Let's Talk About No Man's Sky

Small British studio Hello Games first revealed No Man’s Sky at the 2013 VGAs. Previously Hello Games was known purely for their Joe Danger series, a side-scrolling racer/platformer starring an Evel Knievel-like protagonist. No Man’s Sky couldn’t be more different.

No Man’s Sky is a first-person adventure/survival/exploration game with elements of Minecraft resource gathering and an ultimate goal of exploring the universe. At the start of the game you wake up stranded on a random planet; your ship is in desperate need of repairs, and you yourself need to find the materials to fix it. That’s it. You press start, and the game drops you on one of its 16 quintillion planets and essential tells you this: Survive. The first few hours of the game are exactly that – a test of your survival. You could have been dropped on a barren planet with few resources, a lush tropical world full of unique creatures and flora, or, in my case, a frozen planet covered in thick forest with sub-arctic temperatures. Your planet is chosen for you, and No Man’s Sky says, “Survive”.

I immediately start scavenging. The game very subtly nudges you in the right direction by giving you hints, and prompts in the early first hours of gameplay, but it leaves many of the bigger questions unanswered. I quickly discovered, “Okay these red crystals are Plutonium, and I need Plutonium to repair and recharge my suit or else I’ll freeze to death”, and “If I hide out in a cave when night falls I won’t need to worry about freezing to death” or “Oh hey, I’m in that Crab/tentacle/Praying Mantis creature’s cave and he’s a fucking asshole, but it’s better than freezing to death!” (Most of my worries involved trying to not turn into a popsicle). Amazingly, I managed to not die on my first planet, and repaired my ship well enough to take flight and enter OUTER SPACE (*echo).

Now that I’m somewhere between 15-20 hours into the game I’ve visited dozens of different planets and solar systems, met and traded with all sorts of aliens, upgraded my Omni-tool and space suit, survived pirate attacks, packs of sentinels, and acid rain; all of that and I’ve barely even scratched the surface! I’m nowhere near the center of the galaxy (the ultimate goal), in fact, I’ve been traveling in the opposite direction. Mostly on purpose, partially because it’s difficult to find the solar systems that I have already discovered when I want to go back.

So what’s my take so far? It’s hard for me to even know, honestly. The game is fun, but not for any single reason. I feel overwhelmed in some moments, and euphoric in others. The scope of the game excites me, yet gives me anxiety. The game demands your time and patience. If you want a consistent pace of upgrading and story progression this is not for you. I’ve spent hours tediously gathering resources to simply survive. I’ve been stranded on planets due to poor planning and preparation. I found a planet covered in glowing spheres that would sell at a high rate, but when I touched them a strike force of sentinels would show up, hell-bent on destroying me. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen in a game. I fed a weird screeching bear-lizard-thing and HE WAS ADORABLE AND MY BEST FRIEND.

No Man’s Sky is a lot of things, and so far most of those things are good even when they can feel frustrating at times. My main issues have been mostly internal with myself - I’m putting too much emphasis on progress when I should just strap in and enjoy the ride. I’m in constant need of reminding myself that the game is like Minecraft in that I’m working towards something. The moment to moment mechanics can get repetitive, but they build up to something that is stunning and fulfilling.

Like I said, the game demands your time so I’m back to it. Maybe I’ll finally upgrade my ship, or find the elusive giant snake seen in the game trailer. It’s more likely that I’ll perish in a firefight with pirates because I don’t know how to say no to distress beacons. More to come on this in the future.

Cory plays lots of games and sometimes writes about them. Sometimes he even writes kind of ok. Follow him on twitter for more kind of ok stuff.