of ‘quest’ style objectives throughout the game but I actually had the opposite reaction. I loved how the game never really restricted me of what I can do or where I can go. As long as I had the right materials and gear, the world really felt like my oyster.
I’ll admit that this did become overwhelming when you take into consideration the sheer size of No Man’s Sky and the vast possibilities of what there is out there to explore. Moreover, knowing the size of the game and its randomly generated content, part of me does wish there was more of a multiplayer component. Traversing the open and vast galaxy just seems far too empty sometimes when you’re all by your lonesome.
My favourite feature within No Man’s Sky is the fact that you can name your discoveries. This actually presented me with some pressure and responsibility as a player that I’ve never really had with any other game before. The fact that other players within the game may be able to see and stumble upon your discoveries just gives the experience more weight.
I’ve been playing for a few hours on PC now and I can confirm that it is rather buggy. However, fiddling around with the graphics settings (particularly turning off v-sync) did manage to iron out most of the display issues at least. For such an ambitious game that’s very much in the spotlight right now, I am sure that these kinks will be patched up quickly.
Despite its issues, to me No Man’s Sky is still a downright beautiful game with vast and unique possibilities that I’ll be looking forward to exploring.
Check back in soon for our full review, where we will break down the game in more detail. In the meantime, you can play and discover No Man’s Sky for yourself on both PS4 and PC.