Thoughts on No Man’s Sky

I’ve had a chance to dive into No Man’s Sky for about 6-7 hours, enough to get an impression of what this game has to offer (I think).

I can definitely see why there’s such a wide spectrum of opinions on this game. It’s not for everybody. I can imagine those who like online shooters like Call of Duty hating this game.

The mechanics of the gameplay can get pretty tedious. At one point, you have to craft a succession of four different items in order to get the right type of fuel for your ship. You can spend almost all of your time staring at the ground around you for minerals and crafting items. To me, I feel like I’m not exploring or taking in the wonder of the environments because I keep bee-lining to the next pinged location on the horizon. But that may just be my gaming tendency.

Isolation is a key word for this game. This is true despite running into NPCs at a surprisingly regular pace. They never feel like real characters so you still feel alone. But it sort of runs contrary to the idea of truly exploring new, undiscovered worlds when you can encounter settlements and outposts constantly.

Most of the planets I’ve explored are desolate rocks but a couple have had lush vegetation which livens up the experience. I’ve yet to come across a landscape teeming with animal life as shown in the trailer and it sounds like that was an exaggeration, yet I’m still hoping it happens. I also wish, but don’t really expect, to see a wide variety of planet types. Will there be a world covered in water? Will there actually be a planet with big cities? The last seems very doubtful but the not fully knowing is part of what makes this game wondrous.

Much of the hype for this game was around how the game is largely built on dynamic algorithms. It’s been an interesting debate on whether a game is better by having truly random, unique environments or if a meticulously crafted experience (such as Uncharted 4) makes for a better video game.

I think my feelings are that the medium can’t be the message. The emphasis on the technology always seems misguided. A game can be a tech or graphic marvel but if I don’t care about the characters or story then I won’t want to play it.

What’s also getting lost on all the reviews and opinions that this is still essentially an indie game. Sure it’s got the backing of Sony but this isn’t a AAA product. People expecting the kitchen sink or a flawless game are piling too much hope onto this game.

My hesitation for jumping onto No Man’s Sky (and the hype bandwagon) was wondering if the game’s expansive scope would in actuality be a pretty desolate and boring playthrough. For now, I don’t think I’ve played enough to have that come to fruition, but I can see the possibility. 19 quintillions planets! How are you ever going to run across anyone else in that universe? I would’ve preferred a Journey approach where the encounters are a bit random and unplanned but at least possible.

For now, the exploration and the crafting are intriguing enough to keep me interested. The question is for how long?

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