No Man’s Sky is easily one the most hyped and highly anticipated games of the year, boasting an expansive 18 quintillion planets to visit on the journey to the centre of the universe. Yet, while the game is very expansive and it’s filled with various planets, moons, alien races, various plants and alien animals, it feels very limited, small, and you never truly feel alone in the vastness of space.
No Man’s Sky’s story is fairly simple. Start on a random planet, in a random star system, in a random part of the universe and make your way to the centre. Fly through infinite space, travel to and explore the vast amount of planets and star systems, meet alien lifeforms.
At first the game is very fun. Starting off on a random planet with a broken ship, you are forced scavenge the planet for resources to stay alive and to find the parts to repair their ship to blast off on your journey. As you travel across the planet to find the relevant resources you do run into the occasional trouble whether it be robotic flying sentinels, or unhappy alien creatures, but they are easily dispatched. All the main basic resources for survival are found in abundance on every planet and moon. Other resources and items that players come across can be used to create parts and upgrades or be sold at trading posts, space stations, and NPC alien traders.
You will come across various alien buildings which depending on what type of building it is offers different benefits to the player. Drop Pods provide an upgrade to the players’ exosuit by adding an inventory slot. Shelter can vary between offering an alien lifeform to communicate with to earn a reward, a trading post to buy and sell resources and parts, or shelter to keep safe from the elements and gain blueprints for weapon upgrades. Players can come across crashed ships which players can make their main ship and scavenge it for resources. Scavenged ships can at random have either +1 or -1 inventory slot on their current ship. Players can also use transmission towers to find the locations of crashed ships, beacons, ancient ruins, and many other buildings on a planet.
Once a player has repaired their ship they can blast off into space and to the nearest space station – which is basically a trading post in space. Planets, moons and space stations are significant distances apart from each other. By flying on autopilot it can takes several hours to reach the intended destination. With speed boost arrival time can be reduced to under an hour. You also have access to warp drive which provides significant reduction in travel times, making it possible to reach your destination in mere minutes. By further upgrading the hyperdrive, players can then also jump between star systems, to another system with more planets or moons. or one that closer to the centre.
This is all achieved in the first two hours of the game. Once this happens you quickly realise that what you have just done so far is in-fact the entirety of the game. There is left no wonder of the unknown – everything is known and already colonised, there is no curiosity of discovery – just the grind to upgrade so you can get to the next star system and repeat the process over again on your journey to the centre of the universe. Somewhere along the development line there was a game full of content and fascinating discoveries that you could have sunk 100s of hours into, but what was delivered is so far removed it’s dull.
Throughout your journey of “discovering new systems, planets, or moons” you come to realise that you will never be the first in a system or the first on any planet or moon as there will already be alien space stations in every star system, there will already be alien outposts/buildings on every planet and moon. Yet with that being the case you rarely feel like you’re in a vibrant alien filled universe. You never ever run into an alien city, or a heavily populated area. The amount aliens in any given location is always in the low single figures. You would think with such an expansive race at some point you find their home world, or a world that they have colonised with cities and megastructures.
Carbon is the main resource required for player survival – providing energy to the players’ life systems, and Plutonium is required for fuelling your ship so it can blast off to fly across the planet or through space. Both these elements are abundant throughout every planet. While playing, I never faced the sense of dread, that maybe I will die because they find the Carbon to replenish the life systems, or that I’ll be stuck on a planet because I’m out of Plutonium and there isn’t any more to be found. Resources for basic upgrades of your ship are also fairly abundant, so you find them and repair and fuel your ship to fly to another part of the world or off into deep space.
So what do you do when you’ve upgraded your ship which is now capable of travelling to new star systems? You leave to discover what awaits you. What awaits you is extreme repetition, and generic looking alien lifeforms, generic looking planets and solar systems filled with the same resources, elements, items, set pieces, creatures, ships, and everything else. Nothing sets the planets apart from each other besides some pieces here and there and colour. There are no rivers, volcanoes, heaven reaching mountains, centre-of-the-planet touching canyons, once you have seen one planet or moon you have pretty much seen them all. For a game that boasts 18 quintillion planets it feels like 10 planets with varying levels of different colours and shapes.
This level of repetition and generic elements also affect the alien races. There are 3 alien races – the Gek, the Vy’keen, and the Korvax. 3 alien races that populate the all of the entire known worlds. Yet their space stations look the same. Their ships look the same. Their buildings, outposts, drop pods, monoliths, knowledge stones all look the same. There isn’t anything distinct about these races that sets them apart other than what they look like.
Generic nature also affects the ships which you can commandeer, scavenge or purchase from aliens. Every ship is the same with the only differing changes being inventory space which maxes out at 48 slots and the skin. Ships all the have same weapons, mining beam, upgrades. You are unable to modify the specs of a ship to make it faster, or more powerful than another ship. The game also lacks free reign over flying the ship, when on the planet there is an invisible barrier which keeps the ship a certain height, which stops you from crashing and from getting close to the ground. Keeping off the ground destroys any sense of control and gets infuriating when you try to land but can’t get close enough to the ground to get a good enough idea of where you want to land, which results in landing in a different area to where you intended.
Weapons suffer the same problem. Different skins and different inventory slots which max out at 24 slots. A weapons power, range, and accuracy are the same and can be upgraded with blueprints. Exosuits inventory slots max out at 48 slots. Items gathered on planets can be stored in your exosuit as well as on your ship, but a challenge arises when you want to upgrade parts on your exosuit or ship, an inventory space is used for each upgrade that a user does on either their ship or exosuit. Thereby limiting the already limited free slots for elements and necessary items for survival.
No Man’s Sky does provide short bursts of tension free world/universe exploring. You can have a busy stressful day and come and enjoy running around on a planet with acid rain, grind elements and money to buy better looking ship, or fly and space between planets. But that’s it. The game isn’t extremely horrible or poor, it’s just that it lacks a lot of crucial game elements that would get players clamouring to play as soon as they got home. As it stands now No Man’s Sky feels like an expensive game demo.
There isn’t enough content or replay value in this game which can be justify what it will cost Australian gamers. Right now No Man’s Sky retails between AUD$78 and AUD$100, with a digital copy costing AUD$79.95 on the PlayStation Store. At this price point I cannot recommend that gamers go out and purchase it right now, rather wait and get it on sale. Since there is a single player game with no multiplayer aspect there is no need to purchase this game right now. I recommend Aussie gamers wait for the price to go down significantly, or borrow it from a friend.