Game Review: No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky beautifully captures the breadth and size of the galaxy. With a host of planets, innumerable creatures to encounter, and a ship all to yourself, how does No Man’s Sky still manage to be boring?

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Not All Bad

No Man’s Sky is not all bad. The size of the universe contained inside of it is simply mind-boggling. 18 quintillion planets is a true feat! And every planet is different from the last (even if barely). The transition between flying in space to breaking through the atmosphere to explore the surface is nearly seamless, with a few frame rate issues here and there to keep it from being truly perfect. It is breathtaking to look out across the canvas of stars and see a planet in the distance and see it would take you literally 3 hours to fly to that planet without your Warp Drive. You feel like you are actually in space, flying to these planets from within the confines of your meager space craft. The fact that this massive game came from a relatively unknown and small indie developer is even more impressive.

A Lonely Sky

However, No Man’s Sky’s massive size may also be its biggest downfall.  Exploring 18 quintillion planets can get lonely especially without the multiplayer aspect that we were promise (but more on Hello Games’ broken promises later). You can’t party up and explore these planets, leaving you to cruise space in silence.

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You’d think that you would meet some interesting characters in a universe so large, but every alien you meet acts in the exact same way. They say a few words in their garbled language (which you can spend weeks trying to learn and still not fully understand what they are saying) and then ultimately offer you the chance to either buy or sell items. It’s like the entire universe is comprised of Nurse Joys, repeating lines verbatim from a droll script and offering you nothing unique in your interactions.

Procedural Generation Isn’t Always Pretty

It’s almost laughable going back and looking at the gameplay screenshots that Hello Games unveiled leading up to No Man’s Sky’s release. Every planet looks so idyllic and full of life. What Hello Games didn’t reveal was that more planets than not will be inhospitable rocks that range in temperatures from -200 C to 450 C (some swinging between these two extremes in one rotation). The procedurally generated creatures also aren’t always as majestic as seen in the screenshots.

Hello Games would have you believe all the wildlife in No Man’s Sky look like this:

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But what you actually get is this:

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Procedural generation isn’t always pretty. In fact, most of the planets I visited were kind of similar. Especially when it got down to exploring them.

A Different Planet Each Time… Kind Of

So each planet is different, but they may as well be the same because what you do on every planet is exactly the same. You spend most of your time on-world, blowing up plants to gather carbon for your life support systems. Or you find trading outposts to interact with a new alien who acts the exact same way as the last alien you met on a completely different planet. Or you visit a monument to learn an inconsequential alien word that will definitely never appear in your conversations with any alien ever (unless its some derogative insult the alien refers to you as, like “interloper”).

No-Mans-Sky-TRADE-370x208So, the main draw of No Man’s Sky quickly becomes its most boring part. I actually fell asleep exploring planets the first day I played the game.

A Galaxy Full of Lies

You know, I could overlook the various frame rate and texture issues, or the boring space combat, or the glaring sameness of every planet, or the $60 price tag on what clearly should have been a $20 game, because this is an indie game and what they were trying to accomplish was very impressive. I could overlook all of this except…

that Hello Games clearly and blatantly lied to us as consumers and gamers.

maxresdefaultHello Games, first of all, promised a much prettier game. (I never knew space was so piss-colored in some areas.)

Secondly, Hello Games repeatedly said that this was to be a multiplayer game. They said we would be able to partner up with other players to explore planets.

Thirdly, Hello Games made it seem that there was much more to do in No Man’s Sky than mine carbon and iron. They said you could build anything, fly anywhere, name anything, and experience anything. They made it sound like a Minecraft- or Grand Theft Auto-level of open-world game on a giant, giant scale.

Finally, the entire premise of No Man’s Sky is to reach the Center of the Universe. Hello Games declared that they would put something awesome at the Center of the Universe to reward players of their hard work. I have spoken to numerous players and read numerous articles that detail the events of reaching the Center of the Universe. These players found, that after hours of gameplay, and exploring an exhaustive amount of planets, they reached the Center of the Universe only to find a large star and a text box that basically says “The Universe is a big place! Go explore all of it!” Then, all of their data is erased and they start back at the very beginning of the game with a broken ship and the clothes on their back.

WHAT THE HECK?!?

I have already sold my copy back to GameStop, but I can only imagine how furious I would be if I had sunk a ton of time into this game only to be punished for successfully completing the game’s main objective.

What kind of game design is that? I’ll tell you what kind: bad kind.

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Maybe Hello Games bit off more they could chew. Maybe the game they envisioned just wasn’t possible with their current means and technology. And that’s ok. What isn’t ok is that Hello Games continued to stand behind their lies even after they had been caught in them on the first day after two players were on the same planet at the same time and did not find each other (thus debunking Hello Games’ lies about multiplayer). They have not apologized for lying or explained why they failed to give us the product they initially advertised. Transparency with your customers can go a long way and Hello Games (and Niantic, for that matter) could learn from that.

The Result

No Man’s Sky is not the game people expected it would be. It’s certainly not the game I was thinking that I was excitingly pre-ordering a few months back. The game’s ability to contain a huge galaxy for you to explore is very impressive and the scope of the game is probably its most impressive feature. But it’s not worth the $60 price tag. Boring gameplay, so-so graphics, and the lack of any real story really cause No Man’s Sky to be no man’s favorite game. (See what I did there?)

I give No Man’s Sky a grade of…

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So what do you think? Have you played No Man’s Sky? Are you still playing? Have you, like me, already sold your copy back? Let me know in the comments below!

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